Bandeja Paisa: A Colombian Gut-Buster

Bandeja Paisa

We are fortunate enough to live in a city with a ridiculous amount of diversity when it comes to restaurants, and one place we frequent often is a ‘hip’ Colombian restaurant (what the hell, it is Brooklyn). When we go there it’s because of two things: 1) We’re friggin starving and are ready to eat till we drop and 2) we want to get drunk. They have very strong drinks, and the food, shall we say, ain’t exactly light either. Maybe the strong drinks are to help your appetite and enable you to eat more?

One of the favorite menu items is the very popular and typical Colombian dish Bandeja Paisa. Yes, I wasn’t lying when I called it a “gut buster”. There is no way in hell I’m not unbuttoning my jeans when I decide to order this one. Originating from northwestern Colombia (the province of Antioquia), this dish’s name stems from bandeja, meaning tray or platter, and what the people of the region are known as, paisas, or country-folk. The idea is that this mixed platter would be eaten at lunchtime after a hard morning working in the fields and would be followed (like there would be a choice!) by a lengthy siesta before anything resembling work could resume.

In 2005 the Colombian government planned to make bandeja paisa the national dish, but instead with the name of bandeja montañera (mountaineer’s platter). This move was actually faced with widespread opposition, citing that only a small percentage of the population actually eats bandeja (perhaps unsurprisingly, or they’d all be in cardiac arrest and/or 500lbs). However, the government persisted and now you can find all sorts of Colombian tourism paraphernalia advertising bandeja as the national dish – perhaps in a daring bid to encourage obese gringos to head on down for a feast…?

Anyway, like many traditional dishes the exact combination of ingredients/items often differs depending on who you ask, but, again, like many traditional dishes, there are a number of ingredients that all versions contain. Arepa (a thin shallow-fried corn cake), grilled marinated skirt steak, pork chicharron (crispy, deep-fried pork belly cracklins), a fried egg, chorizo, red beans (stewed red beans) and rice. [Note: some versions contain other foods including morcilla (blood sausage), sweet fried plantains, avocado, vinegary shredded red cabbage salad, fried potatoes, tomato sauce, and hogao (aka criollo sauce made with onions, tomatoes, pepper, oregano, cumin, and salt).] We combined our beans with the chorizo, substituted the rice with yucca fries, and cut the richness of the meal with the traditional Colombian condiment, aji.

Bandeja Paisa

Estimates vary, but it’s a meal of between 1,500-1,800 calories (that’s most of your daily intake), and yes, that’s right, and it’s all eaten for lunch. I, who can hardly sit up straight at my desk after a sandwich and an apple for my midday repast, find it almost impossible to imagine engaging in manual labor even after only half a plate of this magnitude. Combine this with the nearly year-round equatorial heat that part of Colombia enjoys, and I’d be retiring to my hammock for forty (or more) winks, which is why we tend to save up our bandeja eating for the colder months, and happily for us (but not our cardiologist) those months are on the way. So, get out the largest plate you own, starve yourself for a couple of days ahead of time, consider cancelling your plans for the afternoon, and get stuck into a bandeja paisa – it’s only your waistline at risk!

red beans with chorizo

Bandeja Paisa

So, because this is a meal made up of many constituent parts, and because, with our version, we tinkered with the traditional ingredients a bit, what follows is basically a run-down of recipes starting with the most time-consuming preparations.

Stewed Pinto/Red Beans with Chorizo
See this recipe here we made a while back.

Yucca Fries

Yucca Fries

  • 1 medium sized yucca (cassava), peeled and cut into 1/4inch (1cm) rings or half-moons
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, heated to 350-375F
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • Fry yucca rings until golden and crispy. Remove to plate covered with paper towels to drain, and sprinkle with salt.
  • Keep warm in oven if not eating immediately as they get chewy and tough if left to cool

Skirt Steak

  • Sprinkle steak lightly with salt, pepper and rub generously with sliced garlic.
  • Marinate in olive oil until ready to grill.
  • Heat skillet or grill to screaming hot. Brush marinade off steaks and grill on each side for about 2-3 minutes (depending on thickness – use poke test regularly) for a nice medium-rare.
  • Cover with foil and allow to rest for 5-10minutes.
shredded cabbage salad

