Colombia’s Grocery List
Contrary to common beliefs about South American diets, shopping and eating in Colombia as a vegan is easy, easy, oh, and easy.
My shopping list here is by no means all the vegan food out there, I didn’t dive into showing all the different chips and cookies, etc (particularly because we already know a lot of those a foods are so artificial that they are accidentally vegan and thus far, this holds true in almost every country I’ve visited so just read your chips labels and chocolate labels. See my anti-vegan label reading lesson coming soon…).
1. Soy /other forms of vegan milk.
Surprisingly, it’s really easy to find. The most common I found was powdered soy milk, which was actually not that bad.
I didn’t really try any flavors or drink it too often just straight up, I’d put it in my tea or my oatmeal or in smoothies. It added that milky richness
and had the added benefit of extra protein and vitamins.
Finding pre-made soy milk was also easy and fairly common to stumble upon in bigger stores. Here I have two brands, Soy Plus and ADES (the same brand I drank all through Chile). I’ve also found Silk and Almond milk US brands as well, and for a fairly cheap price. It’ll run you around 6,000 pesos, which is about $4.00.
2. TEXTURED VEGETABLE PROTEIN (TVP).
In Chile, they called it carne de soya, in Colombia, you can find “carne de soya” in the natural food stores that grace every corner, or you can find “Carve” and they will call it that. You could ask for Carve, proteína de soya, or carne de soya if you can’t find it in the store.
I found it fairly easily, it’s in the “health section” meaning where the special wheats and flours are, where the flax seeds are …just look around for this big bright red box. It’s fairly hard to miss. Cheap too. A big box will run you about 3,000 pesos ($1.75).
3. Rice and Soy Meal/Flour
Really cool mix of rice and soy meal. They use it as a nutritional addition,so throw it in your oatmeal, in a smoothie, you can bake with it, just a cool mix of proteins and nutrition. It wasn’t as easy to come across, but I did see it a few times. Also in the “health” section.
4. FLAX SEEDS
If you’re into flax seeds, Colombia’s a good place to get your flax seed fix. Flax is good for smoothies, baking, throwing it in your oatmeal. It’s a great source of Omega-3s. Very healthy for vegans. I found it easily throughout Colombia. Linaza entera is whole flax seed. Linaza molida-is ground flax seed. Cheap too!
5. BEANS BEANS AND BEANS.
You’re probably not too surprised nor impressed, but just to assuage anyone who might be concerned, beans are all over South America. Mainly in dried form (canned is expensive), but they are cheap and abundant. Soak and cook!
6. SOUPS and VEGGIE BASED BOUILLON (BROTH)
The broth bouillon cubes are useful if you plan on doing some soup cooking! They also have quite a few of easy pre-packaged veggie soups that are easy to make and vegan. Just check the ingredients.
7. Finally, a more Colombian traditional food—-AREPAS.
Arepas are generally a corn flour based tortilla/bread like food. Normally, on the streets or in restaurants, you’ll find it with cheese or with meat in a sandwich form. Even the ones that look like they don’t have cheese in the middle on the street-often have the cheese mixed into the dough itself, so be careful.
Arepas are traditional, traditional Colombian and Venezuelan foods. When I was studying in venezuela (and a vegetarian), my host family made arepas for breakfast almost every day and for dinner a good number of times.
To get a feel for this traditional Colombian food, head to the grocery store and go to the “cold” section where cheeses and yogurts are…there are quite a few brands that are without cheese, milk and eggs (queso, leche, y huevos). Buy a pack and fry them in a bit of oil, then add either avocado, or if you can find some tofu, tofu on it.
As for finding tofu, other vegan luxury items, I did find tofu in a few stores in Bogota, Medellin, etc. Go to the foreign cheese section. It might say queso de tofu, or soya or something similar, but it’s tofu, don’t worry! The stores that most often have it, are the stores in the nicer areas, particularly nice Carrefours.
My other recommendation is to try the health food stores that are all over the place. They have soy protein, vitamins, healthy breads, and will often sell different non-dairy based milks (including oatmeal and soy milk!).
Don’t forget about happycow.net or asking about local vegan stores and restaurants. You’d be surprised how much veganism is picking up in Colombia. Using happycow, I found quite a few places that were restaurants/stores that sold vegan cheese, vegan fake meats, vegan ice cream, tofu, and all kinds of vegan milks. Particularly in terms of vegan milks, colombia almost has better options than the US! Hahaha.
For some street based fun, check out my post on Colombian Vegan Street Food.