Encebollado camarones shrimp in Ecuador
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What do People in Ecuador Eat? My Favorite 16 Foods

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So, what do people in Ecuador eat? In this post. you’ll learn about 16 typical dishes in Ecuador.

What Do People In Ecuador Eat

What Do People In Ecuador Eat? My Favorite 16

There are so many wonderful things about Ecuador – the scenery, the people and the culture. A big part of Ecuadorian culture is their food, passed down for generations. So it begs the question: What do people in Ecuador eat? Here are some of my favorites!

What People Eat in Ecuador

When you visit Ecuador, you’ll see many new dishes. Have an adventurous spirit and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

8 Snacks and Side Dishes in Ecuador

I’ll start with some typical side dishes and toppings.

1. Plantain Chips

Plantain chips are a very satisfying snack. A plantain looks like a banana, and tastes a bit like a sweet potato. They can be eaten anywhere between green and nearly black.

When green they have a more starchy, potato taste; and when black they are quite sweet. They are fried and made into chips both ways. I enjoy eating them green, with lime juice to spice them up. Plantain chips are used as a snack or as a topping to soups, such as encebollado or ceviche.

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

Platanitos / Plantain chips

2. Aji

Aji is an Ecuadorian hot sauce served with many dishes, given that the food is rarely spicy. There are many different varieties of it, the one I like the most has slices of red onion in a smooth, spicy mix of hot sauce – with tree tomato and mayo.

3. Patacones

Patacones is also made with green plantains. They are cut in thick slices and fried in oil, while being periodically squashed until the come out as golden discs of deliciousness! Patacones (also known as tostones in countries other than Ecuador) are served with many meals that include meat, chicken and/or rice.

4. Salchipapas

Salchipapas are french fries with a hot dog cut up on top, served with ketchup and mayo. This is definitely a favorite!

The mayo with french fries may sound strange, but it is amazing :). ‘Salchipapas’ stands for ‘papas con salchicha’; or potatoes with a hot dog.

Salchipapas Ecuador
Salchipapas with mayo and ketchup

5. Menestra

Menestra is a bean side dish, a bit like chili; only it’s not spicy and doesn’t have any meat, so nothing like chili ;).

Menestra is served with many dishes, particularly grilled meat and chicken.

6. Pan de Yuca

Pan de Yuca is a small bun with cheese. Yuca is a root vegetable similar to potato. This bread is a great snack, especially when it’s warm and fresh! It’s also eaten with breakfast.

Yuca bread in hand Cuenca

7. Llapingachos

Llapingachos are, frankly, amazing! Llapingachos are a ball of fried cheesy-potato ball of wonderful. They may be served with breakfast as well as lunch.

8. Higos con Queso (Figs and cheese)

This is a popular dessert, candied figs with local, unsalted, soft cheese. Delicious!

figs with cheese
Learn more about sweets in Ecuador in our post about 16 Ecuador desserts.

8 Main Dishes in Ecuador

These are some of the common and delicious main dishes in Ecuador.

9. Encebollado

Encebollado is a very popular coastal dish, and definitely one of my favorites! While it is originally from the coast it is served in the Sierra as well.

Encebollado consists mostly of tuna, red onion, yuca (similar to potato), and cilantro. Then it’s topped with plantain chips and toasted corn (‘tostado’) and/or popcorn. This may not sound like a very good meal, but after you taste it you’ll realize how amazing it is!

Encebollado camarones shrimp in Ecuador

10. Caldo De Gallina

Caldo de Gallina is a chicken soup… and by ‘chicken’ soup, I mean chicken foot soup.

That’s right, if you order this, don’t be surprised if you find a whole chicken foot in your soup! It is actually quite good despite the first impression. But you deserve a fair warning :).

11. Cuy

Cuy is the one you’ve been waiting for… that’s right, guinea pig. While some are automatically turned off to the prospect, I like to keep an open mind.

I found it to be very tasty! I liked it best roasted on the spit. Yes, I know it looks gross. I’m the teenage girl, I’m the one that should be squealing “Ewww!!!” and running the other way; not you! 🙂

I would definitely suggest trying it at least once. Cuy is generally served with potatoes and aji.

Cuy street food in Cuenca Ecuador

12. Churrasco

Churrasco is really good! It has a thin, salty steak covered in gravy, with a fried egg, a large portion of rice and menestra or fries.

