Oaxaca City is home to many excellent restaurants serving elevated Mexican cuisine. Some of the most popular include Casa Oaxaca, Los Danzantes, Restaurante Catedral, and Las Quince Letras. Those are just off the top of my head, but there are many more.
We’re partial to street food and market fondas but we wanted to include one or two fine dining establishments in our Oaxaca restaurant guide. However, we didn’t want to go to just any restaurant. We wanted to find places that were more unique and told an interesting story.
Crudo, a tiny 6-seater restaurant that offers Japanese-Oaxacan omakase, was an obvious choice. Restaurante Alfonsina was another.
Located in San Juan Bautista la Raya, Alfonsina is a destination restaurant that serves haute Mexican cuisine in a setting quite unlike any other in Oaxaca.
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WHAT IS RESTAURANTE ALFONSINA?
Restaurante Alfonsina is a Mexican restaurant located in the small town of San Juan Bautista la Raya, about half an hour south of Oaxaca City. It’s helmed by Chef Jorge León, a young Oaxacan chef who’s trained in the kitchens of celebrated restaurants like Casa Oaxaca and Pujol in Mexico City.
When you get off the taxi, you’ll find yourself in a quiet, residential neighborhood – hardly the type of setting you’d expect to find a fine dining restaurant. I was beginning to doubt we were in the right place when I finally spotted Alfonsina’s sign.
Aside from its location, what sets Alfonsina apart is its setting. It doesn’t look or feel like your traditional haute cuisine restaurant.
We were here for lunch so we were seated outside in a shaded area of their garden. Nothing fancy. No tablecloths or wait staff in uniforms. Just us, a wooden table, and the shade provided by an old tree. We could see a woman making fresh tortillas by hand so it felt like we were guests in someone’s house. We felt right at home.
We found out about Restaurante Alfonsina from the Oaxaca episode of Somebody Feed Phil. From the show, we learned of Chef León’s desire to honor the Oaxaca region’s culinary traditions. He wanted to offer a tasting menu of elevated traditional food made with the freshest seasonal produce, but served in an inviting and unintimidating setting.
We had a few moments before lunch service started so I explored the restaurant’s grounds and snapped some photos. In this interview, Chef Jorge talked about how this property used to be a small corn field.
Take a quick look around and it becomes clear that the restaurant is set in a family home. Chef Jorge emphasized that Restaurante Alfonsina is a family affair. It started when he and his mother wanted to serve breakfast and tortillas to the community in a relaxed and more comfortable space.
Though the restaurant now feeds travelers from all over the world, it seems that the concept and humble feel of the restaurant haven’t changed much. From the looks of it, they’ve even turned a portion of the property into a small bed and breakfast.
Restaurante Alfonsina offers four daily seatings – at 1PM, 2PM, 6PM, and 7PM – from Wednesday till Monday. Reservations are required which you can make through the link on their Instagram page.
In October 2022, our lunch for two with beer went for a total of MXN 1,040. At the time of this writing, the lunch tasting menu at Alfonsina goes for MXN 400-600 depending on the time of year, while dinner is priced at MXN 600-800. Not bad at all.
Address: C. García Vigil 183, 71232 San Juan Bautista la Raya, Oaxaca, Mexico Operating Hours: 1PM, 2PM, 6PM, 7PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) What We Paid: MXN 1,040 for two with drinks (October 2022) Instagram: alfonsinaoax
WHO IS CHEF JORGE LEÓN?
A proud native of Oaxaca, Chef Jorge León got his start working as a dishwasher at one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City – Casa Oaxaca. He worked his way up before earning a position at Pujol, one of the most celebrated restaurants in Mexico. At Pujol, he’d continue to develop his craft under the tutelage of famed chef Enrique Olvera.
Chef Jorge is credited for providing the recipe for Pujol’s legendary mole madre. Made with chilhuacle chiles, this mole earned him the nickname “Moles” from his contemporaries at Pujol.
Chef Jorge explained that Chef Enrique Olvera was looking for a traditional dish from Oaxaca to add to the restaurant’s menu. He shared his family’s recipe for mole negro because in his words:
“You can’t get more traditional than mole because it’s a staple dish for every special occasion. Whether it is served at a wedding, a funeral, or the birth of your child, you will celebrate these events with mole.”
Impressed with the dish, Chef Olvera would develop a vegan version of the mole and make it a permanent fixture on Pujol’s menu.
After working for 6 years at Pujol and helping Chef Olvera open other restaurant concepts like Cosme in New York, Manta in Los Cabos, and El Molino in Mexico City, Chef Jorge decided it was time to branch out on his own. Developing his concept for years with earnings he had saved from Pujol, Chef Jorge finally opened Restaurante Alfonsina to the public in 2018.
Later that year, New Worlder recognized Alfonsina as 2018’s restaurant of the year, a distinction that the young chef credits for his restaurant’s fast rise to success.
We visited Restaurante Alfonsina for lunch and we were treated to a fantastic 5-course tasting menu. Drinks aren’t included and you can opt for extras on top of the five included dishes (more on that later).
Pictured below is a locally brewed craft beer. They serve Victoria too but I recommend getting this one.
As far as I can tell, Alfonsina doesn’t have an ala carte menu nor do they have a printed tasting menu. What your tasting menu includes depends on what’s available at the market on that day.
Calling his cooking style cocina de mercado (“market kitchen”), Chef Jorge explained that he goes to Central de Abastos market every morning to source his ingredients. What he offers on his menu is highly dependent on what’s available at the market that morning.
Today, he started us off with this pumpkin squash blossom soup but tomorrow, it could be something made with pulque, corn, or cauliflower. The restaurant’s location, setting, and daily tasting menu are all part of what makes a meal at Alfonsina so memorable.
This pumpkin blossoms soup was delicious. Made with huitlacoche (corn smut), it had a simple and earthy flavor that set the tone for today’s meal.
These toasted tortilla chips and salsa were some of the best we had anywhere in Mexico. They served them to us at the start but they were long gone before we even got through the first course. Absolutely delicious.
I had read about Chef Jorge’s wild mushroom taco so I was hoping to get that, but what we got instead may have been even better.
I wish I had taken notes to better describe each dish, but if I remember correctly, what you’re looking at below is a fish tostada topped with green salsa and hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf).
For our main course, we enjoyed this mole manchamanteles with rice. Everything we had today was enjoyable but this was a standout dish.
Mole is an important dish in Oaxacan cuisine so expect to be served some type of mole at Alfonsina. Based on his history at Pujol and this dish, mole seems to be a León family specialty.
For our fourth course, we were served these tamales oaxaqueños. Tamales are enjoyed throughout Mexico but what makes the tamales in Oaxaca different is that they’re typically enriched with mole and wrapped in banana leaves, instead of the more common corn husks.
Unwrapping the tamal, it looks to be made with mole amarillo and hoja santa.
Your lunch tasting menu at Restaurante Alfonsina comes with five courses but you can opt for an extra dish. On the day of our visit, that extra dish was this barbacoa taco.
A weekend tradition in Mexico, barbacoa is a general term used to describe meats cooked over an open fire, traditionally in a pit covered with maguey leaves. The meats are slow-roasted until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender before being served with corn tortillas.
For the final course, we were given the option between two desserts. I went with this homemade guava popsicle.
Being a fan of bananas, my better half went with this roasted plantain. If I remember correctly, both desserts were dusted with a powder made from toasted almonds and pecans.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ALFONSINA, OAXACA
We enjoyed our meal at Alfonsina but to be honest, I don’t know how much better it is than other haute cuisine Mexican restaurants like Casa Oaxaca or Criollo. We’re drawn to interesting dining experiences which is a big reason why we decided to have lunch at Alfonsina.
Alfonsna isn’t just a restaurant. It’s a destination restaurant and that made all the difference for us. We enjoyed the experience of dining there as much as the food.
Some people might not want to make the trip all the way to San Juan Bautista la Raya, especially considering there are many terrific restaurants within the downtown area of Oaxaca City. The taxi fare to and from the restaurant only adds to the cost.
But if you want honest food created with sincerity and passion – in a setting that you probably can’t find anywhere else in Oaxaca – then a meal at Alfonsina is a must.
We didn’t have the privilege of meeting Chef Jorge but I wish him a long and fruitful career. I hope Restaurante Alfonsina continues to thrive. Based on interviews and what I’ve read about him online, he seems to be a genuinely humble young man who wants to honor the Oaxaca region’s culinary traditions by making good food.
Not just any good food, but food that you will want to travel for.
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I love food that tells a story. At highly-acclaimed Restaurante Leo in Bogotá, Colombia, the story is about Colombia’s biodiversity.
Colombia is consistently ranked among the most biodiverse countries in the world. On most lists, it’s the second most biodiverse, behind only Brazil. At Leo, Chef Leonor Espinosa does a stellar job in highlighting that biodiversity, using rare and little-known ingredients from the most far-flung corners of her country.
I’m not a food historian or expert by any stretch, but even a layperson like myself could easily appreciate and marvel at the creativity of her tasting menu.
From arowana with sour cassava to calf’s foot jelly served with coquindo oil (a rare Amazonian seed), Chef Leo’s menu will take you on a gastronomic journey through Colombia’s incredible biodiversity.
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WHAT IS RESTAURANTE LEO?
Restaurante Leo is widely considered to be one of the best restaurants in Bogota and Colombia. It’s ranked 48 on the 2022 list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and 13 on Latin America’s 50 Best.
Leo is helmed by celebrity chef Leonor Espinosa and her daughter, sommelier Laura Hernández. Located in the upscale Chapinero neighborhood of Bogota, the restaurant offers several tasting menus, with or without drink pairing. They offer an ala carte menu and fermented drinks tasting as well.
Depending on what menu you choose when making your reservation, you’ll be seated in one of two dining rooms – La Sala de Leo or La Sala de Laura.
WHO IS LEONOR ESPINOSA?
Leonor Espinosa is a Colombian chef who was born in the southwestern Colombian town of Cartago. Nicknamed Leo, she spent most of her youth in Cartagena where she studied Economics and Fine Arts. She would begin her professional career in marketing and advertising before pursuing her passion for the culinary arts.
Chef Espinosa first gained international recognition when she opened her signature restaurant – Leo Cocina y Cava – in 2007. Since then, she’s garnered many local and international awards, including Best Colombian Chef in 2012 and the World’s Best Female Chef in 2022.
Together with her daughter, sommelier Laura Hernández, Chef Espinosa has turned Leo into one of the most celebrated restaurants in the world. Her culinary style can best be described as a fusion of traditional and modern Colombian cuisine.
Calling her concept “Ciclo-Bioma”, she finds novel ways to highlight her country’s culinary traditions by using little-known Colombian ingredients to create more innovative versions of Colombian food.
RESTAURANTE LEO, BOGOTA, COLOMBIA
Restaurante Leo is located in the upscale neighborhood of Chapinero in Bogotá, Colombia. Unless you were looking for it, you can easily walk by this building without realizing that one of the best restaurants in the world is sitting behind that brick facade.
Under the restaurant’s sign are three plaques showcasing Chef Espinosa’s most recent accolades – 2022 Best Female Chef, 2022 World’s 50 Best, and 2022 Latin America’s 50 Best.
LA SALA DE LEO
You need to make reservations to secure a table at Leo. Depending on the menu you choose, you’ll be seated either in La Sala de Leo or La Sala de Laura. The former is the more formal of the two and seats diners that select either the 8- or 13-course tasting menus.
Here’s a look at La Sala de Leo. It’s a dark spacious room with high ceilings and contemporary art on its walls. There are fewer tables than the space can fit, leading to a more comfortable dining experience.
The focal point of the room is this open kitchen where you can watch a small army of chefs putting together course after course. If you want a closer look, then you can ask to be seated at the chef’s table.
LA SALA DE LAURA
I didn’t go upstairs to La Sala de Laura but it’s said to be the more informal dining room of the two. People who choose the 7- or 10-course tasting menus will be seated here, as will diners who prefer to order from the ala carte menu.
La Sala de Laura also features a cocktail bar where diners can enjoy fermented drinks tasting and Territorio tasting. Developed by sommelier Laura Hernández, Territorio refers to the line of indigenous spirits and cocktails made from botanical ingredients typical of local Colombian cultures.
COLOMBIAN CUISINE IN EIGHT COURSES (TASTING MENU)
We chose the 8-course tasting menu so we were seated in the more formal dining room. Originally, I wanted to get the 13-course but we were advised that diners seated at the same table must all get the same number of courses.
Before we get into the actual food, I just wanted to quickly show you the restaurant’s cutlery. We were given a different set of cutlery before every course, each one as unique and interesting as the Colombian ingredients used in every dish.
APPETIZERS IN TWO COURSES
The first two courses consist of two sets of four appetizers. This first set was made with different types of Colombian seafood. Each dish was phenomenal and really set the tone for the meal.
At the end of our meal, we were given a menu with a list of Colombian ingredients used in every dish. According to our server, the menu wasn’t the most updated version but I’ll try to match the description with the right dish.
I’ll save you from the clumsy (and often annoying) descriptions of how each dish tasted and just list the descriptions on the menu. Just know that every dish tasted fantastic, often with an interesting balance of flavor, texture, and temperature.
FIRST COURSE (1 of 4): Mussel, green coconut, sea lettuce, sweet pepper
FIRST COURSE (2 of 4): King crab
FIRST COURSE (3 of 4): Albacore, culona ants, black pepper, huitoto, mañoco, cane honey, seaweed
After artful, inventive, and often playful dishes like this one (not to mention delicious), it’s hard to believe that Chef Leonor Espinosa is entirely self-taught. Wow!
Albacore was the main ingredient in this dish but it was also made with culona ants. They’re known locally as hormiga culona which literally means “big-assed ants”. Often sold as street food in Colombia, they’re typically toasted or fried and incredibly flavorful.
FIRST COURSE (4 of 4): Dried prawns, Caribbean crown conch, coconut, azotea herbs
Pictured below is the second set of four appetizers.
SECOND COURSE (1 of 4): Cashew, eucalyptus, white yuca, green pepper
A quick note on this dish, you’re meant to eat the cashew-encrusted ball in one mouthful then take bites from the strands of spicy pimienta verde (green pepper) as needed.
SECOND COURSE (2 of 4): Sweet potato, ogee, cured yolk
SECOND COURSE (3 of 4): Eggplant, Zenú sesame paste
SECOND COURSE (4 of 4): Purple yam, ocañera onion, 7 cueros cheese
BREAD & BUTTER
After the appetizers in two courses, we were served this bread roll with butter made from cachirra, guáimaro, and desert oregano. If I understood our server correctly, cachirra is a type of Colombian fish while guáimaro is the local term for breadnuts. Interesting!
This loaf of bread and dollop of butter was extra, meaning we got eight courses plus this.
THIRD COURSE: Arawana, sour cassava manioc, cacay, katara, onoto
This was one of the most memorable courses from our meal. Its main ingredient is arowana, a type of large South American freshwater fish native to the waters of the Amazon.
In Asia, arowanas are viewed as symbols and harbingers of good fortune. They’re prized as aquarium fish – especially by Chinese businessmen – and often sold for thousands of dollars. Never in my life did I ever think I’d eat one!
This was another memorable dish from today’s tasting menu. It’s Chef Leo’s take on the arepa, a staple Colombian dish that’s eaten at practically every meal in Colombia. Made with ground maize dough, you can think of it as a Colombian version of corn cakes or cornbread.
FIFTH COURSE: Local duck, seje, pipilongo
SIXTH COURSE: Sabanero pork, Guajira red rice bean
This was Chef Leo’s inventive take on the classic chicharron (deep-fried pork belly).
SEVENTH COURSE: Calf’s foot jelly, coquindo, Manaure salt
COCOA & COFFEE TERRITORY
EIGHTH COURSE: Territorio coffee and cocoa
For the 8th and final course, we were served a trio of coffee blends – 2 cold, 1 hot – paired with liqueur-filled chocolates. All in all, our 8-course meal without drink pairing lasted around two hours.
You can’t celebrate Colombia’s gastronomic traditions without including coffee. Its reputation precedes itself so this coffee and chocolate pairing was a fitting end to a spectacular and eye-opening meal.
Not only was every course delicious and beautifully presented, but they gave us insight into Colombia’s celebrated biodiversity, not to mention Chef Leo’s creativity.
We’ve had the privilege of enjoying tasting menus from different countries around the world and this was easily one of our favorites so far.
CICLO-BIOMA TASTING MENUS
As a souvenir, we were given copies of Leo’s menu with descriptions of all thirteen courses. It includes a list of all Colombian ingredients used and where in the country they were sourced from. Some of the more interesting ingredients include caiman, Santander ants, peach palm, and mojojoy (palm weevils).
As previously described, you can choose tasting menus consisting of 7-, 8-, 10-, or 13-courses. You can get them with or without drink pairing. Interestingly, people who go with drink pairing have the choice of either non-alcoholic juice pairing or pairing with alcoholic beverages. That’s not something we usually see at restaurants offering tasting menus.
Before we left, our server was kind enough to give us a list of Restaurante Leo’s tasting menu prices (accurate as of December 2022):
At today’s exchange rate, our 8-course tasting menu without drink pairing came out to just under USD 90. In my opinion, a fantastic value for what you get.
Address: Cl. 65 Bis #4-23, Bogotá, Colombia Operating Hours: 12NN–4PM, 6:45–11PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays) What We Paid: COP 1,048,800 for 8-course tasting menus without drink pairing (with beers and gratuity) Website: restaurantleo.com Instagram: leorestaurantcol
FINAL THOUGHTS ON RESTAURANTE LEO IN BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA
Chef Espinosa has made a name for herself with her inventive take on Colombian cuisine. Not only does she uphold and promote Colombia’s gastronomic traditions by showcasing little-known Colombian ingredients, but she supports the ethnic communities from where these ingredients are sourced as well.
Together with her daughter Laura Hernández, she created the FUNLEO foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to preserve Colombia’s food traditions while using gastronomy as an engine for social and economic development.
For more than a decade, the FUNLEO foundation has promoted the culinary traditions of indigenous and peasant communities while simultaneously helping them market and develop their traditional crops and ingredients. On Leo’s menu, you can taste the fruits of this relationship in unconventional ingredients like limonero ants and pirarucú fish.
I love interesting food, especially food that tells a story. At Leo, not only did the food leave an impression, but I left the restaurant with a newly discovered understanding and appreciation for Colombia’s biodiversity, its indigenous communities, and its wealth of fascinating ingredients.
For that, I have Leonor Espinosa to thank. ¡Muchas gracias Chef Leo!
Medellin is our favorite city in Colombia. Cartagena is more captivating and with better food, but as a liveable city, Medellin is our favorite. It’s got a great vibe, incredible museums, and an efficient easy-to-use transportation system. Plus, it’s home to one of our favorite dishes in Colombian cuisine – bandeja paisa.
Traditional Colombian food is a comforting cuisine that features big plates of starch- and meat-heavy dishes. Thick slabs of deep-fried chicharron are a favorite, as are filling soups overflowing with beans, potatoes, and tripe. If you’re a big eater who likes nap-inducing lunches, then you’re going to love the food in Medellin.
We didn’t go to any fine dining restaurants with tasting menus in Medellin (we left that for Bogota), but we did spend our time tracking down some of the city’s best examples of bandeja paisa and other hearty Antioquian specialties like mondongo and cazuela de frijoles.
If comfort food is what you’re after in Medellin, the kind of food that feels like grandma’s cooking, then you’ve come to the right place.
MEDELLIN RESTAURANTS QUICK LINKS
To help you plan your Medellin trip, we’ve compiled links to top-rated hotels, tours, and other travel-related services here.
Recommended hotels in Laureles-Estadio, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Medellin.
Hotel Casa Laureles
Hotel Asturias Medellin
Sightseeing Tour: Comuna 13 History & Graffiti Tour with Cable Car
Food Tour: Street Food and Poblado Rooftops Tour with a Local
Coffee Tour: Coffee Shop Hopping Tour
Day Trip: Guatape El Peñol with Boat, Breakfast & Lunch
Cooking Classes: Medellin Cooking Classes
Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
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WHAT IS PAISA FOOD?
You’ll undoubtedly come across the word “Paisa” a lot when you visit Medellin. It refers to a region in Colombia comprised of the Antioquia, Risaralda, Caldas, and Quindio departments. People who come from this part of Colombia are referred to as Paisas.
There are a few interesting dishes that hail from the Paisa region but these three stand out. Be sure to seek them out on your next trip to Medellin.
If you were to have just one dish in Medellin, then it should probably be bandeja paisa. It refers to an overflowing platter of food consisting of white rice surrounded by a variety of different meats and side dishes like chicharron (fried pork belly), sausages, carne molida (ground meat), red beans, platano maduro (fried plantains), arepas, avocados, and a fried egg.
It’s originally from the Paisa region (hence the name), though it’s now commonly consumed throughout the country. It’s considered by many to be a national dish of Colombia.
Sopa de Mondongo
Sopa de mondongo refers to a type of Colombian tripe soup made with sliced tripe – typically beef or pork – slow-cooked with different vegetables and herbs like carrots, peas, onions, and cilantro. It’s a hearty and filling soup that’s usually served with a side of white rice, arepas, avocado, and banana.
