Food in Ecuador
Ecuador is becoming quite a foodie destination. Cooking is a big part of the culture here and traditional recipes are passed down for generations. Whether you find yourself in a hole-in-the-wall cantina or a high-end restaurant, you’ll have a whole feast of tasty dishes to choose from.
Lunch – or “almuerzo” – is the main meal of the day in Ecuador. It often features three courses for as little as $3. Bargain! Typical dishes can vary depending on which of the regions you’re in – coast, highlands or rainforest. But everywhere you go, you’ll find rice along with potatoes, yuca, and yams. Plantains come with most plates and soups and stews are also really popular.
Hungry for more? Read on to find out more about food in Ecuador.
Our favourite dishes in Ecuador
The food here, as with most of South America, is not particularly spicy. So this Ecuadorian hot sauce is perfect for warming up the flavour and adding a little zing to your plate.
Pan de Yuca
Yuca is a root vegetable, similar to a potato. This typical Ecuadorian dish is made up of a small bread with cheese and is often eaten at breakfast. It’s a great snack, especially when it’s warm and fresh.
Looks like a banana. Tastes a bit like a sweet potato. Plantains are a pretty versatile vegetable; often fried and made into crisp-like snacks (like the ones on the right), or ‘patacones’, that are made with green plantains. ‘Bolon de Verde’ is mashed plantains with a filling of cheese and sometimes meat that can be deep-fried.
This fried cheesy-potato ball of deliciousness might not be great for your waistline but, hey, it’s definitely worth a taste.
You might have heard of these tasty morsels. Empanadas are one of the most well-known street food snacks in South America. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a bit of fried, flaky pastry filled packed with mouthwatering fillings?
You’ll find both salado (salty) and dulce (sweet) varieties in Ecuador. The salty – or savoury – ones are often packed with beef, chicken, ham, cheese or veggies. Whereas the sweet ones include fillings like berries, pineapple, or chocolate, and are usually served with hot chocolate – which Ecuadorians are very good at. Yum!
Ecuadorian ‘menestras’ are popular stews made with beans simmered in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, chili powder, and coriander or parsley.
Carne el Palito
Similar to the shish kebab, Carne en Palito is made by skewering chunks of beef, seasoned with garlic, cumin and ‘achiote’ (a sweet, earthy and very red spice) and then cooked. Delish!
OK, this one isn’t very exotic, but if you’re craving fast-food style grub then it should do the trick. Salchipapas is basically a plate of french fries combined with a sliced-up hot dog and served with ketchup and mayo.
Top tips for staying healthy
Tap water in Ecuador isn’t safe to drink so we suggest drinking bottled water and using bottled water for brushing your teeth too. Oh, and watch out for ice that isn’t made using purified water.
If you use common sense when choosing where and what to eat, the chances are you’ll be just fine. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from fresh salad or fresh fruit unless you know it has been washed in filtered water. And make sure any meat you eat is properly cooked.
You could consider taking natural supplements, like activated charcoal tablets, for any upset tummies and Grapefruit Seed Extract to add to your drinking water, which helps to remove parasites.
Uchumanga is a stew that’s often eaten in the Amazon region of Ecuador. It’s very versatile and can include whatever has been caught by the fisherman on the river that day. This soup has no waste as the fish is cooked with animal intestines and stewed.
The seafood in Ecuador is super tasty and very cheap. On the coast, you can gorge on prawns or fish ‘encocado’ – seafood cooked in a delicious coconut sauce. Seafood can be a real speciality, depending on which area you’re visiting. Every restaurant you dine in will have a ‘mama’ with their own twist on a recipe. This means you’ll never have the same dish twice.
Caldo de Gallina
Caldo de Gallina is chicken soup with a twist. The twist being a chicken foot. Yes, really. It tastes better than it sounds, but you’ve been warned.
This is a thin, salty steak covered in gravy. It’s usually served with a fried egg, rice and ‘menestra’ or french fries. It’s really popular in the Andes region.
Another popular coastal dish, encebollado is a yummy medley of tuna, red onion, yuca, and coriander. It’s topped with plantain chips and toasted corn ‘tostado’ and/or popcorn. We know it sounds odd. But don’t knock it until you try it.
There are so many different ways to enjoy shrimp in Ecuador, whether in a stew or grilled on the barbecue, they really shouldn’t be missed during your visit.
The ceviche in Ecuador is different from the raw fish with lime you might find in Peru. The fish here is fried in a light plantain flour and then topped with fresh red onions and tomato with lime juice and special mayo.
‘Secos’ are basically meat stews, and there are heaps of flavours to choose from, including pollo (chicken), carne (beef), chivo (goat) and even guatita (cow stomach). This dish is usually served with a thick gravy, rice, plantain, avocado and sometimes a small salad. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, why not try one of Ecuador’s classic ‘segundos’ next? This is often a second dish that follows soup, and a popular one is candied figs with unsalted soft cheese.
Higos con Queso
This is a popular dessert made up of candied figs with local, unsalted, soft cheese. A winning combination.
Yep, ‘Cuy’ is guinea pig. Try to keep an open mind though, it’s actually pretty tasty. It’s quite oily and rich, and it tastes a little like duck. Fancy giving it a try?
Did you know?
The combination of fertile soil and the tropical climate means that Ecuador produces a wonderful range of fruits and vegetables. Particularly ‘guineos’ (bananas), melons, passion fruit, star fruit, guava, and ’achotillo’ which is like lychee. This means plenty of juices or ‘jugos’ to sip on. Fruit mixed with milk – known as ‘batidos’ – is another great way to get your five a day here.