The notorious Colombian toffee

wpid-IMG_20130723_124801.jpgColombian sweets/desserts take sweetness to a whole different level, on par of the Middle-eastern sweet pastry baklava or the Indian Jalebi!

So you have a sweet tooth? Not a problem! Get some arequipe! Arequipe is equivalent to the more commonly circulated name, dulce de leche, in Spain and many other Latin American countries e.g. Argentina. It literally means ‘sweetness of milk’. You can make arequipe at home by stirring milk with sugar under low heat (for hours though, quite laborious). Or, the old trick, chuck your cans of condense milk in a pot of boiling water for 2 hours, then open the can to find a thick toffee-like paste (although from my research I found out that the difference between toffee and dulce de leche is that one’s made from butter and the other’s from milk) that you can use for your banoffee pie. Arequipe’s status in Colombia is like chocolate. It finds its way in everything: bread, cookies, ice-cream, pastries, rice pudding, cheesecakes, and even doughnuts! The list is inexhaustible.

Colombians absolutely love it. They eat everything with it – including cheese and fruits like figs that have already been cooked in sugar (brevas con arequipe), producing a sweet on sweet effect.. So it gets very funny when you start hearing stories of foreigners who are greeted with the exceedingly warm hospitality and welcoming of Colombians who offer up their sweet milk to nourish the foreigners on a cold gloomy day. And the foreigners find themselves gobbling down this thick brown stuff that can stick to your throat, and even worse when they’re meant to eat it in the strangest combination that they’ve ever come across, with fruits and cheese and really almost everything else that they didn’t expect. Worse still when your Colombian friends start starring at you with their hopeful and proud eyes anticipating a smile of surprise from you when you’re supposed to realise how delicious this thing is. Some of my foreign friends have expressed their inability and unwillingness to swallow this sticky sweet matter with cheese for dessert. It’s understandable.


  1. […] elaborate (looking) ones, a Baileys checkered cake that looked like hell of a job to do, and an arequipe chocolate fudge cake, among a myriad of cheesecakes, pies and even bread […]

  2. […] tooth. Their desserts are very sweet and a lot of which are made from milk and a kind of caramel (arequipe). So Dunkin has definitely got their eyes set on the right […]

  3. Your pic doesnt give justice to precious arequipe!!!

  4. […] to the chocolate cake base + crème caramel combo, chocoflans in Bogotá are topped with arequipe. The first chocoflan I tried was from Myriam Chamhi, the pastry chain that’s lauded to be […]

  5. […] The other day I wrote about one of Bogotá’s most popular ‘not-quite-so-Colombian’ dessert. Today’s feature is the ‘3-milk’ dessert (tres leches). Tres leches is an important member of the myriad traditional desserts from Bogota that are mostly milk-based, either in the form of cheese, rice pudding or arequipe. […]

  6. […] in doubt, go for the oreo cheesecake or Maria Luisa (a version of mille-feuille with guava jam, arequipe and coconut). Colombian desserts are different from their Argentinian counterparts that come with […]

  7. […] crème brûlée that finally graced our table was heaven for peanut butter lovers (i.e. me) but the arequipe-like paste rather than the eggy pudding as was expected can […]

  8. […]  It’s used as a topping of their ubiquitous fruit salads; as a dessert with figs, peach or arequipe (the Colombian caramel), in between a plantain, in a chocolate completo (very warming and apt for […]

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