Food is very important for Colombians. In previous blogs we have given you some recommendations about places to eat and drink in Bogota, we have also talked about the exotic fruits you can find in Colombia. We even offer a Gastronomic tour where you can learn how to cook a traditional Colombian dish.
But, until now, we haven’t talked about one of the most popular snacks in Colombia, I’m talking about the humble but ever-present and delicious “Empanada“. Despite this unforgivable oversight it is never too late, so we hope with this article you can learn a little bit more about the famous Latin-American pastry and perhaps you might decide to try it sometime if you haven’t done so yet.
First of all, if you don’t know what an empanada is, here is a short explanation and some pictures, so you can easily recognize them. In Colombia, empanadas are small corn or wheat pastries stuffed with beef, chicken, ham, vegetables or cheese. Beef empanadas are usually stuffed with rice, onions, potatoes or boiled eggs, in addition to the meat. They could be fried or baked and they are usually served with a green mildly spicy sauce on the side called “Ají”.
You can find empanadas in any city or town in Colombia (and other countries in Latin-America). The snack is a very popular option available in many cafés, restaurants or street food stalls. You will also find different types of empanadas depending on the region of the country. For example, in the South West region of Colombia in cities like Popayan or Pasto, the “empanadas de pipian” are traditional. They are stuffed with crushed boiled potato, onion, tomato, red pepper and a local spice.
As a true “cachaco” (born in Bogota) and empanada aficionado, I have roamed the city looking for the most delicious pastries and I have managed to identify a few establishments that produce the best empanadas (at least to my personal taste). I am now passing this knowledge to you. Your feedback is obviously appreciated.
One of my favourite places is “Dominó” near to La Candelaria, the colonial and historic neighbourhood in Bogota. “Dominó” is located in the Calle 19 with Carrera 3, it has been there since I was at school. I studied nearby and after school my friends and I used to go there to have one empanada before going home. Their speciality are baked empanadas; my favourite is the one stuffed with chicken, mushrooms and cheese, it is really good, you have to try it. At this cafe you will also find other fast food options and if you want it could be a good place to have a beer too.
Another option for a quick empanada is in the area called “Centro Internacional” (International Centre). It is not far from La Candelaria, about 15 or 20 minutes walking from Plaza de Bolivar. The Centro Internacional is one of the main financial areas in Bogota. There, right in front of the second tallest building in Bogota, the Davivienda Building (Carrera 13 with carrera 28), you will see a man on the street with a basket full of different flavours of empanadas. He is usually there from around 10am to 11am and then from 4:30pm to 6:30pm. These empanadas are home-made and are really good. Many office workers in this area stop for a few minutes to have a break with an empanada to recharge batteries If you find yourself around this area in the morning or afternoon this could be a good option for a quick snack. Look for the man on the street ;-).
If you are in Teusaquillo, the very traditional neighbourhood known by the English style architecture of their houses, you can go to “El Vecino” (The neighbour), located in the Calle 39B with Carrera 15B. I used to work in Teusaquillo and I don’t remember a day that I missed an empanada in the morning. They have various specialities:
- The one with rice, egg and beef or chicken,
- another called Hawaiian (Ham, cheese and pineapple),
- the “Trifacica” which is stuffed with beef, chicken and chorizo,
- for the sweet lovers there is one with cheese and bocadillo (guava jelly), and
- you can also have Avena (a cold drink made of oats).
and don’t forget to ask for “ñapa ” (an extra of Avena). Don’t worry, it is already included in the price.
My next recommendation is “El Oasis” in the Calle 47 with Carrera 15. In this joint, located in a University district, you can have a really good empanada stuffed with rice, mince beef and chicken. The “Aji” and the garlic sauce are great.
But, how about bringing some emapanadas home? perhaps for a party or similar. If you are living in Bogota and want to buy a significant number of empanadas for a social event at your home or office, or just want to have some reserves for you own consumption, I would recommend the empanadas from the restaurant “Cocina Zur” (Carrera 43 # 10A – 21) located in an industrial area of Bogota.
In the north area of Bogota near the “Parque del Virrey“, there is a more gourmet option called “Rigoletto”, located in the Carrera 13 # 86ª – 37. You will find many options there, but specifically if you are a cheese bug you will find the paradise here with various alternatives of cheese empanadas. My favourite one is the one with beef and vegetables. The price is a bit higher compared to the other places but it is worth it.
I hope you find this information useful and if you are in Bogota and have the opportunity to go, just have a good time and let me know what you think. If you have comments, have been to the places listed or wish to add other good empanada joints to the list, make sure to leave your comments below. I’m always on the hunt for new places to have a quick snack.
Thanks for reading and Happy travels!
Daniel and the Uncover Colombia team
Daniel Rodriguez is the Operations Manager of Uncover Colombia in Bogota. Besides his unparalleled expertise on empanada tasting, Daniel is a professional in the tourism industry management and operations and has travelled extensibly around Colombia. Daniel is born and bred in Bogota and keen football supporter of Independiente Santafé (one of the city´s traditional football teams).
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