Colombian cuisine benefits from a long history of influences and a rich variety of natural resources. Fertile farmland and a sea full of life have provided for the Colombian people for centuries. However, it is in the preparation of the food and the spices they use that Colombian food takes on a truly distinct flavor.
Achiote is the ground seeds from an Annatto bush. Achiote powder or paste is a deep red-orange color and is used primarily for food coloring, though it does have a subtle pepper flavor.
Cumin was brought to Colombia by Spanish colonists. It is a highly aromatic spice that Colombian cooks often add to soups and stews. Typically they buy cumin as whole seeds, then toast them to release the aromatics and grind them before adding to the final dish.
Garlic is particularly important to Colombian cuisine. Many popular Colombian spice mixes contain garlic as the principle ingredient as it helps to season rice, meat, seafood and breading for the frequently fried Colombian foods.
Salt has played an important role in Colombian history. The Colombian town of Zipaquira is located on one of the largest salt mines in the world. Colombian salt has been harvested for thousands of years. Used in the preparation of nearly all Colombian food, salt is also the only dependable table spice available in homes and restaurants across Colombia.
Spice mixes are as important to Colombians as most individual spices. They are prized for their convenience and affordability. Popular mixes include Triguisar and Sazon Goya, which combine garlic, salt, pepper, corn starch and sometimes saffron.