Updated on 02/16/2024
I would also like to recommend our Colombia travel guide, which provides a perfect overview of the tourist attractions in Colombia. Enjoy reading it!,
Colombia is a country that shines not only in terms of breathtaking landscapes and a rich cultural heritage but also captivates the hearts of food enthusiasts with its delicious desserts. Every corner of the country has its sweet gem, reflecting the history, traditions, and indigenous ingredients of its particular area.
In this blog, we will explore the most iconic desserts that have delighted generations of Colombians, breaking down their ingredients and the history behind each delicacy.
Best Desserts of the Andean Region
The Andean region of Colombia, located in the center of the country, is characterized by its impressive mountainous topography, with the majestic Andes mountain range traversing the region.
In addition to its natural beauty, the region is a center of rich cultural heritage, with indigenous, Spanish and African influences. Agriculture is a fundamental part of the economy, with crops such as potatoes, corn and coffee.
Arequipe, also known as dulce de leche in other countries, is a delight obtained by cooking milk and sugar. Although its name comes from the city of Arequipa in Peru, there are various theories about its origin.
The most plausible version is that it spread in Latin America in the 16th century under Spanish rule. Arequipe is a key ingredient in numerous Colombian culinary preparations, such as brevas con arequipe and obleas.
Below, we will mention some of the desserts that include this sweet:
Brevas con arequipe
Brevas con arequipe are a variety of figs filled with arequipe.
To prepare them, figs are usually cut and cooked in water for 30 minutes. Sugar is then added, and they continue cooking for three hours. Finally, the cooked figs are cut in half without completely separating them and filled with arequipe.
This delicacy is often prepared during the Christmas season and is an essential component of celebrations in Colombia.
Obleas consist of two thin, crispy, round wafers commonly filled with arequipe, but there are also combinations with other ingredients such as jams, grated cheese, and cream.
The key is to put the right amount of filling so that the wafers do not break.
This dessert is widely appreciated in Colombian culture. A popular version is the obleas from Floridablanca Santander, known for their generous fillings.
Natilla dates back to the time of Spanish colonization when dessert preparation techniques with milk and sugar merged with indigenous ingredients.
Colombian natilla is mainly made from ingredients such as milk, panela or brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and cornstarch. Now, ready-to-prepare mixes are also sold.
This dessert is especially relevant in Colombian culture, being a central element in celebrations and festivities, such as the Novena de Aguinaldos during the Christmas season.
Manjar blanco, a traditional specialty of the Valle del Cauca, is a genuine delight that takes time to prepare.
Its essential ingredients are rice flour or white rice, whole milk, sugar, and optionally, baking soda to give it a characteristic dark caramel color.
To achieve its characteristic thickness, the starch is extracted from the rice that has been previously soaked and blended with milk. This mixture is then cooked over medium-high heat with the other ingredients for about two hours, resulting in a dense texture and a dark caramel tone that distinguishes it.
Merengón, although many Colombians often think it is indigenous, actually has its roots in pavlova, a dessert that originated in Australia or New Zealand.
Despite its origin, it has become a popular delight in Colombia. It consists of meringue with cream, fruits, and sweet sauces.
In addition to homemade versions, merengón is available in outlets in Colombia, where it is offered in individual portions and adorned with a variety of fruits such as soursop, blackberries, strawberries, peach, mango, and many others.
Bocadillo con queso
Bocadillo con queso is prepared by cooking guava with sugar until obtaining a thick and sweet paste, which is then cut into squares or geometric shapes.
This delicacy is commonly served with cheese, often fresh cheese, creating a contrast of flavors.
Bocadillo con queso is a symbolic food in Colombia and is enjoyed on various occasions, from daily snacks to celebrations and festivities.
Best Desserts of the Caribbean Region
The Caribbean region of Colombia, located in the north of the country and bordering the Caribbean Sea, is an exquisite and diverse corner that attracts both beach lovers and gastronomy enthusiasts. In the realm of desserts, the Caribbean region does not disappoint.