Cazuela de Frijoles
Cazuela de frijoles is another hearty Paisa soup made with Antioquian beans served in a bowl with chunks of chicharron, chorizo, avocados, and plantains. Like sopa de mondongo, it’s usually served with a side of white rice and/or arepas.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN MEDELLIN
The Medellin restaurant scene is mostly centered around two areas – El Poblado and Laureles. We spent most of our time finding restaurants in those two neighborhoods, along with a few other areas frequented by tourists.
I’ve arranged this list of the best Medellin restaurants by neighborhood to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
El Poblado is perhaps the most popular area to stay for foreigners in Medellin, especially those who like to party, but we personally preferred Laureles. It’s got a more local vibe with restaurants that didn’t feel like they catered to tourists.
Visit this restaurant at peak lunch times and you’ll quickly realize that Mondongo’s is one of the most popular restaurants in Medellin. A local favorite, Mondongo’s offers classic Antioquian and Colombian dishes like bandeja paisa, ajiaco, cazuela de lentejas, and of course – sopa de mondongo.
As described, sopa de mondongo refers to a Colombian tripe soup made with beef or pork tripe cooked with different types of vegetables. It’s a hearty and filling dish that’s usually served with a side of white rice, arepas, avocado, and banana.
I can’t say I’m an authority on sopa de mondongo but the version they serve here is very good. If you’re as big a fan of tripe as I am, then you need to try this.
Ajiaco is especially popular in Bogota but it’s widely available in Medellin as well. It refers to another filling Colombian soup made with shredded chicken, three varieties of potatoes, corn, and guasca herbs. According to many locals, Mondongo’s serves one of the best versions of ajiaco in Medellin.
During our time in Medellin, we found a few restaurants serving just three Colombian dishes – ajiaco, sopa de mondongo, and cazuela de frijoles. The dish pictured below isn’t cazuela de frijoles but it’s something similar – cazuela de lentejas. Instead of beans, it’s made with lentils.
When our server placed this beautiful bowl of food in front of me, my first thought was: “It looks like a Colombian version of Korean bibimbap!” Similar only in presentation, cazuela de lentejas consists of a bed of stewed lentils topped with different ingredients like chicharron, carne molida, platano maduro, avocado, and papas fritas fosforitos (shoestring potatoes).
With all the delicious dishes to try at this restaurant, I think you’ll be eating at Mondongo’s more than once. We did.
We love fried pork belly so we got this side order of chicharron with platano maduro and an arepa. You can never eat too much chicharron in Colombia or Medellin!
We always went in the first hour but don’t let this picture fool you. Mondongo’s is a very popular restaurant. Arrive at peak times and you’ll find a long line of locals waiting to tuck into a bowl of sopa de mondongo or ajiaco.
We went to their branch in Laureles but they have a branch in Poblado as well. Based on their popularity and rave reviews, Mondongo’s has to be one of the best restaurants in Medellin for traditional Colombian food.
Address: Cra. 70 # c 3 – 43, Laureles – Estadio, Medellín, Laureles, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 11:30AM-9:30PM, Mon-Wed / 11:30AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat / 11AM-8PM, Sun What to Order: Traditional Colombian dishes
2. Cucayito Cocina Costeña
Costeño cuisine refers to food from the Caribbean coastal regions of Colombia. If you’ve been to Cartagena and enjoyed the food there, then you’ll probably want to enjoy a meal at Cucayito. As their name suggests, they specialize in costeño dishes like cazuela de marsicos, posts negra cartagenera, and mote de queso.
This glistening hunk of deliciousness is called sobrebarriga asada. It refers to a Colombian-style grilled flank steak served with coconut rice, corn, yuca, and a side salad. The word sobrebarriga literally means “over the belly”.
Be sure to ask about Cucayito’s daily specials. On the day we went, they offered this tasty bowl of sancocho de rabo (ox tail).
Sancocho refers to a popular Colombian soup made with meat, tubers, and vegetables. We’ve tried it with different types of meat like chicken (de gallina), beef (de res), and fish (de pescado), but this version made with ox tail was easily the best. It’s incredibly delicious.
We went to the Laureles branch of Cucayito but you can visit their El Poblado restaurant as well.
Parilla Dejame Q’ Te Cuente is another popular restaurant in the Laureles area that serves delicious traditional Colombian food. They offer the usual Antioquian specialties like sopa de mondongo, cazuela de frijoles, and bandeja paisa, but what caught my eye was this plato tipico.
Meaning “typical dish”, this Parilla Dejame’s plato tipico is similar to a bandeja paisa except you can choose your protein. Available proteins include chicharron, chorizo, ground meat, beef, pork, or chicken.
The plato tipico was delicious but even better was this lengua en salsa criolla. It refers to Colombian-style beef tongue drenched in a tomato-based creole sauce.
If you’d like a break from the more common Antioquian dishes, then I suggest trying this. It’s fantastic.
Parilla Dejame Q’ Te Cuente is located along busy Carrera 70 in Laureles. We went here for lunch, when it was relatively dead, but I’m sure the place gets much busier at night like the rest of the establishments along this strip.
Parrilla Dejame Q’ Te Cuente
Address: Cir 2 Carrera 70 #32, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Medellín 32, Colombia Operating Hours: 10AM-12MN, Sun-Wed / 10AM-1AM, Thurs / 10AM-2AM, Fri-Sat What to Order: Lengua en salsa criolla, typical Antioquian dishes
4. Bárbaro Cocina Primitiva
Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then a fat juicy steak is probably tops on your list of favorite dishes. If you’re a fan of grilled meats, then you’ll definitely want to enjoy a meal here at Barbaro Cocina Primitiva.
This restaurant specializes in a variety of steak and meat dishes like tomahawk, picanha, short ribs, and burgers. I went with this bife al barril which translates to “barrel steak”.
Bife al barril refers to a thick cut of beef tenderloin that’s encrusted with spices and then smoked in a charcoal barrel for two hours before being grilled. It comes with your choice of side dish and some chimichurri.
If you’d rather do pork than beef, then you can try this chistilla de cerdo. It consists of a cut of meat that combines pork ribs and bacon. Like the steaks, it comes with your choice of side dish.
We went to Barbaro Cocina Primitiva after reading more than one local describe it as the “best restaurant for steak” in Medellin. We went to their restaurant in Laureles but they have a branch in Poblado as well. Both outlets are TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awardees.
As described, we didn’t go to any fine dining restaurants in Medellin. Barbaro Cocina Primitiva is probably the most upscale restaurant we visited. It has a beautiful interior and the type of menu that makes it a good choice for date night in Medellin.
Bárbaro Cocina Primitiva
Address: Cra. 76 #73b-39, Laureles – Estadio, Medellín, Laureles, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 12NN-10PM, Mon-Thurs / 12NN-11PM, Fri-Sat / 12NN-9PM, Sun What to Order: Steak
5. Animal Cocina
Animal Cocina is another good restaurant that unapologetic carnivores can visit in Medellin. People are crazy for hamburgers and hot dogs (perros calientes) in this city and many locals describe this restaurant as having some of the best burgers in Medellin.
Animal Cocina offers almost twenty different types of burgers. Pictured below is the Master Animal. It’s their award-winning signature burger topped with smoked bacon, Philadelphia cream cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, pickled vegetables, and honey BBQ sauce.
Even more loaded than the Master Animal, the Hamburguesa Animal consists of an all-beef patty topped with breaded chicken, a thick slab of smoked bacon, onion rings, cheddar cheese, vegetables, and the house BBQ sauce. Animalistic indeed!
This restaurant brings out the animal in you. Animal Cocina has several branches in Medellin, including this one in Laureles. They also have outlets in El Poblado and Envigado.
Like I said, this restaurant brings out the animal in you. F you too!
Chicharron is one of the most popular meat dishes you’ll find in Colombia, and with good reason. Crunchy and fatty, it’s absolutely delicious, even when it isn’t prepared as well as it could be.
If you like fried pork belly as much as we do, then you may want to grab a beer and some chicharron at this restaurant in Laureles. As their name suggests, they specialize in all things porky and fatty.
Chicharron City offers hamburgers, burritos, and sandwiches made with chicharron but if you visit with two or more people, then we recommend getting one of their para compartir (for sharing) platters. They offer five different preparations of chicharron – original, barrel-smoked, honey-glazed, popcorn, and spicy. Depending on what type of platter you get, you can try three or five of them.
There were just two of us so we got the smallest platter – the Trilogia. It comes with three types of chicharron of your choice, two types of fries/yuca, and three salsas and arepas. Can you think of better bar chow in Medellin to go with your ice-cold bottles of Aguila beer?
Chicharron City is a small, open-air restaurant in a less frequented part of Laureles. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a few bottles of beer while munching on chicharron over the weekend.
Address: Cq. 5 #69-15, Laureles – Estadio, Medellín, Laureles, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 12NN-8:30PM, Mon-Thurs / 12NN-10:30PM / 4-10:30PM, Sat / 3-8:30PM, Sun What to Order: Chicharron
7. Guilli Arepas
In Colombia and in many other countries throughout Latin America, lunch is the biggest and most important meal of the day. Dinner is typically a quieter affair, confined to smaller meals like arepas and chocolate santafreño.
If arepa sandwiches sound good to you, then you may want to have them for dinner at Guilli Arepas. It’s a small arepa shop located in a quieter part of Laureles. They offer over a dozen types of arepa sandwiches filled with different ingredients like chicharron, cheese, ham, pineapple, and shrimp.
Pictured in the foreground below is their signature arepa sandwich – the Guilli. It’s stuffed with chicharron, chicken, beef, ham, corn, and cheese.
This one is called the Maicitos. It’s filled with corn, chorizo, and cheese.
Guilli Arepas is open only from 4PM till 10PM, making it an ideal place to have a light arepa dinner in Medellin.
Address: #39b-2 a, Cq. 76 #39b-104, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 4-10PM, daily What to Order: Arepa sandwiches
8. Los Perritos
Burgers are big in Medellin. But even bigger are hot dogs, which Colombians refer to as perros calientes (literally “hot dogs” in Spanish).
Unlike American hot dogs, these Colombian versions are loaded with toppings you wouldn’t normally find in the US like feta cheese, arugula, and refried beans. More exotic versions can even be topped with ingredients like ceviche, crab, and shrimp in coconut sauce!
Los Perritos is one of the most popular perro caliente chains in Medellin. They don’t get crazy with their topping choices like some places but they do fill them with a boatload of ingredients like melted cheese, house salad, and shoestring potatoes.
Their standard hot dogs are called the perro and perrito (smaller version), but we tried these interesting versions called the perra and perrita. They don’t contain hot dog sausages at all. Instead, they’re filled with a ton of smoked bacon.
Los Perritos has many branches throughout Medellin. This one is located in Laureles but you can check their website to find an outlet near you.
Hot dog restaurants in Medellin typically open around mid-afternoon. Perros calientes seem to be more of a lighter dinner option or an after-clubbing/drinking snack in Colombia.
Empanadas are among the most delicious street food snacks in Colombia. Not only are these deep-fried meat turnovers tasty, but they’re cheap as well, often going for as little as COP 5,000 per piece with a soda. If you’re looking for delicious cheap eats in Medellin, then look no further than an empanada.
Empanadas vendors are ubiquitous in Medellin but we went to this shop in Laureles after a local described their empanadas as the best in the city.
Empanadas are widely available throughout Latin America, the US, and the Philippines but in some countries like Colombia or Venezuela, they’re a little different. They’re made with corn dough which gives them a crunchier, crumblier texture. They can be filled with a variety of ingredients like ground meat, shredded chicken, ham, corn, and cheese.
Empanadas are typically crescent-shaped but here’s one that looks like an orb. This one was loaded with shredded chicken.
You’ll walk by many empanada roadside vendors in Medellin but if you find yourself in the Laureles neighborhood, then you may want to visit Empanadas de Laureles. It’s an actual restaurant so you can sit down and take your time while enjoying some of the best empanadas in Medellin.
Empanadas de Laureles
Address: Cra. 71 # 4-03, Laureles – Estadio, Medellín, Laureles, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 8AM-6:30PM, Mon-Fri / 8AM-1PM, Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Empanadas
10. El Tejadito
I absolutely loved this little pastry shop. Located along busy Carrera 70, opposite Parilla Dejame Q’ Te Cuente (#3), El Tejadito makes some of the most delicious pastries we’ve had anywhere in Colombia. Not only are they flaky and tasty, but most of their pastries are a good size as well.
El Tejadito makes pastries filled with both sweet and savory fillings like queso fundido (melted cheese), chicken, beef, and arequipe (dulce de leche). My hands-down favorite was this tejadito dulce which is filled with guayaba (guava) and cheese. It’s soooo delicious.
We went to the El Tejadito branch in Laureles but they have several outlets throughout Medellin, including two in El Poblado.
Everyone loves ice cream, but healthier eaters may prefer fruits. If you like one or the other, or both, then you need to visit La Jugosa. It’s a chain of ice cream shops in Medellin that serves desserts made with fruits, ice cream, or a combination of both.
La Jugosa offers a wide menu of desserts but I was here specifically to try their salpicon. Salpicon is basically a type of Colombian fruit cocktail made with fresh fruits. It can be enjoyed on its own or topped with either vanilla ice cream or sweetened condensed milk.
At La Jugosa, you can try salpicon plain or topped with cream, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and crumbled cuajada (milk curd). I wanted to try their salpicon because more than one local described it as the best in Medellin. They may be right.
I got a kick out of one local’s description of La Jugosa. He said that their interiors didn’t match the deliciousness of their desserts. He’s absolutely right. Their restaurants look more like bus waiting rooms than dessert shops but don’t let their unappetizing interiors fool you, La Jugosa’s desserts are delicious.
La Jugosa has many branches in Medellin, including outlets in the popular tourist areas of El Poblado, Laureles, and Envigado.
Address: Carrera 70 #Cir 4-39, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 10AM-10PM, daily What to Order: Salpicon, helados, ensaladas de frutas
As described, El Poblado is one of the liveliest and most popular areas to stay for foreigners in Medellin. It has a bustling restaurant scene with plenty of fine dining restaurants, bars, clubs, and cafes. You’ll find a wide range of restaurants serving international fare like Japanese food, Mexican food, and other types of Latin American cuisine.
El Poblado doesn’t feel like the most authentic place in Medellin but you certainly won’t run out of restaurant options here.
12. Ajiacos y Mondongos
We prefer local hole-in-the-walls over polished restaurants that serve international fare. The latter seemed to be more dominant in Poblado but there are hidden gems that serve amazing food like Ajiacos y Mondongos.
Open since 1991, this humble restaurant offers just three things on their menu – ajiaco, sopa de mondongo, and cazuela de frijoles. Ironically, the restaurant’s best-selling dish is the only one that isn’t part of its name.
This bowl of cazuela de frijoles is absolutely amazing and something you need to try at this restaurant. I’m sure the ajiaco and mondongo are delicious too but there’s a reason why this dish is the most popular.
Check out that crunchy chunk of chicharron! In the eyes of many locals, Ajiacos y Mondongos is the best restaurant in the Poblado neighborhood for traditional Antioquian food.
This next dish looks like a dessert but you’ll often find it on the drinks list at many Colombian restaurants. What you’re looking at is mazamorra, a traditional Colombian drink made with maize grains and milk sweetened with panela (unrefined cane sugar). That big brown chunk in the middle is panela.
If you weren’t looking for Ajiacos y Mondongos, then you’d probably never know it was there. Open only for lunch, it’s tucked away along Calle 8, in a quieter corner of the Poblado neighborhood.
I walked in as soon as that green door opened but it wasn’t long before a steady stream of Colombians started rolling in. Clearly, this place is a hit with the locals.
With such a focused menu, Ajiacos y Mondongos has to be one of the best restaurants in Medellin for ajiaco, mondongo, and cazuela de frijoles.
Ajiacos y Mondongos
Address: Cl. 8 #42-46, El Poblado, Medellín, El Poblado, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 12NN-3:30PM, Mon-Fri / 12NN-4PM, Sat-Sun What to Order: Cazuela de frijoles, sopa de mondongo, ajiaco
13. Tika Dogs Gourmet
Most of the popular perro caliente shops in Medellin are restaurant chains so I wanted to find one that was a little more artisanal in feel. Luckily, we found Tika Dogs Gourmet in El Poblado. It’s a small restaurant that tops their perros calientes with ingredients you’d never imagine on a hot dog.
Tika Dogs Gourmet names their hot dogs according to popular Global destinations like Budapest, Machuppichu, and New York. I asked my server for recommendations and she suggested I try the Estambul (crab, mozzarella) or New York (medley of cheeses, BBQ sauce).
This was our first trip to Colombia so I went with something more befitting – the Medellin. It’s an overflowing hot dog topped with shredded meat, corn, hogao (Colombian sofrito), and guacamole.
Any of the top perro caliente chains are good but if you want something with more soul and pizzazz, then I recommend checking out Tika Dogs Gourmet. They’re a Traveller’s Choice awardee with a perfect 5-star rating on TripAdvisor.
Tika Dogs Gourmet is a tiny restaurant with an interior that’s just as interesting as their hot dogs. Based on their perfect TripAdvisor rating and creative flair for putting together toppings, they have to be one of the best restaurants in Medellin for perros calientes.
Tika Dogs Gourmet
Address: Cra. 34 #7-29, El Poblado, Medellín, El Poblado, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 2-9PM, Mon-Wed / 2-10:30PM, Thurs-Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Medellin, Estambul, New York
14. Sr Buñuelo
Like empanadas or arepas, you’ll find shops selling buñuelos everywhere in Medellin. However, not all buñuelos are created equal. We tried these Colombian yuca fritters several times in Medellin and Bogota and Sr Buñuelo was clearly the best.
Buñuelos can take on different forms in different countries but in Colombia, it describes a crispy and chewy fritter made from corn starch and yuca flour. It’s typically made with melted cheese but it can be filled with other ingredients as well like arequipe, chocolate, and guava jelly.
We enjoyed all of Sr Buñuelo’s offerings but my clear-cut favorite was the bocadillo (guava jelly). These buñuelos are a little oily but they’re oh so chewy and delicious.
Sr Buñuelo is a popular buñuelo chain with branches in Medellin and Bogota. We would later go on a food tour in Bogota and we were pleased to find that Sr Buñuelo was one of our stops. According to our tour guide, they make some of the best buñuelos in Colombia.
Address: Cl 10 #43C-35, El Poblado, Medellín, El Poblado, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 6AM-7PM, Mon-Fri / 7AM-7PM, Sat (closed Sundays) What to Order: Buñuelos
15. Mercado del Rio
When you’re traveling in a large group, one of the toughest decisions you have to make is where to eat. Everyone has their food preferences so it can be difficult to pick a restaurant. Thankfully, we have Mercado del Rio.
Mercado del Rio is a two-story food hall located near the Industriales MRT station. I was happy to discover this place by accident when I was walking from the station to the Medellin Museum of Modern Art. It’s a stylish food hall with around two dozen stalls offering a wide variety of food choices like Colombian food, sushi, Asian noodles, burgers, vegetarian pizza, and Latin American food.
From delicious pizza to sushi to Argentinian choripan and Peruvian chaufa, there really is something for everyone at Mercado del Rio. With all the great food to be had here, it can be hard to decide which stall to go to!
We enjoyed Mercado del Rio so much that we wound up going here twice. We ordered food from five stalls, starting with this tasty bowl of salchipapas from the Patatas Gourmet stall. It consists of french fries topped with sausages, bacon, quail eggs, cheddar cheese, and barbecue sauce.
As their name suggests, Patats Gourmet specializes in potato dishes inspired by international cuisines like Italian, Argentinian, Cuban, and Swiss.
If you’d like a quick break from perros calientes, then perhaps you’d like to try this tasty Argentinian choripan from the Par de Brutos stall. It’s a type of sandwich made with an Argentinian chorizo sausage served in a bread roll with chimichurri and salsa.
Par de Brutos offers a variety of meat dishes and sandwiches made with different types of meat like smoked chicharron, chorizo, pulled pork, and bondiola (pork shoulder). If smoked burgers and pulled pork sandwiches are your thing, then you’ll probably want to try this stall.
I love Peruvian chifa dishes so it didn’t take much deliberation for me to order something from the Peru Mix stall. They offer different types of ceviche and sanguches (Peruvian sandwiches) but what really caught my eye was this heaping plate of arroz chaufa de mariscos (Peruvian-Chinese seafood fried rice). Overflowing with seafood, it was delicious.
We’ve only eaten at five stalls thus far but Peru Mix may be my favorite. That arroz chaufa was fantastic.
We’re originally from Asia but we’ve been living in Mexico and Colombia for the last year. We’ve loved every minute of our time here but I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t miss Asian food.
I satisfied my Asian food craving with that tasty plate of arroz chaufa while Ren scratched her itch with this Indonesian-inspired bowl of noodles from the Wok in a Box stall. Hardly anything about this dish reminded us of Indonesian food but it didn’t matter, it was still delicious.
As you can tell from their name, Wok in a Box specializes in Asian-inspired dishes (emphasis on the “inspired”). With dish mash-ups like “Shanghai Pad Thai” and “Vietnam Char Siu”, their creations bear little resemblance to actual dishes from those countries but they taste good anyway.
It’s hard to say no to gelato for dessert, especially if it’s flavored with Amarena cherries. The Gelato Italiano stall offers a few classic flavors, the most interesting being this Amarena. Sweet, a little tart, and oh so creamy, it was absolutely delicious.
