Along with the arrival of Christmas lights in comes the arrival of Colombia’s most beloved Christmas sweet: natilla.
The custard, named for its cream base, also contains panela, cinnamon, and corn starch in addition to milk. It is considered to be as paisa as an arepa, but is traditionally only eaten in the Christmas season in Colombia. Originally from Europe, it is said natilla was first cooked in convents and spread around the world with the conquistadors. The Colombian version can also contain coconut, caramel, lemon, raisins, prunes or chocolate. It is usually served with buñuelos .
While the sweet is traditionally eaten by Colombian families during Christmas, those with a sweet tooth and a year-round Christmas spirit can visit Calle Colombia in downtown Medellin for a sample any day of the year. Between Carabobo and Bolivar, more than a dozen women sell natilla every day. Typically, 30 kilos a day are sold, but close to Christmas the vendors can sell as much as 50 kilos. They say it is mostly older people who frequently eat natilla, hypothesizing that the high calorie count deters the younger generation from indulging.
Regardless, they say natilla is so delicious people can eat it any time of the year.