Are you planning a trip to Ecuador?
Love to try new foods when you travel and you’re wondering what Ecuadorian cuisine is like?
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you what to eat during your trip to Ecuador. You’ll learn about the most popular dishes, the most traditional ones, and the best street food in the country. I’ve tried all these dishes on this list, and I’ll let you know which ones I liked and didn’t like and where to find them in order to help you plan your foodie adventure!
This list of food is based on my 3 months (and still counting) traveling around Ecuador and working remotely in Quito and on the coast. Many of these were recommended by my guide on the street food tour I took in Quito.
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In This Post, You’ll Find…
- Best Food Tours in Ecuador
- About Ecuadorian Cuisine
- Best Traditional Dishes in Ecuador
- Best Breakfast Dishes in Ecuador
- Best Street Food in Ecuador
The BEST Food Tours in Ecuador
RATING: 4.9/5 (10+ Reviews) | DURATION: 3-5 hours | PRICE: US$80
- I did this tour and loved it! – Check out my review of this Quito food tour.
- Fritada, tortilla de yuca, viche, pescado encocado, lots of fruit juices, fresh fruit, coffee, chocolate, quesadilla, and more
- Get to visit lots of different neighborhoods most tourists don’t visit
RATING: 5/5 (9+ Reviews) | DURATION: 4 hours | PRICE: US$80
- Combine a city tour with a food tour!
- Explore both traditional and alternative neighborhoods of Quito
- Lunch, fruit, coffee, and chocolate are included in the tour price
RATING: 4.8/5 (10+ Reviews) | DURATION: 3 hours | PRICE: US$80
- Get to visit the best night market in Quito
- Includes street art and art gallery tour
- Food and drinks are included in the tour price
About Ecuadorian Food
Like most other countries in Latin America, the food in Ecuador is heavily influenced by Spain and the country’s indigenous people. You can find some of the same dishes in Colombia, Peru, and even Panama.
What are the main ingredients in Ecuadorian cuisine?
The main ingredients in Ecuadorian cuisine are potatoes, plantains, corn, hominy (white corn called mote), rice, beans, and yuca. You’ll most likely eat a combination of these foods in one meal.
Ecuador also has several seafood dishes that are worth trying. Chicken, beef, and especially pork are common as in most places. However, you’ll also find traditional dishes made of goat and guinea pig.
What are some highlights of Ecuadorian cuisine?
Expect to see a lot of these dishes, snacks, and drinks in Ecuador:
- Soups and stews – Ecuadorians love their soups and stews and most meals start out with a HUGE bowl of soup. Locro de papas (potato soup mixed with cheese) is a completely vegetarian-friendly dish that is uber popular. But my favorite soup in Ecuador is encobollado (ceviche-like soup).
- Ice cream – Another thing Ecuadorians love to eat is ice cream. You’ll find ice cream shops and street vendors selling ice cream all over the country. The other cool thing is that you can get some really unique fruit flavors like passion fruit, uvilla, and taxo.
- Fruit juices (jugo naturales) – Ecuador has some of the best fruit juices on the planet. They’re usually made from exotic fruits that you won’t find in North America or Europe: tomate de abrol, babacoa, sour sop, naranjilla, etc. They also can be pretty inexpensive: $1.50 to $3.
What’s the main meal in Ecuador?
The main meal in Ecuador is lunch (almuerzo). Lunch starts at 12:00 noon and may even run until 4:00 pm in some restaurants.
One VERY important thing to keep in mind is that most restaurants are ONLY open for lunch and close between 4:00 and 6:00. Most of the time the only places selling food in the evenings are expensive tourist restaurants and bars.
Where to eat in Ecuador?
The best places to go to for traditional Ecuadorian dishes are huecas and mercados. They are inexpensive and clean, the staff is usually friendly and welcoming, and the food is generally pretty good.
For inexpensive and truly authentic Ecuadorian food, head to a small, family-owned restaurant called huecas, which in English means “hollow.” They usually serve breakfast and lunch but are closed for dinner. Huecas are where you should go to try a lot of the dishes on this list.
At lunchtime, they usually serve a set meal that comes with a first course of soup and the second main course (segundo) that includes a protein (chicken, beef, fish, pork), hominy, potatoes, plantains, salad, rice and juice. Some also include dessert. The soup and segundo usually change daily.