Be sure to grab a scoop or two from the Gelato Italiano stall before making your way out of Mercado del Rio.
When I was searching for places to eat in Envigado, I found an article claiming that the late great Anthony Bourdain made a mistake by not eating at this restaurant on the Medellin episode of No Reservations. No one criticizes Uncle Tony so I was intrigued!
According to the writer, Bourdain made a mistake by not coming here because he missed out on the biggest plates of bandeja paisa you’ll find anywhere in Medellin. La Gloria de Gloria only serves bandeja paisa and the portions are always for two people or more. Just look at the size of that chicharron!
To my shock, I didn’t know that the portions were for at least two people until I got there. I ate here alone so I had to do my best Joey Chestnut impression before waving the white flag and bringing the rest home. This was a mammoth portion of food, and all for just COP 60,000 (around USD 12).
The chicharron is the star of every platter of bandeja paisa. At Gloria de Gloria, they give you 1 kg of it. That’s 2.2 lbs of crispy crunchy pork belly!
The chicharron at this restaurant was massive but unfortunately, a bit tough, due in part to its size. It was hard for me to cut through the meat and chew the skin.
The chicharron may have been tough but the rest of this bandeja paisa was terrific. This bowl of frijoles antioqueños (pork hock bean stew) was delicious.
No platter of bandeja paisa would ever be complete without morcilla (blood sausages) and arepas. These blood sausages were my favorite part of this meal.
If you plan on visiting Envigado, then you may want to check out La Gloria de Gloria, especially if you’re traveling in groups of two or more. They don’t serve the best bandeja paisa but they do give you gargantuan plates of food for very reasonable prices. It’s a great place to feast on the Paisa region’s pride and joy while rubbing elbows with locals.
La Gloria de Gloria
Address: Cl. 37 Sur #35-06, Zona 9, Envigado, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 9AM-6:30PM, Thurs-Sun / 9AM-6PM, Wed (closed Mon-Tue) What to Order: Bandeja paisa
EL CENTRO (LA CANDELARIA)
This was perhaps the best plate of bandeja paisa I had in Medellin. They don’t give you copious amounts of food like La Gloria de Gloria but everything on this plate was done to perfection and in the right amounts. Their chicharron is fantastic.
El Centro (aka La Candelaria) has a reputation for being a little seedy but there are a few attractions there that warrant a visit, like Plaza Botero and the Museum of Antioquia. If you do decide to explore the Centro area, then I highly recommend having lunch at Hacienda.
Hacienda now has six restaurants throughout Medellin, including one in El Poblado, but it all started here in the heart of El Centro. A TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awardee, they’ve been serving delicious Colombian food from this location since 1991.
Address: Cra. 49 Junín #52-98, La Candelaria, Medellín, La Candelaria, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 11AM-7PM, Tue-Fri / 9AM-7PM, Sat / 11AM-6PM, Sun / 12NN-7PM, Mon What to Order: Bandeja paisa, traditional Colombian dishes
18. Salón Málaga
I’m drawn to places with history. If I find a restaurant or bar that’s been open for decades, even centuries, then I’m adding it to our itinerary. In Medellin, one such place is Salon Malaga. It’s a tango and bolero bar that’s been entertaining the people of Medellin with live music and drinks since 1957.
From the vintage photos and newspaper clippings to the jukeboxes and retro leather chairs, Salon Malaga feels like a time capsule smack dab in the heart of La Candelaria.
I didn’t bother to ask for the menu because I knew exactly what I wanted – Aguila beer – but Salon Malaga doesn’t look like the place to enjoy fancy-schmancy cocktails like cotton candy champagne or caramel apple sangrias.
I looked around and people were either drinking beer, coffee, or aguardiente (anise-flavored Colombian liqueur). It’s a throwback bar in every way and truly a cultural icon of Medellin. You can check the Medellin Living website to learn more about Salon Malaga.
If you like visiting places with history, then you need to enjoy a beer or two at Salon Malaga. It’s conveniently located just a few steps away from the San Antonio metro station.
Address: Cra. 51 #45-80, La Candelaria, Medellín, La Candelaria, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 8AM-2AM, Mon-Sat / 8AM-12MN, Sun What to Order: Beer, aguardiente, coffee
19. Cremas Doña Alba
First-time visitors to Medellin will undoubtedly find their way to Comuna 13 at some point. As colorful as it is, it isn’t exactly the place to find the best restaurants or fine dining options in Medellin. However, there are a couple of things you can try there.
I was on my way out when I overheard a local tour guide tell a newly arrived group that their first order of business was to try mango ice cream, which is a tradition in Comuna 13. By “mango ice cream”, he meant this crema or popsicle made with mango biche (unripe Colombian mango).
If you like tangy sour flavors, then you need to try this mango biche popsicle when you visit Comuna 13. As the tour guide said, it’s a local tradition!
This mango biche popsicle is traditionally enhanced with lime juice and salt but you can enjoy it as is. It’s naturally tart on its own.
After overhearing what the tour guide said, I googled “best mango ice cream in comuna 13” and found this place – Cremas Doña Alba. A neighborhood resident was standing next to me while I was waiting for my popsicle and he told me that this place really does serve the best cremas in Comuna 13.
Cremas Doña Alba
Address: Cra. 110 # 35 f 34, La Independencia, Medellín, San Javier, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 8AM-7PM, daily What to Order: Cremas
20. Museo de Cafe Yipao
I was riding the escalator back down when this colorful entryway caught my eye. Intrigued, I doubled back up the side stairwell and found this cute little cafe and shop called Museo de Cafe Yipao (aka Cafe del Filo).
When I arrived, the barista was brewing coffee for a small group of tourists so I walked up to him and asked how much their coffee was. To my surprise, he told me it was free. “Free?”, I asked, a little confused. He said yes but if I wanted to leave a tip, then I was welcome to do so. Thanking him, I dropped a COP 2,000 note in the jar and enjoyed my coffee.
Based on what I’ve read, Museo Cafe de Yipao aims to educate tourists about the Colombian coffee-making tradition. I arrived at the tail end of his demonstration but I believe he shows tourists how coffee is produced and prepared in Colombia, ending with a cup of freshly brewed coffee. ¡Muchisimas gracias!
Aside from leaving a small tip, you can show your appreciation by buying one of the many coffee-related products they have in the shop.
You’ll have an awesome view of Comuna 13’s famed escalators from inside the shop. If you’d like a cup of great coffee after checking out the neighborhood’s murals, then be sure to make a stop at Museo Cafe de Yipao. And don’t forget to leave a tip!
Museo de Cafe Yipao
Address: Carrera 110 Escaleras eléctricas comun 13. Tramo 2, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia Operating Hours: 9:30AM-6PM, daily
To help you find these restaurants in Medellin, I’ve pinned them all on this map. Click on the link to open a live version of the map in a new window.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA
If you like to party, then you’ll probably want to stay in the El Poblado neighborhood. It’s a lively area that’s home to many of the best restaurants, bars, and fine dining options in Medellin.
But if you don’t care too much about partying, then we recommend staying in the Laureles neighborhood instead. It’s a quieter area that’s more residential and authentic in feel but still with its own network of fine dining options, bars, hidden restaurants, and cafes. If you’ve spent time in Mexico City, then it’ll remind you a bit of La Condesa.
In any case, I hope you found this article on the best restaurants in Medellin useful. If you have any questions or would like anything clarified, then please feel free to let us know in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading and have a delicious time eating your way through Medellin!
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Elise Ofilada shares with us 20 traditional Polish desserts that you need to try on your next visit to Krakow and Poland.
Located in the heart of Europe, Poland is a hidden gem for Traveleaters who want to thoroughly experience the continent’s Slavic culture. Though many people remember the country for its tumultuous history or its strong reverence for the Roman Catholic religion, it also boasts an abundance of scenic places to visit and explore.
Poland is home to seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, after all, such as the must-see Wieliczka Salt Mine and the very quaint Historic Centre of Kraków. On top of that, by the coast of the Baltic Sea, Poland’s beaches are perfect spots to spend an afternoon while basking in the view of the horizon.
Cuisine-wise, Poland’s most well-known dish is called pierogi, which are dumplings often stuffed with savory fillings. When it comes to desserts, however, there’s no doubt that Poles prefer some sweetness instead.
Rivaling the desserts of its more famous neighbors, like Germany and Russia, in terms of decadence, Polish desserts are a must-try for Traveleaters of all nationalities.
POLISH DESSERTS QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Poland and want to learn more about Polish food, then you may be interested in joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.
Food Tours: Food and Drinking Tours in Poland
Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Poland
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THE MOST DELICIOUS POLISH DESSERTS
Commonly enjoyed during Easter Sunday, babka is a sweetened, bread-like cake that can be made in a variety of flavors. Developed by Polish Jewish communities in the 19th century, it has been described as similar to brioche, panettone, and Bundt cake.
The traditional dessert’s recipe often calls for it to be made with yeast-risen dough (which is why it’s sometimes called “yeast cake”), though there are versions of the Polish treat that make do without it.
While it’s usual for more modern variations to drizzle it with vanilla or chocolate icing (or even dust it off with powdered sugar), the original Polish version features candied or dried fruits as toppings instead, making it one of the most versatile and delicious Polish desserts you can try.
Photo by Tupungato
Szarlotka is a popular dessert that you can find in a pinch almost anywhere in Poland. Given its prevalence in their bakeries and restaurants, this delicious Polish treat is considered to be one of the country’s favorites.
Sometimes known as “Polish apple pie”, it’s made distinct by its short-crust pastry base. Without its distinguishing pie crust, it would instead be jabłecznik, a different Polish dessert that also makes use of spiced apples, but has a base of either puff pastry, sponge cake, or yeast cake.
Though the traditional Polish version of Szarlotka is more or less made like plain apple pie, variations can feature dried fruits, nuts, and even meringue.
Polish apple pie can also be served warm with whipped cream or cold as is, a truly delightful dessert to end a meal with.
Photo by Fotokon
Made specifically with “twaróg” (a kind of creamy, but firm Polish farmer’s cheese), Sernik is a Polish cheesecake that’s said to have first popped up in Poland during the 17th century. Because of its lightly sour, but sweet cheese taste, this traditional Polish dessert is still much sought-after to this day.
Many versions of the traditional Polish cheesecake exist, including one where there are raisins mixed in the cheese layer. There are also variations where the baker swaps out the short-crust pastry base in favor of sponge cake, and ones where they douse the cake in decadent chocolate sauce or ganache.
That said, it’s the twaróg that remains the irreplaceable heart of this dessert, showcasing just how unique Polish cuisine can be.
Photo by Karjalas
4. Kremowka Papieska (Napoleonka)
Whose opinion on Polish desserts can you trust more than a Pope’s?
Poland-native Pope John Paul II, himself, made this pastry famous by recounting an instance where he ate eighteen pieces in one sitting, in an attempt to win a bet against a friend.
While he might have lost in the end, it’s a win for all of us who learned about the delicacy through his story. Ever since then, the delicious Polish treat has been known as “papal cream cake” throughout the world.
While the dessert itself is a Polish spin on the French pastry napoleon (also known as mille feuille), a hot-topic debate has ensued between Poles of different regions on whether the cream pie should be called kremowka or napoleonka.
Whatever it’s called though, you can usually expect the popular Polish dessert to be made with puff pastry – filled with either whipped cream, vanilla-flavored pastry cream, or buttercream. Powdered sugar is also often sprinkled on top of the cream cake with a design in the shape of a cross.
Aside from Poland, this scrumptious cream cake is a hit throughout Europe where it goes by different names like cremeschnitte (Germany), krémes (Hungary), kremna rezina (Slovenia), and kremšnita (Croatia).
Made with choux pastry that’s been dusted with powdered sugar, Karpatka was named for its resemblance to the Carpathian mountains during the winter. This traditional cake infused with cream is thought to have originated in Poland in the 1950’s and is said to be served with afternoon tea or coffee.
Its soft and smooth inner layer pleasantly contrasts with its crisp outer crust, making the experience of devouring it a great harmony of textures. With many Polish dessert recipes using egg yolks, potato starch, and sugar for the custard cream, its consistency can also be likened to the filling of an éclair.
Photo by Olllympea
6. Ciasto z Śliwkami
Plums are central to this Polish dessert whose simple recipe calls for easily accessible ingredients like baking powder, sugar, and flour. The hardest ingredient to find would be the plums, which are seasonal in Poland.
From summer to autumn, however, the fresh fruit is in abundance and less expensive to buy. With a texture similar to sponge cake and an optional (but preferred!) sprinkling of crumble on top, the “Polish plum cake” is more than worth the yearly wait.
Photo by Bartosz Luczak
Like an apple pie, mazurek makes use of a short-crust pastry base. Unlike an apple pie, though, it often has two layers, onto which fruit preserves (like jam and marmalade) or icing are spread in between.
Described as a flat cake with many variations, Poles also make versions of it by adding ingredients like poppy seeds, caramel cream, chocolate, and walnut. Given its versatility, however, the origins of this Polish dessert are not so definitive.
Decorated with nuts and dried fruits, it’s also one of those popular Polish desserts that are typically enjoyed during Easter. There are even those who bake theirs with lattice and other seasonally-appropriate designs.
Whether round, square, or rectangular in shape, Polish people are definitely proud of this dessert. The Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development even declared the nutty version of mazurek (or “mazurek orzechowy”) as a traditional Polish confectionary product in November 2011.
Photo by zi3000
Despite it teetering on the edge of legality (as poppy seeds contain opioids and consuming even small amounts can cause you to test positive for morphine on a drug test), this dessert is still popular during the holidays, specifically Easter and Christmas.
Essentially, makowiec is a Polish poppy seed roll that’s made with a yeast dough filled with a thick mixture of poppy seeds, butter, honey, raisins, and walnuts. While there is a version from the Eastern Polish town of Lubartów that makes the filling with just poppy seeds, other variations add toppings such as chocolate frosting, chopped nuts, and honey.
In the end, makowiec’s deliciousness has Polish citizens addicted and that’s what truly makes this poppy seed roll borderline illegal!
Photo by Letterberry
This traditional Polish dessert is basically a yeast cake. The word drożdżówka itself means any kind of “sweet bun or cake that uses yeast”.
Many variations of this dessert exist in Poland, such as one that incorporates dried apricots, prunes, and other fruits in the recipe, and one that features plums. It usually pairs well with coffee, tea, or even milk, making it a sweet afternoon treat.
Photo by JuliaWozniak
At first glance, Sekacz is a wild-looking Polish dessert. It’s the kind of cake that you have to go out of your way to enjoy, given its complex baking process.
Featuring irregular shapes that are caused by the batter dripping down the sides of a horizontal spit, it’s traditionally baked over an open fire. Experts have theorized that sekacz was originally made this way to make it easier to store during winter.
This delicious Polish cake, also dubbed as “tree cake” and “knotted cake“, is much like the Lithuanian šakotis and became popular during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. While there are now mass-produced versions of it sold in Polish shops, there’s nothing quite like experiencing the real deal.
Photo by MNStudio
11. Racuchy z Jabłkami
Craving something that tastes familiar? This Polish dessert will hit the spot. Often called “Polish apple pancakes”, Racuchy z Jabłkami is a treat that can transport you back to the days when your mom would make you pancakes for breakfast.
Served with toppings like powdered sugar, fresh cream, or cinnamon, these fluffy polish pancakes are beloved by kids and kids-at-heart. Said to have originated in Southern Poland, the dessert was also once intended to be an appetizer, eaten during New Year’s Eve.
Photo by annaj77
If Polish cream cake isn’t your style and Polish cheesecake doesn’t excite your taste buds, then Piernik might be the Polish cake for you.
Though its name comes from an old Polish word that translates into “peppery”, it’s actually a Polish gingerbread cake made with honey. Usually baked during Christmas time, it needs to be prepared a few days, if not weeks, before you plan to eat it.
Photo by Kristi Blokhin
Kołaczki is a kind of Polish cookie that’s made using cream cheese dough and filled with food preserves.
Mainly a holiday treat, kołaczki provides just the right amount of tanginess against a backdrop of sugary sweets. If that’s not your jam though, its fruity filling can also be substituted with ingredients like nuts, farmer’s cheese, and even Nutella.
Overall, this cream cheese dessert’s popularity in neighboring countries is evidence of it being a remarkable addition to Polish cuisine.
Photo by Tanya Consaul Photography
It’s Polish tradition to eat these deep-fried fritters on Fat Thursday (the last day before Lent begins). Sometimes known as “angel wings”, they’re often eaten alongside Polish doughnuts or pączki (more on this dessert later!).
These ribbon-shaped snacks are often dusted on top with powdered sugar, making a sinful flavor combination for someone who’s just about to start fasting. Also called chruściki, which refers to their physical similarity to dried tree branches, you can expect this dessert to taste both light and crunchy.
Additionally, because faworki is one of the more popular Polish desserts, countries like Germany and Italy have their own versions of it, too. These are known as “raderkuchen” and “chiacchiere” respectively, and taste just as great!
Photo by Katarzyna Mazurowska
While the recipe for this dessert originally came from a number of Poland’s neighbors (such as Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia), Poles still frequently make Kutia during Christmas Eve. It was popularized after World War II when those from Eastern Poland began moving west and started making the treat there.
This polish Christmas wheat pudding is made with nuts, poppy seeds, and honey, among other nutritious ingredients you can mix and match. That said, wheat berries are the star of the show and can’t be omitted from the dish.
Photo by Ulyana Khorunzha
As stated in the entry on faworki, pączki are Polish filled doughnuts that are eaten to celebrate Fat Thursday, the final Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
Boasting a rich dough comprised of many eggs, a lot of butter, and milk, pączki can be piped with many fillings, such as the traditional stewed plum jam, the more modern bavarian cream, or a simple sweet cheese in the middle.
Though the dessert has been around since the Middle Ages, it has evolved to become lighter since then. Hints of spirytus (a Polish liquor that’s 96% alcohol by volume) are also added to the dough before frying, to keep the doughnut from absorbing too much fat.
Pączki are popular in Poland but they’re a favorite in many other European countries as well like Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Photo by tupungato
17. Kogel Mogel
Though there are restaurants that serve this simple treat, kogel mogel is more known for being an egg-based homemade dessert.
Similar to eggnog, kogel mogel is primarily composed of raw egg yolks and sugar. It can also have different flavors depending on what you have on hand, ranging from ingredients like cocoa powder to rum.
Gogl-mogl is typically how Jewish people call it in Yiddish, with their communities in Central Europe being the first to relish the dessert’s sweetness in the 17th century.
Photo by Anastasia Kamysheva
This summer-time Polish dessert is a refreshing mixture of fresh fruit compote thickened with potato starch. Viscous in texture and much like jelly before its set, it can be prepared with ingredients like cherry, orange, cranberry, and lemon juice.
While the word “kisiel” used to mean a sort of sour grain-based soup that utilized fish gelatin as a thickener, it gradually came to refer to a dessert during the 19th century. This treat is definitely a must-try on a hot day that has you thirsting for some zest.
Photo by Justyna Troc
19. Ciepłe Lody
You may not think it sounds right at first, but “warm ice cream” is more mouth-watering than you would expect. Though mounted on a waffle cup to resemble your average soft serve, ciepłe lody is actually made of an egg white-based mousse, drizzled with syrup or chocolate on top.
While technically an ersatz food developed by the Polish People’s Republic, it’s still a delightful treat for Traveleaters to try. Just be careful – it’s calorie count can get pretty high!
Photo by rainbow33
Last but not the least of our Polish desserts is a Polish fudge candy that’s made by cooking milk, butter, and sugar. Literally meaning “little cow”, Krowki was once sold with pictures of the animal on the wrapper.
The treat was first marketed by Feliks Pomorski in a Polish town called Ponzan, though his family was compelled to leave by Nazis during World War II. He then set up shop in Milanówek, a suburb of Warsaw, which is why the candy is sometimes called “milanówek krówki”.
Photo by Robson90
FINAL THOUGHTS ON POLISH DESSERTS
With so many cakes and pastries to try, traveling to Poland is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. That each dessert is filled with so much history and culture is a great reminder of how food can help us ease into foreign settings.
In the end, these delicious treats are only a small part of the Polish experience, with so many places to see and activities to do. Hopefully, this Polish desserts list convinces you to book a trip to Poland soon!
Some of the links in this article on Polish desserts are affiliate links, meaning we’ll make a small commission if we make a qualifying sale at no additional expense to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!
Cover photo by Tupungato. Stock images via Shutterstock.
We absolutely love Thai food. In our opinion, Thai cuisine is one of the best cuisines in the world. Savory dishes like pad thai, khao soi, and gaeng keow wan (Thai green curry) are a big reason for that but so are Thai desserts like khao niaow ma muang (mango sticky rice) and tub tim grob.
Food is a big reason why we love visiting Bangkok and Thailand. If you have a taste for the sweeter things in life, then be sure to look for these 25 delicious Thai desserts on your next trip to Thailand.
THAI DESSERTS QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Thailand and want to really dig into Thai cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.
Food Tours: Food and Drinking Tours in Thailand
Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Thailand
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THE MOST DELICIOUS THAI DESSERTS
1. Khao Niaow Ma Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)
If gaeng keow wan is my favorite savory Thai dish, then mango sticky rice could very well be my favorite Thai dessert. It’s one of two Thai desserts that made it to CNN’s list of the world’s 50 best desserts.
