Higos con queso Ecuador
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Higos con Queso (Figs with Cheese) Recipe: Ecuadorian Dessert

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A few months ago I discovered a new dessert in Cuenca: Higos con queso. Despite having lived here for four years, I tried this sweet dessert for the first time just a few months ago. Since then, I’ve had it many times. The recipe is pretty simple.

In this post, you’ll learn about higos in Ecuador – how to prepare them at home, what to expect at a restaurant and empanadas with figs and cheese.


Higos con Queso Recipe

  • Preserved figs (higos) in a sugar sauce
  • Locally made cheese (often unsalted)

The figs are rich and sweet. The cheese makes a strong contrast. The figs don’t go to mush like some preserved fruit and the seeds bring back memories of fig newtons…

Where to Find Figs With Cheese

Because it is a traditional dessert, you can find it at many restaurants in Ecuador – especially the ones that cater to visitors. We’ve had it at Ingapirca, Paute, and Hacienda Uzhupud.

These photos were taken at Hacienda Uzhupud near Paute.

Have you had higos con queso? What did you think?


How to Have Figs at Home: Dulce de Higos

Over the past few months, we’ve been talking about figs in Ecuador.

There are higos con queso (figs with cheese), fig empanadas and even fig chocolate bars.

A few months ago we found preserved figs at Supermaxi. They come in a small 550g container and are amazing.
I didn’t realize that they were mass-produced. I naively thought that each restaurant was making its own.

Preserved and Spiced Figs

The figs shown in the photo are preserved in panela (unrefined cane sugar) and canela (cinnamon). The panela has a great flavor of its own and the cinnamon adds a nice spice.


How We Prepare Figs At Home

Here’s how we enjoy figs at home.

We often eat preserved figs with a bowl of fruit or on the side with some pancakes.

But my favorite way is to serve a couple of figs with a dollop of unsweetened, homemade yogurt. The sweet fig and tart yogurt offer great contrast. It is very similar to figs and cheese – but with a tart twist.

Dena has been making yogurt at home for many years. We use the Yogourmet Electric Yogurt Maker. By letting it work for a full 24 hours it actually makes the yogurt completely lactose-free.

We never saw figs like this in Canada. Well, not in whole form. We grew up on Fig Newtons – but that was the extent of my fig consumption. Here in Ecuador, we have lots of options for fresh and preserved figs.

Do you like figs? What’s your favorite way to prepare them?

Fig and Cheese Empanadas in Cuenca

Cheese empanadas are the most common kind in Ecuador.

But you can get empanadas made with plantain, morocho or wheat. They can be stuffed with soft cheese, meat or fruit. They are almost always sprinkled with a crusting of white sugar.

A few months ago I discovered a treasure at a bakery on Don Bosco, Cuenca.

Although Appetito Bakery is one of the larger bakeries in the city, I didn’t expect to find anything unique. I love Cuenca’s bakeries, but most of them don’t stray very far from the basics.

Learn more about sweets in Ecuador in our post about 16 Ecuador desserts.

Fig & Cheese Empanadas in Cuenca

empanada-cuenca-ecuador I was pretty excited to see something different in this bakery.

Since moving to Ecuador I’ve come to love figs. The traditional higos con queso is an amazing dessert. And there are even fig chocolate bars.

As you can see in the picture with Dena, the fig empanada is about half bread and the other half is stuffed with a preserved fig and a piece of cheese. I’m not sure how this sounds to you – but it is amazing.

The fig is preserved in sugar and cinnamon. The contrast of the sweet fig against the cheese is outstanding.
While we’ve visited a hundred bakeries in Cuenca, this is the only place we’ve seen the fig empanada so far.

Soft fresh empanada stuffed with fig and cheese

To try one yourself, just order an “empanada de higo”. They are just twenty cents each.

Betcha can’t eat just one…

Display of the fig empanadas: Just $0.20 each

What is your favorite type of empanada?

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  1. This isn’t food related, but just wondering if there are any tennis courts in Cuenca. If not are there any courts in other areas of Ecuador?

  2. Hi Bryan,
    1. When expats come to Ecuador, do they first come on a tourist visa and then apply for residency while they are in Ecuador?
    2. What type of visa one should have when entering Ecuador with the intention of becoming an expat?
    3. I checked the Ecuadorian Embassy website. It appears that regardless of the reason one enters Ecuador, he or she must have a roundtrip ticket. Since regular airline tickets are non-refundable, half the ticket fare will be lost? Am I reading it correctly? How do others do?
    Thanks for this blog. This is the most informative blog among the websites on Cuenca.

    1. Hi Shawn, thanks so much!
      Some expats apply for residency from abroad. Others arrive with a t-3 tourist stamp in their visa. For legal questions, it is best to confirm with an immigration lawyer to see what is being enforced right now.
      I’ve heard that the airfare rule isn’t enforced. When we arrived four years ago, we had a one way ticket. Others buy a refundable / changeable ticket.

  3. I haven’t had this dessert, but I plan to do so on our upcoming trip to Cuenca area. I expect it’s similar to the Cuban dessert of Guava with cream cheese. The Guava is canned & labeled Guaca Skins–very sweet, but tempered by the cream cheese. It’s super simple & exquisite. Guava is also known as “guayaba”, not sure if they have this fruit in Ecuador.

  4. While staying in a private home in Cuenca for a week there were the jellied figs every morning with breakfast. I love them. When I return I will be sure to add cheese!

