Over recent years, Colombia has enjoyed something of a cultural renaissance, not just with regard to its fantastic scenery, vibrant cities and friendly populace, but also for its culinary excellence. But when it comes to listicles outlining the best places to eat in Bogotá and beyond, one meal often gets short shrift: dessert.
For a country with such a sweet tooth, that’s a crying shame – so this article aims to put things right. Here’s a quick rundown of the some of the finest Colombian desserts this incredible country has to offer, as well as some suggestions for the best places for desserts in Bogotá so you can see what all the fuss about and sample them yourself.
Similar to dulce de leche in Argentina and manjar in Chile, this thick caramel spread is popular all over Latin America. Made by slowly heating sweetened milk, arequipe is perhaps the most famous Colombian dessert on this list and is often accompanied by all manner of other sweet treats, some of which feature below.
One of the most popular options is to stuff figs (brevas) with the sweet substance and serve them as an on-the-go dessert from food stalls or as part of a sit-down meal in a restaurant. To try authentically homemade brevas con arequipe in Bogotá, head to Postres Vickyon Avenida 6 #126A.
Translated as “triple milk cake”, this favourite Colombian pudding is made by soaking an exquisitely soft sponge in three different kinds of milk: condensed, evaporated and table cream. The original recipe calls for a vanilla base topped with meringue-like icing and a cherry (or other fruit) to finish things off, but entrepreneurial chefs around the country have come to experiment with chocolate, coffee and coconut flavourings as well.
For one of the best spots to try this sumptuous dessert in the Colombian capital, swing by Myriam Camhion the corner of Calle 81 and Carrera Octava. Having been in business for almost 30 years, this specialist shop is hands down one of the best places for desserts in Bogotá, regardless of what you order.
A Colombian take on the classic rice pudding dish, arroz con leche is made by soaking cooked rice in milk for several hours, before combining it with condensed milk, cinnamon and sugar and bringing the mixture to a gentle boil. After stewing for around an hour, the rice is then left to thicken into a tasty mulch and served cold, perhaps with a sprinkle of cinnamon or a dollop of arequipe atop it.
This dish is so famous and ubiquitous that you’ll surely find it in almost any Bogotá restaurant or café, but we recommend heading toSopas de mamá y postres de la abuela (Mum’s soups and grandma’s desserts) on Carrera 14, #119.
These airy treats are Colombia’s answer to the doughnut, though a roscón is generally far bigger and fluffier than its American counterpart. Made from baked white flour and filled with gooey fillings such as arequipe, guava paste or cream, they’re often topped with sugar, nuts or sweets. You’ll never look at a ring-shaped snack in the same way again!
What better place to try a roscón than in one dedicated entirely to them? The Rosconería in the Usaquen neighbourhood (Calle 119B, #5-20) takes this snack to the next level, throwing in all kinds of toppings on the roscón including Nutella, blackberries, cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes and whatever else you can imagine (although not all at the same time!).
Consisting of one or two giant wafers loaded with all manner of toppings, obleas are another ubiquitous Colombian dessert you can find on most street corners. Typical ingredients include arequipe, marmalade, grated cheese and nata (cream) and they’re served both open top (just one wafer) or as a kind of sweet sandwich (with two wafers).
Want to try the same obleas which turned the Rolling Stones’ frontman onto this tasty Colombian treat? Head to Obleas Mick Jaggeron Calle 53 (#70-18) to sample the wares that Jagger allegedly tried many moons ago and see if you can’t get some satisfaction.
Meaning “thousand leaves”, milhoja is a mouth-watering cake comprised of multiple layers of puff pastry stacked one on top of the other. In between the pastry, there are lashings of arequipe, cream, icing or white chocolate, creating a decadent but delicious taste sensation that’s sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
To locate some of the best milhojas in all of Colombia, it’s advisable to go straight to the source: that is, Alpine Market. This dairy company has outlets all over the capital offering a wide variety of different sweet options, making it one of the best places for desserts in Bogotá. But for the full experience, the Alpine Cabin in Sopó (around an hour’s drive north of the city) offers a more relaxed and al fresco encounter with its plentiful produce.
