Ask any Colombian expat what they usually bring back from Colombia, and they’ll likely tell you Bon Bon Bum, Nucita, Chocoramo, or other mecato, what we call our staple sweets and snacks. Colombian snacks spark national pride. Many of them are made by local mom-and-pop shops that use nationally grown ingredients like coffee, corn, and chocolate. And the ones that have been around for decades remind us of our childhoods when, if we didn’t get them in our lunch boxes, we would grab a handful at birthday parties or the school’s tienda when no one was watching.
As an expat myself, some of the foods I’ve missed most over the past decade I’ve spent living in the U.S. are these milk-heavy sweets mixed with arequipe (dulce de leche); lollipops with tropical flavors; and savory, cheesy, crunchy, treats. Luckily, living in New York City, I’ve been able to find many of my favorites at the Colombian bakeries in Jackson Heights, Queens. But for those who don’t have a Colombian eatery or convenience store nearby, there are plenty of options for finding them online, including Amazon, shops selling international snacks, and even a subscription box dedicated exclusively to providing monthly shipments of Colombian snacks. Here are 15 savory and sweet mecato that are well worth seeking out.
Bon Bon Bum. Bon Bon Bum
These round, gum-filled lollipops are a celebration staple. They come in a variety of fruit flavors, including strawberry, lulo, tangerine, passionfruit, watermelon, and mango. Bon Bon Bum lollipops are so popular in Colombia that we call all gum-filled lollipops by the brand name. In 2020, Colombina, the Colombian company that makes them, announced that Walmart would start distributing the 50-year-old pops in the U.S.
Milk is present in many Colombian dishes, and snacks are not the exception. Quipitos is a pouch of powdered milk with candy pieces that pop in your mouth (they’re basically like Pop Rocks, but milky). No birthday party is complete without these.
Leche Condensada Tubito. Leche Condensada Tubito
Colombians love condensed milk and basically put it on everything: fruit salads, juices, cocktails, and desserts. So it shouldn’t be surprising that we also have a condensed milk snack. Called El Tubito, it’s very simple, consisting of just a tube (shaped like a tube of toothpaste), filled with condensed milk. I would eat one almost every day during my school lunch breaks. These days, there’s also a chocolate-flavored version.
Maní Moto. Maní Moto
First invented by a Japanese immigrant in Mexico, Maní Moto is the Colombian equivalent of Mexico’s cacahuates japoneses. They’re peanuts with a crunchy, slightly sweet wheat-flour coating. They’ve long been a Colombian lunch box mainstay.
With over 70 years of history, Chocoramo has been rightfully called Colombia’s most famous cake by local newspapers. Family-owned company Ramo started making the individually packaged slices of vanilla pound cake covered in milk chocolate in 1950 and ever since,