You can get these set meals for as low as US$2.50. In Galapagos, expect to pay US$5.
You’ll usually find the menu listed outside the restaurant. Just ask for “menu del dia” or “menu del hoy.”
The guide on the food tour I did in Quito told me that you’ll get better food at the huecas that charge at least US$3.50.
I also noticed that a lot of huecas don’t show up on Google Maps.
You can find this type of restaurant all over the country from Quito to the Galapagos.
The second place to go for inexpensive and authentic Ecuadorian cuisine is to mercados (markets). These are indoor neighborhood markets that sell fruit, vegetables, meat, and seafood on the first floor and on the top floor, you’ll find a food court with tons of vendors specializing in traditional Ecuadorian dishes. They’re especially busy on Saturdays and less so on weekdays. My favorite mercados are Santa Ana in Quito, 10 de Agosto in Cuenca, and the Central Mercado in Banos.
The BEST Traditional Dishes of Ecuador
Here is a list of 18 traditional dishes to choose from while in Ecuador. These dishes were recommended to me by locals or ones I saw repeatedly all over Ecuador.
Ask anyone from Quito what their favorite dish is and 9 times out of 10 they’ll say, “fritada.” And it’s no wonder, fritada is one of the most flavorful dishes in Ecuador and it easily became one of my favorites.
Fritada is basically chunks of bite-sized pork cooked in water, orange juice, cumin, garlic, onion, and shallots. It usually comes with a whole bunch of side dishes as well: potatoes, toasted corn or hominy (mote), plantains, and salad. But the sides vary from place to place.
Where can you try fritada?
Fritadas Sarita – This place in Mariscal was really good. The fritada was US$5 and came with tortillas, chorizo, egg, corn, and avocado. (Google Maps)
Mercado de Armas – Inside the Mercado de Armas is a small hall with food vendors on each side. I had the best fritada during my time in Ecuador. The vendor I went to was the first one you see on the left-hand side as you enter the food hall. Mercado de Armas is not far from the Basilica so it can make for a good stop on the way. (Google Maps)
If I had to choose one dish to eat on my last day in Ecuador, it would probably be hornado–roasted pork marinated in chicha (alcohol) or beer.
The two times I had hornado, it was perfectly seasoned and cooked—tender, juicy, and flavorful with a piece of crispy chicharron. The roast pork comes with a variety of sides. The first time was with a slice of avocado, potatoes, and shredded lettuce. I also got a small bowl of sweet-tangy sauce to spoon over the roast pork and potatoes. The second time came with shredded lettuce and llapingacho (potato and cheese patties).
Ecuador also has a dish called pollo de horno, which is roast chicken—also good, but not as memorable as the roasted pork.
Where can you try hornado?
The only times I’ve seen hornado offered was when I visited mercados in Quito and Cuenca. I’ve never seen it on any restaurant menu. Locals also always recommended getting hornado at a market.
Here are two places that I’ve had hornado:
On the top floor is a large food court full of food vendors. I went twice: on a weekday and the weekend. Both times for lunch. There weren’t many people on the weekday but on the weekend the place was packed. Every table was full, so you had to share a table with other people.
I found two vendors serving hornado. I went with Hornados Aidita and got a dish for US$4, which was quite filling for me. It came with some side dishes: tortilla, fried egg, salad, and potatoes. You can get bigger dishes with more sides for US$6.
Go to the top floor of this market in Cuenca and you’ll see a few food stalls selling hornado (comes with a salad, and llapingacho (potato and cheese pancake). The hornado was just as good as the one in Quito but the sides in Cuenca were less desirable and the dish more expensive at US$5.
3. Seco de Chivo
The first dish I had in Ecuador was seco de chivo—goat stew cooked in a brown sauce of “garlic, cumin, achiote, peppers, onion, cilantro, tomatoes, chicha or beer, and naranjilla juice or orange juice.”
It sounds good, to be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the dish. I didn’t like the sauce and the goat flavor was too overpowering.
However, try it at least once since seco de chivo is one of Ecuador’s signature dishes. Then let me know what you think.
Where can you try seco de chivo?
I had seco de chivo at La Casa de los Geranios Restaurante in the historic center of Quito.
