The cuisine of Ecuador is particularly diverse for a small country, owing to its varying geography that includes the Amazon, the Pacific coast and the Sierra.
Usage of ingredients such as seafood, rice and coconut milk are much more prevalent near the coast. So the dishes you will find in these parts will be vastly different to those in the Amazon region.
Whilst Ecuadorian food has similarities with Peruvian food, there are many outstanding delicacies that are unique to this small nation of foodies. Ecuadorian food is one of the most underrated cuisines in South America.
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Most Popular Ecuadorian Dishes
Here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Ecuador, along with recipes for you to try yourself.
This is a dish you’ll find everywhere in Ecuador. Plantains, which look like large bananas and must be cooked to be consumed, grow abundantly in this tropical country.
Fried Plantains are primarily a street food, but also served as a side with the main course or even an appetizer in Ecuadorian restaurants.
It’s important to note that there is more than just one version of fried plantains. Green plantains, called “patacones”, are twice-fried and sprinkled with salt.
Many people like to dip them in mayo or ketchup. On the other hand, yellow plantains (called “maduros”) are ripe plantains that are sweet and mushy – often seen as a dessert.
They’re more sweet and crispy than their green counterparts.
Ecuadorian chocolate is known to be amongst the best in the world. You’ll find here a whole bunch of unique flavors like rose, lemongrass, chile, coffee, or even Guayusa – a chocolate bar that mixes decadent cacao with a famous Amazonian tea.
There are numerous local brands of world-class chocolate, and they’re all worth a try. Ecuadorian chocolates also make for a great gift to bring home for those who weren’t lucky enough to visit Ecuador with you!
Cuy is of the most famous, distinctive types of meat that is eaten in the Andean region of Ecuador. It is often chopped and included in stews.
The most popular way to serve cuy is barbecued whole, although seeing those little paws may intimidate you at first!
Owing to their similar names, many people confuse ceviche with viche. Rest assured, these are both completely different dishes (except that they’re both based on seafood, and they’re both absolutely delicious!).
Viche is a hot, thick and wholesome soup that consists of either fish or shrimp (or both!). The meat is cooked in a thick broth made of water and ground peanuts.
In addition to the seafood, Viche consists of vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, corn, yucca, sweet plantain and a surprise treat of green plantain and peanut rolled up into a rich, meatball shape.
Often consumed with a little bit of rice, this is one of the heartiest soups you’ll ever taste and a staple Ecuadorian food.
You’ll find Ceviche in numerous Latin American countries, but none of them make it quite like the Ecuadorians. Ceviche comes in many forms, but its base always consists of Ecuador seafood with oyster, crab, octopus, lobster, fish or shrimp.
Ecuador has a long Pacific coastline – so whatever fish you choose, it’s going to be fresh!
Ceviche sits in a delicious broth spiked with orange juice or lime. It can be complemented with onions, green peppers, and fine chopped tomatoes.
It’s usually served with a side of crunchy plantain chips. In other variations of the dish, ceviche is made by letting raw fish sit in lime to give it a tart flavor.
The Ecuador version, however, doesn’t have an overwhelming presence of lime.Interestingly a Papuan/Fijian version of ceviche is served in a coconut.
Fanesca, also known as Easter Soup, is a creamy Ecuadorian soup made with salted cod, peanuts, and seasonal vegetables including squash, corn, and an assortment of beans. This dish is only prepared during Lent and Easter celebrations and is often eaten as lunch on Good Friday.
Potatoes are delicious no matter what form they’re served in. Llapingachos are no exception to that rule!
These are a form of cheesy fried potatoes – small patties of grated potato, cheese and seasoning.
Llapingachos are very popular with Ecuadorians. They’re often used as a side dish, and also frequently enjoyed as snacks.
This dish is particularly common in the Andean region of Ecuador, often served alongside hornado. If you’re an I-Love-Fries type of person, this is the dish for you!
Espumillas are often described as looking like ice cream that never melts! This Ecuadorian treat is sold in the streets, and is wildly popular with the locals (especially the kids).
Contrary to what many believe, this is not an ice cream but a meringue foam and flavoured with fruit like guava then topped with sprinkles and syrup.
Espumillas is very tempting to try, but it’s important that you are careful about which vendors to buy from.
Since the recipe calls for egg white, and these treats sit in the sun all day, it’s possible that you’ll be sold something that’s not good for your stomach.
Zarapatoca is a stew that’s prepared by the locals in the Amazon region of the country. It is somewhat controversial because of its usage of turtle meat but is considered a real traditional Ecuadorian food.
Zarapatoca is made from the meat of turtles in the region. It is one of the common meals in areas where food sources are based on seafood, so locals don’t have to raise animals and eat what they can easily find.
You’ll find an entire section of the market in Cuenca dedicated to this dish.
Yes, Hornado is just that popular! This spit roasted pig is a dish that is often found at family celebrations and larger events.
The pork is usually carved freshly from the pig and served with llapingacho (covered above), fried plantain slices, salad and fried potato cakes.
Hornado is one of those dishes you’ll inevitably try more than once (or twice, or thrice!) and is one of the most popular Ecuadorian foods.
Fritada is a fried pork dish which is cooked in spices and served with Llapingacho, mote, white potatoes or other sides.
Fritada has been popular in Ecuador for centuries and can be found at street food vendors all across the country. The traditional fried version is particularly popular in the regions of Imbabura, Atuntaqui, and the capital Quito.
Ecuadorian Fritada Recipe
Bolon de Verde
Bolon de Verde is a prime example of another innovative way that Ecuadorian food is based around the plantain. This dish makes for an excellent breakfast, a light dinner or a filling snack.
Bolon de Verde is prepared by cooking and smashing green plantains to make up a doughy base.
The base is mixed with cilantro as well as another ingredient like pork, local cheese or ground peanuts. Often times, both pork and cheese are added to the mix.
The good thing about this dish is that it’s widely available: on the menu at cafes and restaurants, or an Instagram-worthy street food!
It’s Ecuador’s official hangover cure, but even the sober love having it as a special breakfast or late-night snack: Encebollado!
This is a stew made with yucca and tuna fish, cooked in a wholesome broth filled with cilantro, red onions, and mellow spices. Encebollado is one of those Ecuadorian foods that only grandma cooks best.
Each family from the coast has its own secret recipe that they swear by.
The best thing about this dish is that everyone gets to add their own touch. Some like to season it with a dab of mustard or ketchup, while others like to top it with hot sauce, lime juice, or oil.
If you’re eating Encebollado the coastal style, you’ll find it served with plantain chips that you’re supposed to crush and mix with the dish.
Ecuador shares a love of soups with its neighboring countries of Colombia and Peru, with the former having their own soupy hangover cure!
If you happen to be eating Encebollado in Guayaquil, you’ll be served with extras like rice and large pieces of toasted corn. However it’s served, it’s going to be delicious!
Churrasco is a traditional South American barbecue technique where chops of beef, veal, lamb, pork and chicken are skewered and then grilled over a wood fire. It is a very popular dish in Brazil but is also a widely followed cooking method in many other countries in North and South America.
The meat used to prepare churrasco in Brazil is often from the zebu, a breed of cattle that’s particularly common in churrasco as a cut of meat known as cupim. Foods that are served along with churrasco include farofa grains, rice, fried potatoes, potato salad, steamed greens, black beans, onions, fried bananas and many different chili-based sauces.
Ecuadorian Street Food
Street food is incredibly popular throughout Ecuador, particularly in large cities such as Quito. It’s a great way to sample some of the local dishes and delicacies since you can try multiple dishes for very cheap!
So there you have it, the top Ecuadorian foods to try on your next visit!