When it comes to desserts, the Caribbean region does not disappoint. Here, sweets are an integral part of the culture. From cocadas to pineapple candy; in short, the diversity of tropical fruits, such as pineapple, mango and coconut, becomes the basis of many desserts, bringing freshness and flavor to local preparations.
Enyucado is a typical preparation from the Atlantic coast of Colombia based on yuca, a tuber widely cultivated in the region.
Yuca is grated and mixed with ingredients such as grated coconut, panela (unrefined sugar), and cinnamon, forming a dough that is baked until achieving a crispy texture on the outside and soft on the inside.
Enyucado is very versatile, as it can be enjoyed as a dessert or served as a side dish for meats and seafood.
Dulce de icaco
Dulce de icaco is made from icaco, a small tropical fruit that thrives in the warm and humid regions of Colombia. It is cultivated at altitudes ranging from sea level to 1500 meters above sea level and is found in coastal areas due to its adaptability to sandy soils.
The preparation involves slow-cooking icaco with sugar and spices such as cinnamon or cloves, resulting in a sweet and aromatic syrup.
In Colombia, this syrup is highly valued and used as a complement in desserts, ice creams, or as a filling in cakes and traditional preparations. It is usually accompanied by cream cheese or pieces of soft white cheese. Additionally, icaco is a fruit rich in vitamin C.
Cocadas stand out for their base of grated coconut, combined with sugar, condensed milk, and panela.It results in a sticky and sweet mixture presented in various forms, such as small balls or squares, sometimes adorned with candied cherries or other ingredients.
The preparation of cocadas involves cooking grated coconut, coconut water, half a pound of sugar, and cloves in a pot, adding the rest of the sugar when the syrup begins to thicken, and letting small portions cool on a moist surface.
These delicious cocadas keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for two weeks. They are widely popular and sold on the streets and beaches of the country.
Alegrías are made by roasting corn, mixing it with honey, panela, peanuts, sesame seeds, and grated coconut.
The ingredients are cooked to create a sticky mixture molded into shapes like balls or rectangles.
The final sweet combines the sweetness of honey and panela with the crunchiness of roasted corn and the creaminess of coconut or peanuts. Alegrías come in various colors and shapes, often adorned with banana leaves for a handmade and appealing look.
Torta de anís
Torta de anís is characterized by its distinctive use of anise seeds. To prepare it, basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, and butter are mixed, and a generous amount of anise seeds is added.
These seeds contribute a slightly spicy flavor and a comforting aroma to the cake. The dough is carefully worked until achieving a uniform consistency and then baked until it acquires a golden color and a tender texture.
Bollos de yuca
Bollos de yuca, a specialty of Atlántico and Bolívar, especially in Ponedera near Barranquilla, start with cooked and ground yuca.
The dough is shaped into elongated forms, wrapped in corn husks, and tied with majagua. Boiled in salted water, these bites are traditionally served with coastal cheese.
Ponedera hosts the annual Festival del Bollo y del Frito, celebrating diverse recipes and showcasing the richness of local cuisine.
Best Desserts of the Insular Region
The insular region of Colombia includes the archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina in the Caribbean Sea and other uninhabited islands in the Pacific. It has its own variety of desserts and sweets that often incorporate local ingredients such as coconut and tropical fruits. Here are some examples of typical desserts from the Colombian islands:
Island Coconut Sweet
Island coconut sweet, a symbol of Colombia’s insular region, especially in San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, features a base of grated coconut mixed with sugar for a sweet, sticky texture. Some recipes include coconut milk for added creaminess.
Slow-cooked to a dense, sweet consistency, it’s shaped into balls or squares and often adorned with powdered sugar or grated coconut for decoration and a textural contrast.
Dulce de piña (Pineapple Syrup)
Pineapple syrup is a tropical delicacy that has become a specialty in the insular region. Pineapple, a plentiful fruit on the islands, is slowly cooked with sugar until it becomes a sweet preserve.
Its refreshing flavor and sweet-and-sour texture make it perfect as a dessert or accompaniment to a local meal.