4. Seco de Pollo or Seco de Carne
You still want to try all of Ecuador’s traditional dishes, but you don’t like goat?
You can substitute the goat for chicken (pollo) or beef (carne) and still get that tomato-orange flavored sauce of the seco de chivo. These dishes are called seco de pollo and seco de carne.
Plus! You can find them on more menus than seco de chivo.
Often seco de pollo or carne comes as a side dish when you order Ecuador’s most traditional breakfast dish, tigrillo.
Cuy is a dish in Ecuador that turns off a lot of foreigners. It comes to your table as the whole guinea pig so you get the cooked face of the animal staring at you as you eat. There are a lot of annoying little bones and not much meat either. The taste is a bit fatty and like white meat.
However, if you’re a true foodie, you probably should try it at least once as it’s a very traditional Ecuadorian dish.
Where can you try cuy in Ecuador?
Lots of restaurants in the historic center of Quito had cuy on their menus. It was usually priced between US$30 and $40.
When I was on my tour to Otavalo, we stopped at a restaurant in Cotacachi and cuy was on the menu for $20 for a whole one and $15 for half.
6. Locro de Papa – Potato Soup
Locro de papas is the ideal dish for vegetarians who want to try the traditional food of Ecuador. But even if you’re not vegetarian, this potato and cheese soup is worth having at least once or twice.
Locro de papas is basically potato soup (yes! Ecuadorians love their potatoes) mixed with cheese and topped with avocado slices.
Ecuadorians often eat it as their starter.
Where can you try locro de papa?
The BEST place to try this traditional Ecuadorian soup is at La Casa de los Geranios Restaurante in the historic center of Quito. It comes to your table on fire. The service at this restaurant is outstanding!
However, you can get locro de papas pretty much anywhere in the historic center of Quito.
7. Sopa de bolon de verde
From the coast of Ecuador, sopa de bolon de verde is one of the most interesting soups I’ve had in my life.
It’s a thick soup that contains balls of green plantains, potatoes, vegetables like peas, carrots, and onion, and chunks of pork. The broth is made of yuca and corn.
Where can you try sopa de bolas de verde?
8. Caldo de Gallina
Caldo de Gallina is a simple, healthy, and delicious Ecuadorian soup. It includes chicken, vegetables like carrots and peas, and rice. You’ll find it as a starter before the main dish. Every time I’ve had this dish, it has come with a chicken thigh and I had to eat the thigh with a spoon—very awkward.
Where to try Caldo de Gallina?
Just go to a market in Quito (Santa Clara Market), Cuenca (Mercado 10 de Agosto), or Baños (central market near the main plaza), and you’ll very likely see caldo de gallina on a menu at one of the food stalls. Expect to pay US$3. I had it at the market in Baños.
Sancocho in Ecuador comes with yam and chicken and sometimes a small corn on the cob and carrots. In Panama, yam (name), chicken, and culantro are the only ingredients.
Where can you get sancocho?
You’ll often find sancocho as the starter to your lunch special at huecas.
What is aji?
When you eat traditional Ecuadorian food, you’ll often get a small bowl of salsa called aji. Aji is basically a hot sauce made from a type of chilli pepper native to South America. However, only one time was the aji actually spicy. Every other time it’s been very mild.
The most common aji is mixed with tree tomatoes (tomate de abrol or tamarillo). But you can also get ones with passion fruit, peanuts, or just plain lime and cilantro. I particularly love the aji that is used with hornado.
Another delicious and popular food in Ecuador that is an excellent option for vegetarians is llapingacho (also spelled yapingacho). They are also called potato tortillas or tortillas with potatoes.
LLapingacho is a fried patty made of smashed potatoes and cheese. You usually get 2 or 3 patties topped with a fried egg and a salad of marinated onions and tomatoes on the side.
I’ve also gotten llapingacho with sides of seco de carne and chorizo.
You can also get llapingacho as a side dish with one of Ecuador’s other traditional dishes like fritada, seco de pollo, or hornado.
Where can you try llapingacho in Ecuador?
11. Tortilla de yuca (cassava)
Another delicious alternative to llapingacho is tortilla de yuca. Instead of potato, you get a fried patty of smashed yuca mixed with cheese.
Tortilla de yuca is topped with a fried egg and a salad on the side of marinated red onion and tomatoes.