Khao niaow ma muang refers to a traditional Thai dessert made with sweet sticky rice and fresh mangoes. Glutinous rice is sweetened with palm sugar and soaked through with creamy coconut milk before being served with slices of fresh mango.
When mangoes are in season in Thailand, they’re one of the sweetest in the world which is a big reason why this dessert is so darn good. If you’re obsessed with mangoes like I am, then you’ll probably want to have these everyday in Thailand.
Photo by TONG4130
2. Khao Niaow Tu Rian (Durian Sticky Rice)
Fresh mangoes are universally well-liked but you can’t say the same about durian, which is unfortunate because they’re absolutely delicious.
Durian is a polarizing fruit that people either love or hate. It’s notorious for its repugnant smell that’s been likened to dirty gym socks or rotting flesh. I used to hate the smell of durian as a kid but it’s now become one of my favorite fruits. It’s soft and silky and tastes similar to custard flavored with almonds.
Mango sticky rice is more famous (and less polarizing) but if you have a curious palate, then you’ll definitely want to try durian sticky rice as well. It’s made with the same coconut-milk-soaked sticky rice served with slivers of fresh durian.
Photo by cheattha
3. Khao Lam (Bamboo Sticky Rice)
Glutinous rice is an important part of Thai cuisine so it’s no surprise that you’ll find it in many Thai desserts. Mango sticky rice is the most famous but khao lam is something you should look for as well.
Khao lam refers to a Thai dessert made with sweet sticky rice, red beans, and coconut cream stuffed into tubes of hollow bamboo. The bamboo is slow-roasted over charcoal before being cracked open to reveal the sweet, creamy dessert inside.
Khao lam can be made with either white glutnious rice or black sticky rice (khao neow dam). If you have the stomach space, then you should definitely try both.
Photo by Nulekkk
4. Khao Tom Mud (Banana in Sticky Rice)
Khao tom mud is another delicious Thai dessert made with sweetened sticky rice and coconut milk, this time with bananas.
To prepare, baby bananas (kluay kai) are stuffed in a sticky rice mixture and then wrapped in banana leaf before steaming. It’s basically the Thai equivalent of Filipino suman, but with bananas.
Photo by stockphototrends
5. Kluay Kaek (Thai Banana Fritters)
I’ll never forget one of my very first trips to Thailand. A college buddy of mine and I had just eaten pad thai at a beachside restaurant in Koh Samui. The sun was just starting to set when we tucked into the most delicious plates of Thai fried bananas with coconut ice cream. That meal was from over twenty years ago but I still remember it like it were yesterday.
Kluay kaek refers to Thai banana fritters enriched with toasted sesame seeds and shredded coconut. Sweet, warm, and crunchy, they’re delicious on their own but even more so when served with ice cream, especially Thai coconut ice cream.
Photo by birchphotographer
6. Khao Mao Tod
If kluay kaek sounds appealing to you, then you’ll definitely want to try khao mao tod as well. It refers to a similarly fried banana dessert made with shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and unripe rice grains for extra crunch.
Unlike the ubiquitous kluay kaek, khao mao tod is a dying dessert that’s harder to come by these days. If you ever come across this rare Thai treat, then you should definitely try it.
Photo by devilkae
7. Roti Kluay (Thai Banana Roti)
Thai roti is one of the most popular desserts you can find in Thailand. It consists of crispy parcels of flatbread filled with different ingredients and served with sweetened condensed milk.
Like crepes, Thai roti can be made with a variety of different fillings like apple, strawberry, chocolate, or Nutella. One of the best and most delicious is roti kluay, or Thai roti filled with bananas.
8. Pa Thong Ko
If you like donuts, then you need to try pa thong ko. It’s basically the Thai equivalent of Chinese youtiao.
Pa thong ko are commonly sold as street food in Thailand. These Thai donuts are typically eaten for breakfast with jok (Thai congee) or as a dessert snack with sweetened condensed milk or pandan custard.
The pa thong ko pictured below are from a Michelin-recommended stall in Bangkok’s Chinatown. It was one of the stops on this awesome Bangkok street food tour.
9. Tub Tim Grob
As previously mentioned, two Thai desserts made it to CNN’s list of the world’s 50 best desserts. Mango sticky rice is one, tub tim grob is the other. Tub tim grob literally means “crispy rubies” and refers to an incredibly delicious Thai dessert made with crunchy ruby-colored water chestnuts.
To be honest, I didn’t think this shaved ice dessert would be anything special but it blew me away. Water chestnuts are diced into small cubes before being soaked in grenadine or red food coloring. They’re then coated in tapioca flour and boiled in water before being served with coconut milk and ice.
Milky and refreshing, the texture of the water chestnuts is absolutely delicious. Seriously, you need to try this on your next trip to Thailand.
10. Bua Loi
Bua loi refers to a simple but delicious Thai dessert made with sticky rice flour balls served in a sweet and warm coconut milk soup. The rice flour dumplings can be made with a variety of flavorings and coloring agents like taro root, pandan juice, beet juice, and kabocha squash.
Photo by Tharakorn
11. Ruam Mit
Ruam mit is a popular Thai dessert that reminds me a bit of cendol, but minus the gula melaka (palm sugar). It consists of a dozen or so ingredients like multi-colored vermicelli noodles, tapioca pearls, sweet potatoes, lotus root, and jackfruit served with shaved ice in sweetened coconut milk.
Like Filipino halo-halo, there’s no set recipe for ruam mit so you’re likely to find a different set of ingredients in every bowl of this delicious and refreshing Thai dessert.
Interestingly, ruam means “to combine” while mit translates to “friends”, which like halo-halo (mix-mix), is the perfect way of describing this eclectic mix of colorful ingredients.
Photo by asimojet
12. Oh Eaw
Oh eaw (or o-aew) refers to a Thai shaved ice dessert that originated in Phuket. It’s named after its key ingredient – a type of jelly made from the seeds of the o-aew plant. If you’re familiar with Taiwanese desserts, then you’ll know it as aiyu jelly.
Along with the jelly, oh eaw is commonly served with grass jelly and red kidney beans. The various ingredients are served in a bowl with crushed ice before being drizzled with sweet syrup.
You can enjoy oh eaw in Bangkok but it’s best to try it in Phuket. This refreshing Thai dessert was introduced to the island by Hokkien Chinese immigrants who settled in Phuket during the tin mining boom of the mid-19th and early 20th centuries.
13. Khanom Tom
Khanom tom is a traditional Thai dessert of boiled rice flour dumplings filled with shredded coconut, palm sugar, and coconut milk. Shaped into colorful balls, the dumplings are coated in shredded coconut and infused with other ingredients like pandan leaf and butterfly pea flower extract for added color, aroma, and flavor.
Photo by victorflowerfly
14. Khanom Tako
Khanom tako is one of our favorite Thai desserts. It’s commonly available at Thai restaurants outside of the country so it’s something we often enjoy even when we’re not in Thailand.
Khanom tako is a Thai dessert pudding made with a jelly-like base smothered in a coconut milk topping. A small cup made with pandan leaves is filled with a mung bean flour pudding before being poured over with the coconut milk topping. The end result is an aromatic Thai dessert with a sweet coconut sauce on top and a firmer, more gelatin-like layer at the bottom.
The picture below was taken at Khlong Lat Mayom floating market in Bangkok. As you can see, tako can be made with a variety of additional ingredients and toppings like sago pearls, chopped fruit, water chestnuts, sweet beans, and sweet corn.
15. Khanom Sot Sai
Khanom sot sai (or khanom sai sai) refers to a traditional Thai dessert made with balls of grated coconut and palm sugar coated in a salted rice flour and coconut cream mixture. The coated balls are wrapped in banana leaf parcels before being steamed and served.
Though less prominent today, khanom sot sai is an ancient Thai dessert that was once an important part of traditional Thai weddings.
Photo by SmileKorn
16. Khanom Mor Kaeng
Khanom mor kaeng is a traditional Thai dessert similar to flan. It’s a soft and custard-y dessert made with coconut milk, eggs, palm sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and some type of starchy ingredient like hulled mung beans, lotus seeds, or taro. After baking, the dessert is commonly topped with crispy fried shallots.
The invention of khanom mor kaeng is credited to Maria Guyomar de Pinha, a Japanese-Portuguese-Bengali woman who lived in Ayutthaya in the 17th century. She’s said to have created many Thai desserts influenced by Portuguese cuisine like khanom mor kaeng, thong yip, and foi thong.
Photo by victorflowerfly
17. Khanom Chan
Khanom chan is a steamed Thai dessert that dates back to the Sukhothai period. Like thong yip and foi thong, it’s one of nine auspicious desserts that were traditionally served at important Thai ceremonies like weddings and housewarmings.
Khanom chan is made with tapioca flour, rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and supplemental ingredients like jasmine flowers, pandan leaves, and butterfly pea flowers. Khanom chan translates to “layered dessert” and typically consists of nine alternating layers.
The word “nine” is auspicious because it sounds like the Thai phrase for “to move forward”. Gifting someone with khanom chan is a symbolic act of blessing.
Photo by nungning20
18. Thong Yip
As described, thong yip is one of nine auspicious traditional Thai desserts served at important ceremonies like weddings and housewarmings. Invented by Maria Guyomar de Pinha, it’s an egg-based dessert that’s given as a gift to symbolize wealth and prosperity.
Photo by cheattha
19. Khanom Bueang
Khanom bueang are Thai crepes that are commonly sold as street food in Thailand. Resembling tacos, this ancient Thai treat is usually filled with meringue before being topped with other ingredients like foi thong, grated coconut, or scallions.
Photo by scottiebumich
20. Khao Taen
If you like Rice Krispie treats, then you should keep an eye out for these sweet crispy rice cakes known as khao taen or nang let. Drizzled in cane sugar syrup, it’s like a lighter, less gooey version of the classic American treat.
Khao taen is a popular Thai snack that’s commonly sold at street food and market stalls. We bought a bunch from Khlong Lat Mayom market in Bangkok and polished them off within the first couple of days. Like Rice Krispie treats, they’re highly addictive.
21. Khanom Krok
Khanom krok refers to a small coconut rice pancake or dumpling that’s commonly sold as street food in Thailand. It’s made with a batter consisting of rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar cooked in a cast iron pan with multiple indentations, similar to the pan used to make Japanese takoyaki.
These Thai coconut rice dumplings are typically made with two batters – one salty and the other sweet. Depending on the vendor, it can be made with additional ingredients as well like shredded coconut, green onions, taro, and sweet corn. Once cooked, the two halves are joined together and dusted with powdered sugar before serving.
If you’re familiar with Indonesian food, then you can think of khanom krok as the Thai equivalent of surabi.
22. Thai Coconut Ice Cream
No list of traditional Thai desserts can ever be complete without coconut ice cream, one of the best and most popular flavors of ice cream in Thailand. A ubiquitous Thai street dessert, this delicious ice cream flavor is made with heavy cream, egg yolks, and sugar enriched with sweetened shreds of coconut, coconut milk, and coconut cream.
On a sweltering Bangkok afternoon, Thai coconut ice cream takes like the best thing on earth.
Photo by boonsom
23. Luk Chub (Thai Mung Bean Candy)
If you like marzipan, then you’ll probably want to try these pretty glass-like candies known as luk chub. You can think of it as the Thai version of marzipan, but instead of almonds, it’s made with sweetened mung bean paste.
Luk chub is said to have been introduced to Thailand by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. At the time, almonds weren’t available in Thailand so they improvised and made them with mung beans instead.
Like Italian frutta martorama, luk chub is shaped and colored to look like miniature Thai fruits and vegetables using natural dyes like pandan leaf extract and butterfly pea flowers.
24. Thai Fruits
The fruits in the Philippines are some of the best in the world. Being Filipinos, we’re especially proud of our mangoes which are second to none. But overall, the fruits in Thailand are better.
Anywhere else, I’d say that a plate of fruit would be a boring dessert but not in Thailand. Here, it’s something to look forward to.
Thailand is home to a plethora of amazing tropical fruits but in my opinion, Thai durian should be tops on everyone’s list. Love it or hate, it isn’t called the “king of fruits” for nothing so you can’t leave Thailand without trying it at least once.
Photo by davidgn
Durian would be my first choice but mangosteen isn’t far behind. Known as the “queen of fruits”, it’s the yin to durian’s yang and something we can’t stop eating whenever we’re in Thailand. Thai mangosteen are seriously delicious.
Photo by somchaichoosiri
Lanzones rounds out my top three favorite Thai fruits. When they’re in season, we always look for them on every visit to Thailand.
Photo by supaleka
25. Cha Yen (Thai Iced Tea)
If pad thai is the most famous dish and mango sticky rice the most popular dessert, then cha yen or Thai iced tea is arguably the most famous drink from Thailand. It refers to a refreshingly delicious iced drink made with black tea, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and sugar.
Thai iced tea is known for its two-tone orange and cream color derived from pouring the tea and milk one after the other. I read that the tea gets its deep orange color from specific brands of black tea made with the same food dye used to color Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.
When it comes to refreshing Asian drinks, Thai iced tea is definitely one of my favorites. It’s right up there with Vietnamese nuoc mia and Taiwanese boba.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THAI DESSERTS
Savory Thai dishes like tom yum goong, pad see ew, and som tam are enough to make us book flights to Bangkok, but even more so when we have Thai desserts like khanom tako and fried bananas with coconut ice cream waiting for us at the end of each meal.
Food is a big reason why millions of people flock to Bangkok every year. Thai cuisine is one of the world’s most enticing, and Thai desserts have a lot to do with that.
Some of the links in this article on Thai desserts are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!
Cover photo by mangothara. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Taiwanese night markets are a major reason why we love visiting Taiwan. We’ve eaten our way through a night market in nearly every major city in Taiwan and the experience never disappoints. It’s like having your own street food degustation experience.
We start with things like curry fish balls and oyster omelettes before moving on to more substantial dishes like pepper buns and scallion pancakes. Ultimately, we end the night with Taiwanese dessert before rolling ourselves back to our hotel. It’s a gluttonous endeavor that happens almost every night in Taiwan.
You can check our Taiwanese food guide for suggestions on what night market staples to look for, but for Taiwanese desserts, you don’t need to go anywhere. In this article are fifteen of the most delicious desserts to stuff your face with in Taipei or in any other city in Taiwan.
TAIWANESE DESSERTS QUICK LINKS
If you’re visiting Taiwan and want to learn as much as possible about the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.
Food Tours: Food and Drinking Tours in Taiwan
Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Taiwan
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MUST-TRY TAIWANESE DESSERTS
1. Douhua (Tofu Pudding)
There’s no better way to start this list of Taiwanese desserts than with douhua, a popular Chinese snack made with silken tofu. It’s an ancient Chinese dish that’s become widely consumed in many countries throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia like Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore.
Douhua is short for doufuhua and can be either savory or sweet. It can be prepared in a number of ways depending on where it’s from, but in Taiwan, it’s typically made with very soft tofu and ginger or almond syrup. It’s often topped with other ingredients like tapioca balls, peanuts, red beans, mung beans, and fruit.
You can find tofu pudding pretty much anywhere in Taiwan. It’s a staple at night markets, public markets, and dessert shops. Like any great comfort food, it can be eaten at any time of the day. It can be served cold or hot but personally, I enjoy it most as a hot breakfast dish or dessert snack.
Photo by elwynn
2. Aiyu Jelly
Aiyu jelly is a type of Taiwanese jelly made from the seeds of the awkeotsang creeping fig. It’s a plant that’s endemic to Taiwan and parts of southeastern China. When combined with water and rubbed, the seeds produce a yellowish gel that sets into a jelly when cooled in the refrigerator.
Aiyu jelly is often used as an ingredient in bubble tea or shaved ice desserts. It has a neutral taste and fun bouncy texture that’s similar to grass jelly or boba. When eaten on its own, it’s usually served over ice cubes and flavored with lime or lemon juice, honey, or some other type of sweetener.
Photo by lcc54613
3. Bao Bing (Shaved Ice)
When you visit any major city in Taiwan, you shouldn’t have trouble finding shops selling shaved ice desserts. Known locally as bao bing, it’s one of the most refreshing and popular Taiwanese desserts.
Taiwanese bao bing is very similar to Korean bingsu except the shaved ice is more ribbon-like than flaky. There’s also a greater emphasis on fruit toppings which I prefer. Mango bao bing (pictured below) is amazingly delicious and something I find myself always ordering at Taiwanese dessert shops.
Bao bing in Taiwan is typically made with ribbons of finely shaved ice sweetened with condensed milk. You can enjoy it with a variety of toppings like seasonal fruits, ice cream, azuki beans, sweet potato chunks, aiyu jelly, and grass jelly.
Photo by Shawn.ccf
Mango bao bing is the bomb but so is bao bing topped with boba. The texture of the chewy tapioca balls with ice cream and finely shaved ice is to die for.
Photo by elwynn
4. Tang Yuan
Tang yuan is another traditional Chinese dessert that’s consumed in many parts of East Asia and Southeast Asia like Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They’re made with glutinous rice dough that’s shaped into balls and served in some type of flavored hot syrup.
Tang Yuan can vary greatly in size. They can be the size of ping pong balls or smaller like marbles. They can be filled or unfilled, with some of the most traditional fillings being azuki bean paste, sweetened crushed peanuts, lotus seed paste, and sweet sesame.
In recent years, tang yuan in Taiwan is being made with trendier fillings like brown sugar, peanut butter, salted egg, and strawberry condensed milk.
Photo by [email protected]
Tang yuan is an important festival food that’s traditionally eaten during festivals and celebrations like the Lantern Festival and Chinese New Year. In Taiwan, it’s one of the main dishes prepared to celebrate the Dongzhi or Winter Solstice Festival.
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5. Taro Balls
As its name suggests, taro balls refer to a popular Taiwanese dessert soup featuring chewy taro and sweet potato balls. They’re popular throughout Taiwan but especially in the former mining town of Jiufen.
Taro balls can be served hot or cold. Order a cup in Jiufen and you’ll be served a multi-colored mix of taro balls, sweet potato balls, green tea balls, and kidney beans.
6. Honey Castella Sponge Cake
Honey castella sponge cake is a soft and bouncy cake from Taiwan. It’s essentially the Taiwanese version of Japanese castella cake, a specialty of Nagasaki that was introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
The Japanese and Taiwanese versions of castella cake are similar except the latter is made with all-purpose flour, baking powder, and an SP emulsifier. It’s also enriched with honey unlike the Japanese version which is traditionally made with bread flour and no other sweeteners except sugar (though this is no longer the case).
Taiwanese honey castella cake is light, moist, and buttery with a light sweetness derived from honey. If you like sponge cake, then you need to try this dessert in Taiwan.
Photo by Mam_elisa
7. Sweet Potato Balls
Visit any night market in Taiwan and you’ll find street food stalls with the letters QQ on their sign. This is the Taiwanese term for snacks with a chewy and bouncy texture. It comes from the Minnan word khiu which means “soft, springy, or elastic”. It’s a term that can be used to describe the texture of tapioca pearls and taro balls.
Taiwanese people love these bouncy snacks and so do I, one of my favorites being these sweet potato balls. They’re basically puffed-up balls made with mashed and fried sweet potato, taro, or a combination of both. They’re delicious and so much fun to eat.
8. Wheel Cake
The wheel cake is another popular Taiwanese dessert originally from Japan. It’s basically the Taiwanese version of imagawayaki, a Japanese pancake-like dessert made with a variety of fillings.
Traditionally, wheel cakes were filled with azuki bean paste but they’re now made with a variety of sweet and savory fillings like chocolate, vanilla custard, fruit, corn, egg, and curry. Cooked in disk-shaped cast-iron molds, they’re a common sight at night markets throughout Taiwan.
Like sweet potato balls and wheel cakes, these hard-to-miss skewers of candied fruit are staples at Taiwanese night markets. Known locally as “tanghulu”, these glossy sweet treats are made with skewered fruit dipped in sugar syrup. After drying, the syrup hardens to form a sticky sweet candy coating.
Tanghulu can be made with different types of fruit but at Taiwanese night markets, the most common are made with whole strawberries or cherry tomatoes stuffed with dried plum.
As you’d expect, the sugar syrup coating is cloyingly sweet but biting into the fruit gives you a nice burst of acidity that helps temper the sweetness of the syrup.
If you’re a fan of Japanese mochi, then you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s become a popular dessert or snack in Taiwan as well.
Mochi refers to soft chewy cakes made with glutinous rice flour. They can be made in different ways but in Taiwan, they’re often stuffed with bean paste fillings and coated in peanut powder.
Photo by luknaja
Like most foreigners, I’m accustomed to seeing stuffed mochi balls but at a night market in Hualien, we got to try this interesting grilled version.
The skewered mochi was shaped like a block and heated on a grill before being dusted with peanut powder and served with our choice of sweet sauce. Very interesting.
11. Pineapple Cake (Traditional Dessert Souvenir)
We rarely bring home souvenirs from trips, unless we can eat them. In Taiwan, these delicious pineapple cakes are among the most popular souvenir food items you can buy. They’re Taiwanese pastries made with eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and pineapple jam.
Aside from being delicious, this buttery pastry is popular in Taiwan because the pineapple is considered an auspicious symbol. In Taiwanese Hokkien, the word for pineapple is ong lai which sounds similar to a phrase for “incoming fortune”.
