A traditional Ecuadorian dish, such as a bowl of potato soup, served on a table.

The Culinary Wonders of Quito, Ecuador

by | Culture, Ecuador, Food

Delicious Foods to Sample in the Capital of Ecuador

Nestled high in the Andean foothills lies Ecuador’s capital, Quito, a city rich in history, culture, and most notably, an extraordinary array of gastronomic delights. The culinary landscape of this vibrant city presents a unique fusion, seamlessly blending the indigenous cooking traditions of its people, the colonial influences from Spanish cuisine, and the modern flair of international gastronomy. This results in a tantalizing tapestry of flavors, sure to captivate even the most discerning palate. As you venture into the bustling markets, local eateries, and elegant dining rooms of Quito’s culinary scene, prepare for a sensory immersion unlike any other. Here, each dish is not merely a meal, but a narrative of the city’s rich cultural heritage. From the most traditional food staples that have sustained populations for centuries, to the innovative dishes born of a modern, global perspective, Quito’s cuisine tells a story of resilience, diversity, and a deep-rooted love for food. So, take a moment to savor the journey as you explore the culinary wonders of Quito, a gastronomic paradise waiting to be discovered.

ecuador ceviche

Ceviche Ecuatoriano

No culinary journey in Quito is complete without sampling the renowned Ceviche Ecuatoriano. This iconic dish, famous for its unique blend of fresh seafood marinated in a tangy citrus concoction, distinguishes itself from its Peruvian counterpart with a soupier consistency – an enticingly refreshing version that truly epitomizes the innovative spirit of Quito’s gastronomic scene. The seafood used varies, with shrimp, octopus, and various types of fish often making an appearance, their delicate flavors harmoniously melding with the zesty marinade. It is typically served with crunchy tostados (toasted corn nuts) or chifles (thinly sliced and fried green bananas). These accompaniments add a delightful contrast of textures to the dish – the crunch of the tostados and chifles impeccably balances the soft, succulent seafood, creating a symphony of flavors and textures that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. Furthermore, the dish is usually garnished with red onions and cilantro, adding an extra pop of color and a hint of earthiness that further enhances the overall dining experience. A true testament to the incredible diversity and creativity embodied in Quito’s cuisine, the Ceviche Ecuatoriano is a gastronomic marvel that every food enthusiast must try.


As you meander through the bustling local markets traditional restaurants of Quito, one dish you’re bound to encounter frequently is Hornado, a cherished traditional Ecuadorian culinary masterpiece. This isn’t just a dish; it is amazing food that’s a testament to the Ecuadorian love for painstakingly slow-cooked, flavor-packed food. Hornado is a dish where pork is the star of the show. The pork is marinated and slow-roasted to perfection, resulting in succulent, incredibly tender, and flavor-infused meat that melts in your mouth.

But the magic doesn’t end there. Hornado is usually accompanied by llapingachos, a type of potato pancake that’s both crisp and soft, adding a beautiful textural contrast to the dish. There’s also mote, or hominy, a type of dried maize kernels that have been treated with an alkali, and then boiled and ground, offering a delightful, slightly nutty taste. And let’s not forget the small salad, usually composed of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, which adds a refreshing, crunchy element to the dish, perfectly balancing out the richer components.

Locro de Papa

Locro de Papa, a staple in Quito’s culinary landscape, is not just a dish, but a delicious cultural tradition that embodies the soul of Ecuador. This creamy, hearty potato soup is more than its basic components suggest. Each ingredient contributes to creating a thick, creamy concoction that is both warming and satisfying. The primary ingredient, as the name suggests, is papa, or potato. These are boiled and mashed into a velvety consistency, forming the base of the soup.

What elevates Locro de Papa from a simple potato soup to a culinary celebration is the garnish. Traditionally, it is adorned with a generous amount of local Ecuadorian cheese, which melts into the hot soup, adding a rich creaminess that balances perfectly with the starchy potatoes. But the garnishes don’t end there. Locro de Papa is typically served with slices of ripe, buttery avocado, which adds a delightful contrast with its cool and creamy texture.