Ecuadorians usually eat tortilla de yuca for lunch.
Where can you get tortilla de yuca?
I recommend signing up for the tour with Get Your Guide as it’s cheaper and if the food tour company cancels, which they did to me twice, it’ll be easier to get your money back with Get Your Guide. Also, the online tour agency has fast and helpful customer service. You can read my review of this Quito street food tour.
12. Tortilla de verde
A second version of llapingacho is tortilla de verde. Instead of potato and yuca, you get a fried patty of plantains mixed with cheese. They’re often served with marinated red onion slices and tomaotes and topped with a fried egg.
Ecuadorians usually eat tortilla de verde for lunch.
Where can you try Tortillas de verde?
13. Sanduche Pernil
Ecuador makes some of the BEST sandwiches in Latin America. Ecuadorians call them “sanduche” and not “sandwich” like in other Spanish-speaking countries.
Ecuadorian sandwiches are made from bread used in sub sandwiches about half a foot long. You can fill the sandwich with various meats or cheeses. The specialty is pernil or thin slices of roast pork.
I had this pork sandwich twice—the first time it came with a wonderful chimichurri sauce, mayonnaise, onions, and tomatoes. The second time avocado was added. Both were wonderfully delicious.
Ecuadorians also eat sandwiches for breakfast as well.
Where can you try sanduche pernil?
In Quito there are two really good bodegas in the historic center that sell sandwiches and have a great old-school atmosphere.
- Sanduche Meneses – This bodega was recommended to me by the people at Secret Garden Hostel in Quito. Such great sandwiches and atmosphere. US$4/sandwich or $4.40/sandwich + Coke.
- Los Sanduches de la Plaza Grande – Right across from the Plaza Grande is this uber-popular (with locals) bodega. Get in line, order your food at the window, and step to the side to wait for them to make it. Then take the sandwich to the plaza because most likely every seat will be taken inside the small shop. US$5 for a sandwich.
You might notice while walking around Quito that there are a heck of a lot of restaurants with the word “Menestras” in the name (Menestra del Negro is a chain found all over Quito). It basically means “beans.” And yes, pretty much every dish comes with beans or lentils if you choose to substitute.
The beans are actually a side dish of red beans cooked with onions and tomatoes and a variety of spices like garlic, cumin, and pepper. Very similar to what you’d see in the United States but with a bit more kick to them. The beans accompany a large slab of grilled meat—chicken, pork, beef)—along with rice and plantains.
Where to try menestras?
- Menestras del Negro – There’s a Branch of this popular chain in the historic center across from the Plaza Grande.
- Las Menestras de la Almagro – When I ate here, the place was packed. People would stand beside your table waiting for you to leave so they can grab your chair.
Just like the food in Panama, Peru, and Mexico, the cuisine of Ecuador also has its own version of ceviche.
And let me tell you, in my humble opinion, it’s the best ceviche I’ve ever had.
The usual ingredients are fish, shrimp, squid, and/or conch. Red onions and cilantro are mixed in. Ecuadorian ceviche has also got a lot of broth so that it almost feels like a soup compared to the same dish in Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica.
Plus! Ecuadorians top their ceviche with…at first, I didn’t believe it…popcorn and plantain chips. But it’s good. It adds some nice savoriness and saltiness to the acidity of the lime.
Where to try ceviche in Ecuador?
If you’re in Quito, there are a couple of popular places to try ceviche. I’ve tried both and you can’t go wrong at either of them. They are both ONLY open for lunch.
- Ceviche Siete Mares (Ceviche 7 Seas) – Popular seafood restaurant that serves good ceviches and encobollado. Only open for lunch. Expect to pay around US$10-$15.
- Ecuaviche Veintimilla – Love, love, love the ceviche here. Good food, good price, and looks clean. Only open for lunch. Expect to pay around US$8-$15.
If you’re on the coast or in the Galapagos, don’t skip the ceviche there either.
Before I had told you that if it were my last day in Ecuador, I’d eat hornado over any other dish. I lied. Actually, it would be a toss-up between hornado and encobollado. I absolutely adore encobollado, and I think you will to if you like ceviche.
Encebollado is like ceviche in a bowl of soup. It’s made of seafood (tuna, shrimp, conch, squid) and yuca in a light broth of tomato, onion, cumin, and chili pepper. You can top the soup with marinated red onion, tomato slices, popcorn, and plantain chips. Finally, squeeze some lime on everything.Sour, sweet, and savory.
