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? 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 :).
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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?
Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast and travel writer. She loves to share her passion through her writing. Drew runs two popular animal sites: EverywhereWild and JustBirding. She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.