Shredded Red Cabbage Salad

  • Shred or finely slice 5-6oz red cabbage after removing tough outer leaves
  • Put cabbage in a bowl and mix with 3tbsp granulated sugar, 1tsp kosher salt and 1/2cup white vinegar
  • Allow to marinate and grow together for as long as a couple of days.
Colombian Arepas

Colombian Arepas

  • 1 cup masa harina (fine cornmeal flour)
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 4oz vegetable oil
  • combine corn flour, water and salt into a sticky dough
  • make a ball out of some of the dough and roll into a circle about 4-5inches across and 1/4 thick
  • heat 1tbsp oil at a time, and fry dough circles until golden and crispy
  • drain on paper towels, then dress with butter/margarine and serve immediately while still warm
Colombian Aji

Spicy Colombian Aji

  • 1 sweet pepper, finely diced
  • 2 jalapenos, finely diced and de-seeded
  • 3 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 onion, finely diced
  • 10-15 stems cilantro, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Combine all these ingredients together and let sit for at least an hour or as long as 2 days for the flavors to improve
Bandeja Paisa

Pork Chicharrones
We used the great recipe we found at Nikas Culinaria, and encourage you to do likewise.

Then, combine all this goodness on a plate (we suggest you share it with at least one other person unless you want to drift into a food coma you may never come out of) and enjoy with the latin cocktail of your choice (avoid beer, it makes everything swell up), or perhaps, as the Colombians would, accompany it with a few shots of aguardiente!

Thank you to for featuring this post in their Colombian food section.

Bandeja Paisa

Disclaimer: Our dear Colombian friend kindly let us know that our too-styled, “pretty” version of Bandeja Paisa is a bit less authentic because of the way we put things on the plate. Hear our Juan Camilo discuss Bandeja Paisa and all things Colombian in our exclusive podcast interview.

58 thoughts on “Bandeja Paisa: A Colombian Gut-Buster

  1. I can’t believe you took this on to do at home. A lot of work and mess, but your results are gorgeous. I hope you had guests to help you eat all that! I have to fess up that I’ve ordered it in Colombian restaurants, but always regretted it (afterwards) because of the calorie/fat content. Like the Brazilian feijoada, it is served at lunch time because it is so heavy that you need the whole day to digest it.

  2. Now that is one bandeja I would like to eat. It has all the “right” kinds of food. I really miss living in New York for all the diversity… I’ll be back one day, one day…

  3. No wonder they use a bandeja… a plate wouldn’t be big enough!!!! I love Yuca, haven’t tasted it since I was in Cuba 15 years ago… I can find it here now, but I’m sure it will never be same it was there.
    Are you fasting the rest of the week after this Festival of food? As we say here: “que me quiten lo bailao”! It means that I already have/enjoy/eat/ it 😀

  4. you guys LOVE egg with anything!! but then again, who wouldnt! those poor chicks never had a chance! LOOKS AMAZING!!

  5. Looks fantastic… am thinking we could use a good Columbian restaurant around here.

    I’d gladly starve myself for a few hours in preparation for this glorious feast!

  6. Whoa, gut buster? That’s a body buster 🙂 I mean that is just copious amounts of gargantuan food there. Very super tasty though 🙂 Thanks for all the awesome recipes, I like a bunch of them, especially the arepas and cabbage.

  7. There is nothing on this plate that doesn’t look good. I’d be happy to gain weight eating this. I guess it’s a great dish if you plan to spend your afternoon doing physical labor.

    Tell me about that Colombian strong drink! My sister-in-law is Colombian and at her and my brother’s wedding my brother drank a toast to his new father-in-law with a shot of some kind of Colombian anisette. Wow, did it ever knock me on my butt! It was powerful both in taste and potency.

    Hmmm…if this is the Colombian national dish, why hasn’t my SIL ever made it for me? I think I’m going to have to insist.

  8. I happened to have this very dish somewhat recently at a local restaurant. At the time, I had no idea it was something authentic–I thought it was a shockingly large portion of a whole lot of different things. Yours certainly looks better than the one I ate though–save some for me!