Where can you try Encebollado?
I had encebollado for lunch at Cevicheria Siete Mares in Quito. I paid US$8.50 for a bowl.
If you’re in Puerto Lopez, head to Restaurant Romance Marino. I ordered the encobollado mixto and the shrimp that came with it was absolutely PERFECT! The dish cost between US$8 (shrimp) and $10 (mixto).
Viche is another seafood soup from the coast of Ecuador.
This soup consists of a thick broth of peanut paste, red onions, garlic, and achiote. Fish, shrimp, squid, and green plantain balls are added to the broth. You can squirt some lime juice and chili sauce into the soup to give it some acidity and spice.
Where can you try viche in Ecuador?
I had viche on a food tour in Quito, and to be honest, I was too full to appreciate the dish. I can’t even remember how it tasted exactly.
You’ll also find viche on menus at restaurants on the coast like in Puerto Lopez.
18. Pescado Encocado
Encocado de pescado (fish with coconut sauce) is another wonderful dish from the Ecuadorian coast. The fish is cooked in a coconut sauce and served with white rice or plantains. You can also squeeze some lime juice onto the fish and rice.
Where can you try encocado de pescado?
If you’re not going to the coast, you can still try fish with coconut sauce in Quito at Puente del Guambra. Located near Parque El Eljido, Puente del Guambra is an outdoor food court under a bridge. It’s filled with vendors selling a variety of dishes, including seafood ones.
Better yet, join the food tour that I did, and the tour will stop at Puente del Guambra where you’ll get a small sample of encocado de pescado. I recommend signing up for the tour with Get Your Guide. It’s cheaper and if they cancel on you, you’ll at least get your money back.
You can also find viche in the restaurants in Montanita and Puerto Lopez. Try the viche at Restaurant Romance Marino in Puerto Lopez.
Popular Ecuadorian Breakfasts
A typical breakfast in Ecuador includes ham and cheese sanduche (sandwich), eggs, plantains, hominy, seco de carne or pollo, juice, and coffee. For a quick breakfast, many Ecuadorians will eat bread, empanadas, humitas, or quimbolitos.
Here is a list of the most popular Ecuadorian breakfast dishes:
Tigrillo is a really popular breakfast dish in Ecuador.
However, I have a confession to make: I’m not a fan of this dish. That’s not to say you won’t like it. I’ve spoken to other foreigners in Quito and they love tigrillo.
Tigrillo is mashed up plantains mixed with cheese and eggs and then fried. The first time I had it, the chicharron was mixed in. The second time the plantains were mixed with cheese and then topped with 2 fried eggs.
Tigrillo often comes with a side order of seco de pollo or seco de carne.
Where can you try tigrillo in Ecuador?
I had tigrillo at a hueca next to where I stayed in Quito. I love the people who work there but the food isn’t always that good. The other place I tried tigrillo was at Fruteria Monserrate in La Mariscal. It was better here but I still wasn’t in love with the dish.
20. Mote Pillo or Mote Sucio
Mote de pillo is a popular breakfast dish in Cuenca. It’s mote (hominy) mixed with scrambled eggs and cheese. I have to say that even though I find mote to be bland, I love mote de pillo.
Unfortunately, I never got to try the more flavorful mote sucio (dirty mote), which is mote mixed with egg and pork lard.
Where to try mote de pillo and mote de sucio
Go to the food court on the top floor of Mercado 10 de Agosto in Cuenca. On the right side are the stalls selling breakfast items and on the left are those for lunch. For mote pillo or sucio, head to one of the stalls on the right and you should easily find one selling these two delicious Ecuadorian dishes.
21. Bolon de Verde Con Queso
Bolon de verde are one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast in Ecuador. They are fried balls of mashed plantains filled with gooey melted cheese.
Make sure you get some aji (Ecuadorian salsa) to dip them in.
Where can you try bolon de verde con queso?
I tried bolon de verde at Fruteria Monserrate in Quito. Expect to pay between US$1 – $2.35.
Humita is an Ecuadorian versión of the tamale. Mashed corn wrapped in corn husks and steamed. They are a favorite breakfast food.
Where to try humitas?
