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17 Traditional Ecuadorian Dishes You’ll Love

Learn more about Ecuadorian cuisine with these classic dishes.

You might be familiar with Ecuador because of the beautiful Galápagos Islands, located off Ecuador’s coast. But there’s more to Ecuador than just its beauty!

Delicious locro de papa an Ecuadorian gastronomic tradition food

Ecuador is a country bursting with delicious flavors! Ecuadorian flavors stem from spices such as cumin and coriander. Both of these spices are very earthy and help enhance the taste of the fresh meats and vegetables used in Ecuadorian dishes.

Ecuador is a poor country. It is home to about 18 million people, with a poverty rate of about 25%. Because of this, you’ll often find plantains and starchy vegetables in Ecuadorian dishes due to their low price and filling nature.

You’ll also find a variety of meats ranging from chicken to fish and even some less common meats such as goat and guinea pig.

Most Popular Ecuadorian Food

If you’re unfamiliar with Ecuadorian food, it can be challenging to decide which dish you’d like to try. To help you, here are some of the most popular Ecuadorian food dishes that you’re sure to enjoy.


Locro de Papa

Locro de Papa is a delicious and very filling Ecuadorian soup.

The soup mainly consists of potatoes and cheese, and it makes a tasty first course. You’ll often find it combined with many traditional Ecuadorian meals as a first course or a side.

The cheese and starch from the potatoes make the soup very thick and creamy, so it could be a meal on its own as well.

I love cheese and potatoes, so this is the perfect soup for me. I highly recommend it if you’re just starting to get into Ecuadorian food.

Locro de Papa ingredients include:

  • A soup base of oil, garlic, onions, and water
  • Cumin, achiote powder, and salt
  • Potatoes
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Cilantro

Encebollado

Encebollado is a popular traditional fish stew bursting with fresh flavors. It typically contains albacore tuna or something similar, which is a tasty white fish filled with protein.

Although the stew might be filling from the protein, it still is a rather light dish. Unlike Locro de Papa, the broth is light with a base of tomatoes and water.

I love the taste of the fish with fresh cilantro and tomatoes. It’s a great lunch food because of how light it is, but you can have it any time you’d like.

Encebollado ingredients include:

  • A stew base of water, tomatoes, oil, and onions
  • Tuna
  • Cassava
  • Chili powder, cumin, and salt
  • Cilantro

Fanesca

Fanesca, or Easter soup, is a traditional, hearty Ecuadorian soup commonly served for Easter. It has plenty of beans and vegetables along with some tasty white fish.

Typically the beans are fresh as Ecuador sells fresh beans since they grow well in the region.

You’ll also find a variety of toppings for the soup depending on the area in Ecuador. 

I think this is a very filling soup, so it can be a meal on its own.

Fanesca ingredients include:

  • Dried and salted cod
  • Rice
  • Multiple varieties of squash
  • Cabbage
  • Fava beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, and lupini beans
  • Corn, peas, and onions
  • Cloves, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and achiote powder
  • Peanuts
  • Milk, heavy cream, cream cheese, butter, and crumbled cheese
  • Cilantro or parsley
  • Toppings such as hard-boiled eggs, fried plantains, empanadas, avocado, and hot peppers

Llapingacho

Llapingachos are like little potato pancakes or fritters. They’re typically filled with cheese, creating a gooey center.

Llapingachos are delicious with salsa, fried eggs, and chorizo, but you can add any toppings you want.

These delectable potato pancakes are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, with a cheesy center.

I love llapingachos so much. They remind me of hashbrowns, but with so much more flavor. They’re also great for any time of the day.

Llapingacho ingredients include:

  • Potatoes
  • Oil
  • Onions
  • Achiote powder and salt
  • Cheese
  • Toppings such as salsa, avocado, fried eggs, chorizo or sausage, and hot sauce

Humitas

Humitas are a popular dish among many South American countries.

Once you see them, they might remind you of tamales, as they have a corn husk shell. Humitas are creamy, long corn cakes, wrapped in corn husks.

They typically come plain, but sometimes people add other ingredients such as meats or fish.

The steamed corn cakes have a savory, creamy taste to them. The corn is typically pureed into a paste, adding to the creaminess of the cheese. I love that they almost melt in your mouth. 

Humita ingredients include:

  • Corn and husks
  • Crumbled cheese and heavy cream
  • Corn meal
  • Eggs
  • Onions
  • Cloves, coriander, and salt

Bolón de Verde

Bolón de Verde is typically eaten at breakfast or as a side to a meal.