Part frozen dessert, part fruit cocktail and part chilled drink, cholados are a great way to cool down on a hot day. There are many variations on the theme, but a typical cholado contains crushed or shaved ice mixed with condensed milk, fresh fruit, shredded coconut and whipped cream. Passionfruit, blackberries and cherries are all common flavourings for this thirst-quenching indulgence.
Again, a strong choice for sampling cholados is a business that is 100% dedicated to them, so the Cholao Factory on the corner of Calle 134 with Avenida 9 comes highly recommended. With a wide variety of flavours on offer, you can pretty much build your own cholado at this popular hotspot.
Perhaps a simpler variation on the cholado theme, salpicones de frutas are basically a Colombian fruit salad in a glass. With so many tropical fruits on offer, it’s unsurprising that the locals base much of their sweet fare around them; here, fresh fruit is chopped, drowned in soda and topped off with condensed milk or cream. It’s often enjoyed as a breakfast food as well as a dessert.
One of the most famous and varied fruit salad options in Bogotá is to be found at Doña Mercedes at the Plaza el Restrepo. Here, the proprietor has used the same recipe for decades, offering 17 fruits to those who wish to sample her wares, including mango, kiwi, apple, grape, strawberry and melon, among many others.
This Colombian dessert, whose name means “marriage” in Spanish, is a perfect (if unlikely) union of cuajado (a type of cheese made from sheep or cow’s milk), arequipe and berry sauce. The cheese can either be mixed with eggs and condensed milk and baked into a cake, or simply served up as is with the other toppings drizzled over it.
A firm favourite with both tourists and locals, La Puerta Falsa(on Calle 11, #6-50) is one of the best places to eat in Bogotá, regardless of whether you’re in for a quick snack, a heavy meal or a decadent dessert. What’s more, as well as boasting a hugely satisfying matrimonio, they also offer a divorcio (divorce) option with papayuela (mountain papaya).
Meringues might be predominantly associated with French, Italian and Swiss gastronomy, but they’re just as popular in other parts of the world as well. Given Colombia’s bountiful fruit selection, it’s unsurprising that their take on the dessert features guayabana, blackberries, strawberries, peaches and other exotic treats, atop crunchy layers of meringue concealing mountains of whipped cream inside.
For a more tropical twist on the theme, head to Mini Malin Chapinero Alto (Calle 57, #4-9) where they do a merengón topped with cupuaçu (the national fruit of Brazil) and chocolate sauce. They also stock a range of other traditional Colombian desserts with creative flourishes if you fancy something a bit different.
Synonymous with the festive period, natilla is one of the most popular Christmas desserts in Colombia and will form an integral part of any Yuletide feast. The dish resembles something halfway between a bowl of custard and a plate of flan, consisting of milk, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar and flour. It’s decorated with powdered cinnamon and occasionally raisins or grated coconuts.
The best way to experience natilla traditionally is to make it from scratch with the guiding hand of a Colombian cook, but it can also be pre-bought from shops and stores across the country, as well as in plenty of restaurants. In Bogotá, try Endulza tu Paseoon the corner of Carrera 9 and Calle 71 (among other locations).
Another dessert very popular during the Christmas season, torta negra is a staple that can be enjoyed at any major celebration. Perhaps equivalent to the Christmas cake found in many other parts of the world, the torta negra is made from a heady mixture of chocolate, fruit, nuts, almonds, wine, rum and spices.
Again, part of the fun of the torta negra is creating it from scratch at home, but excellent premade ones are offered by Toledo Pasteleria, which has outlets all over Bogotá, such as in Usaquen (Calle 140, #13), Los Monjes (Carrera 100 #24-49) or Chapinero (Calle 45 with Carrera 24).