Quimbolitos are sweet Ecuadorian breakfast food. They’re like spongy cakes steamed in a achira leaf. It’s made of wheat, milk, and eggs and topped with one or two raisins.
You can also eat quimbolitos as an afternoon snack.
Where can you try Quimbolitos?
You can usually find quimbolitos at the same places selling humitas—huecas, food carts, and cafes in the morning around Quito.
Best Street Food in Ecuador
Here is a list of snack and street food in Ecuador. Some of these foods can be eaten for breakfast as well as for an afternoon snack or even as lunch.
24. Empanadas con Morocho
These empanadas are so delicious that they’re addictive.
The dough is made of broken corn called morocho. The corn is soaked for several days, boiled, and then mashed to form a dough. It is then stuffed with various ingredients like chicken or pork, rice, and vegetables like carrots and peas. Then the empanadas are fried.
Ecuadorians eat empanadas con morocho for breakfast and as an afternoon snack.
Where can you try empanadas con morocho?
If you’re staying in La Mariscal neighborhood in Quito, head to Fruteria Monserate for really good empanada con morocho. I paid US$2.35.
Better yet go to the food stall inside Palacio Arzobispal (across from Plaza Grande) that sells delicious freshly made empanadas con morocho for US$1.
25. Empanadas con Verde
Another empanada to try in Ecuador is empanada con verde. The dough is made from plantains. Yes! By now you should realize that Ecuadorians love their plantains. It’s then filled with cheese and meat or seafood.
Ecuadorians often eat them for breakfast or as an afternoon snack.
Where to try empanadas con verde?
If you’re staying in La Mariscal neighborhood in Quito, head to Fruteria Monserrate for really good empanada con verde.
26. Empanadas con Viento
The English translation for empanadas con viento is “empanadas with wind.” Basically, they’re deep-fried empanadas filled with cheese and get a bit puffed up so there’s air inside.
They are eaten for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
Where can you try empanadas con viento in Ecuador?
If you’re staying in La Mariscal neighborhood, stop at Fruteria Monserrate for their empanadas con viento.
I also had empanada con viento on a walking tour with Guru Walks. We stopped at a food cart inside Plaza Arzobispal across from Independence Plaza. The food cart was selling empanada con viento and empanada con morocho as well as pistaños for US$1 each.
It’s impossible NOT to love chilenos–doughnut holes sprinkled with sugar—one of the most delicious and unhealthy street foods in Ecuador.
They’re a good snack to munch on while wandering through the market in Otavalo or the historic center of Quito.
Where can you buy chilenos?
I bought chilenos from a street vendor at the Otavalo Market on this fun tour. I paid 50 cents for a bag of 5 chilenos. But another person on my tour paid US$1.
Bizcocho is a food that tastes better than it looks. You can buy them from street vendors in Quito, but the BEST place to get bizcocho is in the town where they originated—Cayambe, a small city near Quito.
Originally, the people of Cayambe made these pastries to sell on trains. Nowadays, they’ve become so popular that people from Quito stop in Cayambe first just to get their fill of this tasty snack food. Take a quick drive through the town and it’s hard not to notice that nearly every street has about 2 or 3 shops selling bizcocho on it.
Bizcochos are biscuits made from wheat flour, salt, sugar yeast, and oil. They are baked for 2 hours on high heat, which makes them soft. Then they are baked again for another hour on low heat, which makes the bizcocho crunchy.
You can spread caramel sauce and a layer of queso de hoja (fresh cheese) on top of the bizocochos. They’re sooooo delicious!
Where can you get bizcocho?
At the café, we got a short history lesson on bizcocho and a free tasting. They sell bags of bizcocho for US$1 each, caramel for US$1, and the cheese for US$1.
29. Pan de Yuca
Make sure to stop by a bakery to buy some pan de yuca at least once while in Ecuador. Pan de yuca or cheese bread are small soft buns made of yuca flour, cheese, eggs, and butter.
Ecuadorians like to eat these amazingly delicious treats for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Very addicting!
Where can you get pan de yuca?
When I lived in Quito, I used to buy pan de yuca on weekday mornings from Café del Rio, a bakery in La Mariscal.
Another one of my favorite street foods is the Quesadillas. These delicious pastries look and taste NOTHING like the quesadillas you find in Mexico. But they’re still just as good.