They are balled-up plantains with a cheese filling. They’re usually fried, so the outside will be nice and crunchy, while the inside is soft. Some people describe them as plantain dumplings.

The taste is similar to a potato because plantains and potatoes are both very starchy foods.

But, unlike potatoes, plantains have more health benefits. Plantains are rich in antioxidants, filled with vitamins and minerals, and are great sources of fiber. They’re even gluten-free!

I love to eat this with breakfast, as the starchiness goes great with eggs.

Bolón de Verde ingredients include:

  • Green plantains
  • Butter
  • Chili powder, cumin, and salt
  • Cheese
  • Oil for frying

Chicharrón de Pescado

Chicharrón de Pescado is like little fish fritters. If you’ve had English fish and chips, it tastes similar to the fried fish, but you’ll usually have plantains with it rather than fries.

Ecuadorians typically use white fish for Chicharrón de Pescado, like tilapia or hake.

And although the batter is rather plain, some people like to add spices such as ginger to add more flavor.

I love these little golden fish nuggets. They make a tasty meal, especially with some fried plantains. 

Ingredients for Chicharrón de Pesca include:

  • Cubed white fish
  • A batter of flour, eggs, salt, and pepper
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Oil for frying

Cuy Asado

Roasted guinea pig might sound a little strange, as we don’t typically eat guinea pigs in the United States, but this dish is still worth a try.

The dish consists of a whole roasted guinea pig, and it usually comes with sides, such as plantains, potatoes, or vegetables.

Guinea pig is white meat and tastes like a mix between rabbit and chicken. After roasting the meat, it is usually quite tender, and you can taste its flavorful fattiness. 

I like the smokiness of this dish, and the spices add a nice little kick to it. If you need more of a kick, chili powder is a nice spice to add.

Cuy Asado ingredients include:

  • Guinea pig
  • Garlic, achiote powder, cumin, salt, and pepper
  • Beer

Encocado de Pescado

Encocado de Pescado consists of marinated fish filets with a tasty coconut sauce. Sometimes they call it a stew because of how thick the sauce is. 

Most recipes call for a white fish such as halibut or sea bass. You usually want a type of fish that’s on the firmer side so it doesn’t fall apart in the sauce.

The coconut milk adds a nice creaminess to this dish without any dairy products. It’s delicious. Coconut and orange might sound strange with fish, but I promise you’ll love it!

Encocado de Pescado ingredients include:

  • White fish filets
  • Orange and lime juice
  • Garlic, cumin, achiote powder, and coriander
  • Onions, peppers, and tomatoes
  • Coconut milk
  • Cilantro

Churrasco

Churrasco is typically an Ecuadorian beef dish, and skirt steak is usually the meat of choice due to its great flavor.

The dish is essentially Ecuadorian spiced steak. If you’re starting to introduce yourself to Ecuadorian flavors, then this would be a good start because there aren’t a lot of ingredients.

The flavorful steak goes great with rice, fried plantains, fries, and even fried eggs. Steak and eggs are always a tasty and protein-packed combination.

I love this dish because it’s simple but has some bold Ecuadorian flavors.

Churrasco ingredients include:

  • Skirt steak
  • Garlic, cumin, achiote powder, salt, and pepper
  • Peppers and onions

Hornado Pastuso

Hornado Pastuso is an Ecuadorian dish consisting of slow-roasted pork, often topped with gravy or a marinade.

Shredding or slicing the pork and serving it with llapingachos is common. Pork and starch always go great together.

Because the pork marinates and cooks for hours, the flavor of the Ecuadorian spices runs deep, providing every bite with a burst of flavor.

When the pork comes out, it has a crispy bark and moist meat on the inside. The meat almost falls off the bone. I thought it was delicious, especially with the llapingachos.

Hornado Pastuso ingredients include:

  • Pork shoulder
  • Lime juice
  • Beer
  • Butter
  • Garlic, cumin, achiote powder, salt, and pepper

Seco de Chivo

Seco de Chivo consists of braised or stewed goat meat and is commonly accompanied by rice and fried plantains.

It is in the stew category, but it’s typically served on a plate rather than in a bowl.

Goat meat is red meat with a gamey flavor, but this stew cooks for at least a few hours with plenty of spices. So, the gamey flavor weakens, making it a tasty dish for everyone.

Seco de Chivo ingredients include:

  • Goat meat
  • Garlic, cumin, oregano, achiote powder, allspice, and salt
  • Onions, peppers, and tomatoes
  • Chicha or beer
  • Naranjillas
  • Panela
  • Cilantro

Empanadas

Many versions of empanadas exist worldwide, so the spices and flavors highly depend on the country.

