Popular Ecuadorian Food to Try on Your Trip

Food in Ecuador ranges from a delicious mix of herbs and vegetables to freshly caught delicacies right off the coast. With so many incredible dishes on offer, here’s what we recommend you try.

13 April 2023

traditional ecuadorian food

Ecuador’s food scene is having a moment. While the country may be well-known for its incredible wildlife and dramatic scenery, tales of deliciously fresh plates of zingy ceviche by the Pacific Ocean and warming empanadas in the cloud forest are reaching the ears of discerning travellers. Quito’s eateries are topping the world’s best restaurant lists, while food stalls and low-key cafes offer up dishes that will get your taste buds dancing.

The sheer range of ingredients at its fingertips is what makes Ecuador’s food so exciting and vibrant. The biodiversity in this country is astounding. You’ve got coffee growing in the Galapagos, corn and potatoes in the Andes, chocolate and exotic fruits in the rainforest and fresh fish by the coast, not to mention the abundance of vegetables, herbs and spices that flourish there. Ecuador’s food will take you on a journey of its own.

Plan your trip

Our Top Ecuadorian Food and Delicacies

In case you need a helping hand with where to start, Scott Dunn has hand-picked Ecuador’s favourite food to look out for on your next adventure.

Humitas

Humitas next to a bowl of fresh tomatoes

Humitas is a traditional food in Ecuador made with sweetcorn, onions and spices creamed together to make a thick paste. It is then wrapped in the corn’s husk to be boiled or steamed. The result is a deliciously smooth creation ready to be spread on toast for breakfast, eaten as a side dish or, if made sweet, as a dessert. Each family has their own recipe, some add sugar, while others prefer cheese.

Where to try it: Humitas is very popular in the highland regions of Ecuador, where you are more likely to find corn growing. Our favourite way to eat it is by popping into a local café for a humita snack and a cup of fresh coffee.

Ceviche

A bowl of ceviche

Ceviche is one of South America’s exports that has become a big name here in the UK too. Made using freshly caught fish or prawns, which are thinly sliced and cured in citrus juices combined with onions, chillies, coriander and other spices, ceviche makes a seriously mouth-watering meal. It goes beautifully with a pisco sour too.  

Where to try it: Mostly found in Pacific coastal regions, this style of Ecuadorian food dates back thousands of years when fishermen ate their catch straight out of the sea. Try ceviche when you’re cruising around the Galapagos for a truly fresh experience, or in one of Quito’s fine-dining restaurants like Zazu or Nuema in the centre north of the city.

Llapingachos 

Stacked Llapingachos on a plate

Another traditional side dish, Llapingachos are delicious potato patties, and one of Ecuador’s most popular recipes. Simple and tasty, they originate from the mountains – where potatoes grow freely. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, filled with potatoes, onions, cheese, and herbs. Llapingachos are eaten for breakfast, topped with slices of avocado, sausages, or eggs on top, and for lunch with a tomato and onion salad, or as a warming snack dipped in peanut or spicy sauce.  

Where to try it: Llapingachos originate from the Central Highlands, try them in one of the area’s charming colonial towns like Riobamba.

Encebollado 

A bowl of encebollado and plantain crisps

Rumoured to cure hangovers and packed with vitamins and antioxidants, this is one of Ecuador’s national dishes not to miss! Encebollado is a stew made using fresh tuna, yuca or cassava root, tomatoes, onions, coriander, spices, and served with curtido (fermented cabbage – a bit like kimchi) or pickled onions and tomatoes on top. The tangy fish stew is delicious with crispy plantain crisps dipped in it.

Where to try it: As with ceviche, encebollado was traditionally eaten by fishermen using their catch of the day but now you will find it in restaurants and markets throughout Ecuador.

Cuy

Traditional cuy dish with onion garnish

Pet lovers and vegetarians skip to the next dish, this food is not for everyone. However, cuy (guinea pig) is a food traditionally eaten in Ecuador and other South American countries and has been part of the Andean diet for 5,000 years. Typically roasted, this is what you will see all over the highlands of Ecuador, where people pull it apart with their hands straight from the spit.

Where to try it: Although native to the mountainous regions, you will find cuy eaten all over Ecuador. However, if the idea of a whole guinea pig feels a touch too much, Quito’s top restaurants serve up more refined versions of the dish, so you can still experience this cultural highlight in a more palatable way. For example, La Gloria’s menu includes crispy guinea pig with parsley chips in peanut sauce and special chilli.

Empanadas

A plate of Empanadas and soup

Similar to our own UK meat pies and cornish pasties, empanadas are warming pastries packed with savoury fillings like meat, cheese, and vegetables. This Ecuadorian food is eaten as a tasty snack and is often found at street food stalls all over Spain and South America. They’re thought to have originated in Galicia during Medieval times.

