Colombia

A Great Cooking Class in Cartagena Colombia at Lunatico

When traveling in Cartagena Colombia, you’ll find that one of the most popular activities for visitors is a cooking class. Several different companies offer you the chance to get a first hand look at Colombia’s delicious cuisine – from within the kitchen. I’m always looking for great food when I travel. And if I can find a great cooking class…even better. Not only do I get to eat yummy food, but I get to learn more about the ingredients, more about the culture, and I’m given memorable recipes to take home. Let me show you why the cooking class I chose in Cartagena Colombia called the Lunatico Experience was a winner.

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An Awesome Location

The first reason I loved this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia was the location. It’s located in what became my favorite Cartagena neighborhood called Getsemani. Getsemani sits immediately next to Cartagena’s more famous Old Town. It’s a kaleidoscope of colorful buildings, street art, and street vendors. Plus, you’ll find an amazing overall energy from all the hustle and bustle in its streets.

Steet vendors in Trinidad Plaza in the the Getsemani neighborhood of Cartagena
(This isn’t the Cooking Class. Though that would be very cool if it was!)

Like Cartagena’s Old Town, Getsemani was also once completely contained within a protective wall. And Lunatico is located adjacent to the remains of that 400 year old wall. That’s Lunatico in the photo below. The building with the large mural. You can then see a glimpse of the wall across the street.

Las Tres Geurreras mural painted on the outside of the Lunatico Experience in Cartagena Colombia

All the cooking class action takes place on that top floor, with views out to the wall and across to Castillo San Felipe – considered to be the greatest fortress ever built by the Spanish in any of their colonies. I took this photo while standing directly below the fort. But you do have a good view of the fort from Lunatico.

Castillo San Felipe in Cartagena

And I don’t want to skip over the mural that covers Lunatico’s building. Getsemani is full of amazing street art. This is one of the neighborhood’s most well-known murals. It’s called Las Tres Geurreras (The Three Warriors). It features three different portraits of the same Afro Caribbean woman, painted by world renowned Irish street artist Fin DAC. Before painting it, he used social media to help find “an indigenous person that represents the mix of ethnicities and cultures” found in Cartagena. He paints similar murals of traditionally-dressed culturally-representative women all around the world.

Las Tres Geurreras mural by artist Fin DAC in Colombia

A Variety of Classes

The second reason I loved this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia was that Lunatico offers several different menus to choose from. If you look at the Lunatico website, you’ll see a selection of three different food experiences every day. These include a lunch time cooking class and a dinner time cooking class. Each cooking class menu consists of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. And each item on each menu is typical of Caribbean Colombian cuisine, including one of my personal favorites – Ceviche. (I have an entire post dedicated to the typical food of Cartagena Colombia too)

The Lunatico Experience cooking class schedule in Cartagena Colombia

This sort of menu choice hasn’t been typical when I search for cooking classes in my travels. The Lunatico website gives a full description of each menu, and you can book your choice directly on their site or via Viator if you prefer (here’s their Viator link).

An Impressive Facility

The third reason I loved this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia was that Lunatico’s facilities are very impressive and professional.

Lunatico is both a restaurant and a cooking school. In fact, the restaurant is one of Cartagena’s top-rated restaurants on Tripadvisor. We did eat there prior to our cooking class experience and enjoyed it (plus the service from Jorge that night may have been the best of our entire trip).

As you enter the restaurant, located on the open top floor of the building, you’ll immediately notice a large glass-enclosed kitchen. This is where the cooking classes happen.

A glimpse into the Lunatico Experience's cooking studio

The Lunatico cooking studio is large and perfectly designed for hours of cooking instruction.

The Lunatico cooking studio and it's countertop set for a cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

Each cooking class participant has their own work station, stocked with the necessary kitchen tools for the day. And of course, an apron…

The Thorough Tripper ready for his cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

And the studio also includes a large dining table. Once all your food is prepared, you don’t sit at your cluttered work station to eat your meal. The group goes to the table instead, for a more formal dining experience.

The dining table inside the Lunatico Experience cooking studio

Great Staff

I already mentioned the great service we received from Jorge when dining at the restaurant. Well, the staff was outstanding through our cooking class experience as well.

And it actually started during the booking process. Mrs. TT is extremely intolerant of onions. Cooking classes worry her because onions are usually a recipe fixture (I’ve learned to cook without them). I didn’t want her to worry about this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia, so I reached out to Lunatico via WhatsApp for some direction prior to booking. I wanted to know which cooking class menu would be best for her (yet another huge advantage of their multiple menu choices.)

Within minutes, I received a response. The person on the other end checked with the chef for direction. And texted back with the suggestion that we choose the Red Snapper menu – it would be easiest for her to omit the onions with this one. They also assured me that they would do all they could to protect Mrs. TT from onions.

And they did….very impressively.

This was our instructor for the day – a chef named Andres. Not only did he do a great job teaching us during our 4 hour experience, he also went above and beyond in helping Mrs. TT avoid onions.

Chef Andres leading a cooking class in Cartagena Colombia at Lunatico

Our class had 9 participants, and due to the ambitious menu, we mostly did the prep work while Andres did most of the actual cooking. And he not only prepared big batches for the group. He also prepared an individual onion-free portion of everything for Mrs. TT. So nice!

And also, to keep things running efficiently, Andres was helped by two friendly assistants who constantly made sure we all had everything we needed whenever we needed it.

