Much like attractions and activities, you can find just about anything you want to eat in Cartagena. The food scene is an appealing mix of local, national and international fare. However, if you are limited on time, the traditional dishes are an absolute must to try. Here are a few of the traditional foods in Columbia that you should not pass up.

Cazuela de Mariscos

A seafood stew consisting of clams, calamari and shrimp – and occasionally lobster and fish – Cazuela de Mariscos is beloved by locals. It is cooked with coconut milk and is usually accompanied by patacones (fried plantains) and coconut rice.

Pasta Negra

This comfort food, topped with a decadent sweet and savory sauce, is worth the indulgence. The sauce is an irresistible blend of unrefined brown cane sugar, panela Worcestershire sauce. Some people add Coca-Cola to the mix! The sauce is poured over juicy beef that has been seared and then slow simmered. The secret in its preparation is allowing the meat to marinate overnight.

Mote de Queso

Does soup bursting with cheesy flavor sound like a dream come true? Then you will love Mote de Queso. Comprised of the sweet ñame root, salty costeño cheese, onions and garlic, this soup has a unique but undoubtedly delicious flavor.

Arroz de Mariscos

You can find this seafood rice dish at just about any restaurant in Cartagena. The people of Cartagena love their rice and seafood and this offering combines the best of both. Most versions of Arroz de Mariscos include fish, shrimp, calamari and clams. Arroz de Mariscos rice, which is on the wetter end of the spectrum, is cooked together and finished off with the seafood.

Fried Fish

While it is simple and straightforward, fried fish ranks among one of the best meals in the region because it is typically served with two popular side dishes – patacones and coconut rice. If you do not feel up to consuming the entire fish or looking at it while doing so, you can opt for a filet instead.

Camarones al Ajillo

Shrimp is a crowd pleaser in Cartagena and when it comes dripping with butter, garlic and white wine, Camarones al Ajillo steals the show. Cream renders the sauce even more alluring. If shrimp is not your favorite, you can order a version of the dish that uses prawns instead. Make sure to ask for Langostinos al Ajillo in this case.


Yet another soup beloved by locals is made with meat and root vegetables like potatoes, plantains and yuca. The meat varies; you can choose from beef, chicken, pork or fish. In addition to being tasty, Sancocho is also easy to prepare. These qualities make it a popular dish to serve at social gatherings.

Arepa de Huevo

These meal patties, friend or grilled to perfection, are found all over the region. In Colombia, they are made by cracking an egg inside of arepa (a delicious corn dough cake) and stuffing the arepa with ground beef. Arepa de Huevos are ideal as a snack or a quick meal on the go. There is even a festival dedicated to them, called Festival del Frito and held in January.

By trying the traditional food of Cartagena, you get to experience what it is like to dine in this historic city. The only challenge is making the time to savor it all.

Planning a travel incentive or corporate meeting in Cartagena? Contact Gavel International for more information about our programs.

Michael Richardson
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