When you think of an empanada, you probably think of that familiar meat-filled dough pocket. But Ecuadorian empanadas are a little different. 

Ecuadorian empanadas usually have a cheese filling rather than meat. There are meat empanada varieties, but the cheese-filled ones are the most common.

There’s nothing like fried cheese! I love Ecuadorian empanadas, as they’re crunchy on the outside and gooey and cheesy on the inside. 

Empanada ingredients include:

  • A dough made with flour, baking powder, butter, water, and salt
  • A filling made with cheese and sometimes onions

Fritada

Fritada is another popular pork-based dish in Ecuador. The pork goes into a pot with water and orange juice-based broth and cooks for hours until the liquid disappears.

From there, the pork will continue searing in the pot until it gets a nice crust around it. This dish is essentially braised pork. 

You might be wondering why you would use orange juice in a meat-based dish, and there’s a large reason for its use.

Orange juice is great for tenderizing meat because of its high acidity level. This helps soften the pork, so it falls off the bone.

I love this braised pork and highly recommend you try it with some fried plantains or llapingachos.

Fritada ingredients include:

  • Pork
  • Garlic, cumin, and salt
  • Onions and shallots
  • Water
  • Orange juice

Muchines de Yuca

Muchines de Yuca is very similar to Bolón de Verde, except the recipe calls for cassava rather than green plantains.

Muchines de Yuca consists of grated and balled-up cassava filled with fresh cheese.

Cassava is a root vegetable that has similar genetic make-up to a potato. This vegetable is full of carbohydrates, making it a tasty and easy way to fill your stomach.

However, you should never eat it raw due to high cyanide levels.

Cassava tends to have a nutty taste and a starchy texture that, combined with the cheesy middle, is delicious.

I loved the fried outside, as it added a little crunch to the soft ingredients inside.

Muchines de Yuca ingredients include:

  • Cassava
  • Cheese
  • Oil for frying

Corviche

Corviche is a traditional Ecuadorian dish made with fish and plantains.

Typically, you grate the plantains and form this mash into a log shape. Then, you stuff it with a fish filling, and it gets fried until it is golden brown.

I know this might sound strange, but it is so good. The peanuts or peanut butter might sound weird too, but they add a nice nuttiness to the dish.

I enjoyed the corviche. It almost tastes like fish and chips but combined into one big ball. The dish is also extremely filling.

Plantains are full of carbohydrates, and tuna is a high-protein fish with about 25 grams of protein per serving.

Corviche ingredients include:

  • Green plantains
  • Tuna
  • Peanuts or peanut butter
  • Garlic and achiote paste
  • Onions, tomatoes, and peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Oil for frying

Tonga de Gallina

Tonga de Gallina is another dish that might look similar to a tamale to you, but it is something completely different.

Inside the pocket of plantain leaves is a hidden gem of chicken and rice, filled with Ecuadorian flavors.

The plantain leaves work to keep all the moisture inside. Think of them as natural tin foil packets.

Chicken and rice can easily be a plain dish, but Tonga de Gallina is very flavorful. I added chili peppers to mine, and it was the perfect spice kick to this tasty dish.

Tonga de Gallina ingredients include:

  • Chicken
  • Plantain leaves
  • Rice
  • Onions, peppers, and tomatoes
  • Garlic, cumin, achiote powder, salt, and pepper
  • Peanuts
  • Cilantro

Most Popular Ecuadorian Food

  1. Locro de Papa
  2. Encebollado
  3. Fanesca
  4. Llapingacho
  5. Humitas
  6. Bolón de Verde
  7. Chicharrón de Pescado
  8. Cuy Asado
  9. Encocado de Pescado
  10. Churrasco
  11. Hornado Pastuso
  12. Seco de Chivo
  13. Empanadas
  14. Fritada
  15. Muchines de Yuca
  16. Corviche
  17. Tonga de Gallina

Final Thoughts

If you’re getting annoyed with eating the same meals constantly, then giving Ecuadorian food a try might be a great way to introduce new flavors into your life.

Ecuadorian cuisine tends to focus heavily on earthy spices and fresh ingredients to amplify the natural taste of the food. Most Ecuadorian recipes are quite simple, but the flavors are complex and bold.

Take your taste buds on a South American journey and try something new. Use this list of the most popular Ecuadorian food dishes to help you decide what your next Ecuadorian meal will be.

Learn about other cuisines from other cultures, like popular Cambodian dishes you should try.

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.