Often it will also have a small salad and a piece of avocado on the rice. It’s a cheap, common filling – and delicious! – meal. You can get it almost anywhere in the Andes part of Ecuador.

Churrasco at Coppelia in Cuenca
This is sooo good!!

13. Pizza Americana

Pizza Americana is an interesting pizza to say the least. I really liked it, but it is a bit strange.
It’s your typical salami pizza with french fries on top. It’s strange but yummy.

14. Secos (Chicken, Beef, Goat, Lamb and Tripe)

Secos are amazing! There are many different types of secos, pollo (chicken), carne (beef), chivo (goat), borrego or cordero (lamb), and guatita (cow stomach). I’ve had all of these except the guatita.

Mom and dad tried it and said that it “tastes like a barn smells”… I figured I was okay without :). Secos are served with a delicious, thick gravy, rice, plantain, avocado and sometimes a small salad.

Seco de chivo in Ecuador

15. Corviche

Corviche is simply divine!! I love it! It is deep-fried fish in a grated plantain flour, topped with fresh red onions and tomato with lemon juice and a special mayo.

Corviche is typically served on Ecuador’s coast. Definitely one of my fav’s… can’t decide between encebollado or corviche!!!

16. Corvina Apanada: Yummy Breaded Fish

Corvina apanada is breaded fish. The fish comes with an onion-tomato salad and lime. Along with a generous serving of rice and patacones (fried plantain). Altogether, it is really yummy and a perfect combo!

I had this plate of corvina apanada at a seafood restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador. You know how sometimes you order breaded fish and it is just soggy, and there is hardly enough salt? Yuck, right? But this fish was just right.

The batter was perfectly crispy and lovely salty. I loved it; I will definitely go back when we get a chance!

A word of caution: Although I have a great love for the people of Ecuador, we need to be careful which restaurants we choose to eat from – as in any other country. Because our immunity is different from people in foreign countries we need to be cautious. People from Ecuador could just as easily come to the US or Canada and get sick eating the same things we eat with no problem. It is the same for us there.

Another thing to consider is that the same health precautions are not as commonly implemented in Ecuador as in the US or Canada. So be judicious as to where you eat and you will more than likely be fine. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from fresh salad or fresh fruit considering that the tap water may contain parasites.

I don’t mean to scare anybody, I just feel that this may reduce your risk of illness; I’d hate for your trip to be ruined with parasites! Something that works well to disinfect fruits and veggies at home is grapefruit seed extract.

To address a common question about food in Ecuador, Bryan wrote the following section.

Finding Organic Food in Ecuador: Labeling and Sources

A reader recently asked about finding organic food in Ecuador.

“My wife and I and our 2 year old son are considering a move to either Cuenca or Antigua, Guatemala. One thing that is very important to us is the availability of organic food. We were excited to find that Cuenca had a market called the Coopera that sold mostly organic food at good prices. Upon further research the market appears to be shut down. Can you verify if the Coopera market is shut down? Are there still good options for getting organic food?”

ecuador organic food
That’s a great question. In this post, I’ll share what I know – and I hope that you’ll do the same in the comments below.

Organic Food in Ecuador?

I’ve read on other expat blogs and forums the idea that all food in Ecuador is organic. A few people have stated that Ecuador can’t afford chemicals (pesticides and herbicides) so they grow everything organically.

This is (obviously) unfair and untrue. We have seen many growers – large and small – spraying their crops with backpack sprayers. The chemical has a unique smell – one I remember well from growing up in the agricultural-focused Annapolis Valley (Nova Scotia). From a business perspective, it makes sense to use chemicals to ensure a good crop.

I don’t know that any meat (chicken, pork, or beef) exists that hasn’t had vaccinations and other shots. Some livestock here is grass-fed – some chickens only eat bugs and corn. But the majority eat only “balanceado” – a manufactured chicken feed with added vitamins and chemicals. While everyone prefers free-range, almost everyone uses this for healthy animals.

How can you be sure if it is organic?

Food Labeling in Ecuador

The laws in Ecuador are very similar to what we were used to in Canada. What appears to be different is the enforcement.

Some products at the grocery store don’t even list ingredients (snacks, sauces, etc). Others are printed as 100% pure (like honey) when they aren’t. It seems to be a fairly uncontrolled sector.

