Eat Ecuador – EMPANADAS! – Ecuadorian style

Read about this series here: the Eat Ecuador Food Series

Traditional Ecuadorian Empanadas and What Sets them Apart from other Empanadas

All over Central and South America you’ll find empanadas – a stuffed starch filled with various ingredients that makes a great snack or meal. The name comes from the Spanish word ’empanar’, which means “enbreaded”. They were brought to the Americas by the Spanish, but each country has their own take on them.

In Mexico you might get the choriqueso empanada – a mix of spicy sausage and cheese.

In Venezuala, you might find the Pabellon empanada – filled with beef, beans, and a sweet-plantain.

In Cuba, the picadillo empanada usually has ground beef, raisins, and a tomato sauce.

In Argentina, a creamy chicken filling is often used.

I can probably find most of these varieties in Ecuador, but Ecuador also has their own version of the tasty treat.

Here are 4 of the most popular Ecuadorian empanadas.

Empanada de Viento

empanada de viento - wind empanada
Let’s start with the simplest, and probably the most popular.
These are easy to find – especially after school hours when vendors are frying them up on the streets for students.

In English, the name means ‘wind empanadas’. This is because they seem hollow when you tear them open, but really they are cheese empanadas. The shell is made from normal wheat flour, and cheese is sometimes incorporated with it. Other versions will have a dollop of salty cheese hiding in the corners. They are basically a fried cheesy bread.

It’s a really delicious snack, but I wouldn’t eat one for a meal. Ecuadorians will sometimes have them for breakfast along with a hot cup of morocho, a white maize drink.

Speaking of morocho…

Empanada de Morocho

empanada de morocho - corn empanada
The word ‘morocho’ refers to the same white maize that’s used in the drink. The corn is used to make the dough. It’s a pretty unique texture when it’s soft, but after it’s fried it goes very crispy. It reminds me of corn flakes, how when you eat them they can get stuck in your teeth. The filling is ground beef, rice, and green peas. Sometimes you’ll find a bit of carrot as well.

Traditionally, these are served up in bite-sized portions, but one of the more famous empanada cooks in Quito started making giant foot-long ones. Her name is Alicia, and she owned a simple stand on the corner of Ulloa street and Colon Avenue. As she grew in popularity, she expanded her operation into a restaurant. Even though she wasn’t located on Ulloa Street anymore, she kept the word in the name of her new shop ‘Empanadas de Morocho Ulloa’. 30 years since she first opened her stand, she’s still cooking up giant empanadas. Alicia is a real pleasant person to be around, so I highly recommend making the trip over to try her famous empanadas.

Empanada de Verde

verde de camaron - shrimp empanada
Ecuador is one of the best countries in the world for bananas. It’s their biggest export and they’re also quite good at using it in dishes. In this case, ‘verde’ refers to the green plantain, probably the most popular type of bananas used for cooking in Ecuador. The plantain is mushed up and made into a dough. It can be filled with a variety of items (often meat and cheese combos), but my personal favorite version is ‘verde de camaron’ – shrimp! Most of the bananas in Ecuador are grown on the coast, so it was a no-brainer to combine the best of the sea in this empanada. The verde outer coating adds a touch of sourness to the treat. I call it a treat, but this is no dessert. The banana isn’t sweet at all really. If you are looking for a dessert empanada… I’m getting good at segues!

Empanada de Mejido

empanada de mejido - custard empanada
A wheat flour dough that’s stuffed with cheese, raisins, brown sugar, and also a custard of sorts – a beaten egg with sugar and hot water or milk. The word ‘mejido’, I believe, refers to the making of the custard. It’s deep-fried and it’s very sweet and delicious. With a cup of coffee, you’ll be high-fiving random dogs and fist-bumping cats.

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The Music in this video is produced by Clueless Kit and performed by Eric Reprid. You can find the song “Blitz”, “Blind Eyes”, and their other great music on their Soundcloud pages: Eric Reprid -and- Clueless Kit