Our Menu for the Day

The menu for this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia was indeed ambitious:

For our appetizers….Carimañolas. These are stuffed and deep-fried balls of cassava dough. We used three different fillings – cheese, crab, and ground beef. Along with three different dipping sauces.

For our main course…Snapper in Coconut Sauce. Along with Coconut Rice and Patacones

For dessert…Enyucado. This is a cake made from Cassava and coconut.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a traditional local beverage called Aqua de Panela – a refreshing drink made from panela (unrefined sugar cane), water, and lime juice. During our meal we were served from a choice of wines or soft drinks.

 A glass of Aqua de Panela in Colombia

Cooking with Local Caribbean Ingredients

One of my favorite things about this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia was the chance to learn about cooking with common Caribbean ingredients. Ever since I first started visiting Costa Rica thirty years ago, I have loved eating this type of food.

All our ingredients for the day were already on the counter when we arrived…

Typical Caribbean ingredients laid out at a cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

Here’s a quick look at some of those basic Caribbean ingredients we worked with:

Cassava also known as yuca was a key ingredient in our appetizer and our desert. Cassava is one of the most commonly eaten starches in the world, and I’d never cooked with it before. Andres taught us how to very easily remove the outer layer. Then we grated it and used the shavings for our cake.

Removing the exterior of a cassava root with a knife

Plantains are the other major starch eaten throughout the Caribbean. I’ve eaten plenty of tostones and patacones throughout my travels in this part of the world, and they are one of my daughter’s favorite things. But I’ve never worked with plantains before. And in this class, I discovered that unlike their relative – the banana – they are not easy to peel.

Peeling plantains at a the Lunatico cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

In fact, you can see how much I butchered mine….

A peeled and notched plantain

Coconut Milk is a major ingredient in Caribbean Colombian cuisine, and in this cooking class we actually made our own! It’s not easy and I think I will continue to get mine at home from a can, but it was very cool to learn the process. We started with cracking and draining the coconuts. Removed their flesh. Cut them up. Then Andres blended the coconut water and coconut chunks together. After that, he drained the liquid through a fine mesh. We used the milk to make the coconut rice and cook the fish. And the pulp went into the cake.

Chef Andres makes coconut mild at Lunatico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

And Andres also gave us a lesson on how to filet a Snapper.

Chef Andres filets a Red Snapper during Lunatico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

Putting It All Together

After prepping all the ingredients, it was time to put them all together and turn them into a great meal.

Andres did most of the actual stove work. But everyone else in the class had jobs too.

My German neighbor to the right of me, mixed all the ingredients of the Enyucado cake together (cassava, coconut, panela sugar, butter, grated cheese, coconut milk), and spread it into a baking pan.

A participant prepares dessert called Enyucado at Lunatico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

Andres showed us how to make coconut rice (which was always one of our favorite things to eat in Cartagena). He mixed the rice with a caramelized panela sugar and then added the freshly made coconut milk. The rice slowly cooked in the coconut milk as we prepared the rest of our food.

Using fresh coconut mild to cook coconut rice in Colombia

We learned how to stuff and form cassava dough, and we each made different types of Carimañolas

Stuffing a Carimañola with cheese at a Lunatico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

We each took a turn at smushing the plantains and dropping them into the deep fryer to make our patacones.

Smashing plantains to make patacones at the Lunatico cooking studio

The device used to smash plantains to make patacones or tostones

And finally, Andres showed us how to prepare the coconut milk sauce before adding our individually cut pieces of snapper to the pan. This is Mrs. TT’s onion-free version

Red Snapper cooking in a coconut sauce at Lunatico's cooking studio

Finished and Plated

And once everything was finished, we all sat down at the dining table to enjoy all the great food that we’d created.

Finished Carimañolas at Lunitico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

Coconut Red Snapper, Coconut Rice, and a Patacone at Lunatico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

A piece of Enyucado cake prepared at Lunatico's cooking class in Cartagena Colombia

Final Thoughts

I was very happy with our experience at Lunatico. For all the reasons I’ve outlined in this post, I can most definitely recommend this cooking class in Cartagena Colombia (and this is not a sponsored post, just my personal opinion).

As I’ve mentioned, the menu was indeed ambitious and there was a lot going on throughout the class. And sometimes it was hard to keep track of it all. While I was struggling with plantain peeling, things happened at the stove that I missed. But no regrets…struggling with the plantain peels was a very memorable part of the experience.

Lunatico emailed us all the recipes when the class concluded. So, that naturally begs the question – Will I make these recipes at home?

I haven’t yet. I know I can get all of these ingredients in Utah, but I do prefer to cook simple quick recipes, and with the exception of the fish, these recipes do require some effort. (Unlike Salmorejo, a very simple recipe we learned to make at a cooking class in Seville Spain – a recipe I make all the time now.)

But I miss the coconut rice we ate just about everywhere in Cartagena. And so I’m sure I’ll give that a shot at some point – using canned coconut milk though.

With that said, I don’t think the recipes are the main point of any travel cooking class anyway. For me it’s more about developing an appreciation for a new culture in the context of food. And then eating a delicious meal at the end.

And Lunatico checked those boxes and more.

If you would like to read more about our time in Cartegena, then be sure to check out these posts:

Why a Palenque Tour is the Best Day Trip From Cartagena

Tips for Getting Around Cartagena Colombia – Taxi, Uber, & Cabify

Or if you would like to read about more our food experiences around the world, then check out these posts:

A Unique Food Tour in Buenos Aires

How To Eat Tapas in Spain – Seville vs Granada

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