There was a brand of honey that we regularly bought and it was fine. It seemed to be pure – it was Eucalyptus flavor – amazing! But then the consistency suddenly changed. Instead of being slightly sticky, it was like glue – like corn syrup.

I have a significant allergy to corn – so when I ate it and got very sick – it wasn’t hard to determine that corn had been added. It has been almost a year since I have had honey – I am afraid to experiment with the other brands. I don’t feel that I can trust the labels.

3 Ways to Ensure That Your Food is Organic

I think that there are three ways to ensure organic food.

  1. Purchase packaged food that is exported (or imported): When a locally made product is exported, they need to comply with international rules. An example is Pacari Chocolate. This Ecuadorian-made chocolate is sold primarily in the US and is certified USDA Organic. The other side of the coin is to purchase imported food from a region with enforced labeling rules.
  2. Know the grower: If you have a relationship with the grower, you can be confident that it is organic. Especially if you live in rural Ecuador and you can buy from your neighbor.
  3. Grow the food yourself: While this might not be an option for most expats, this is a good way to be sure that it has been grown chemical-free.

What has been your experience with organic food in Ecuador? Please share your tips and stories below.

Your Turn

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s given you inspiration for your trip to Ecuador!

So, what do people in Ecuador eat? The traditional food is delicious and (generally) inexpensive! What are you looking forward to trying?

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  1. Few people realize that although Ecuador is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity and the origin of many world renowned fruits and vegetables; it does not product its own seeds. All are imported and poorly adapted to the different eco-niches of Ecuador, which means that they require pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

    For those who want to grow and eat 100% organic, this now is changing as a retired professor of agriculture and genetics has spend 30 years developing seeds that are 100% organic, not hybrid and not GMO. He has teamed up with the director of an analytical laboratory, two ex-pats and many local farmers to begin producing and distributing these seeds. Now available are different varieties of tomatoes, sweet corn and naranjillas.

    The first store to sell these seeds will open next week in Malacatos. Others are planned for Gonzanamá, Cariamanga, Cuenca and Quito.

  2. Please add about other countries food also that tourist like more, indian food shere punjab restaurant in quito and baños de agua santa, plz mention in food categories thanku

    1. Thank you for the heads-up.
      I will be spending at least two weeks in a hotel when I arrive. I expect to have problem with altitude, but I will be happily surprised if I do not.
      I may end up having to eat all my meals in the hotel and I’d wondered about fruit salad, having read another of your articles mentioning grapefruit seed extract.
      Perhaps I have missed something, but how exactly do you use the extract?
      Is it used full strength? Do you just put some in a bowl and use it like a water rinse? Is it best to do this even if you have used boiled, then cooled, water?
      Food hygiene is important. I met an American fellow who ate street food in Korea all the time. He got his money’s worth from his private health insurance for several months before realizing he needed to eat at home more often.
      I spent three months in Kaohsiung and walked past a street vendor many times, unpacking yesterday’s meat that hadn’t sold and putting it back on the grill. Perhaps it had been refrigerated, but it sat out for a few hours the day before.
      I worked at altitude in the Canadian Rockies when young (8000+ ft ASL often), but I am no longer young and want to enjoy all I can. 🙂
      Better safe than sorry.

  3. It is simply amasing the way you describe all those delicious dishes. You missed one important one which is served only on Easter and is called fanesca . Happy eats.😊

    1. Could you please help me with a definition or description of what “bolor” is in Ecuador?
      Much appreciated!!!!

  4. Great article Drew. I have read your parents articles for many years and have now moved to Ibarra. I hope you will return! I would add Fritada and Ceviche to your list although the latter might not appeal to everyone!

  5. Drew,
    Congratulations on being an accomplished writer! I really enjoyed the article, but I felt I needed to add MY favorite Ecuadorian (not sure if it is originally Ecuadorian, though) food – HUMITAS!!! Especially the cheese-filled ones! Have you tried them? YUM!

  6. Love the writing style. It is fresh and bold! The content was good too! Haven’t tried them all yet, but will look for them. I would add ceviche con camarón to your list, my personal favorite!

  7. I just want to say that this was a well written blog. I truly enjoyed it! I thank because I have always wanted to show the foods here, but I not that talented or patient to compile the photos and added imformation. You deserve an applause ! Thank You again!

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