If you visit Taichung, then be sure to make a stop at Miyahara. They’re famous for their pineapple cakes and package them well in beautifully designed boxes.
Photo by PantherMediaSeller
12. Sun Cake
Like pineapple cakes, sun cakes are a popular souvenir food item you can bring back from Taiwan. Originally from Taichung, they refer to round and flaky maltose-filled pastries that are often consumed with hot Chinese tea.
13. White Nougat
White nougat refers to a family of chewy confections made with whipped egg whites, sugar or honey, and roasted nuts. It’s a popular candy or snack in many countries around the world where it goes by different names like turron (Spain), mandolato (Greece), qubbajt (Malta), and alviță (Romania).
Taiwanese nougat is a little different from versions you’ll find in other countries because it’s made with additional ingredients like milk powder and dried fruit.
14. Boba (Bubble Tea)
Boba is the most iconic dessert drink in Taiwan. Also known as bubble tea, it refers to a family of tea-based drinks that was invented in Taiwan sometime in the early 90s. Today, it’s become one of the most well-known Asian drinks and is consumed in many countries around the world.
At its most basic, boba is a tea-based drink made with either black, green, or oolong tea mixed with milk or fruit juice. It can be made with different types of milk like condensed milk, powdered milk, soy milk, or almond milk. It can be served cold or hot with a dizzying number of add-ons like tapioca pearls, pudding, and fruit jellies. You can even specify your desired level of sweetness.
Boba in Taiwan is fun but it can also be very confusing, which is why I prefer to go with the classic pearl milk tea. It’s made with black tea, milk, tapioca pearls, and sugar. It’s the original version and still the most popular. I suggest trying versions made with brown sugar as well.
Fans of boba will have another reason to visit Taichung. The original Chun Shui Tang shop – the successful teahouse chain credited for inventing pearl milk tea – is located in Taichung.
Photo by elwynn
15. Cheese Tea
Cheese tea is another fun and interesting Taiwanese tea-based drink. Similar to boba, it’s made with a base of green or black tea topped with a frothy cap of cream cheese, whipping cream, milk, and salt.
Drinking tea with a foamy mixture of cream cheese may sound weird at first but give it a sip and it may win you over. The combination of the cold, somewhat bitter tea with the sweet, salty, sharp-tasting cheese foam actually works.
Unlike boba which can be served cold or hot, cheese tea is always consumed with ice and never with a straw. You’re meant to drink it from the rim of the cup so you get a mix of tea and cheese foam with every sip.
Cheese tea was invented in Taiwan sometime around 2010. It’s become popular in many parts of Asia but has yet to catch on globally like its more famous cousin boba.
Photo by civil
TAIWANESE FOOD TOURS
Eating your way through any city is fun, but if you want to learn more about the local cuisine, then you may want to join a food tour.
Simply put, no one knows Taiwanese food better than a local. Not only can a food-obsessed guide take you to the city’s best restaurants and night market stalls, but they can explain all the dishes to you in more detail as well. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of guided food tours in Taiwan.
TAIWANESE COOKING CLASSES
Food tours are great for finding the best examples of local dishes. But if you want to really dive into the local cuisine, then you may want to take a cooking class. Eating xiao long bao is one thing, but learning how to actually make it is another. Check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Taiwan.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TAIWANESE DESSERTS
If you visit Taiwan around September or October, then another Taiwanese dessert you may want to try is the moon cake. Moon cakes are consumed to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese communities throughout Asia.
Many people are familiar with Cantonese-style moon cakes but in Taiwan, you should try the traditional style of Taiwanese moon cake as well. Lighter in color and more bun-like in shape, they consist of flaky layers stuffed with a variety of sweet and savory fillings. The most popular version is filled with mung bean paste, braised minced meat, and fried shallots.
This version of moon cake looks and sounds delicious. According to one description, “this moon cake style looks deceptively simple, yet is known to be one of the most difficult to make.” We’re all about interesting food and that description piqued my curiosity.
We haven’t tried it ourselves but it’s definitely something we’ll look for should we ever visit Taiwan at that time of year.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Lyn shares with us fifteen traditional dishes to try on your next visit to the UAE (United Arab Emirates).
Clouds of fragrant smoke billow out of a shisha as your heart beats to the sinuous rhythm of the darbuka. Accompanied by the strumming of the oud and the glittering tinkle of the Qanun harp, the violin wails, underscored by the rich and yearning tone of the ney cane flute. You sit still, enthralled by the scents and sounds and the rich history they encapsulate and convey.
It’s the perfect setting to enjoy a traditional Middle Eastern meal. The sand dunes of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) would make the perfect setting for such a meal, but you don’t need to go to the desert for this experience.
The Dubai Food Festival celebrates the city’s position as the gastronomic capital of the Middle East. Inaugurated in 2014, this annual food extravaganza offers a plethora of tasty Dubai dishes served side by side with foods from the many nationalities and cultures that call Dubai their home.
The Dubai Food Festival takes place in May but there’s lots of delicious food to be had at any time of the year. Luxury shopping centers abound in the UAE and Dubai Mall and Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi – the biggest shopping centers in their respective cities and among the largest in the world – are like oases for Middle Eastern and Arabic restaurants serving a mouthwatering array of traditional Emirati dishes.
But of course, you can still visit the desert for the ambiance. After all, a desert food safari from Dubai or Abu Dhabi would make for a pretty remarkable experience.
Whichever your preference, here are fifteen traditional Emirati dishes to look for on your next trip to the Middle East, whether it be Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or anywhere else in the UAE.
EMIRATI CUISINE QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and want to learn more about Emirati cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.
Dubai: Food Tours in Dubai
Abu Dhabi: Food Tours in Abu Dhabi
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL EMIRATI CUISINE?
Emirati cuisine refers to the Arabic food traditions of the United Arab Emirates. It consists of aromatic dishes flavored by a wealth of spices and herbs like saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, and thyme.
Meat, grain, and dairy are used extensively in traditional food. Dates, roasted nuts, and dried limes called loomi are key ingredients in many Emirati recipes. Being a desert nation, vegetables aren’t featured as strongly in the local cuisine.
Chicken, small fowl, goat, and lamb are the most commonly consumed meats in the UAE. Being a country on the Persian Gulf, fish and seafood feature prominently in the Emirati diet as well. Camel meat is also consumed though it’s typically reserved for special occasions.
Many traditional Emirati dishes come in the form of stews prepared in single pots. This can be traced back to the country’s desert landscape where having fewer dishes to wash was key.
Being a multicultural nation and one of the top tourist destinations in the world, the food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is becoming increasingly international. But as this list will show you, there are plenty of traditional Emirati dishes to look forward to in the UAE.
MUST-TRY FOOD IN DUBAI & ABU DHABI
1. Khobz Al Khameer
Khobz al khameer is a traditional Emirati yeasted flatbread typically served as a breakfast dish. It’s a golden-hued bread cooked with ghee or egg wash and topped with sesame seeds. It’s made with ingredients similar to yeast bread served in other parts of the world.
In addition to the usual yeast bread ingredients, khobz al khameer is often made with a pinch or two of spice. Cardamom and turmeric are favorites while saffron is used mainly as a coloring agent. Khboz al khameer is also made using milk powder instead of liquid milk which is more common in the west.
Khobz al khameer is an airy and hollow bread that’s cooked on a special khameer bread maker or oven. The bread is first cooked on the oven’s cover for a minute before being transferred inside where it quickly rises and puffs up.
When cooked, the bread’s hollow center can be filled with date paste or any other filling. It can also be served with date syrup and cheese.
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Rigag is an unleavened, wafer-thin traditional Emirati flatbread that you can enjoy on its own, typically for breakfast, or as an accompaniment to stews like tharid. Made with just three ingredients – flour, water, and salt – it becomes especially popular during the holy month of Ramadan.
When enjoyed as a standalone dish, rigag is often topped with cheese, eggs, honey, and other ingredients while still cooking on a pan. When eaten as an accompaniment, it can be served topped or incorporated into meat stews, or served on its own with a side of yogurt.
Photo by Hihitetlin
You can think of the chebab as a type of yeasted Emirati pancake. They’re similar to Moroccan baghrir except they’re more flavorful and aromatic thanks to the use of spices like cardamom and saffron.
A popular breakfast dish, these delicious spiced pancakes are usually served with cheese and date syrup.
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Balaleet is another popular breakfast dish in the Emiartes. It refers to a noodle dish that can be both savory and sweet. It is, in fact, a savory-sweet dish that’s typically served for breakfast though it can also be eaten for dessert.
Balaleet is made by first sauteeing and then boiling vermicelli noodles. Once they’re cooked, they’re sweetened with sugar, cardamom, turmeric, and saffron-infused rose water. When eaten for breakfast, they’re usually served with an omelette or scrambled eggs on top.
Photo by DmZo
Shakshuka is believed to be Tunisian in origin though it’s a staple breakfast dish in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East, including the UAE. In recent decades, it’s been embraced by the west and has become one of the most popular breakfast dishes hailing from that region of the world.
Shakshuka refers to a simple but delicious tomato-based dish of poached eggs. To make it, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, bell peppers, and chilies are first sauteed in olive oil. Tomato paste, pureed uncooked tomatoes, and honey are then added to the pan.
Once the tomato base is cooked, eggs are cracked into the mixture. The egg whites are allowed to blend into the tomato sauce while the egg yolks are left intact and poached to perfection. The dish is then sprinkled with za’atar and garnished with basil leaves before serving.
Photo by fotek
Harees is a popular traditional dish in Emirati cuisine. It refers to a porridge made with beaten skinless wheat and meat, usually chicken or lamb. It’s typically served garnished with different ingredients like sugar, cinnamon, ghee, pistachio, and raisins.
Harees becomes especially popular during the holy month of Ramadan. It’s a filling and nutritious dish that’s easy on the stomach, which is a boon during the month of fasting.
Before using, wheat has to be soaked for at least 5 hours, better if overnight. It’s then placed in a pot of water with meat, onion, garlic, and spices. Even with a pressure cooker, it still takes at least 1.5 hours for the wheat to be fully cooked through. The grains are then mashed till smooth and cooked in a pan with the deboned meat and coconut milk while being constantly stirred.
Indeed, the cooking process is long and laborious, but it shouldn’t be difficult to find Emirati restaurants that serve traditional harees, especially during Ramadan. It’s a popular dish throughout the Arabian Peninsula and in other countries like Armenia.
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Madrouba, also spelled madrooba, is another type of Emirati porridge made with rice and meat, usually chicken. It’s similar to harees in that it’s traditionally prepared by beating the rice into a smooth mash using a wooden spoon called a medhrab. Though the dish may look deceptively simple, it can be fairly involved to make.
To prepare, the meat is first boiled and simmered in a pot of water with caramelized onions, dried lime, and spices. After the meat is cooked all the way through, rice is added and stirred constantly to ensure that it doesn’t stick and burn.
Stirring also softens the rice instead of leaving it to absorb all the fluids like in machboos. The rice is then mashed into a fine consistency.
For me, madrouba is the ultimate comfort food. It’s thick, nutritious, and filling. Plus it’s delicious, too.
Photo by AmnaMF, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Like harees, tharid is a preferred dish for iftar and for breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Also known as thareed, it refers to a thick stew made with some type of meat like chicken, lamb, or goat mixed with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. The stew is typically served on or with rigag, the traditional Emirati flatbread.
Tharid is a heavily-seasoned, melt-in-your-mouth meat dish, the result of slowly simmering meat and other ingredients in spices for at least 1.5 hours. The flatbread served with the stew soaks up the dish’s juices and serves as a handy vessel for scooping up the meat and vegetables.
Without question, tharid is a heavenly combination of flavors and textures and one of the best Emirati dishes you can try in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Photo by topphoto
Ghuzi or khuzi is a delicious slow-cooked meat and rice dish. Like machboos, it’s considered by many to be a national dish of the UAE.
Ghuzi recipes vary but one restaurant in Dubai makes it by marinating meat – usually lamb or goat – in spices like garlic, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, and saffron for at least 8 hours. The marinated meat is then cooked in an oven for 4 hours at low heat until the meat turns a reddish-brown color.
Once the meat is fully cooked and ready to be served, it’s placed on a bed of rice and potatoes. The rice, which has been soaked in water and then slow-cooked in the lamb’s braising liquid, forms the bottom layer. This is then followed by roasted potatoes before being topped with meat.
Before serving, ghuzi is often garnished with currants, raisins, and roasted nuts like pistachios.
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No Dubai food guide would ever be complete without machboos. Also known as kabsa, it’s a traditional rice dish that’s widely considered to be a national dish in all countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
Machboos refers to a hearty meat and yellow basmati rice dish. But unlike Ghuzi, the meat and rice are cooked together in one pot.
The meat, usually lamb, is marinated in a mixture of spices like garlic, cumin, cloves, bzar (Emirati spice blend), and chilli powder. It’s then browned in oil before being braised in water or stock with onions, garlic, turmeric powder, coriander powder, dried lime, and chopped tomatoes.
Once the meat is almost cooked, soaked basmati rice is added to the pot and slow-cooked at very low heat, undisturbed, until all the cooking liquid is absorbed. Coriander leaves and green chilies can also be added before the rice is fully cooked.
You can find delicious machboos at many restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi but one of my personal favorites is the highly-rated Al Fanar Restaurant & Café in Yas Mall. If you visit Abu Dhabi, then I highly recommend trying it there.
Photo by Senalfred
As you can probably tell by now, hearty meat and rice dishes are popular in Emirati cuisine. Maqluba or maqlooba is another example. The word maqluba literally means “upside-down” and refers to the way the pot used to cook the dish is flipped upside down to serve it.
Like ghuzi and machboos, maqluba is made with rice, meat, tubers, and vegetables. Chicken and lamb are the preferred meats while eggplant and cauliflower are the most commonly used vegetables. The different ingredients are layered carefully in the pot with the vegetables going in first, followed by the meat, then the rice.
Maqluba is typically garnished with pine nuts and chopped fresh parsley and served with salad and yogurt.
Photo by zurijeta
12. Samak Mashwi
Thanks to its location in the Persian Gulf region, fish and seafood have long featured prominently in traditional Emirati cuisine. There are many delicious seafood dishes you can try in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, one of my favorites being samak mashwi.
Samak mashwi refers to fish, usually seabream, grilled in the traditional Emirati way. The fish is marinated in a mixture of herbs and spices like coriander, cumin, chilli, turmeric, paprika, dried lime powder, and date paste. The fish is then grilled with its scales still on to help it stay moist even in high heat. It’s a delicious dish and a must-try in the UAE.
Photo by fanfon
If you’re curious about trying Arabic desserts, then you can start with luqaimat. Sweet, sticky, and crunchy, they’re a popular street food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and a beloved traditional Emirati dessert.
Luqaimat are essentially deep-fried dough balls flavored with spices like cardamom and saffron. They taste like crispy fried doughnuts – crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
Luqaimat are typically glazed or drizzled with date molasses before being garnished with sesame seeds for added texture. Because they’re so sticky, they’re typically eaten using toothpicks or mini-skewers.
Photo by sablinstanislav
If you visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi, then you must not miss kunafa. It’s an incredibly delicious dessert that’s consumed in many Arab and Balkan countries like Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon.
Kunafa consists of kataifi pastry soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup and layered with cheese. Depending on where it’s from and who’s making it, it can be enriched with other ingredients like pistachios, almonds, raisins, rose water, lemon juice, and cinnamon. It’s decadent and delicious and a definite must-try dessert in the UAE.
Photo by reflex_safak
15. Gahwa (Arabic Coffee)
There’s no better end to a decadent meal in Dubai than with dessert and a cup of Arabic coffee. Known in the Emirati dialect as gahwa, coffee has been a central part of Arab culture for centuries. In fact, so important is the coffee tradition to Arab culture that it was awarded Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO in 2015.
The preparation and consumption of Arabic coffee is steeped in ritual. It’s a national tradition in the UAE and considered a symbol of unity and generosity.
Arabic coffee is strong and bitter so it’s traditionally served with dates and other desserts.
Photo by Sophie_James
BONUS: Stuffed Camel
This last entry is an interesting but uncommon dish so I thought I’d add it as a bonus.
If you want a memorable, truly out-of-this-world experience in Dubai, then you need to try stuffed camel. It’s a lavish and extravagant dish that takes a whole village (or what might feel like it) to prepare.
Stuffed is the operative term. The camel is cleaned, trimmed, and then stuffed with an entire cooked lamb. The lamb itself is stuffed with whole cooked chickens, which are in turn stuffed with cooked rice and boiled eggs. After the camel has been sufficiently stuffed, it’s roasted on a spit over an open flame until cooked through.
As delicious as it sounds, you might have difficulty finding this stuffed camel dish at regular Emirati restaurants. Stuffed camel is traditional Emirati wedding fare so if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a traditional upscale UAE wedding, then you might find it there.
EMIRATI FOOD TOURS
Needless to say, no one knows traditional food in the Emirates better than someone who actually lives there. So what better way to experience the food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi than with a local guide? Not only can they take you to the city’s best markets, street food stalls, and restaurants, but they’ll be able to explain all the Emirati dishes to you in more detail.
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food-related tours and activities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRADITIONAL EMIRATI CUISINE
To a lot of people, Emirati food is shrouded in mystery. However, it’s one cuisine that needs to be discovered.
Traditional Emirati cuisine is exciting, intense, unique, and most certainly worth exploring. If you visit Dubai in May, then you need to attend the Dubai Food Festival. Add it to your itinerary along with traditional Emirati restaurants in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and any other destination in the UAE.
There are many reasons why Dubai and Abu Dhabi are among the most visited cities in the world. Good local food is definitely one of them.
Some of the links in this article on traditional Dubai foods are affiliate links. If you make a booking or reservation, then we’ll earn a small commission at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!
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Belgrade is a city with a rich cultural history, and Serbian food is a reflection of this. Serbian cuisine has been influenced by many different cultures, both in Europe and from different parts of the world. With Serbia being at the crossroads of east and west, you’ll find traditional dishes that have been shaped by both Middle Eastern and European influences.
The uniqueness of Serbian dishes makes it an excellent choice for Traveleaters looking to try something new while visiting this stunning country in Southeast Europe.
SERBIAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Serbia and want to really dive into the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a Serbian food or wine tour.
Serbian Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Serbia
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WHAT IS TRADITIONAL SERBIAN FOOD?
Serbian food is a unique blend of Byzantine, Mediterranean, Central European, and Balkan influences. While every region of Serbia has its own culinary traditions, some Serbian dishes are considered national treasures and are popular throughout the country.
Typical Serbian food is as rich and diverse as its landscape. Seasonality is important in Serbian cuisine with its ingredients usually being of high quality and very fresh. Rich grilled meats, minced meat, fresh vegetables, bread, cheese, pastries, and wine have long played an important role in Serbian culture and cuisine.
Like the cuisines of many Balkan countries, flavors are generally mild with the most commonly used seasonings being paprika, salt, and black pepper.
MUST-TRY TRADITIONAL SERBIAN DISHES
Serbian ajvar is a vegetable relish, made principally from red bell peppers and eggplant. It originates from the Balkans in southeastern Europe and is very common in traditional restaurants throughout Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and North Macedonia.
In Serbia, ajvar is often enjoyed with Serbian bread like lepinja or pogača. You’ll usually find it served as a side dish with grilled meats or fish, Serbian hamburgers (pljeskavica), and grilled meat sausages (ćevapčići).
Aside from roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, typical ingredients in Serbian ajvar include garlic, olive oil (or sunflower oil), lemon juice, white vinegar, salt, and ground black pepper. Traditionally prepared in mid-autumn when peppers are most abundant, ajvar is usually made in large quantities and then stored in jars to last for several months.
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2. Srpska Salata
Srpska Salata is the Serbian version of the famous Bulgarian salad known as shopska salad. It’s made with finely chopped vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and peppers. Srpska salata is almost identical to the Bulgarian original except it’s typically made without cheese.
Srpska salata is a Serbian salad that can be enjoyed at any time of year, but it’s especially suited for the summer when vegetables are fresh and abundant. Seasoned simply with just salt and pepper, it’s drizzled with sunflower oil and white wine vinegar before serving.
Photo by fanfon
3. Punjene Paprike
The word punjen refers to something that’s stuffed, so punjene paprike means “stuffed pepper”. It’s a type of dolma – a family of stuffed vegetable dishes popular in many countries throughout the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Levant.
Punjene paprike is a type of dolma made with hollowed-out sweet peppers stuffed with rice, meat, and other ingredients. The stuffed peppers are cooked and served in a sauce made with tomato paste, onions, olive oil, and seasonings.
Punjene paprike is a mouthwatering Serbian dish that can be enjoyed as a side dish or main course, often with a side of boiled potatoes.
Photo by fotokris44
Sarma is a form of dolma made with similar ingredients. But instead of being stuffed in hollowed-out vegetables, the ingredients are wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves and then cooked over sauerkraut. The word sarma is derived from the Turkish language and means “rolled” or “wrapped.”
Like punjene parike, sarma is a popular and beloved dish in Balkan cuisine. Aside from the Balkans, it’s consumed in many countries throughout Central Europe, the South Caucasus, and the Middle East. It’s a hearty dish that can be enjoyed everyday though it becomes especially popular in winter and over the holidays.