Quesadillas in Ecuador are pastries made of wheat, sugar, and cheese. The bottom is crispy and flaky and the middle and top are moist. When you take your first bite, you’ll taste a slight hint of cheese. Sooooo good!
Where can you buy quesadillas in Ecuador?
I had quesadillas on the food tour through this food tour in Quito.
However, if you don’t want to do that, you can get the same quesadillas in the photo at Quesadillas de San Juan in Quito.
31. Pristiños with honey
Pristiños are another pastry that you’ve gotta try while in Ecuador. They are basically a sweet dessert of fried dough that’s spiced with cinnamon, cloves and anise.
Sprinkle some powdered sugar and drizzle some honey over them and then eat.
Where can you try pristiños in Ecuador?
I had pristiños while on a walking tour with Guru Walks. We stopped at a food cart inside Plaza Arzobispal. The cart was selling pristiños and empanadas for US$1 each.
Cevichocho is a popular street food in Quito that’s a non-seafood version of ceviche. If you like acidic foods, you’ll adore this dish!
One of my tour guides told me that this was a vegetarian dish, but when I went to order it, I was told that the traditional version is with pork. Don’t worry, though, if you’re vegetarian you can easily order the non-meat version. There’s also a version with shrimp.
The main ingredient in cevichocho is a legume called chocho in Spanish or lupine beans in English. The rest of the ingredients vary. But the cevichocho I had was mixed with tomatoes, red onions, toasted corn, cilantro, plantain chips, and pork.
You then drown the ingredients in a tomate de abrol sauce, squeeze some lime juice on it, and finally drizzle it with aji (chili sauce). Then mix it up.
It’s got a real acidic kick to it that I just love, love, love, love!
Where can you try cevichocho?
I saw cevichocho being sold by street vendors all over Quito. But you can also find it in restaurants. I went to the restaurant DonCho Chocho y choclo in the historic center that specializes in cevichocho. There was a woman who worked there who spoke English and she taught me how to pour the different sauces and condiments over the dish.
My cevichocho with pork cost US$3.30.
33. Helado de paila (Paila Icecream)
Ecuadorians love their ice cream. You will find at least one icecream shop on literally every block. Ok. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the ratio of ice cream shops to people is pretty high compared to the United States.
However, when you’re in Ecuador, don’t just eat any old icecream. You’ve got to try a special kind that you can only find in Ecuador (and maybe Colombia) called helado de paila or paila icecream.
Paila is the name of the copper bowl used in making the ice cream. The paila is placed in a bucket of ice. Then the ice cream maker pours the juice from a fruit (blackberry or mora in Spanish is the most popular fruit for this) into the copper bowl. After that, he or she turns the bowl and mixes the fruit by hand with a spatula for around until the juice turns into the texture of ice cream. This takes about 5 minutes.
I’d say helado de paila is more like a sorbet than traditional ice cream.
Where can you try helado de paila?
You’ll find ice cream street vendors all over the historic center of Quito. On the weekend there seemed to be three helado de paila street vendors per block. But there’s one conveniently located in Independence Plaza called Dulce Nieve. Another one I’ve been to was at Mercado de Artesenal.
Usually they charge US$1 for a small cup of ice cream.
34. Leche con Morocho
It took me two months to find leche con morocho, a popular evening snack. The reason is that it’s only sold at street stalls in the evenings, and I don’t usually go out at night when I’m traveling solo, so I could never find it.
Leche con morocho is made of rice or mote (white corn), milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins if you like. It’s a bit like rice pudding.
Where can you try leche con morocho?
I did manage to find one place in Banos that was selling leche con morocho in the afternoon. At Cafeteria Oasis Fenix, this lovely elderly woman was selling the drink as well as humitas and other traditional Ecuadorian street food. The small café is across from Parque Sebastian Acosta and near the KFC and Juan Valdez Café.
35. Toasted Corn
I have to include toasted corn on this list of what to eat in Ecuador because it’s so ubiquitous. I saw it everywhere and I ate it so many times that I lost count. However, I’m not a big fan of maiz tostado (toasted corn).
Toasted corn is basically corn that has been toasted. It’s hard and crunchy and a bit burnt.