Where to try it: Cafés, market stalls and restaurants will all stock variations of empanadas. One of our favourite restaurants in Quito, Somos, even has its own dedicated empanada section on the menu.

Bolon de Verde

Bolon de verde served on a wooden dish

A popular breakfast dish and good option for vegetarians, bolon de verde are little fried plantain dumplings, often filled with cheese, herbs and spices too (although you do get meat variations too). Washed down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or a steaming hot cup of coffee, they give you enough sustenance to face a day of forest hikes or Galapagos wildlife exploring. It’s no wonder bolon de verde is considered Ecuador’s national dish. 

Where to try it: Bolon de verde originates in the coastal regions of Ecuador, try them while visiting the southern city of Guayaquil.

Ecuador’s Must-Have Drinks and Desserts

Ecuador’s cuisine isn’t just about delicious savoury dishes, tastebuds are also tantalised by the amazing desserts and exciting drinks that are on offer too.

Chocolate

A stack of chocolate bars

We couldn’t write about Ecuador’s favourite food without mentioning chocolate! Ecuador is famous for its single-origin chocolate, produced from rare Arriba cacao beans, and harvested on a small scale by individual growers. Used to make delicious hot chocolate, eaten in chunky cubes, and mixed into sweet desserts, there is nothing quite like Ecuador’s chocolate.

Where to try it: Head to the award-winning chocolate shop and factory Yumbos in Quito and try dark chocolate infused with the likes of chilli, lemongrass, coffee, and salt. Alternatively, participate in a Gastro Tour of Quito, or, if you’re staying at Casa Gangotena, join the hotel’s chef on a two-hour chocolate tasting.

Colada Morada

Two glasses of colada morada with cinnamon sticks

Drunk on the Day of the Dead, colada morada is a tasty smoothie made using:

  • Purple corn
  • Raw oats 
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon 
  • A variety of fruits, which might include pineapple, naranjilla (a traditional Ecuadorian fruit which is a bit like grapefruit and rhubarb), passion fruit, berries, or others.

It is traditional to have colada morada with Ecuadorian bread rolls, decorated to look like children, called guaguas de pan – meaning ‘bread babies.’

Where to try it: Colada Morada is found all over Ecuador in October and November.

Canelazo 

A jug of canelazo

Ideal for warming up in the mountains, Canelazo is a hot, spiced, rum drink typical to Andean countries. Similar to a hot toddy, its ingredients are:

  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Orange and lime juice
  • Rum or aguardiente, which is a generic term for distilled alcohol in South America 

Where to try it: Use a cup of Canelazo to warm up when in the highlands or Amazon rainforest in Ecuador.

What Is the Typical Lunch in Ecuador?

Ecuador’s cuisine tends to centre around a very big lunch and then a smaller evening meal or snack. This is due to the high altitude that many people live in as eating less in the evening reduces the chance of altitude sickness. With that in mind, a typical lunch will mostly include three courses; a soup to start with, then some sort of beef, pork or chicken served with potatoes or rice, followed by dessert (postre) and coffee.

One of the most memorable experiences that Scott Dunn plans in Ecuador is a trip to the Amazon, to see how the indigenous populations live. This is part of a community programme and includes a traditional lunch cooked by local farmers, made using ingredients grown and found in the Amazon Rainforest.

What Does Typical Ecuadorian Food Consist Of?

Traditionally, food in Ecuador differs throughout its three main regions; the Andes mountains, the Amazon Rainforest and the coast (including the Galapagos Islands). Ingredients change depending on the location and what grows or is reared there.

Up high you’re more likely to find potatoes, rice and grains, along with different types of meat, including cuy. In the lower lands, by the coast, fish is the dish of the day, along with other seafood, plantain and soups. In the rainforest, people tend to eat whatever they can hunt, fish or grow. River-caught fish and pork, along with yucca, plantain, peppers and countless other fruits and vegetables make up the staple diet in Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest.

Start Planning Your Trip Today

To experience the incredible food in Ecuador, cruise around the Galapagos, explore the Amazon, or soak up the culture in Quito, get in touch with Scott Dunn’s travel experts today to start planning your trip.

For more inspiration, have a look at our Ecuador Uncovered itinerary.

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Simon Hunt

South & Central America Specialist

My first taste of Latin America came when I was 19 years old on a 3 month trip, during which I spent time in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. Since that incredible adventure, I have leapt at every opportunity to return to this spectacular continent and have been lucky to revisit these countries in greater depth, as well as adding Chile, Colombia and the Galapagos to my list.

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