  5. Just wanted to say Thank You for all the great posts, Bryan! You always give excellent and interesting information.

  6. We are living in Cuenca. I am interested in the Higos con Queso recipe…Have you ever tried to fix it at home? If so, does one just try to find preserved figs at the grocery? Or should I go out to a restaurant to find this dessert?

    1. I found them at SuperMaxi, in the dairy section. They’re great, and higos con queso make a great dessert.

  7. Jakob, Thanks so much for your answer. I wouldn’t even think of cheese or meat – just everyday items that I always keep in the house. Nothing I can’t live without and I’m going to have to develop new eating habits. I’ve always had a habit of putting an item on my groc. list as soon as I open the previous one. Probably could last a few weeks or so with no shopping other than perishables. Living on a fixed income of S.S. and the price of food I just hate to toss it and don’t live near to a food bank/charity place. Also have lots of cooking spices which I hear are scarce over there.

  8. Hi Bryan
    I’m not real big on figs, but love most any kind of cheese. Moving to Cuenca by the end of the year and will have to try it. Are you allowed to bring in foods, like boxed mixes, spices, canned goods, condiments and all the normal things I have in my kitchen right now or do I have to get rid of them? I’m talking about shipping – not carrying in luggage. I am so confused about this move and what I can bring with me or ship by air freight or pallet.

    1. In luggage you are allowed to bring food items. I’m sure that there are some limitations but I haven’t seen a list. I would suggest that you give that stuff away and just buy new here.

    2. Usually, food is not worth the hassle of traveling with/shipping. If you need to bring in the occasional food item, the rule is that dry and canned food, sweets etc are not a problem. Meat, cheese etc SHOULD cause a problem if you haven’t declared it and customs discover it. The truth is that Ecuadorians don’t declare all kinds of food items that they should declare at the border and are usually not hassled. Occasionally, if customs has an I-take-my-job-seriously day, all that happens is that they throw your food into the garbage before they let you proceed. The reasoning is that certain food items can bring disease into the country.

  9. hello from philippines. havent tried that food but sounds delicious. hey may I ask a few things about Ecuador? like how is the weather year round and is it hard to live there as far as immigration rules. do u have to pay every to or three months or can I get permanent status easily. Im not rich and take home about 2800 a month. Is that enough to live on? just a few questions. thanks for your time.
    jim brogan

    1. Jim… With 2800 a month you will be rich in Ecuador. It roughly corresponds to the salary of a university professor with a PhD. The government assumes that a family of 4 needs $600 a month to live on. Minimum wage is slightly over $300, just for comparison. I know plenty of people who survive on $300 a month if they have no shelter cost, but the question is whether that is the lifestyle you want. There is no “one” climate, Ecuador has many micro-climates and is very diverse in that respect. The one common denominator is that climate tends to be relatively stable in any given place due to the country’s location on the equator. The micro-climates are mainly caused by altitude differences and ocean currents.

  10. Being a cheesehead from Wisconsin it sounds good! We’re planning to move to Quenca in 11 months. I’ll be sure to try it.

  11. Sounds good, but unfortunately I cannot eat dairy (ie., cheese / milk / most chocolate / ice cream / yogurt / most packaged foods in grocery store have dairy in them — taco seasoning mix, etc.) Just taking advantage of an educational moment. I also cannot have gluten. Can you imagine?! Thanks.

  12. We have a huge fig bush or tree that is daily producing huge figs, which we steamed, mash a little and then add Splenda… I am sure adding a portion of good cheese to the dish , would be wonderful.
    Fran Yates

  13. We have explored many areas in Ecuador over a 10 week period and planning a move there next March. We will look for this as my wife really has a sweet tooth.

  14. That’s sierra food. It’s rather hard to find it on the coast. On the coast Maduro con Queso is popular, but I do not consider it a sweet dish.

    1. I’ve tried maduro con queso – I didn’t realize it was specific to the coast. Now that I think of it, we’ve only had higos con queso in Azuay and Cañar Provinces.

      1. It’s the climate. The food is highly regional because of it. For instance, my favourite fruit is Araza (from the Amazon) and until around 2009 I actually had to travel to the oriente to get it. When I first saw it in Guayaquil not so long ago it was almost a celebration. I have often wondered how logistics work in Ecuador, but until very, very recently the regions did not seem to exchange a lot of food.

  15. Higos con queso is reminiscent of another very popular Latin dessert: membrillo con queso. In Uruguay, where I am from though I live in Mexico, is is known as a “Martín Fierro”. Other countries have other names. These solidified sliced cooked fruit jellies are known in Mexico under the general term “ate”, the dessert is ate con queso. May be made of quince (membrillo) guava (guayaba) tejocote (don’t know!) and other fruits of this type. Perfect way to end a heavy meal, the cheese is usually a yellow cheese (MOnterrey Jack or similar) but I love it with fresh farmers cheese, and think that the lightness and creaminess and blandness of fresh white cheese would offset the figs marvelously! Thanks for sharing, I have followed your blog for three years now.

    1. I haven’t had it with jellies but it sounds nice. I’m going to watch for it. These figs are whole and preserved in a sugar sauce.
      Thanks for reading!

  16. Hello Brian
    the next time my wife and i go out to eat, i will request for desert a big bowel of higos con queso . and watch the look on the waitresses face .That should be interesting.

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