You’ll find it as a snack food and as a side with a lot of the dishes on this list like fritada and as an ingredient in dishes like cevichocho.
Where can you try toasted corn?
Honestly, it’s so common in Ecuador that if you’re likely to eat it at some point during your stay in the country.
On this walking tour in Cuenca, we stopped at the Mercado 10 de Agosto and sampled some toasted corn.
Another snack food that’s found all over Ecuador is chifles, or in other words, plantain chips.
Where to get chifles?
You can easily get them at any convenience store pre-packed in a bag. However, it’s more fun to get them freshly made from snack shops or street vendors.
Chocolate is one of Ecuador’s main export commodities. It’s grown in the Amazon and along the coast where the climate is warmer than in the Highlands.
However, you don’t need to go where it’s grown exactly to taste the chocolate. There are businesses in Quito and Mindo that process and sell locally-grown chocolate and offer tours.
Where to try chocolate in Ecuador?
In Quito, stop by Minka Chocolate Experience across from Plaza de San Francisco. They’ve got some amazing chocolate drinks for US$3 – $4, chocolate ice creams (US$2 – $3), and chocolate desserts (US$2 – $4.50). I recommend getting the ponche de chocolate drink. A bonus is that the chocolate shop overlooks Plaza de San Francisco—if you’re lucky you can grab one of the three tables overlooking the square.
Another chocolate shop that I visited in Quito was Yumbos Chocolate, also located across from Plaza de San Francisco. I went here with this walking tour. We got a free chocolate tasting, which was delicious and a lot of fun.
If you’re in Mindo, there are two chocolate tours: Yumbos Chocolates (the same company found in Quito) has tours for US$8 and El Quetzal de Mindo has even better tours for US$10 as well as a restaurant that specializes in dishes with chocolate. Just walk in and they’ll hook you up with a tour.
In Cuenca, there’s an amazing restaurant and chocolate shop called Chocoloteria dos Chorreras. They have the BEST hot chocolate I’ve ever had. The churros were good too.
38. Ecuadorian Bread and Pastries
Out of all the Latin American countries I’ve been to, Ecuador has the best bread—good flavor, not overly sweet, and very affordable. You can often get a simple pastry for 12 cents to US$1.
Stop by a local bakery (panaderia) in Quito or Cuenca and pick up a yuca de pan or an higo (fig muffin).
39. Ecuadorian traditional sweets
When you visit Cuenca, it’s hard to miss all the shops selling local sweets. Quito has its share too. But Cuenca…You can’t go a block without hitting a street vendor selling cocadas or a shop selling an assortment of picture-perfect sweets.
I highly recommend the cocadas – balls of coconut flakes cooked in panela. There’s also a delicious peanut butter bar that is really tasty (the sweets in the bottom left-hand corner in the above photo). The most traditional of sweets is one called leche con oblea (milk and wafer).
Inside Palacio Arzobispal are vendors selling traditional sweets from Quito. The guyaba one is quite good. I recommend taking this free walking tour through Guru Walks. The guide had us sample some of the sweets.
40. Fruit Juices of Ecuador
Finally, I’ve come to perhaps my favorite thing about Ecuadorian cuisine and that is its fruit, specifically its fruit juices or in Spanish, jugo naturales. I am not a fruit person—I don’t really even like fruit all that much, but in Ecuador, I couldn’t get enough of the fruit here. It’s exotic, fresh, inexpensive, and damn good.
However, my favorite way to consume fruit in Ecuador is as a juice. You can get so many different juices from so many different kinds of fruit that you’ve probably never heard of before.
Here are just a few juices:
- Tree tomato – tomate de abrol – the most popular flavor of fruit juice
- Sour sop – guanabano
- Guayaba – guava
- Blackberry (mora)
You might not have time to eat ALL 40 dishes of Ecuador.
So, which ones should you absolutely must try?
THAT is such a hard question to answer. There’s so much great food in Ecuador. However, if I had to choose the dishes I’d like to eat again before leaving Ecuador, here they are…
However, as I sit here typing these final thoughts, here are the dishes I’d love to eat one more time before leaving Ecuador:
- Pan de Yuca
- Empanada (any of them)
- Fruit juices
If you’ve tried any of these dishes let me know what you think. Which ones did you like? Not like? For those of you planning a trip to Ecuador, which dishes are you most looking forward to?
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