Ice Cream Cravings in Colombia

It may be frigid across most of the northern hemisphere, but it’s always ice cream weather in Colombia – which could explain why the locals are always hungry for ice cream. It’s possible to find delicious dairy treats on just about any street corner, though if you’re looking for something extra-special, you may want to check out one of Colombia’s several excellent chains. Rest assured, though, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with ice cream here.

From the counter

Crepes & Waffles: The undisputed ruler of the Colombian dessert world, Crepes and Waffles is even more than its name suggests. The popular restaurant chain is famous for its quality ice cream, a favorite of Colombians throughout the country. The full-service restaurants include an ice cream counter and a full dessert menu of sundaes and other sweets, and the chain also has ice-cream-only shops serving hungry shoppers in malls. With dozens of flavors ranging from the classic (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) to the indulgent (chocolate Rochelle, brownie, rum raisin, green tea) to the oh-so-Colombian (maracuyá, arequipe, mora, coffee), plus tasty desserts like profiteroles, tiramisu and even fondue.


Ice cream at Crepes & Waffles – photo courtesy of utsuro_bune

Popsy: The little sibling to Crepes, Popsy is nonetheless a solid option when you’re craving a cone (or a double). Unlike the do-it-all Crepes, Popsy is just an ice cream shop – not that that detail makes it any less deserving of love. There are Popsy shops in just about every large mall in just about every large city, with a few standalone counters scattered throughout the cities as a bonus. If you like your dessert extra-fruity, Popsy is the place for you – the shop has fantastic fruit flavors, including mandarin, cherry and banana crunch, as well as the usual suspects like chocolate and French vanilla. If you don’t want to go looking for a Popsy location, you’re luck – pints of Popsy ice cream, unlike Crepes, are also sold at most supermarkets across the country, so you can get your fix wherever there’s an Éxito or Olímpica.

From the freezer

San Jerónimo: Say the words “San Jerónimo” to any Colombian, and they’re likely to start salivating. These traditional ice creams are a unique Colombian product, and they’re not always easy to come by, making them even more desirable. San Jerónimo ice creams look kind of like the freezer pops you make as a kid, but they’re far more delicious than any freezer pop I’ve ever had. The company was founded in the town of Zipaquirá in 1965 by a housewife who began selling her homemade ice cream to students at the nearby university. As the brand became more popular, the company expanded, and the family moved to the small town of Cajicá, just north of Bogotá, where they continue to manufacture their ice cream to this day. The varieties include typical flavors like coconut, arequipe and coffee, as well as a cornucopia of mouthwatering Colombian fruits, including maracuyá, feijoa, curuba, guanabana, lulo and mango. Check out the freezers at local tiendas on the off-chance they stock these delicious, 100% Colombian treats!

Crem Helado: Crem Helado is your basic ice cream brand, serving up cones, bars, popsicles and snacks in the shape of superheroes for kids and adults alike. The company makes all kinds of different desserts, from the chocolate covered Jet ice cream bar (in partnership with chocolate company Jet) to a cookies-and-cream chocolate-covered cone to the fruit-filled and spooky Dracula (yes, it’s shaped like a head). The best thing about Crem Helado isn’t even the ice cream, though – it’s the fact that there are vendors strolling around constantly, so if you just wait long enough, one is sure to come by with a freezer full of snacks for you. The small carts are usually equipped with a bell so you can hear them coming from far away and get your money ready in time – they’re the Colombian version of an ice cream truck! Crem Helado ice cream is also sold in most supermarkets and tiendas throughout the country, but there’s just something more satisfying about getting your ice cream as it passes by.

From the street

Raspado: Though not technically ice cream (lactose intolerant people, rejoice!), raspado is so satisfying in hot weather and so common in tierra caliente that it would be remiss not to include it. Raspado is essentially shaved ice, cranked out of a hand-turned machine by your friendly local raspado vendor. The carts are laden down with jars of toxic-looking fruit-flavored syrup – more or less sugar and food coloring – which is generously drizzled over the shaved ice to give it color and sweetness. You can also ask for condensed milk, arequipe or other sauces on top, if the sugar water isn’t sweet enough for you. Be sure to get raspado with friends, so you can all laugh at the weird hues your tongues turn after eating the whole colorful cup.


Strawberry raspado – photo courtesy of Peter Merholz

Cholado: The more intense cousin of raspado, cholado, a treat typical to the Valle del Cauca region around Cali, is for serious snackers. It begins more or less the same as raspado, with ice and syrup, but adds a mountain of chopped fruit (including strawberry, banana, kiwi, pineapple, papaya and coconut) and drenches the whole thing with condensed milk and occasionally whipped cream to top it off. It may sound overwhelming, but after a day or two in hot weather, cholado will seem like the perfect way to fight back against the heat, if you don’t mind your face getting a little sticky in the process.

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