Pineapple cocadas are a variant of traditional cocadas, enriched with the tropical flavor of pineapple. Grated coconut is mixed with pineapple pieces and molded into various shapes.
Dulce de tamarindo (Tamarind Sweet)
Tamarind syrup is another example of how tropical fruits become exquisite sweets in the insular region.
Tamarind is a long, curved fruit with a hard, brittle brown shell. Inside the shell is tamarind pulp, which is dark brown to black. This pulp is sticky and has a fibrous texture.
The tamarind pulp is then cooked with sugar until it forms a thick and flavorful preparation. Its sweet and sour taste and distinctive aroma are highly valued in the region.
Best Desserts of the Pacific Region
The Pacific region of Colombia, a natural and cultural gem located in the west of the country, is a place with vast tropical rainforests, pristine beaches, and a cultural richness rooted in Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
Black cake, a delicacy blending African heritage with local richness, has distinct characteristics in the Pacific region compared to the Andean version sharing the name.
The base includes panela for a dark color and distinctive flavor, along with local ingredients like grated coconut, walnuts, raisins, aguardiente, and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. The combination yields a dense mixture slow-cooked to achieve its characteristic consistency.
Dulce de papayuela (Papayuela Syrup)
Papayuela syrup, a traditional dessert from Colombia’s Pacific region, features the abundant tropical fruit papayuela as a key ingredient.
To make the syrup, papayuelas are collected, peeled, and thinly sliced. Slow-cooked with panela, cinnamon, and cloves, the process allows the fruit to absorb the rich flavors, becoming tender and sweet.
The result is a delicious sweet with a sweet-and-sour flavor and a smooth, gelatinous texture.
Dulce de bambuco (Bambuco Sweet)
Bambuco sweet refers to “bambuco,” a traditional dance of the region.
The main ingredient is banana, a fruit that grows abundantly in the Pacific region. Bananas are peeled, sliced thinly, and cooked with panela and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Slow cooking allows the aromas to blend, giving the sweet its characteristic sweet-and-sour flavor and smooth texture.
Once the bambuco sweet is ready, it is cut into small portions, often wrapped in banana leaves to preserve its freshness and flavor.
Dulce de almidón de maíz (Cornstarch Sweet)
The base of cornstarch sweet is the substance obtained from corn. Cornstarch is mixed with panela, cinnamon, and cloves, and cooked slowly until it reaches a dense and sticky consistency. During the cooking process, the sweet takes on its characteristic sweet-and-sour flavor and spice tones.
Similar to the previous dessert, once the cornstarch sweet is prepared, it is cut into small square or rectangular portions and wrapped in banana leaves.
Best Desserts of the Orinoquía Region
The Orinoquía region in Colombia is a vast plain in the eastern part of the country, encompassing a variety of landscapes and ecosystems. This region is located in a transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon, giving it significant ecological importance.
Regarding gastronomy, Orinoquía offers a delicious variety of dishes that reflect life on the plains. The main ingredients in desserts in this region often include indigenous products such as coconut, cocoa, and plantains.
Majarete, also known as “llanero majarete,” features cornstarch as its primary ingredient. Combined with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla essence, it forms a thick mixture slow-cooked to achieve a smooth and consistent texture.
Traditionally served in small portions, majarete is topped with powdered cinnamon, resembling the texture of flan or custard. Its delicate and sweet flavor is enhanced by the distinctive touch of cinnamon.
Cashew Nut Cake
Cashew nut cake, a traditional dessert made from cashews (marañón nuts), starts with cashews ground into a fine flour.
The flour is combined with eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla essence, and sometimes lemon zest to create a batter.
Baked to a firm, golden consistency, it showcases the characteristic sweet and woody flavor of cashews, which are native to tropical America, particularly abundant in the Orinoquía region.
Dulce de caña de azúcar (Sugarcane Sweet)
Sugarcane sweet, a symbol of regional culinary culture, is crafted from sugarcane juice. The process starts with extracting juice by crushing sugarcane stalks. The juice is slowly boiled in large cauldrons, evolving into a sweet, thick molasses over several hours.
