Being a vegetarian in general has its ups and downs, no matter where you live in the world. And, while Colombia is no different, I have to say being a vegetarian in a country with such an amazing plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables, amazing corn-based foods, and variety of artisanal cheeses is pretty stellar.
Let’s start by talking about fruits. In Colombia, you will never lack for incredible fruit options. Whether you are shopping in a grocery store, in a market, or walking down the street, you will always encounter various fresh fruit options. You’ll find your run of the mill fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas, but you will also find unique tropical options such as pitaya (yellow dragon fruit), granadilla, mamoncillos (Spanish limes), guanábana (soursop), uchuvas (cape gooseberries), and lulos (naranjillas) among many others. This means, as a vegetarian you will always have plenty of fruit options to choose from, and they are almost always cheap.
In terms of vegetables, Colombia also has a rich variety. You will find your basic vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, onions, lettuce, carrots, etc…) as well as several types of heritage squashes, tubers (Colombia has A LOT of different types of tubers including a newly popular one called yakón), and the best avocados I have ever had. Compared to vegetables in other parts of the world, they are relatively cheap in Colombia and are generally easy to find no matter what part of the country you are in.
If you eat cheese, you will also find yourself entertaining many options in Colombia. You will be able to choose from local cheeses as well as mainstream cheese varieties that you can purchase straight from the cheese artisans themselves or at supermarkets throughout the country.
You can also find some pretty decent tofu in Colombia. I am not sure about in other parts of the country, but in Barranquilla you can find a few brands in the grocery stores in the deli section listed as “Queso de Soya” (soy cheese), but the best I’ve been able to find is sold in Clorofila (a vegetarian restaurant) or in EcoSiente, an organic produce and local products store in the city. You can also find a few types of soy-based “meats” in the grocery stores—Carulla has the best selection of these.
That being said, if you want to eat out as a vegetarian you also have a good range of options in most parts of Colombia. I think Bogotá would offer you the biggest variety of options, but in bigger cities like Barranquilla, Medellín, Cali, and Cartagena you also will find an assortment of vegetarian restaurants or restaurants with vegetarian options.
In Cartagena, there is a neat and relatively new place called Gokela that operates as a sort of juice and cold food bar. You can choose from a range of vegetarian friendly ingredients to make sandwiches, wraps, and other dishes there. I have also been told there are a few good vegetarian spots in the Walled City (Ciudad Amurallada) as well as the neighborhood of Getsemaní.
In Barranquilla, there are quite a few good vegetarian restaurants including Clorofila and El Huerto, which are true vegetarian restaurants, as well as China Wok, a Chinese restaurant that does not use eggs in their dishes and offers three types of tofu dishes. There is also a new Asian cuisine restaurant called Teriyaki that also allows substitutions of meat for tofu upon request in certain dishes.
In Medellín, one vegetarian restaurant you cannot miss is called Verdeo. It’s got a great menu and the front of the restaurant is a small store offering vegetarian ingredients as well as a smorgasbord of organic and local products.
In Bogotá, you will find a host of vegetarian restaurants. One that I have been told is highly recommended is BioPlaza, which also has a small storefront selling local and organic products.
And, it is worth noting that most of the time, even if you go to a non-vegetarian restaurant, you will find several vegetarian friendly options on the menu or can ask for modifications to make them veggie-friendly.
Happy veggie adventures,
Paige M Poole,
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com
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