As a vegetarian or vegan in Colombia, finding good food or making sure the food you are served is actually how you want it, can be tricky. Colombia is a real meat country and many people do not understand that you can live without animal products. Despite that, there are plenty of options for the vegetarians or vegans among us. I myself have also been eating vegetarian for years and have not eaten anywhere as delicious as in Colombia. In this article you will find many tips for your trip through Colombia as a vegetarian or vegan, facts about vega(n) food in Colombia, vega(n) restaurants and more!
Tips for vegetarians and vegans traveling in Colombia
Colombians distinguish between meat, sausages, chicken and fish. So if you, as a vegetarian, ask if there is no carne in it and they say no, it could be that it does contain chicken or sausages. In small restaurants, many also have no idea exactly what vegetarian or vegan is. In that case, be extremely clear in what you want. If you say you would like this or that dish vegetarian and they nod yes, in 9 out of 10 cases they will have no idea what to actually do. Therefore, state very clearly: no carne, no pollo, no pescado, pero si huevo y queso.
Meat and fish are called protein here. When asked “no protein?”, that means no meat and fish. You do need to clearly indicate if you do or do not eat cheese and eggs.
The difference between vegetarian and vegan is not yet understood by many Colombians. Very often I am asked if I want milk and cheese and even if I eat chicken and no meat. Confusion all around. So if you want egg but not chicken, make that clear.
Almost all typical Colombian dishes contain meat or chicken, such as bandeja de paisa (a bean dish with rice, egg, plátano, avocado, minced meat and other meats). As a vegetarian, I love bandeja de paisa and eat it regularly, but without meat. Simply ask at the restaurant if they can make it vegetarian or vegan, and then clearly state exactly how. In this case, you can ask to take out the meat, mince and chicharrón and add an extra egg or piece of avocado.
Come up with your own examples and ideas! Many say they have no vega(n) food, but do not realize that all they have to do is leave out the animal food and give more vegetables or beans. So be assertive and don’t immediately walk away at a “no we don’t have that”. You will not get a special dish in such a case, but simple rice, an avocado, a potato and a little lettuce. This happens especially in the smaller typical Colombian restaurants and in small non-touristy villages. In the better restaurants, you don’t have this problem.
Note that many “chips” and other “desserts” also contain meat or other animal products. Chicharrón, for example, looks like chips, but is actually a type of fried pork skin and very popular in Colombia.
In almost all larger restaurants and restaurant chains, they offer multiple vegetarian dishes on the menu, sometimes even vegan. And they are tasty, too. See here for a list of best restaurants in Bogotá.
Vegetable burgers and other vegetarian “meats” are not yet widely available in Colombia. Only in specialty stores can you find veggie burgers and sometimes you come across tofu. You do have to dig deep to buy this, because it is by no means cheap.
Vegetarian food is very doable in Colombia, vegan is another story. Cream, milk, cheese or egg is put through everything. You can buy soy or almond milk in the supermarket, but it is pricey. You also never have the guarantee that something vegetarian or vegan is not still cooked in the same pan as the meat or fish (except in 100% vega(n) restaurants, of course).
I have frequently had the experience of ordering a supposedly vegetarian dish from the menu in a smaller restaurant outside the big cities and then having bits of ham in between anyway. Indicate it again when ordering: no animals in the food!
There are many vegetarian and vegan restaurants and they do well too. The food is delicious, truly completely without animal products and even pasta without eggs has been considered. Never have I eaten so deliciously vega(n) as I did in Bogotá!
If you order soup and they say there is no meat, fish or chicken in it, they have often made the soup with meat broth or something similar. Double check this if you don’t want that either.
I regularly have long conversations with colleagues or friends about meat and vegetarianism. Many cannot imagine being able to live at all without “protein,” but in the meantime have not realized that Colombian cuisine is packed with protein. Almost always beans, chickpeas or lentils are on the menu and they eat many eggs a day.
Did you make friends in Colombia? Take them to a vega(n) restaurant and enjoy not only the food, but also their surprised looks when it turns out that food without animal products turns out to be really tasty!
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Bogotá
You might not expect it, but Bogotá is full of vegetarian or even vegan restaurants. You just need to know how and where to find them.
In addition, the better restaurants in Bogotá always have vegetarian dishes, and sometimes vegan (such as crepes & waffles and WOK). In this article you will find the best neighborhoods for eating out in Bogotá and my top 13 favorite restaurants in Bogotá. In all these restaurants, they have both vegetarian and meat dishes. Of course, I always eat vegetarian and this is incredibly delicious!
100% Vegetarian or vegan in Bogotá and the rest of Colombia
And there is more, namely hundreds of vegetarian and vegan restaurants throughout Colombia. How cool! Check this website of Happy Cow and find your vega(n) restaurant in Bogotá.
And not just in Bogotá, but throughout Colombia, you can look for vegetarian or vegan options. Click here for vegetarian and vegan restaurants throughout Colombia. Side note: I obviously haven’t visited every restaurant on Happy Cow, so I’m not sure this list is 100% up to date. Having doubts? Look for the restaurant in question on Google or Facebook to make sure they are open.
Vegan or vegetarian food in Colombia difficult? No way! Find your restaurant and enjoy all the good Colombia has to offer.