Sarma stuffing is made with pretty much the same ingredients as punjene paprike – ground meat, rice, and raw onions. The filling is wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves and then slowly cooked in a clay pot over a bed of sauerkraut with smoked meat and tomato sauce.
Photo by cherriesjd
Gibanica is a type of Serbian cheese pie made with phyllo dough, white cheese, and eggs. It’s a popular dish in Balkan cuisine and exists in many variations from sweet to savory, simple to elaborate. Gibanica is one of the most popular Serbian foods and widely considered to be a national dish.
The most commonly served version of this traditional Serbian dish is called gužvara, meaning “crumpled”. It gets its name from the filo pastry being crumpled and soaked in a mixture of cheese, eggs, milk, lard, salt, and kajmak – a thick cream made from cow or sheep milk. The sheets of soaked pastry are then layered and baked in an oven.
Traditionally eaten with yogurt, gibanica is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It’s commonly made in Serbian homes and enjoyed for breakfast or dinner, as an appetizer or a snack.
Photo by uroszunic
Prebranac is a type of Serbian bean stew. It’s a hearty meal consisting of baked beans cooked with onions, garlic, sweet Hungarian paprika, bay leaves, and sunflower oil.
Prebranac is a staple dish in Serbian cuisine. It’s a cheap and filling meal originally made by farmers to last them through the long winters. Recipes vary from cook to cook but it’s typically made with white beans and commonly served as an appetizer or main dish, often with a side of warm crusty bread.
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Podvarak is a simple dish made with sauerkraut, garlic, finely chopped onions, and some type of meat, usually roast pork or chicken. The ingredients are baked together in an oven and can be made with or without meat.
Like prebranac, podvarak is classic Serbian comfort food that’s typically prepared during the colder months in Serbia. It’s often made in large quantities for family gatherings. Podvarak with meat is traditionally served as a main course while meatless versions are served as a side dish.
Photo by lenyvavsha
Ćevapčići is one of the most well-known and beloved Serbian foods. It’s a Serbian national dish that’s also popular in many Balkan countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, and Montenegro.
Ćevapčići is a type of grilled minced meat sausage. Recipes vary but it’s typically made with a mixture of beef, lamb, mutton, and pork seasoned with garlic, paprika, black pepper, and salt. The heavily seasoned meat mixture is shaped into small sausages and then grilled over an open flame.
Smokey and delicious, you can expect about 5-10 sausages served on a plate with different sides like ajvar, kajmak, cottage cheese, sour cream, chopped onions, and red pepper. The sausages can also be stuffed in lepinja flatbread and eaten like a sandwich.
Photo by vision.si
Like ćevapčići, pljeskavica is a Serbian national dish. It’s popular in many countries throughout the Balkans like Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Croatia, and Montenegro.
You can think of pljeskavica as a type of Serbian hamburger made with ground beef, pork, or lamb. It can be served in lepinja flatbread or on a plate with various side dishes like ajvar, kajmak, and chopped onions.
Photo by vision.si
Here’s a look at pljeskavica served in flatbread like a sandwich.
Photo by hurricanehank
If you’re an unrepentant carnivore and love meat dishes, then you need to try roštilj. It doesn’t refer to a single dish but a Serbian barbecue consisting of different types of meat grilled over an open flame.
Many Serbian restaurants in Belgrade will offer roštilj. Typical meats include ćevapčići, pljeskavica, kobasice (spicy Serbian sausage), ražnjići (skewered meat), and vešalice (pork loin). If you get an order of mixed meat, then you’ll get a taste of everything on one plate.
Roštilj can be enjoyed throughout Serbia but the cities of Leskovac and Novi Pazar are especially renowned for their barbecue.
Photo by DariaKM
Do you enjoy snacking on pork rinds? If you do, then you need to try čvarci, the Serbian version of these tasty deep-fried pork cracklings.
A rustic countryside food, čvarci is typically prepared in autumn and consumed through the winter, either as a snack or as an ingredient in other Serbian dishes. They’re popular in many European countries like Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Czechia, Ukraine, and Hungary.
Photo by uroszunic
12. Karađorđeva Šnicla
Karađorđeva šnicla is a Serbian dish consisting of a breaded and rolled veal or pork cutlet stuffed with kajmak. It was named after Karađorđe, a Serbian revolutionary who led the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman Empire from 1804-1813.
To make karađorđeva šnicla, a cutlet of veal, pork, or beef is rolled over kajmak and coated in flour and beaten eggs. The stuffed roll is then deep-fried and served with a side of roasted potatoes and tartar sauce.
This tasty meat roll is one of the most popular Serbian foods though it’s a relatively new invention. It was created in 1959 by a Serbian chef who needed to make chicken kiev for a distinguished guest from the Soviet Union. He was out of chicken so he used veal instead, creating this unique Serbian twist known as karađorđeva šnicla.
Photo by hurricanehank
Mućkalica is a Serbian meat dish made with vegetables and leftover meat, mostly from yesterday’s roštilj. Its name is derived from the word mućkati which means to “shake, stir, or mix”, perhaps in reference to the dish’s combination of various leftovers.
Like roštilj, mućkalica is enjoyed throughout the country but the most famous version is from Leskovac in south Serbia. Known as leskovačka mućkalica, it’s typically made with fatty cuts of grilled pork, bacon, tomatoes, roasted peppers, onions, paprika, and chili peppers. It’s seasoned with salt and pepper and often enjoyed with lepinja, ajvar, and fresh Serbian salad.
Photo by fanfon
If you have a sweet tooth, then you need to try vanilice. As you can probably guess from the name, it’s a Serbian vanilla cookie typically enjoyed around the holidays.
Vanilice means “little vanillas” and is one form of sitni kolaci or Serbian tiny cookie. It consists of two vanilla walnut cookies held together with a dollop of jam. Apricot or rose hip jam are most traditional though other flavors can be used as well. The tiny cookies are then dusted with a generous amount of vanilla sugar before serving.
Photo by kuzmire
Rakija is the national drink of Serbia and in many other countries throughout the Balkans. It’s a collective term used to describe a family of fruit spirits or brandy popular throughout the region.
Serbian rakija comes in many varieties but the most popular version is sljivovica, a type of rakija made with plum. It’s produced commercially and at home and typically contains about 40-50% ABV.
Plum is the most common but Serbian rakija can be made with a host of different fruits like apricots, grapes, bananas, peaches, apples, pears, cherries, and figs. It can even contain other ingredients like nuts, herbs, and honey.
Photo by 5PH
Rakija is so popular that there are an estimated 10,000 private producers of this fruit brandy in Serbia. Živeli!
Photo by 5PH
SERBIAN FOOD TOURS
It’s easy enough to experience the food in Serbia on your own, but if you want to really dig into Serbian cuisine, then you may want to go on a food tour. Simply put, no one knows Serbian food better than a local, so what better way to learn about traditional Serbian dishes than by going on a guided food tour?
Not only will a local guide take you to the city’s best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the unfamiliar Serbian foods to you in more detail. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Serbian food tours in Belgrade and other cities throughout the country.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SERBIAN CUISINE
Serbian food is an interesting mix of eastern and western flavors. While some dishes may be unfamiliar to western palates, most are quite tasty and definitely worth a try. You can find these dishes at many traditional restaurants in Serbia.
It’s important to remember that Serbian meals can be very hearty and filling. If you aren’t used to eating too much meat or starch-heavy dishes, then you may want to pace yourself.
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy all these delicious flavors when you visit Serbia!
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Cover photo by Miljan. Stock images via Depositphotos.
Lisbon is one of the prettiest and most liveable cities we’ve been to thus far. I used to live in San Francisco in the late 90s and that’s exactly what Lisbon felt like to me. It’s beautiful, it’s hilly, it’s got that same artsy vibe, and it’s home to some amazing food, both Portuguese and international. It’s one of those cities that makes you feel good simply by being there.
With so much going for it, it’s no surprise that Lisbon has been one of the most talked about European destinations in recent memory. If you’ve heard the buzz and want to see what all the fuss is about, then this detailed travel guide will tell you all you need to know to plan your first trip to Lisbon.
VISIT LISBON QUICK LINKS
This Lisbon travel guide is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.
Top-rated hotels in Baixa / Chiado, one of the best areas to stay for people on their first trip to Lisbon.
Luxury: Pousada de Lisboa – Small Luxury Hotels Of The World
Midrange: My Story Hotel Rossio
Budget: Lost Inn Lisbon Hostel
Sightseeing Tour: Lisbon Essential Tour
Food Tour: Tastes and Traditions Food Tour
Fado Performance: Best Live Fado Show in Lisbon
Day Trip: Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais Daytrip
Travel Insurance with COVID cover (WFFF readers get 5% off)
Lisbon Tourist Card
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GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
Lisbon Travel Restrictions
Lisbon at a Glance
Best Time to Visit Lisbon
Traveling to Lisbon
Where to Exchange Currency
Best Areas to Stay in Lisbon
Places to Visit in Lisbon
Things to Do in Lisbon
Day Trips from Lisbon
Portuguese Food Guide
Where to Eat in Lisbon
Points of Interest in Lisbon (Map)
How to Get Around in Lisbon
How Many Days to Stay / Lisbon Itinerary
Lisbon Travel Tips
LISBON TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Because of the current global situation, Lisbon travel guidelines have been changing often. To help you with your trip planning, our friends at Booking.com created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.
Before planning a trip to Lisbon, be sure to check Booking.com for information on travel restrictions to Portugal. If you do decide to visit Lisbon, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance with COVID coverage.
Depending on what type of passport you carry, you may need to secure a visa and other travel documents before visiting Lisbon and Portugal. Check out iVisa.com to learn about the requirements and to apply for a visa (if necessary).
LISBON AT A GLANCE
Lisbon is the capital and largest city in Portugal. Located on the estuary of the Tagus River, it’s the westernmost of all European capitals and was once thought to be the farthest edge of the known world.
Today, Lisbon is regarded as one of the most vibrant and charismatic cities in Europe. Like Rome, it was built on seven hills. It’s characterized by cobblestone streets and hilly neighborhoods traversed by a network of trams that have been in operation since the turn of the 20th century. Lisbon is very much a city of balconies and vistas, the most striking of which can be appreciated from the many miradouros or terraced viewpoints that cap the city’s hills.
Lisbon is home to one of the most beautiful natural harbors in Europe and a bounty of fresh seafood that rivals any port city in the world. Its vibrant nightlife makes it interesting at any time of the day while its year-round climate makes Lisbon an ideal destination at any time of the year.
BEST TIME TO VISIT LISBON
Thanks to its milder winters, Lisbon is a great city to visit at any time of the year. But if you want to go when the weather is at its most pleasant, then it’s best to go anytime between March till May or September to October. The weather is ideal and you’ll avoid the tourist crowds and heat of summer.
MAR-MAY: Spring is one of the best times to visit Lisbon. Hotel rates are lower than summer and temperatures hover between 50-70ºF (10-21ºC). Days can be overcast with some chance for rain so be sure to dress appropriately.
JUN-AUG: Summer is peak season in Lisbon so expect crowds no matter where you go. It’s the hottest time of the year with daytime temperatures often exceeding 80ºF (27ºC). Hotel prices will be at their highest as well.
SEPT-OCT: Like spring, autumn is one of the best times to visit Lisbon. It’s cheaper and less crowded than summer though it does start to get colder and rainier so remember to dress appropriately.
NOV-FEB: Winters in Lisbon are much milder than other European capitals so it’s still a good time to go. Prices are cheaper though these are the wettest months of the year so keep that in mind when planning your trip to Lisbon.
We were in Lisbon in mid-May just as the April rains had tapered off. It was still overcast and a bit chilly on some days but it didn’t rain. I think the weather would have been even better towards the end of May.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Lisbon
For more on the weather in Lisbon, check out these climate graphs from holiday-weather.com. I’ve also created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below with the most ideal months to visit marked in orange.
TRAVELING TO LISBON
Lisbon is an easily accessible city. We traveled to Lisbon by train from Porto but there are many ways to get there depending on where you are.
People flying in to Lisbon will be arriving at Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS). Lisbon Airport is located about 7 km (4.3 miles) north of the city centre. You can make your way to central Lisbon in one of the following ways.
METRO: Traveling by metro is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to get to downtown Lisbon from Lisbon Airport. The Lisbon metro runs from 6:30AM till 1AM.
AEROBÚS: Aerobús is a shuttle service that takes passengers from Lisbon Airport to the city centre. It runs two routes to central Lisbon, the first ending at Cais do Sodré and the second a direct route from Lisbon Airport to Sete Rios. Both routes run every 20 mins from 7:30AM till 11PM. Tickets also include 24 hours of unlimited journeys on the Aerobús network.
As of January 2022, the Aerobús shuttle service is temporarily suspended, probably in relation to the current global situation. Please be sure to check the Aerobús website before making any plans.
PRIVATE/SHARED TRANSFER: If you’d like to book a private or shared airport transfer in advance from Lisbon Portela Airport to your hotel in downtown Lisbon, then you can do so through Get Your Guide. Shared transfers will be considerably cheaper though it may not take you directly to your hotel.
UBER/TAXI: An Uber ride between Lisbon Airport and central Lisbon will run you around EUR 15-20. Because Lisbon Portela Airport is located within the city limits, taking a taxi will be less expensive than other European capitals so expect to pay around the same as an Uber. If traveling by taxi, be sure that the driver switches on the meter as they’re required to use it by law.
If you’re already in Portugal or in a nearby city in Spain, then traveling to Lisbon by train may be the more convenient option. Trains are fast, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive. Plus, it’ll save you trips to and from the airport as train stations are usually located within the city centre.
We took the Alfa Pendular from Porto to Lisbon and a tourist class ticket cost us EUR 31.20. The journey took about 2 hrs 40 mins.
If you’d prefer to take a trip to Lisbon by train, then you can check train routes on the Comboios de Portugal website. This is Portugal’s official rail website and where we bought our Porto-Lisbon tickets. Another popular transportation website you can look at is Bookaway.
From the train station, you can then book an Uber to your hotel.
Like trains, traveling to Lisbon by bus may be the better option if you’re already in Portugal or in a nearby city in Spain. You can check bus routes and purchase tickets on Bookaway. From the bus station, you can then catch an Uber to your hotel.
Traveling by car is one of the best ways of exploring Portugal and many parts of Europe. Before our trip to Lisbon, we were in Spain and drove from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela. Unlike public transportation, it gave us the freedom to stop wherever and whenever we wanted.
If you’d like to visit Lisbon by car, then you can rent one on Rentalcars.com.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
The unit of currency in Portugal is the Euro (EUR).
I withdrew EUR from ATMs in Portugal so I didn’t have to exchange currency in Lisbon. This seems to be the best option in Lisbon and in many other European cities these days.
ATM rates are competitive and they save you from having to bring too much foreign currency with you. Plus, I read that the exchange rate at cambios (currency exchange offices) usually aren’t as good.
If you plan on using your ATM card overseas, then it’s a good idea to inform your bank before your trip to Lisbon. That way you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my ATM card works in most machines but not in all.
NOTE: Some ATMs in Lisbon may ask if you’d like to proceed “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion. If you proceed with conversion, then the foreign bank operating the ATM will do the conversion for you, usually at highly unfavorable rates.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN LISBON
There are many beautiful neighborhoods in the Portuguese capital. Finding the best place to stay based on your interests can make your trip to Lisbon that much better.
Are you looking to party? Then Bairro Alto is definitely for you. Do you want to be near the river? Then Cais do Sodre would be the better choice.
I’ll describe each area in more detail below but if it’s your first time visiting Lisbon, then I’d say the Baixa / Chiado area is the best place for you to stay. It’ll put you in the heart of central Lisbon and close to many tourist attractions, shops, restaurants, bars, and transportation options.
I’ve created a color-coded map to help you understand where these areas in Lisbon are. Click on the link for a live version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)
PURPLE – Baixa / Chiado RED – Bairro Alto ORANGE – Cais do Sodre BLUE – Principe Real PINK – Avenida da Liberdade GREEN – Alfama TEAL – Belem YELLOW – Parque das Nações
BAIXA / CHIADO
As described, the Baixa / Chiado area is one of the best places to stay for people on their first visit to Lisbon. It’ll put you in the heart of central Lisbon and just a stone’s throw away from many of the city’s top tourist attractions like Santa Justa lift, Rossio Square, and Praça do Comércio (and its Arco da Rua Augusta).
It’s a lovely area to explore on foot with plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars. Plus, you’ll be within walking distance to other interesting neighborhoods in Lisbon.
You can book accommodations in Baixa / Chiado on Booking.com or Agoda. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Pousada de Lisboa – Small Luxury Hotels Of The World
Midrange: My Story Hotel Rossio
Budget: Lost Inn Lisbon Hostel
If nightlife is important to you, then Bairro Alto is definitely where you want to be. It’s a quiet neighborhood with cobblestone streets during the day that turns into one of the liveliest and most vibrant areas in Lisbon at night. It’s home to many trendy restaurants, bars, cafes, and rooftop terraces. Even if you don’t like to party, it’s a fun area to explore at night. The streets are buzzing with energy.
You can book accommodations in Bairro Alto on Booking.com or Agoda. Listed below are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Bairro Alto Hotel
Midrange: Dear Lisbon – Charming House
Budget: Lookout Lisbon Hostel
CAIS DO SODRE
Cais do Sodre is one of my favorite areas in Lisbon. It’s a beautiful waterfront area that’s home to Mercado da Ribeira and Time Out Market. If you travel for food like we do, then you’ll probably find yourself at this amazing food hall more than once during your trip to Lisbon.
Caid do Sodre is also home to Rua Nova do Carvalho or “Pink Street”. Known locally as Rua Cor-de-Rosa, Pink Street is a former red light district that’s been transformed into one of the trendiest areas in Lisbon. It consists of a street painted pink with some of the city’s hottest nightclubs and bars on either side of it. Based on what I’ve read, local revelers will usually start in Bairro Alto before ending the night around Pink Street.
You can book accommodations in Cais do Sodre on Booking.com. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Lisbon Finestay 8 Building Apartments
Midrange: Azulejos Cais Sodré B&B
Budget: Sunset Destination Hostel
This is where we stayed on our last trip to Lisbon. We booked a lovely homestay just down the hill from trendy Embaixada shopping gallery and the Botanical Garden of Lisbon.
Located just north and within walking distance of Bairro Alto, Principe Real is home to many boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. It’s a busy commercial district that’s similar in feel to Bairro Alto though perhaps a little quieter which some people may prefer.
You can book accommodations in Principe Real on Booking.com. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Memmo Príncipe Real – Design Hotels
Midrange: 1869 Príncipe Real House
Budget: Royal Prince Hostel
AVENIDA DA LIBERDADE
The area around Avenida da Liberdade is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Lisbon. It’s often compared to France’s Champs-Élysées and consists of a 1.5 km (0.9 miles) stretch of 5-star hotels, shopping malls, designer boutiques, and upscale restaurants.
Situated just east of Principe Real and north of Baixa / Chiado, Av. da Liberdade is still within walking distance of the city’s main sights, making it an ideal choice for people looking to stay in a more luxurious neighborhood in Lisbon.
You can book accommodations around Avenida da Liberdade on Booking.com. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Valverde Hotel
Midrange: Hotel Britania – Lisbon Heritage Collection – Avenida
Budget: Green Heart Hostel
Alfama is one of the most beautiful areas in Lisbon. Situated on the southeastern slope of the same hill capped by Castelo de Sao Jorge, it offers some of the most spectacular views of the city and river.
Alfama survived much of the destruction caused by the 1755 earthquake and is known for being one of the oldest and most historic districts in Lisbon. Originally settled by Moors in 7AD, it retains much of its original Moorish charm with its whitewashed terraced houses featuring orange tiled roofs and wrought iron balconies.
As beautiful as it is, Alfama is also one of the busiest and most visited neighborhoods in Lisbon. It has steep hills and can get pretty crowded so keep that in mind when deciding where to stay in Lisbon.
You can book accommodations in Alfama on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Lisbon Best Choice Prime Apartments Alfama
Midrange: Alfama – Lisbon Lounge Suites
Budget: Alfama Home
If you prefer to be closer to the water and not have to struggle with the steep hills in Lisbon, then Belem would be a great place to stay. It’s situated right next to the Tagus River and offers some of the best waterfront views in Lisbon.
Belem is located about 5 km (3.1 miles) east of central Lisbon. It’s a bit far from the main commercial areas and will force you to take public transport more often, but it does put you close to some of the city’s top tourist attractions like Belem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries, MAAT, Jerónimos Monastery, and Pastéis de Belém.
You can book accommodations in Belem on Booking.com or Agoda. Listed below are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: Altis Belem Hotel & Spa – Design Hotels
Midrange: Geronimo Guest House Belém
Budget: Restelo House
PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES
Like Belem, Parque das Nações is located away from the city center. You’ll need to take public transport to get to downtown Lisbon but it may be a good choice for families traveling together.
Once an industrial area, Parque das Nações was revamped for the World Expo in 1998 and is now one of the most modern neighborhoods in Lisbon. It’s close to Lisbon Airport and features many family-friendly attractions like Oceanário de Lisboa (aquarium) and Pavilhao do Conheciment (science and technology museum).
You can book accommodations in Parque das Nações on Booking.com. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
Luxury: MYRIAD by SANA Hotels
Midrange: Moxy Lisboa Oriente
Budget: Oriente DNA Studios
You can also book hotels and home stays in Lisbon using the handy map below.
