Ecuador is a tiny country the size of Wyoming, and it’s often overlooked for its famous neighbors like Peru (hello, Machu Picchu). That’s a total shame, because Ecuadorians know how to party — and when they party, they eat.
Seriously. I’ve seen parties happen at 2 pm on a random Tuesday for absolutely no reason other than the fact that people want to celebrate (side note: Are you looking to be super Ecuadorian and darty, aka day party? Read this). It’s totally awesome.
Ecuadorian cuisine rocks. These guys know how to make shakes (batidos) like nobody’s business, and their proximity to both the sea and the rainforest make for some serious fish dishes and fruit salads—so whether you like fruits or fruits of the sea (or both!), Ecuador has it all.
There are countless dishes that Ecuadorian abuelitas have up their sleeves that I could rave about, but here are my personal favorites. Get your bib ready, ’cause you’re ’bout to drool.
1. Locro de Papa
Little fact about me: I dig potatoes. So, naturally, locro de papa (Ecuadorian potato soup) is a favorite of mine. It’s basically your standard potato soup with a seriously delicious twist: Ecuadorian cheese and avocado. Chicken soup for the soul? Nah, more like locro de papa for the soul. You’re welcome.
2. Pan de Yuca
Move aside, nasty McDonald’s breakfast meals. Instead of stopping at a McDonald’s to fill up during those long road trips, Ecuadorians stop at little joints that serve pan de yuca and yogurt for breakfast. I have to say, this is wayyyy more satisfying than eating a sausage made of who-knows-what.
Pan de yuca is a classic Ecuadorian/Colombian bread that you can find anywhere from roadside stops to Quito’s best bakeries. Made from yuca root flour and cheese, this bread is usually served warm and will be one of the softest things you’ll have eaten since baby food (in a good way, I promise).
3. Fruit batidos
Ecuadorians make a mean milkshake. When ordering, don’t make the mistake of ordering a “milkshake,” or they’ll make the “American milkshake” with ice cream (definitely not what you want). Instead, order like a local and say you want a “batido,” which is a milkshake made with fruit. My personal favorite is mango, but the flavors will depend on what fresh fruit the restaurant has in stock at the moment. No matter your choice, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s not quite a batido (I mean, what is…?) but if you’re suddenly craving something fruity and cold, try this awesome Spoon recipe for a delicious post-workout protein shake.
4. Patacones con Queso
Patacones (fried green Ecuadorian plantains) are a staple of Ecuadorian diets everywhere. You’ll find them as a delicious appetizer at most traditional restaurants, and the cheese is the proverbial cherry on top. Another option is getting the cook to chop the plantains super thin and deep fry them into a really delicious crisp.
Bananas for bananas? So are we. That’s why we L. O. V. E. this article about different ways of eating bananas.
Whether you’re a fan of fish, lobster, shrimp, chicken, meat, or even just veggies, ceviche can be a thing for you. Typically, it’s made of raw fish cured in citrus (absolutely perfect for lunch or dinner after a beach day), accompanied with sweet potato, plantains, or avocado.
Because Ecuador has evolved with the times, it’s easy to find places that will gladly swap veggies for seafood or meat. Feeling some fresh ceviche now? Try this seriously easy recipe.
#SpoonTip: Because ceviche often has raw fish and other seafood in it, it’s wise to make sure that your ceviche is prepared fresh (and that the ingredients are good, too!). Guidebooks like Lonely Planet and locals from the area know which places prepare fresh ceviche and can help you out.
We definitely weren’t going to skip over the trademark Ecuadorian liqueur. Popular in the highlands (where it actually sometimes gets kinda cold), this drink is a mix of aguardiente (sugar cane alcohol), sugar, and agua de canela (water with cinnamon). It’s especially good for cold winter nights because it’s not only sugary and alcohol-y, but it’s also served hot. Sound like heaven? Try mixing up a batch at home with this recipe.
Who doesn’t love tamales? Humitas are basically Ecuadorian corn tamales and the recipe for them dates back to ancient times. Ingredients in the tamales vary by region, town, and family, but you’ll always find ground corn, eggs, and onions in them. Cheese is also commonly used. The only difference between humitas and tamales is that humitas are usually steamed and tamales are boiled and baked.
8. Manjar de Leche
Manjar de Leche, known as dulce de leche in other Spanish-speaking parts of the world, is one of the biggest desserts in Latin America. However, there are slight differences in the way the dessert is cooked in Latin American countries. It’s often deliciously baked in a pastry, used as a sweet dip with breads, or even eaten by itself. Craving some? Give these recipes a whirl in your own kitchen or you can get a can of it online.
A popular drink amongst Ecuadorian children, cuaker is not only super healthy (it’s made from oats!), but it’s also a really cool spin on your classic porridge breakfast. Cuaker contains rolled oats, cinnamon, and fruits all brought to a boil. There’s no better way to start a day of Ecuadorian adventure.
10. Ecuadorian Arepas
This flatbread made of maize or flour, popular in parts of South America, is often filled with meat, tomatoes, eggs, cheese, shrimp, or fish. Not exactly original by itself, what makes Ecuadorian arepas special are the extremely unique seafood options that often go into them.
This is especially cool for those fortunate enough to travel to Ecuador’s gorgeous coast or the Galapagos Islands where you’ll be able to savor the fresh daily catch the Pacific has to offer. Now, go try these dishes and enjoy.