“If you’re going to latin america, it’s really hard as a vegan,” they say. “You pretty much have to eat rice, beans and plantains every day.”
My reply: “Sign me up!”
And I could pretty happily eat a vegan version of Bandeja Paisa every day. Every meal! Beans and rice and plantains and avocado is pretty much the best.
Now it is true that many meals in Colombia have the bizarre distinction of being super oily while simultaneously super bland. When you use cheese as your main spice, food often lacks a lot of zest and flavor.
But actually the vegan offerings in Colombia were surprisingly great! According to Happycow, there are 10 fully vegan restaurants in Medellin and 29 in Bogota. There are approximately 7 million people in Bogota, so to put that in perspective here ( again according to Happy Cow) the amount of fully vegan restaurants similar sized cities have.
Bogota: 29 Madrid: 43
Miami: 24 Hong Kong: 30
Yangon: 2 Taipei: 62
Kuala Lumpur: 13 Dallas, USA: 16
Two take-aways there. First of all, I really need to get to Taipei. But secondly you can see that Bogota compares favorably with other similar sized cities. I was there during some political unrest and only visited one place. But it was a super good place, especially the tamales.
Even in small towns, there is always amazing fruit to be had, obviously. Even new fruits that I had never seen, like maracuyá and uchuva and pitaya and borojó Likewise, cheap juices are everywhere, and you can always choose water or milk as a base. My favorite juice was probably guarapo, fresh sugarcane with lots of lime. My second favorite though was coconut lemonade, which is maybe more awesome than it sounds.
Maybe you don’t want to live on fruit alone. No problem. Empanadas are super cheap and tasty and several places offer vegan versions of them. And Colombia has some of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had.
Most meals I had were fairly cheap, I never had to walk super far to find them, and almost all included Champignon mushrooms. Most importantly, most people (even in small towns) knew what the term vegano meant even if they didn’t have options for it.
But without much effort it’s quite easy to find awesome food. Dried and sugary coconut, quinoa bowls, roasted cauliflower, falafel, and of course arepas are all part of the awesome vegan scene there.
I would say that a vegan planning on traveling to Colombia would probably be best served bring salt, yeast and hot sauce as most of the meals would benefit from all three of those.