Another key component that sets this dish apart is aji, a local hot sauce made from tomatoes, cilantro, and fiery aji peppers. It’s served on the side, allowing diners to customize the heat level to their preference. A dollop of this vibrant sauce enhances the dish, adding a delightful kick that cuts through the creaminess of the soup, creating a flavor experience that is simultaneously comforting and exciting.

Empanadas de Viento

Finally, no gastronomic journey through Quito traditional food, would be truly complete without savoring the delectable Empanadas de Viento. Directly translating to ‘wind empanadas’, this local delicacy is a must-try, and is as unique and intriguing as its name suggests. Larger than your typical empanada, these oversized pastries are a hallmark of Quito’s street food scene.

Crafted with precision, Empanadas de Viento are made by folding a doughy exterior around a heart of cheese, creating a perfect balance of textures once they’re cooked to perfection. The crispy, golden-brown crust harbors a meltingly soft, creamy filling, resulting in a harmonious blend of crunchy and soft textures with every bite.

But the experience doesn’t end there. True to local customs, these empanadas are often dusted with a sprinkling of sugar just before serving. This seemingly odd combination of savory cheese and sweet sugar might raise eyebrows, but one bite will have you marveling at the ingenious culinary prowess of the Ecuadorians. The sugar not only adds an unexpected sweetness that contrasts beautifully with the savory cheese, but it also gives the empanada an enticingly caramelized finish.

Pan de Yuca

Renowned throughout Latin America for its delightful taste and texture, bread made from yuca flour and cheese stands as an iconic symbol of the region’s culinary heritage. This unique bread is the result of the innovative amalgamation of yuca flour and cheese, forming a delectable treat that is enjoyed across various Latin American cultures, albeit, in different shapes and forms.

In Ecuador, these small and scrumptious cheesy bread rolls are fondly known as pan de yuca. Their presence is ubiquitous throughout the country, where they are typically consumed as a hearty breakfast item or savored as an appetizer, dessert or snack, paired perfectly with a hot beverage or a tangy dip.

One of the most delightful characteristics of pan de yuca is the contrast in textures. When fresh out of the oven, the exterior of the bread hardens into a slightly crunchy crust, while the interior remains wonderfully soft and spongy. This delicate balance between the firm crust and the gentle, fluffy interior is what makes every bite of pan de yuca a culinary experience to remember.

To add to its charm, the process of baking transforms the cheese blended within the dough into pockets of melted delight, further enhancing the taste and texture of these bread rolls. When sliced open, the steaming hot, molten cheese oozes out, making the experience of devouring pan de yuca truly memorable.

Starting your day in Ecuador with a warm, fresh batch of pan de yuca promises a comforting, delicious, and truly authentic Latin American culinary journey.

Street Food

Quito’s food scene extends beyond the confines of the kitchen and onto the vibrant streets. Here, you can sample popular dishes like salchipapas (French fries topped with hot dog slices) and bolon de verde (green plantain stuffed with cheese). Experiencing Quito’s street food is an adventure in itself, promising delicious discoveries at every turn.

Fine Dining

For those seeking a more elevated dining experience, Quito offers an array of fine dining options. Zazu, popular amongst locals and tourists alike, presents a creative menu that expertly blends traditional Ecuadorian ingredients with international flavors. For a truly unique experience, make a reservation at El Pobre Diablo, where the unique flavors of the Amazon are presented in a stunning atmosphere.

Quito, the charming capital of Ecuador, boasts a food scene that is a delightful fusion of tradition and innovation, offering an extensive variety of dining experiences to cater to every palate. The city’s gastronomic landscape is as diverse as its cultural heritage, with a mesmerizing mix of local delicacies and international cuisines at your fingertips. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant street food scene, brimming with tantalizing aromas and flavors, or indulging in the sophistication of elegant fine dining establishments, a trip to Quito promises to be a remarkable culinary adventure. From succulent seafood stews to mouth-watering empanadas, the culinary offerings are as diverse and captivating as the city itself. So, on your next trip, let your taste buds embark on an exciting journey of discovery, savoring the culinary delights that Quito has to offer.

If you will be heading to Bogotá, Colombia, be sure and check out our article on the twelve foods to try there!

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