Characterized by a dark golden color and a deeply sweet flavor with caramel undertones, sugarcane sweet may include additions like vanilla essence or cinnamon for enhanced taste.
Dulce de leche de búfala (Buffalo Milk Sweet)
Buffalo milk sweet, a traditional llanera region dairy product, utilizes milk from water buffaloes raised in the area, known for its higher fat and protein content than cow’s milk.
The preparation involves slowly boiling fresh buffalo milk with sugar for hours, resulting in a creamy and sweet mixture known as buffalo milk sweet. The cooking process imparts a golden color and an intense caramelized flavor.
Enjoy this sweet on its own or paired with arepas, bread, or cookies. It can also be used as an ingredient in cakes, pies, and ice cream.
Almohábanos are primarily made with panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) and grated coconut. Grated coconut is mixed with panela, providing a sticky sensation when bitten.
These sweets are usually presented in the form of small individual portions, perfect for enjoying as a sweet snack at any time of the day.
They are especially popular during festivities, celebrations, and as typical gifts from the region.
Torta de Camote (Sweet Potato Cake)
To make it, sweet potatoes are cooked and then mashed to obtain a smooth and sweet pulp. This pulp is mixed with ingredients such as sugar, butter, eggs, and sometimes spices like cinnamon or vanilla to enhance the flavor.
The mixture is poured into a mold and baked until it acquires a firm consistency. Sweet potato cake is known for its bright orange color, which comes from the sweet potato, and its sweet and comforting taste.
It is often served as a dessert or accompaniment to special meals and celebrations in the Orinoquía region.
Best Desserts of the Amazon Region
The Amazon region in Colombia is located in the southern part of the country and is part of the Amazon River basin, one of the largest and most essential tropical rainforests in the world. Therefore, it is home to countless species of plants, animals, and birds, many of which are endemic and unique to this region.
Foods such as yuca, plantains, and exotic Amazonian fruits make incredible desserts.
Mazamorra de plátano verde (Green Plantain Mazamorra)
Green plantain mazamorra, an indigenous dessert passed down through generations in the Colombian Amazon, is especially popular in the region due to the abundance of green plantains.
Prepared with green plantains, coconut milk, and panela, the dish involves cooking the plantains in coconut milk with panela and tropical spices until tender. The result is a thick and creamy consistency.
Served traditionally in small portions as a dessert or snack, it is often adorned with powdered cinnamon for enhanced flavor and decorated with plantain leaves or grated coconut.
Dulce de copoazú (Cupuazú Sweet)
Cupuazú sweet, a delicacy crafted from the rich pulp of the native cupuazú fruit, belongs to the cacao family, offering both flavor and nutrients.
The key ingredients include cupuazú, sugar, and coconut milk. The process involves combining cupuazú pulp with sugar and coconut milk, followed by slow-cooking. This results in a smooth and creamy preparation as the pulp breaks down with heat.
Presented in individual portions, cupuazú sweet can be adorned with cocoa powder or cupuazú shavings to enhance its flavor. It is versatile, serving as both a dessert and an afternoon snack.
Yucca cake is a dessert that pays homage to one of the most iconic ingredients of the jungle: yuca.
First, yuca is peeled and grated, then mixed with ingredients like sugar, coconut milk, and a touch of cinnamon. The resulting batter is baked until it reaches a golden and crispy texture on the outside while maintaining softness on the inside.
Yucca cake is not only a sweet delicacy but also evokes a sense of belonging to the rich culinary tradition of the region. This dessert is also enjoyed as a complement to a meal.
Dulce de camu camu (Camu Camu Sweet)
Camu camu sweet, a delicacy from the Amazon region, showcases its main ingredient, the small red fruit with high vitamin C content.
Ripe camu camu berries have their pulp extracted and combined with sugar and indigenous components. Slow-cooked to achieve a dense texture and characteristic reddish hue, the sweet offers a citrusy touch, capturing the authentic jungle flavor.
Served in small portions, camu camu sweet doubles as a topping for desserts, ice creams, or even main dishes.