PLACES TO VISIT IN LISBON
What should I not miss in Lisbon? People on their first trip to Lisbon will surely be asking that question. To help alleviate your FOMO, we’ve listed below some of the top tourist attractions in the city that you absolutely cannot miss.
1. Jerónimos Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Together with Belem Tower, Jerónimos Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited attractions in Lisbon. Completed in the 17th century, it’s the former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome and was built to commemorate the return of Vasco de Gama from India. The tombs of the famed explorer and Luís de Camões, a Portuguese poet and writer, are housed in the church.
Jerónimos Monastery is located in Belem, about 7 km (4.3 miles) west of the city center. It’s a beautiful waterfront area near several major tourist attractions like Belem Tower and the Monument to the Discoveries. You can take public transport and easily spend the entire day exploring and enjoying the area. It’s a great place for people watching too.
Entrance to the church is free but it costs EUR 10 to visit the cloister. With a Lisbon Card, you can enter the cloister for free. If you’d like to visit the monastery on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Operating Hours: 10AM-5:30PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) Admission: FREE (church), EUR 10 (cloister) Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs Nearest Public Transport Station: Belem (Cascáis line)
2. Belem Tower (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Belem Tower is a 16th century fortification that served as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Constructed on the north bank of the Tagus, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s often portrayed as a symbol of Europe’s Age of Discoveries. It once functioned as an embarkation and disembarkation point for Portuguese explorers.
Like Jerónimos Monastery, Belem Tower is a national monument of Portugal and one of the most important tourist attractions in Lisbon. Entrance is EUR 9 but you visit for free with a Lisbon Card. If you’d like to visit Belem Tower on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Operating Hours: 10AM-5:30PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) Admission: EUR 9 Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs Nearest Public Transport Station: Belem (Cascáis line)
3. Monument to the Discoveries
Within walking distance of Jerónimos Monastery and Belem Tower is a large waterfront monument called Padrão dos Descobrimentos or Monument to the Discoveries. It was built to commemorate the Age of Discoveries in Portugal and features Prince Henry the Navigator and other famed Portuguese explorers.
I was happy to view the monument from outside but you can visit the observation deck at the top of the structure for sweeping views of Belem and the river. Entrance to the deck is EUR 6 but you can get a 30% discount with a Lisbon Card. If you’d like to visit the Monument to the Discoveries on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Operating Hours: 10AM-6PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays) Admission: EUR 6 (Observation deck) Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr Nearest Public Transport Station: Belem (Cascáis line)
4. Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio or Commerce Square is the main public square in Lisbon. Situated by the river, it was built on the site where the old Royal Palace used to stand before it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755.
The most prominent feature at the square is the Arco da Rua Augusta or “Rua Augusta Arch”. Completed in 1873, it was built to celebrate the reconstruction of Lisbon after it was devastated by the earthquake.
It’s easy enough to visit Praça do Comércio on your own, but if you’d like to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr Nearest Public Transport Stop: Terreiro do Paço (Blue line), Baixa / Chiado (Green and Blue lines)
5. Santa Justa Lift
This beautiful elevator called Elevador de Santa Justa or Santa Justa Lift serves a dual purpose. Not only does it offer fantastic views of the city, but it’s also the fastest way to get from Baixa to the Bairro Alto neighborhood.
An elevator may seem like one of those needless tourist traps but the Santa Justa Lift is far from that. It was actually inaugurated in the early 20th century as one of the city’s very first public transport systems. With Lisbon being built on seven hills, its steep hills made it very difficult to travel between upper and lower Lisbon but the Santa Justa Lift made it much easier.
It’s easy enough to visit Santa Justa Lift on your own, but if you’d like to go as part of a guided tour, then you can book one through Get Your Guide.
Operating Hours: 7AM-10PM, daily Admission: EUR 5.15 (roundtrip), EUR 1.50 (viewpoint) Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr Nearest Public Transport Stop: Baixa / Chiado (Blue and Green lines)
6. Castelo de São Jorge
Castelo de Sao Jorge or Sao Jorge Castle is an historic castle and one of the most emblematic landmarks in Lisbon. It’s perched on the summit of São Jorge hill, the highest hill in Lisbon and home to the postcard-perfect Alfama district.
Castelo de São Jorge started as a small fortress built by the Visigoths in the 5th century. It was enlarged by the Moors in the 11th century and reached the height of its splendor from the 13th to the 16th centuries when it was occupied by both the King of Portugal and the Bishop.
Sao Jorge Castle features eleven towers, a museum, a bar, and a restaurant, not to mention some of the most breathtaking views of Lisbon. You can visit the castle on your own or through a guided tour.
Photo by eskystudio via Depositphotos
Operating Hours: 9AM-7PM, daily Admission: EUR 10 Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs Nearest Public Transport Stop: Miradouro Santa Luzia (Tram, Line 28), Castelo (Bus, Line 737)
MAAT stands for Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. It’s a contemporary art museum and cultural center that features national and international exhibits by leading artists, architects, and thought leaders.
MAAT is located by the Tagus River in Belem so you can make a stop here on the same day you visit Jerónimos Monastery and Belem Tower.
Photo by Ruben Pinto via Shutterstock
Operating Hours: 11AM-7PM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays) Admission: EUR 9 Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs Nearest Public Transport Stop: Belem (Cascáis line)
8. Oceanário de Lisboa
The Oceanário de Lisboa or Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. Located in Parque das Nações, it features a large collection of about 16,000 marine animals across 450 species. Its main exhibit is a 5,000,000 liter (1,300,000 US gal) tank featuring sharks, rays, barracudas, moray eels, and a large sunfish.
You can purchase tickets to the oceanarium at the gate or in advance through Get Your Guide.
Photo by Rui Manuel Teles Gomes via Shutterstock
Operating Hours: 10AM-7PM, daily Admission: EUR 22 (adults), EUR 15 (kids ages 3-12) Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs Nearest Public Transport Stop: Oriente (East) Station – Check the Oceanario website for more information
THINGS TO DO IN LISBON
1. Ride Historic Tram 28
This historic tram line is an icon in Lisbon. They’ve been taking commuters from Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique (Prazeres) since the turn of the 20th century. The steep hills of Lisbon can make it more challenging to get around but these yellow trams provide an easy and scenic way to visit some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods and attractions.
Tram 28 takes commuters through popular neighborhoods like Graca, Alfama, Baixa, and Estrela. A single journey on the tram will cost you EUR 3 but you can save on the cost if you get a public transport card. Check out the HOW TO GET AROUND section of this Lisbon travel guide for more information.
If you like street art, then be on the lookout for this mural by legendary American street artist Shepard Fairey. You’ll see it from the tram while going through the Graca neighborhood.
Taking Tram 28 is one if the best ways to visit Alfama, one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Lisbon.
2. Catch a Fado Performance
Fado refers to a musical genre that can be traced back to at least as early as 1820s Lisbon. Traditionally performed in pubs and cafes by one or more guitarists and a vocalist, it’s a type of singing renowned for its deeply emotional and melancholic character.
Fado is strongly associated with Lisbon and something that you need to experience on your trip. It’s performed in many venues throughout the city but one of the most famous places to catch a fado performance in Lisbon is at Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto (pictured below). You can also get tickets to fado shows on Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2 | Option 3).
3. Visit Lx Factory and Embaixada
If you enjoy artsy stuff and unique one-off items, then you need to check out Embaixada and Lx Factory. They’re creative hubs that feature a plethora of interesting products made by Portuguese artists and artisans.
Pictured below is Lx Factory, a co-op featuring a funky mix of shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, and bars. There’s a lot of great street art here as well.
Lx Factory is located in the Alcantara neighborhood halfway between Cais do Sodre and Belem. It’s a fun place to check out on your way to Jerónimos Monastery and Belem Tower.
Embaixada is a unique shopping gallery located in Principe Real, just a stone’s throw from the Botanical Garden of Lisbon. It’s housed in a late-19th century Arabian palace that’s every bit as fascinating as the boutiques and restaurants that call it home.
Embaixada isn’t as big as Lx Factory but the products on sale here, made by Portuguese artists and designers, are just as cool and interesting. Check out my article on Lx Factory and Embaixada for more pictures and information.
4. Go on a Food Tour
With so much amazing food to be had in Lisbon, what better way to experience it than by going on a food tour? We love going on food tours because local guides can take you to the most authentic eateries, places that would be difficult to find on your own. No tourist traps here!
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food and drinking tours in Lisbon.
Photo by Yulia Grigoryeva via Shutterstock
5. Go on a Tuk-Tuk Tour
I didn’t know this until we got there, but traveling by tuk-tuk is one of the most popular ways for tourists to get around Lisbon. I normally recommend walking tours or bike tours but considering how hilly Lisbon is, a tuk-tuk tour may be the best way to tour the city.
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of tuk-tuk tours in Lisbon. If a tuk-tuk tour isn’t for you, then you can chose from other tours like electric bike tours, Segway tours, and walking tours.
Photo by Mix Tape via Shutterstock
6. Take a Cooking Class
Going on a food tour will take you to some of the best and most authentic places to eat in Lisbon, but if you really want to learn about Portuguese food, then one of the best ways to do that is by taking a cooking class.
If you’re adept in the kitchen and want to learn how to make pastel de nata and other Portuguese dishes, then check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Lisbon.
Photo by StrelnikAnd via Shutterstock
DAY TRIPS FROM LISBON
If you’re staying long enough in Lisbon and want to go beyond the city, then you may be interested in going on one or two day trips. Here are some of the most popular day trips you can take in the Lisbon region.
Sintra is far and away the most popular day trip destination from Lisbon. Located less than an hour by train from Lisbon, it refers to the town and municipality famous for its 19th century Romanticist architecture, royal palaces and gardens, and historic villas. The entire town as a whole is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There’s much to see and do in Sintra. If you’re exploring on your own, then I suggest getting an early morning start. It’s best explored in 2-3 days but if you only have enough time for one day trip, then the can’t-miss sights are Pena Palace (pictured below), Quinta da Regaleira, and the Castle of the Moors.
If you’d rather visit Sintra on a guided day trip, then you can choose one of many Sintra tours and activities on Get Your Guide.
Travel Time: About 50 mins
Cascais is a Lisbon municipality located on the Portuguese Riviera. It’s a former fishing town that’s become one of the most popular holiday destinations along the Lisbon coastline. Historically, it served as the summer retreat for many members of the Portuguese royal family and nobility.
Today, Cascais is one of the most affluent municipalities in Portugal. It’s a lovely seaside town with lavish villas, cobblestone streets, interesting museums, and many restaurants and bars.
Located less than an hour east of Lisbon, Cascais can easily be reached on a day trip using public transportation. If you’d rather go on a tour, then check out Get Your Guide for a list of guided day trips to Cascais from Lisbon. Many will combine Sintra and Cascais on the same day trip.
Photo by Bruno Pereira da Silva via Shutterstock
Travel Time: About 50 mins
Some guided day trips to Cascais will take you to Boca do Inferno, a scenic cliff formation and cave system located just west of Cascais. Its name literally means “mouth of hell” and refers to the rough ocean waves crashing violently against the cliff’s face.
You can visit Boca do Inferno on your own or book a guided day trip through Get Your Guide that makes a stop there.
Photo by Shtailer via Shutterstock
3. Arrábida Natural Park
If you’re fond of the outdoors, then one of the best day trips you can make from Lisbon is to Arrábida Natural Park. Located about 40 mins south of central Lisbon, it’s a protected area in the Setúbal Peninsula with lush mountain ranges, white sand beaches, and some of the best coastal scenery in Lisbon.
Get Your Guide offers plenty of day trip tours that take you hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, dolphin watching, and more in Arrábida Natural Park.
Photo by By Lukasz Janyst via Shutterstock
Travel Time: About 40 mins
PORTUGUESE FOOD GUIDE
Portuguese food is a Mediterranean-based cuisine highlighted by delicious dishes like cozido, tripas, and arroz de tamboril. If you’d like to eat like a local in Lisbon, then check out our Portuguese food guide for a list of the best dishes to eat in Portugal.
Pastel de nata may be the most famous dessert in Lisbon but there are so many more delicious sweets you need to try in Portugal. If you have a sweet tooth, then be sure to check out our guide on traditional Portuguese desserts for more information on all things sweet and delicious in Lisbon.
WHERE TO EAT IN LISBON
If eating local food is important to you, then you’ll definitely want to avoid any tourist traps “conveniently” located near popular tourist attractions. Be sure to check out our Lisbon food guide for suggestions on which restaurants to visit for some of the best dining experiences in the Portuguese capital.
To help you decide which restaurants to visit in Lisbon, I’ve narrowed it down to our four favorites below. Be sure to click through to the full Lisbon food guide for more pictures and information.
1. Time Out Market Lisbon
If you travel for food like we do, then a visit to the ultra popular Time Out Market in Lisbon should be high on your list of priorities. It’s a trendy food hall with over four dozen stalls representing some of the best restaurants, bars, and pastry shops in Lisbon. Want some of the city’s best bacalhau a bras, conservas, croquettes, and pastel de nata? They’re all here, conveniently under one roof.
Located in the historic Mercado da Ribeira in Cais do Sodre, Time Out Market Lisbon is extremely popular so expect a crowd at peak times. It can be hard to find a seat so I suggest going in the off-hours to make it a little easier. Check out my article on Time Out Market in Lisbon for suggestions on which stalls to visit.
2. Cervejaria Ramiro
Cervejaria Ramiro is one of the most popular restaurants in Lisbon. It’s featured on almost every travel food show, YouTube video, and blog post about Lisbon, and with good reason. The seafood at this “cervejaria-marisqueira” is absolutely delicious and something every food lover needs to experience in Lisbon.
Everything we ordered at Cervejaria Ramiro was fantastic, but this Portuguese-style crab dish called sapateira recheada may have been the highlight of our meal. Está delicioso! Check out my article on Cervejaria Ramiro for more pictures and information.
3. Ponto Final
While our seafood feast at Cervejaria Ramiro may have been the most delicious, this sunset dinner at Ponto Final may have been the most memorable. Situated on a concrete pier overlooking the Tagus River and the 25 de Abril Bridge, it was one of the most beautiful and picture-worthy restaurant settings I’ve ever experienced.
I’ve read that the food at Ponto Final can be hit or miss, so you need to know what to order. Based on local recommendations, we got the arroz de tamboril or monkfish stew. Good for two, I suggest doing the same because it’s absolutely delicious.
Located in Almada, Ponto Final is at the very end of a long pier with interesting street art. To get there, you’ll need to take a ferry from Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas. Check out my article on Ponto Final for more pictures and information.
4. Pasteis de Belem (Home of the best pastel de nata!)
There are many pastry shops offering pastel de nata in Lisbon, but there is only one Pasteis de Belem. Home to the original recipe for pastel de nata, Pasteis de Belem is without question the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon. I enjoyed pastel de nata almost everyday in Portugal and the offerings at Pasteis de Belem were the best.
Pasteis de Belem is located just a stone’s throw from Jerónimos Monastery, the very place credited for inventing this iconic Portuguese pastry in the 18th century. You can easily take public transport to Belem so this is an experience you definitely shouldn’t miss.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN LISBON
To help you visualize where everything is, I’ve pinned all the places recommended in this Lisbon travel guide on this map. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN LISBON
The Lisbon public transportation system is extensive and efficient and a great way to explore the city. You can explore Lisbon by tram, metro, bus, and ferry. If you enjoy walking like I do, then it’s a great city to explore on foot as well.
If you plan on using public transportation a lot, then I highly recommend getting one of these public transport cards. They can be cheaper and more convenient than purchasing single journey tickets.
24-Hour Public Transport Ticket
For EUR 6.90, this convenient public transport ticket will give you unlimited access to the trams, metro, and bus services in Lisbon for 24 hours. It’ll also give you free access to the Santa Justa Lift and the funicular lines.
If you plan on taking five or more rides in one day, then a 24-hour public transport ticket is definitely a good investment. You can purchase one from any metro station.
Viva Viagem Card
The Viva Viagem card is a rechargeable Lisbon public transportation card. The card costs EUR 0.50 and can be topped up with EUR 3-40 at any metro ticket machine. It can even be loaded with the 24-hour public transport ticket.
Please note that unlike other major cities, each passenger in Lisbon needs to have their own Viva Viagem card. You can’t share one card with multiple people.
If it’s your first trip to Lisbon and you’re planning on visiting many of the city’s top attractions, then a Lisbon Card may be a good investment. It’ll give you unlimited rides on the public transportation system for 24, 48, or 72 hours. It’s valid on CP trains (Comboios de Portugal) going to Sintra and Cascais and it’ll give you free access to many of the top attractions in the city. Check out Get Your Guide for more information and to purchase a Lisbon Card.
No matter how you get around in Lisbon, I suggest downloading the Google Maps app (iOS | Android) if you haven’t already. It’ll tell you all the different ways to get from point A to point B using public transportation. It’s accurate and reliable and something we can never go without on a trip.
Be sure to have Uber installed on your phone as well in case you need to book a ride. We used it a few times in Lisbon when we were too lazy to take public transportation.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / LISBON ITINERARY
How many days do you need to visit Lisbon? As always, it’s best to allocate as much time as you can to major cities like Lisbon, but thanks to its efficient public transport system, you can cover its top attractions in just a few days.
As long as you get an early morning start every day, then 3 full days should be enough. It’ll give you enough time to see the main sights in Lisbon and take a day trip to Sintra and Cascais.
Here’s a sample 3D/4N Lisbon itinerary to help you plan your trip.
DAY ONE • Ride Tram 28 • Alfama • Castelo de Sao Jorge • Baixa • Chiado • Santa Justa Lift • Bairro Alto • Principe Real • Embaixada
DAY TWO • Praça do Comércio • Time Out Market • Lx Factory • MAAT • Pastéis de Belém • Jerónimos Monastery • Padrão dos Descobrimentos • Belem Tower • Rua Nova do Carvalho
DAY THREE • Day trip to Sintra and Cascais
LISBON TRAVEL TIPS
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel
You either enjoy travel planning or you don’t. People that do will find the Sygic Travel app useful. I’ve been using this free trip planning app for years. It allows me to pin points of interest on a map then group them together by location to create as efficient an itinerary as possible. You can download it for free on iOS or Android.
2. Stay Connected in Portugal
Having a fast and steady wifi connection is a must when traveling. You’ll need it to navigate, translate signs, and stay connected on social media. Having access to Google Maps alone justifies the cost.
We own Pokefi pocket wifi devices so we didn’t need to rent one in Europe. But if you want to stay connected in Portugal, then you can purchase an eSIM through Klook.
3. Get a Lisbon Card
As described, people on their first trip to Lisbon may want to invest in a Lisbon Card. It’ll give you unlimited access to public transportation for 24, 48, or 72 hours and allow you to enter many of the city’s main sights for free. Plus, you can use it to go to Cascais and Sintra. Click on the link to purchase a Lisbon Card through Get Your Guide.
4. Prepare for the Hills
Being a city built on seven hills, exploring Lisbon on foot will test your endurance. The public transportation system is great but you’ll still need to get around on foot for a good portion of your trip. If mobility is an issue, then you may want to choose a hotel that’s in a less hilly part of town.
5. Don’t Board Tram 28 at Praça Martim Moniz
Praça Martim Moniz is the start of Tram 28. There’s always a long line there so I suggest boarding the tram somewhere further along the line. Tram 28 is an extremely popular line so most cars will still be crowded, but if you wait long enough, then a less-full car will eventually come around. Personally, I never had to wait too long to board a car where the people didn’t look like sardines packed in a can.
6. Bring Home Conservas
Speaking of sardines packed in a can, one of the best souvenirs you can bring back from Lisbon is conservas. Conservas refers to gourmet canned seafood popular in Portugal and Spain. They’ve been an important part of Portuguese culture and cuisine since the 1850s.
Preserved seafood like anchovies, bacalhau, octopus, and eel are packaged in attractive tins and then wrapped in paper. They’re absolutely delicious and make for the perfect Portuguese food souvenir.
Conserveira de Lisboa is one of the most famous conservas shops in Lisbon. They have a branch near Praça do Comércio and another at Time Out Market.
Conserveira de Lisboa is excellent but if you want truly beautiful tins, the you may want to check out O Mundo Fantastico da Sardinha Portuguesa as well. Their prices are considerably higher than other shops but they have by far the most exquisitely designed tins.
At these prices, these conservas are probably more for keeping than for eating. They even have tins marked with your birth year.
7. Store Your Luggage
More and more people are choosing to stay in AirBnBs over hotels so having a safe place to store your luggage is becoming a necessity. We didn’t need it in Lisbon but there were a few cities in Europe where we had to store our luggage in lockers while waiting to check in to our AirBnB.
If need a secure place to store your luggage for a few hours, then you can check Luggage Hero for available storage options in Lisbon.
8. Check for Lisbon Travel Deals
There are many websites that sell vouchers to tours and other travel-related services. For a trip to Lisbon, one of the best websites to go through is Get Your Guide. They’re one of the leading travel ecommerce websites and offer a fantastic selection of deals on tours, attraction tickets, airport transfers, and more.
9. Rent a Car
Renting and driving a car is one of the best ways to explore Europe. It gives you the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. We didn’t rent one in Portugal but we did rent cars in Santorini and Spain.
