My five favorite dishes in Ecuador

| October 29, 2013 More

One of the highlights of my month-long stay in Ecuador was the food: fresh, healthy, and  packed with flavor. Here are a few memorable dishes.

BREAKFAST: Fruit salad  

This salad at Napolitano Apart Hotel in Baños (central Ecuador) was enough to get me out of bed each morning. It had bananas, apples, mangos, and pineapples, and was served with yogurt, granola, and a little honey.

Seemingly simple, it was a stand-out dish thanks to the combination of textures and flavors: crunchy granola vs. soft fruit pieces, mild yogurt vs. the sweetness of the honey.

Fruit salad in Ecuador

LUNCH:  Ceviche de palmitos

I don’t get to eat ceviche often, because it’s typically made from fish and I’m a vegetarian. Luckily, I found several places in Quito that served a veggie-friendly version of the dish.

Tianguez Café Cultural on Plaza San Francisco had hearts of palm ceviche, which came with avocado, plantain chips, and roasted nuts. It was spicy, yet refreshing at the same time, thanks to hints of citrus.

Vegetarian ceviche in Ecuador

DINNER: Soup – Locro de papas 

This was by far my favorite thing to eat in Ecuador. I love potatoes, cheese, and avocado, and the stew has all three ingredients (pictured here is locro at Achiote in Quito). It’s a filling dish, perfect for cooler evenings.

Its origins date back to pre-Colonial times, and the word locro comes from ruqru or luqru in Quechua, an indigenous language spoken by several ethnic groups in South America.

Locro de papas in Ecuador

DINNER: Main course – Llapingacho

Another traditional dish I enjoyed was llapingachopotato patties stuffed with cheese. They are usually served with pork, fried egg, and vegetables. My meal at La Negra Mala on historic Calle la Ronda included avocado, lettuce, white corn, sliced plantains, queso fresco, and tomatoes.

Because they cakes are made from mashed potatoes and fried on a griddle, they are smooth on the inside and crispy on the outside. Delicious.

Llapingacho in Ecuador

DESSERT: Ice cream 

When I walked by Heladería San Agustín in Quito’s Old Town and saw that it had been in business since 1858, I couldn’t resist. The shop is currently a full-service restaurant, but I wanted to try their specialty.

The ice cream was some of the best I’d had since gelato in Rome. There was nothing artificial about it, just strong flavors and delicate, sorbet-like texture.

Heladeria San Augustin Quito


I can’t talk about Ecuadorian food without mentioning freshly-squeezed fruit juice. When I arrived in the country, I discovered that it was an important part of almost every meal.

Restaurant menus often listed orange, pineapple, and blackberry, as well as flavors I had never tried before, e.g. tomate de árbol (“tree tomato”) and guanábana (soursop). And when I lived with a host family during my volunteer program, we often had naranjilla and strawberry juice.

Perhaps I should get my juicer out of the storage…

Juice at a market in Otovalo

Drinking a juice blend at a market in Otovalo

What are the favorite dishes you’ve had when traveling? Would you try any from my list? Share with me in the comments box!

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Category: CITIES


About the Author (Author Profile)

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.

Comments (43)

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  1. There is a delicious stew in Peru called “locro de zapallo” made of pumpkin and potato which seems to have a similarity to your potato, cheese, and avocado stew that really hit the spot.

    • That sounds great! Lately I’ve been eating a lot of Peruvian food (great thing about living in Chicago) and I’ll have to look for this soup next time I go out!

  2. avatar Aaron says:

    I’m all about the kumara (sweet potato) when in New Zealand as well as iced chocolates. Would definitely go with the fruit juices you described with every meal. :)

  3. avatar Francesca says:

    Blackberry juice?? Oh, yum! I’d be all over that locro de papas and the llapingacho. It all looks amazingly delicious!

  4. avatar lola dimarco says:

    It all looks delicious! I would love to wake up to that breakfast every morning!

  5. avatar Tiffany says:

    That looks so so soooo delicious! Locro de papas, from your description, is my favourite I think. Food in Central Europe isn’t nearly as inspiring as your beautiful meals sadly, can’t wait to move south soon :)

  6. avatar Monica Suma says:

    I’m drooling right now, these look so yummy, especially the first one! Must have been awesome trying all these new foods!

  7. avatar Mary Anne says:

    When I was younger my roommate’s mother was from Ecuador. She used to make me all kinds of delicious foods to try. This brings back lots of memories.

  8. That ceviche of palmitos looks really good. Palmitos make sense for a ceviche!

  9. Juice seems to be amazing in every country except our own. This post psyches me up for my three weeks in Asia where juice will be a constant source of enjoyment. The dishes all look amazing.

    • Haha ok orange juice can be pretty darn good in the USA, and that coming from a Euro gal. But the stuff in Ecuador was just unbelievable. :) Can’t wait to read what juice you discover in Asia.

  10. Did you say a stew with potatoes, cheese, and avocado?! Sounds like something I wouldn’t be able to get enough of! I love ceviche and the rest I’d love to try. Ecuador here I come!

  11. avatar Jenna says:

    I also love the juices in South America. Being a vegetarian makes it a little more challenging on the road, but I’m glad that you found plenty of tasty dishes there.

  12. Such a fan of the juices in Latin America too… always a new unique flavor to try and fall in love with…

    I like the way you started with breakfast and worked through the eating day… just surprised you didn’t mention the cocktail at some point… I often consider that an important food too.

    stay culinary curious, Craig

  13. Looks yummy. All of it!

  14. That all looks SO good! One of my favorite things about travel is trying new foods. Love the looks of that juice!

  15. avatar Aggy says:

    Looks spectacular Pola! I love that they use so many avocado in their dishes. I was never a big fan of them but my Mexican friend introduced me to a new way of eating them (in Indonesia avocado is for dessert) and I love it every since!

  16. What could be better than potato patties stuffed with cheese? Everything looks and sounds delicious. I’ve never had the pleasure of sampling any Ecuadorian cuisine. I think I’ve been missing out on something!

    • I’m definitely a potato-and-cheese kinda gal! Other than that Ecuadorian food seemed really light and fresh – it’s now among my favorite types of cuisine.

  17. avatar Clare says:

    Ah I couldn’t even choose what I’d like to try most! It all looks amazing! I love posts like this – it’s as close as I can get to learning through food without actually eating anything!

    • These posts are hard to write when you’re back home and can’t have the food, haha… But luckily there’s an Ecuadorian restaurant in my neighborhood (I somehow didn’t know about it before my trip, go figure).

  18. avatar Brittany says:

    Love this post about your favorite foods in Ecuador. I have to agree, the fruit salad is one of my favorites too. It’s definitely worth get up for in the morning.

  19. avatar Andre Rahmer says:

    I really do like the soups in Ecuador but my favorite dishes are all made with seafood. Its just incredible fresh! Who could say no to a fresh made ceviche de pescado or encebollado…

    Are you not a fan of seafood?

    • Hi Andre. I’m a vegetarian, but Mr. JA would probably agree with you! By the way encebollado is a cool word in Spanish. :)

      • avatar Andre Rahmer says:

        Ah I see. That explains why there is no fish on your list :) I think its quite hard to be a vegetarian in Ecuador. I went through all my favorite dishes in Ecuador and they ALL include fish or meat haha.

        Whats your experience?

  20. One thing I love more that traveling to new places is eating! So this is a very interesting post for me. I hope you do more posts like these when you travel, those that cover local cuisine.