  9. thanks all, for your kind comments. it was a helluva meal. really. but what a meal. i’m shaking my head in disbelief right now because it was that good. one day, you should just give in, and do this. you’ll hate yourself for it, but the taste and texture memories will be forever golden.

    Adam/Su-Lin – that’s the problem, it looks and tastes awesome, but it is a weight-gainer/body buster for sure. quite apart from the calorie count, it’s way up there in saturated fat too.

    Rachel – get your SIL on the case, hasta pronto! i’m still waiting for my Colombian work colleague to give me his verdict on this dish. if it’s favorable, we’ll invite him ’round next time we make it. if not, he’s SOL…!

    Nuria/Peter/MaybellesMom – sadly, we didn’t fast for the rest of the week, only for the rest of the day, hence why we are booking ourselves in nice and early for a triple bypass. I do wonder though, why pork belly, which is quite clearly the best bit on my favorite animal (alive or dead) should be so detrimental to ones’ health. It makes me doubt the existence of a beneficent god. Well, that and the success of Sarah Palin… fingers crossed that Biden embarrasses her tonight – not that she usually needs any help looking like a tit.

    Joan – hate to admit it but we had no guests. few of our friends (sadly, for them) would consider eating chicharrones. And, you’d be surprised, there wasn’t a massive amount of mess, in spite of the number of different elements. All leftovers went pretty quickly, especially the aji, which is as highly addictive condiment as i can think of . It’s great on anything – chicken, fish, pork, potatoes, salad. kind of like a chimichurri, but with more of a kick!

  10. Hi! That Bandeja looks spectacular. I am from Colombia and it really looks nothing like the authentic one – yours is a much nicer and refined version. I had one question – was the plating similar at the restaurant in Brooklyn? Or is this your version/interpretation? It looks beautiful and soooo delicious. Congrats on the great web page – I just came across it a few weeks ago and so far I am thoroughly enjoying my visits…

  11. Hey, Diana! Thanks for the kind words. Yes, we realize that our styling of this plate is very not-authentic. in fact, we know this b/c even the colombian restaurant near us is only somewhat authentic (as emphatically expressed by our colombian friend). the restaurant kind of makes their food a bit trendier and a bit americanized. when we did our bandeja, we did alot of research as well as using elements we love from the restaurant.
    as you know, the traditional bandeja paisa is not very styled… it’s kind of like piled on a plate – almost like a colombian blue-plate special (if i’m wrong here – please, please correct me – this is all based on research). we changed up a bit of the traditional ingredients, as we write about. but, no, ours is definitely styled to look the way it is. we were so hungry by the time we got to eat that i did actually eat almost every bite of that plate. it took jonny about 15 minutes to style this one.

    thanks for coming by and we look forward to more comments!

  12. Killer good looking food there, but wow it just makes my stomach hurt to even read about making it all. I think I will copy down the Corncake recipe for sure- I love anything made with corn (true Minnesotan here, ya you betcha fer sure)

    And HOW did I miss that chorizo/bean recipe??? Gads, I start drooling at the photo and that doesn’t happen to me too often. I love chorizo with a passion….PASSION MAN! Copying that one too…..

    btw, i still just LOVE your blog….you guys throw food caution to the wind and I love reading about it.

  13. I saw this featured on a travel show. The theroy behind eating like this was that you are supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like peasnat or something, dinner even lower. Forgot the terminlogy, but I could handle that meal on occasion and then walk my butt off!

  14. Looks fantastic! I’m totally going to try this sometime, but I’m curious about the restaurant too, what’s it called? L and I have been looking at condo’s in Brooklyn… we might be neighbors soon:-)

  15. Gosh i’m hungry! If I ate that gorgeous plate of food I would never be able to get up again and you know what?.. I wouldn’t care! Did you have your doctor on standby checking your pulse while eating? 🙂