If you’re considering renting a car in Portugal or anywhere else in Europe, then you can do so through Rentalcars.com.
10. Get Travel Insurance
We didn’t get travel insurance often when we were younger but now that we’re older and more experienced, we understand how important it can be. The fact is, you never know what can happen when you’re in a foreign country. Having a reliable insurance policy can be a godsend should anything bad or unforeseen happen on a trip.
Whenever we do feel the need for insurance, we always get it from SafetyWing or Heymondo. They’re both popular travel insurance providers used by many long-term travelers. Follow the links to get a free quote from SafetyWing or Heymondo. Get 5% off on Heymondo by using our link.
11. Bring the Right Power Adapter
Portugal has Type C or Type F electrical outlets so be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
I’m by no means an expert on Lisbon but I do hope that you find this guide useful. I’m only sharing some of the things I learned from our trips.
If you have any questions or suggestions, then please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for reading and have an amazing trip to Lisbon!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Lisbon. Check out our what’s in our backpack post for a complete list of our gear. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon and other affiliate links.)
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If you look at a map, then you’ll see that Ecuador is a small country, one of the smallest in South America. But in spite of its size, it’s a geographically diverse region featuring four distinct landscapes – the Andean highlands, Amazon jungle, Pacific coast, and the wildlife-rich Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador’s varied topography and wildly different climates make it an exciting place to visit for adventure seekers. But also for Traveleaters looking for interesting food.
As you’ll find in this guide on traditional Ecuadorian food, much of this equatorial country’s diversity carries over into its rich and delicious cuisine.
ECUADORIAN FOOD QUICK LINKS
If you’re planning a trip to Ecuador and want to really dive into the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a traditional Ecuadorian food tour or taking a cooking class.
Ecuadorian Food Tours: Food Tours in Ecuador
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Photo by pxhidalgo
WHAT IS TRADITIONAL ECUADORIAN FOOD?
For a small country, the food in Ecuador is diverse and can vary greatly by region and altitude.
In the coastal regions, a variety of seafood, grilled steak, and chicken dishes are popular and commonly served with carbohydrate-rich foods like rice, lentils, and fried plantains. In the mountainous regions, hornado (roasted pork), chicken, beef, and cuy asado (roasted guinea pig) are more common and typically consumed with rice, potatoes, and corn.
Like many tropical countries, Ecuador is rich in fruits. Common Ecuadorian fruits include passionfruit, naranjilla, pitaya (dragon fruit), tree tomato, bananas, and green plantains. It was interesting to learn that Ecuador is the world’s biggest exporter of bananas, accounting for about a third of all global shipments.
Green plantains are an important part of Ecuadorian cuisine and figure prominently in many breakfast dishes, soups, sides, snacks, and street food dishes.
THE BEST OF ECUADORIAN CUISINE
This article on traditional Ecuadorian food has been organized by category to make it easier to digest. Click on a link to jump to any section of the guide.
Starters / Snacks / Sides
Soups / Stews
Meat / Seafood
Desserts / Drinks
Ecuadorian Food Tours
STARTERS / SNACKS / SIDES
1. Empanadas de Viento
The empanada is a staple snack enjoyed in many countries throughout Latin America. Originally from Spain, its name stems from the Galician word empanar, which means “to bread” or “to wrap in bread”. It’s become a very popular dish in many former Spanish colonies like Ecuador, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and the Philippines.
An empanada is a baked or fried turnover pastry made with dough folded over a filling. Depending on where it’s from, it can be filled with various ingredients like ground meat, potato, cheese, tomato, hard-boiled egg, raisins, and corn. In Ecuador, you’ll find several variations of this traditional food but the most common is empanada de viento.
Empanada de viento refers to an Ecuadorian-style fried empanada filled with cheese (and sometimes onions). A popular breakfast dish or street food, it doesn’t sound as interesting as the more elaborate empanadas but what makes it unique is the granulated sugar that’s sprinkled on top after deep-frying in oil. The combination of stringy cheese, onions, and sugar with the crispy fried pastry shell is absolutely delicious.
Photo by pxhidalgo
For people who understand Spanish, you may be wondering how this Ecuadorian-style empanada got its name. Empanadao de viento literally means “wind empanada” and refers to how these fried pastries are filled mostly with air. Apparently, the empanada puffs up with air no matter how much cheese you put in them so don’t blame your street vendor if yours seems to have more air than cheese!
Empanada de viento is the most common but you can try other types of empanada in Ecuador like empanada de morocho (made with corn flour), empanada de verde (made with green plantains), and empanada de mejido (made with sweet custard, cheese, and raisins).
Photo by ireneuke
The humita is a traditional dish from South America that pre-dates the Hispanic period. It’s an ancient dish made with fresh choclo that’s pounded into a paste and then wrapped in corn husk before being steamed or boiled in water. It can be found in countries throughout the Andean region like Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and northwest Argentina.
In Ecuador, humitas are typically made with freshly ground corn, onions, garlic, cheese, eggs, and heavy cream. They’re similar to tamales except humitas are made with fresh corn instead of masa. They’re popular in the Ecuadorian Highlands where they’re typically eaten for breakfast or as a mid-day snack with coffee.
Photo by Blinovita
Salchipapas refers to a widely consumed street food dish made with thinly sliced pan-fried beef sausages served with a mound of french fries. Originally from Lima in Peru, it’s become a popular street food snack in many countries throughout Latin America like Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
Salchipapas is a portmanteau word for salchicha (sausage) and papa (potatoes). It can be toped with various condiments like ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce and served with a variety of side dishes like cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and a fried egg. It’s a greasy but delicious dish that’s easy to make.
If you’d like to make this street food classic yourself, then check out this recipe from popular Ecuadorian food blog Laylita’s Recipes. Topped with tomato onion curtido salsa and a homemade salsa rosada, it looks absolutely delicious!
Photo by ildi_papp
Llapingachos are Ecuadorian fried potato cakes made with boiled and mashed potatoes seasoned with onions and spices and stuffed with cheese. The potato patties are cooked on a griddle till they’re golden brown and crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.
These delicious fried potato cakes are typically served with salsa de mani (creamy peanut sauce) and eaten for breakfast or lunch with different side dishes like chorizo sausages, avocados, fried eggs, lettuce, and a pickled red onion and tomato salad. If you like some heat in your food, then you can enjoy them with a good drizzle of aji criollo hot sauce.
Like humitas, llapingachos pre-date Hispanic times and are a delicious example of Ecuadorian Highland food. Its name stems from the Kichwa word llapina, meaning “to crush into a soft and mushy consistency”.
Photo by pxhidalgo
5. Bolon de Verde
Bolon de verde literally means “big green ball” and refers to a popular traditional food in Ecuador made with mashed cooked green plantains stuffed with cheese and/or chicharrones (Ecuadorian deep-fried fatty pork). Popular in the coastal regions of Ecuador, they’re shaped into fist-sized balls and then deep-fried till crispy.
Photo by pxhidalgo
Early risers may be wondering, “What is a typical breakfast in Ecuador?” Well, you’re looking at it.
Bolon de verde is generally served for breakfast or brunch in Ecuador, often with hot sauce, avocado slices, tomatoes, and a fried egg. They also make for a delicious side dish or appetizer.
Photo by pxhidalgo
6. Muchines de Yuca
If bolon de verde looks appealing to you, then you may want to try muchines de yuca as well. It refers to a traditional food in Ecuadorian cuisine consisting of deep-fried cassava balls or spheres filled with cheese. They’re popular in the coastal regions of Ecuador where they’re typically served for breakfast with fried eggs or as an appetizer with hot sauce and a small salad.
Photo by pxhidalgo
Chifles are thinly sliced chips made from green plantains. These crunchy plantain chips are a popular snack or side dish in Ecuador and can also be found in varying forms in other countries throughout Latin America like Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.
To make these crunchy plantain chips, green plantains are submerged in salt water after removing the peel. They’re then cut into thin slices, either across to make round slices or lengthwise to make strips. The slices are then deep-fried in oil till golden brown and crispy.
Fried plantain chips in Ecuador can be savory, sweet, or spicy. They can be enjoyed on their own as a snack or eaten as a side dish with other traditional dishes like encebollado and ceviche.
Photo by pxhidalgo
SOUPS / STEWS
8. Locro de Papa
Locro refers to a thick and hearty stew consumed by people living in the Andean region of South America. Depending on where it’s from, locro can be made with different ingredients but in Ecuador, it’s typically made with potato and cheese.
Locro de papa or Ecuadorian potato soup or stew is made with local potatoes, onions, garlic, queso fresco (fresh cheese), milk, and spices. The ingredients are simmered and cooked together before adding the cheese which melts into the thick broth. Soups like locro de papa are often served as the first course in Ecuadorian meals, usually with avocados and aji hot sauce.
Photo by scornejor
9. Encebollado de Pescado
No Ecuadorian food guide worth its weight in green plantains can ever be complete without encebollado de pescado, a delicious fish soup or stew widely regarded to be a national dish in Ecuador. Its name literally means “oniony fish soup” and is in reference to the pickled red onions used in the soup.
Encebollado is typically made with fresh albacore tuna, yuca (cassava root), tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and spices. A sofrito serves as the base for this delicious fish stew which is always topped with curtido, a type of Ecuadorian salsa made with red onion rings and tomatoes pickled with lime juice. Most Ecuadorian meals are served with a small salad and that salad is usually curtido.
Encebollado is consumed throughout the country but it’s especially popular in the coastal regions of Ecuador. It can be eaten at any time of the day, often with side dishes and condiments like crunchy plantain chips, toasted corn nuts, avocado slices, and lime juice.
Photo by pxhidalgo
Visit Ecuador in March or April and you may get the chance to try fanesca, an Ecuadorian Easter soup made with bacalao (dried and salted cod) and many other ingredients. It’s a very traditional food in Ecuadorian cuisine that’s made just once a year to celebrate Easter and Lent.
Recipes for fanesca vary but it’s a rich and highly symbolic soup made with a plethora of ingredients like bacalao cooked in milk, sambo (figleaf gourd), zapallo (pumpkin), mellocos (Andean potatoes), and twelve different kinds of beans and grains. The bacalao symbolizes Jesus while the beans represent the twelve apostles. They can vary from cook to cook but common beans and grains used include lentils, peas, corn, habas (fava beans), and chochos (lupines).
As if all those ingredients didn’t sound filling enough, fanesca must be served with a variety of side dishes like hard-boiled eggs, fried plantains, avocados, hot peppers, queso fresco (fresh cheese), empanadas, and white onions marinated in lime juice. Hearty and filling and often the only meal enjoyed by Ecuadorians on Good Friday, it truly is a special soup fit for a king!
Photo by ildi_papp
If you like offal and alcoholic beverages, then guatita will be one of your favorite dishes in Ecuador. Meaning “little belly” in Spanish, it refers to a traditional Ecuadorian tripe stew made with a peanut and potato sauce. Widely considered to be a national dish, its blend of starch, salt, and spice make it an effective hangover cure after a night of partying in Quito.
Guatita is a Saturday and Sunday morning favorite commonly served with white rice, curtido, avocados, and hot sauce. In spite of its alleged restorative properties, it can be enjoyed at any time and is available pretty much anywhere in the country, from fancy restaurants to street food vendors to Ecuadorian homes.
Photo by alejomiranda
12. Pan de Yuca
Bread made from yuca flour and cheese exists in varying forms throughout Latin America. In Brazil, it’s known as pão de queijo. In Argentina and Paraguay, people refer to it as chipas. Colombians have pan de queso while Bolivians refer to their version as cuñape. In Ecuador, these small cheesy breads made from cassava flour are known as pan de yuca.
Pan de yuca is typically enjoyed for breakfast or as an appetizer or snack. When served warm and fresh from the oven, it has a slightly crunchy, firm crust and a soft spongy interior.
Photo by sgoodwin4813
13. Guaguas de Pan
These colorful little sweet breads are known as guaguas de pan, or “bread babies”. Shaped like babies swaddled in blankets, this traditional dish is made on November 2nd to celebrate El Dia de los Difuntos or the Day of the Deceased.
The Day of the Deceased is celebrated in some form in many countries throughout Latin America, Europe, and the Philippines. It’s meant to honor the memory of friends and relatives who’ve passed away. In Ecuador, this is done with the preparation of guaguas de pan and a purple corn and fresh fruit drink called colada morada. Guaguas de pan are made with a sweet bread dough, similar to brioche, and sometimes stuffed with sweet fillings.
I’m originally from the Philippines so I’m quite familiar with this tradition. Families would go to the cemetery to visit deceased relatives and bring flowers and food. By eating near the graves, families symbolically “share” their food with the dead. It’s an important tradition that can often last the entire day (or longer).
In Ecuador, the tradition of creating doll-like rolls of bread is believed to have pre-Hispanic roots. An ancient tribe that lived around present-day Quito made corn flour figurines for Aya Marcay Quilla, a celebration to honor deceased ancestors. Over time, guaguas de pan and the celebration of the dead became intertwined with Spanish traditions and the Catholic church.
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MEAT / SEAFOOD
Hornado refers to the Ecuadorian version of roasted pig. It consists of a whole pig marinated in a mixture of spices made with onions, garlic, cumin, chicha (fermented corn), and annatto before being slow-roasted over hot coals for several hours, often overnight.
Hornado is a common sight at Highland markets. Depending on where you are in Ecuador, they can come with different side dishes but they’re generally served with llapingachos (fried potato cakes), mote (boiled corn), chicharrones, and some vegetables. Most will be served with a sauce like agrio (vinaigrette salsa) or tamarillo (tree tomato aji sauce).
Photo by ireneuke
15. Fritada de Chancho
If hornado isn’t enough to satisfy your pork cravings in Ecuador, then you need to have fritada de chancho. It refers to a delicious braised pork dish made with chunks of pork slowly cooked in a mixture of orange juice, onions, garlic, and cumin.
Because of its name, people think that fritada de chancho is a fried pork dish but it’s actually braised. The pork is cooked in a mixture of orange juice and water until the liquid is reduced and the meat is browned in its own fat. Depending on where you have it in Ecuador, it can be served with various side dishes and sauces like llapingachos (fried potato cakes), fried plantains, fava beans, corn, and agrio.
Fritada de chancho is considered a weekend dish in Ecuador. People would leave the city over the weekends and drive to the countryside to have fritada at village restaurants and roadside eateries called huequitos.
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16. Cuy Asado
If you’re familiar with Peruvian food, then this next dish needs little introduction. Cuy asado means “roast guinea pig” and refers to a dish of…well, roasted guinea pig! Whether roasted, grilled, or fried, cuy is just as popular a food source in Ecuador as it is in Peru.
Although the guinea pig may be viewed as a pet in North America, in the Andean region, they’re livestock. They’ve always been raised for their meat which has often been described as being similar to rabbit.
Roasted guinea pig may be one of the more unusual Ecuadorian foods on this list but it’s an important part of Ecuadorian cuisine and culture. As with any cultural food, I think it’s something you need to try to fully immerse yourself in Ecuador.
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It’s interesting to learn that guinea pig meat was the main source of protein for Ecuadorians before cattle was introduced to the country. As such, it was never an everyday meal but more of a status symbol, a luxury that only people with enough money could eat.
Cuy can be prepared in several ways but one of the most popular and delicious ways to have guinea pig is to roast it over an open charcoal fire.
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17. Seco de Chivo
Seco de chivo refers to an Ecuadorian goat stew made with pieces of goat or sheep meat browned in a sauce with fried vegetables, garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), herbs, and spices. A fermented liquid is then added to the pot and simmered until it reduces and forms a thick sauce.
There are several ways to make this traditional dish, all revolving around the type of fermented liquid used to make the stew. It can de made with chicha (fermented corn beverage), beer, or naranjilla juice – a tart, tomato-like fruit found mainly in Ecuador and Colombia. It’s this liquid that largely determines how the dish will eventually taste.
Ecuadorians have their preferences as to which liquid is best, but the most traditional way of making seco de chivo is with chicha. No matter what it’s made with, it’s a delicious Ecuadorian dish traditionally served with arroz amarillo (yellow rice), fried plantains, and slices of avocado.
Photo by lenyvavsha
18. Pescado Encocado
Pescado encocado refers to a traditional Ecuadorian fish dish made with coconut sauce. Popular along the coastal regions of Ecuador, it consists of fish seasoned with lime juice, orange juice, and spices and then cooked in a sauce with onions, bell peppers, coconut milk, and cilantro. It’s commonly made with corvina though different types of fish and other seafood can also be used.
Pescado encocado is traditionally served with white rice and fried plantains. If you’d rather not have it with sweet fried plantains, then it can also be served with green plantain chips. The white rice is a must as it’s the best way of soaking up all that deliciously rich coconut sauce.
Photo by lenyvavsha
Like roasted guinea pig, ceviche is another dish that’s traditionally associated with both Ecuador and Peru. One of the most important traditional dishes in Peruvian and Ecuadorian cuisine, it consists of fresh raw fish and other seafood cured in lemon or lime juice.
In Ecuador, ceviche can be made with different types of raw seafood but two of the most popular are fish ceviche (ceviche de pescado, pictured below) and shrimp ceviche (ceviche de camarón). Ecuadorian fish ceviche can be made with any type of sashimi-grade white fish cured in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, and hot peppers. After curing, it’s mixed with lime-marinated red onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro before serving.
Photo by pxhidalgo
Pictured below is Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche. Unlike fish ceviche, the shrimp in ceviche de camarón is actually cooked with heat rather than just being denatured. After cooking, the shrimp is marinated in lime juice and mixed with fresh vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, and thinly sliced red onion before serving.
Other popular types of Ecuadorian ceviche are made with octopus, scallops, oysters, and black clams. Ceviche is consumed throughout the country but it’s an especially popular dish in the coastal regions of Ecuador. It’s often served with hot sauce and various side dishes like chifles (crunchy plantain chips), patacones/tostones (twice fried plantain chips), and toasted corn nuts.
Photo by javarman
DESSERTS / DRINKS
You can’t explore the food in Ecuador without trying out some of the most delicious Ecuadorian desserts. A good place to start would be quimbolitos. A distant cousin of the humita, the quimbolito is a very traditional food in Ecuadorian cuisine consisting of steamed corn cakes wrapped in achira leaves.
To make quimbolitos, a dough made with corn flour, wheat flour, eggs, butter, milk, and sugar is wrapped in achira leaves before being steamed in a pot. They’re similar to humitas or tamales except they’re fluffier and more cake-like in texture. Quimbolitos are traditionally decorated with one or more raisins before serving.
Photo by pxhidalgo
If you visit Ecuador around the holidays, then you may get to try these delicious fritters called pristiños. They’re a traditional Christmas dessert in Ecuador consisting of fried pastries served with miel de panela (piloncillo syrup). Pristiños are traditionally shaped like crowns but they can be made into other shapes as well.
If you’re familiar with Latin American desserts, then you may find them to be similar to buñuelos. Pristiños are made with baking powder while buñuelos are made with yeast. In Ecuador, both are typically served with miel de panela.
Photo by pxhidalgo
22. Dulce de Higos
Dulce de higosliterally means “sweet figs” and refers to a simple Ecuadorian dessert of fig preserves cooked in miel de panela spiced with cinnamon and clove. Also known as higos pasados, they’re usually paired with a slice of queso fresco (fresh cheese) to help balance the sweetness of the caramelized figs.
Photo by pxhidalgo
Naranjilla is a popular fruit in Ecuador and in other Latin American countries like Costa Rica, Panama, and in Colombia, where it’s known as lulo. Its name literally means “little orange” though it’s actually more closely related to tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.
Naranjilla is known for its tart and very acidic flavor. It’s made into juices, smoothies, and cocktails and is often used as an ingredient in Ecuadorian desserts and savory dishes like seco de chivo and other meat stews.
Photo by CUNDO
Morocho refers to an Ecuadorian sweet drink made with dried cracked hominy corn, milk, cinnamon, raisins, and sugar. Served warm and thick like pudding or a milkshake, it’s a classic Ecuadorian street food commonly sold at markets and by the roadside.
Photo by ildi_papp
25. Colada Morada
Together with guaguas de pan, colada morada is traditionally prepared on November 2nd in Ecuador to celebrate El Dia de los Difuntos or the Day of the Deceased. It’s a thick drink made with fruits, spices, panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), and purple corn flour.
Recipes for colada morada vary but common fruits and spices used include naranjilla, mortiños (wild blueberries from the Andean region), blackberries, strawberries, pineapple, peaches, ishpingo (Ecuadorian cinnamon), and cloves. Like guaguas de pan, it’s an ancient Ecuadorian drink that’s existed in the region well before the arrival of the Spanish.
Photo by ildi_papp
ECUADORIAN FOOD TOURS
It goes without saying that no one knows Ecuadorian food better than a local, so what better way to experience the best of Ecuadorian cuisine than by going on a food tour? Not only will a food-obsessed guide take you to the city’s best restaurants, markets, and street food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes to you in more detail as well.
Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Ecuadorian food tours in Quito and other destinations throughout the country.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE FOOD IN ECUADOR
Ecuador has much to offer to outdoor adventurers, but also to people who travel for food. This is hardly an exhaustive list but we do hope it whets your appetite and gets you even more excited to visit Ecuador. ¡Buen provecho!
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Cover photo by pxhidalgo. Stock images via Depositphotos.