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Have You Tried Encebollado? Fish (Tuna) Soup in Ecuador

Have you heard about encebollado? This is a very popular soup in Ecuador – especially on the coast. In this post, you’ll learn about different types of encebollado and just what we think about it.

Encebollado in Ecuador

Encebollado: Fish (Tuna) Soup in Ecuador

While living abroad one of the most common questions we are asked by locals and people thinking of moving to Ecuador is “do you like the food?” and “what’s your favorite dish?”

Bryan, Drew, and I really like the food here in Ecuador.

I especially like that it’s not “hot” (as in spicy hot) and that it is very flavorful. Fresh cilantro is used in many of the traditional dishes, it adds a delicious flavor that I was not used to back in Canada.

Most of the food is served with a small portion of hot sauce (known as ají – pronounced: a-he), so if you want to spice it up you can.

Encebollado with yuca

Encebollado – A Family Favorite

One of our favorite dishes is encebollado. Encebollado is a fish soup made with tuna fish, yuca, cilantro and pickled onions.

Encebollado with plaintain chips and popcorn
Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was to hear what the soup was made of before trying it, I would not be all that excited about it.

But when it all comes together and you add that squeeze of lime, it’s delicious! It’s served with crunchy plantain chips, toasted corn and/or popcorn. The flavors and textures make for an amazing dish.

Falling In Love With Encebollado

A friend of ours makes encebollado for a living and he invited us over one day to try it. I didn’t know what encebollado was so I didn’t have any expectations other than thinking that I would probably like it.

I’m not that fussy about food and I like trying new things. Well, when I tried it, I loved it! I mean I really loved it. I had never tasted anything quite like it before. And now I’m hooked.

Encebollado with yuca
In Ecuador, encebollado is eaten at any time of the day, breakfast, lunch or supper. It has a unique flavor and it seems I’m always in the mood for it.

English Encebollado Recipe

I found a recipe in English while writing this post and I can’t wait to try making it myself. You can use potatoes in place of the yuca and you can use canned tuna if you can’t get it fresh. Please go to Laylita’s Recipes blog to find the instructions for making encebollado.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fresh tuna
  • 1 lb yuca, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 cups of water
  • 5 cilantro sprigs
  • Salt to taste

Ordering Encebollado

If encebollado is on the menu, I usually order it. I choose encebollado at Los Cebiches de la Rumiñahui over pizza (Pizza Hut) or burgers (Burger King) in the Mall del Rio food-court in Cuenca (that’s where the pictures in this post were taken.)

They only serve it on the weekend, so keep that in mind if you are on the hunt for some encebollado at Mall del Rio. Many other traditional restaurants serve it all week long.

Encebollado topped with popcorn
It’s good to remember that encebollado is also served as an onion salad. So when ordering it at a restaurant you might want to ask about it if the menu does not indicate whether it is a soup or salad.

Important note: Don’t forget the squeeze of lime, it makes it soooo much better! (It just might have you saying “Qué rico!” which means “how rich,” or “how delicious.”)

Encebollado has become a family favorite here in Ecuador. We eat it at least once a week.

Although we had heard of encebollado mixto (also known as encebollado con camarones – or shrimp) we hadn’t had it yet. A friend of ours sells it only on Sunday. The rest of the week it is the regular encebollado. It seems that the smaller vendors only sell it occasionally.

So when we visited El Sabor De Las Costeñitas I just had to try it.

The overall flavor of the soup isn’t affected by the shrimp. It remains the same – but with a nice serving of shrimp. I liked the variety and it kind of reminded me of seafood chowder from Nova Scotia.

Of course, the broth is quite different but the two types of seafood did bring back the memory.


How Much Does Encebollado Mixto Cost?

Regular encebollado costs $2.00 per serving. With shrimp, it costs $4.00.
It comes served with tostado (toasted kernels of corn), lime wedges and some rice.

Encebollado Ecuador

Our 12-Year-Old Daughter’s Reaction to Encebollado

I love, love, love Encebollado! It is delicious! It is basically an onion soup. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Go back! Did she say onion soup?? That’s right! Onion soup.


It is very meaty!

But wait. Its not as gross as it sounds, actually, it is too-good-to-be-true :). It has fish and yuca (a kind of potato-thing), it also comes with plantain chips and choclo (crispy corn).

Oh, one more thing… cover it in lemon!

Sounding like a pretty weird treat? Well here it is common and a favorite of my mom and me. I got mine in the Mall Del Rio, but you can get it in almost any traditional food restaurant.


A double serving of Encebollado

I hope that you will try this too. Remember: It is much better than it sounds 🙂 !

Happy treats and travels!

Hungry for more? Here are 10 ways to prepare plantains – sweet and savory.

Hungry? Have you tried encebollado with shrimp? What’s your favorite seafood dish abroad?

What did you think of it? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.


Monday 17th of August 2015

Hola, soy de Ecuador, el encebollado es rico, el plato popular de los Ecuatorianos, si tienes hambre y comes encebollado te vuelves a comer otro plato, por si acaso es muy nutritivo, y no engorda.

Jimmy Rugel

Tuesday 5th of August 2014

Vivo en Ecuador y realmente es un plato muy exquisito, gracias por los comentarios. En Ecuador comemos mucho el Atún y se lo pesca bastante adentro en el océano, no creo que sea contaminado porque todos viviríamos enfermos y existen muchos ancianos

Bryan Haines

Tuesday 5th of August 2014

Gracias Jimmy! Lo comemos una vez a la semana - al menos!

Joyce Uzcategui

Wednesday 22nd of January 2014

I was inspired by Dena's comments on this great soup, so I tried Laylita's Recipe that you referenced. It was delicious. I can't wait to taste the "real" thing in Ecuador. I just started a blog as I get ready for the move to Ecuador and to get practice learning the blogging process. I am still a novice. I did reference your blog and the soup. Hope you don't mind.

A. Gee

Thursday 9th of January 2014

I have had Encebollado soup twice & each time was disappointed. This soup contains tuna, & tuna is meant to be eaten rare or raw, as in sushi or sashimi. When tuna is overcooked, it is tough. I can only chew it, but cannot swallow in Encebollado because it's too tough. However, Ecuadorians are the experts in soup - their variety of soups is amazing, & I have not had another soup I did not like.

Terry Andrews

Wednesday 11th of December 2013

We loved eating that soup but we ordered it with shrimp. We would go about 11:30 in the mornings and get it fresh and hot. If we waited much later there would be a long line and chance of running out because of it's popularity. When we get back there permanently I am going to learn to cook some of those wonderful dishes.