  16. Great photos of a great take on our “traditional” dish (and i say that in quotes, cause somewhere i read that the bandeja paisa is not traditional at all – it only goes back to the 50 s or so). It IS a sin to say that it is the “national dish”, as there’s so much scrumptious food from all over the country, from ajiaco to coconut rice etc. Anyway, maybe i will go to one of our local bandeja specialist restaurants here and take some pics for you, if only to have an excuse to chow on this debauchery of a dish. The chicharron in the pics looks particularly good and dry, as i like it. Some places here in Medellin make it drenched.. or should i say, saturated, in its own grease – nasty. This concept of the smorgasbord as a laudible value is also applied to any transplanted junk food, e.g, the “paisa pizza” (pizza w beans and chicharron and avocado), as well as hamburgers and hot dogs, which are served with quail eggs, a kind of coleslaw which they call “salad” (“ensalada”), crunched up potato chips, pork rinds, and 5 different sauces. They serve it with a fork. Half of it plops onto the street (where it is usually sold). There’s one variation of the hotdog (“perro caliente”), branded “perra”, which is a hotdog bun, but instead of a frankfurter, you just have a bunch of strips of bacon !! Genius.

    Anyhoo .. good blog! Thanks!

  17. Wow, looks amazing! My family is from Colombia and this looks pretty authentic. The only thing that looks off (and maybe it is just a regional difference) is the arepa. Yours is the right shape, size and colour, but our family never fries it, we always grill it on a wire rack over the electric element of our stove. Make sure the wire rack is red hot or it will stick though.

  18. Hi, this is not a proper Bandeja Paisa,, it never has red cabbage!!!
    please read and inform yourself first!!!

    1. Hello. Thank you for your comment. I wanted to write you back to let you know that we are well aware that our bandeja paisa was not 100% authentic. In fact, if you read the post, you will notice that we are aware of that fact. We did change a few things to “pretty up the plate” for pictures sake. But thank you for the reminder.

      In fact, you should check out a follow-up post we wrote (which is linked to in the post you commented on):

      there we do an interview with a Colombian friend of ours who discusses what a traditional,authentic bandeja paisa has.

      So,again, thank you for the comment. We attempt to be as clear about authenticity on our site and appreciate feedback.

  19. I am originally from Colombia but live in Canada since 8 years ago. If I have to pick a dish to be our Colombian traditional dish I would say Bandeja Paisa could be the one. (Sancocho is another super popular too) Although, is coming from that specific region it is now days a popular choice in any traditional restaurant across the entire country. I came across this website as I was looking for a picture of a bandeja paisa to attach to an invitation for lunch for some friends…However, I cook a “light” version of the bandeja paisa: Beans, rice, lean ground beef (another variation replacing the grilled meat), deep fried crispy plantains (called tostadas in Valle del Cauca region), avocado and hogao (the sauce goes on top tostadas and I serve them as an appetizer). It is always a success when I cook this for different groups of multicultural friends. I only cooked the complete version once for Mexican friends… in a kind of competition about which country has the most decadent unhealthy but delicious dish… I dropped our “bomb” and they loved it :). I really do not cook the complete dish ‘cause I do not want to be blamed for any dead and it is A LOT OF WORK. So for Rachel, who wonders why her sister in law has not cooked this for her just yet… Is a whole morning of cooking, comparable to Thanksgiving dinner cooking; perhaps if you offer help she will give it a try. What a group of friends sometimes do is that each family (woman should say) cooks one or 2 of the elements of the complete dish and them meet as in a potluck and there they have the whole Bandeja Paisa!!! I envy people who live in NY and Miami – they have terrific Colombian food. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it is not the case here in Vancouver. I should not complain though, will be in holidays in Colombian in 3 months and will eat like a pig everything I can not find here…it is good I only visit there every 2 years ‘cause I put 10 pounds in 4 weeks the last time I went…
    Interested in other yummy Colombian dishes: look for empanadas, sanchocho, ajiaco, arroz con coco (goes with fish very well, with Salmon… OMG). Enjoy

    1. Hi, Clara! Thanks so much – what an excellent and informative comment! We are definitely going to do more Colombian dishes this winter (it just seems more appropriate for the cooler weather!). please stop back again. i want to go to colombia – we may be invited for a wedding at some point in the future. i’ll make sure i wear a dress w/ an elastic waistband!

  20. My family is Colombian, but unfortunately we rarely make this as it takes a long time. Luckily we are going to a Colombian restaurant for lunch today and I plan to order the bandeja!

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