Food Facts
Ecuadorian women preparing food in the highlands of Ecuador
Food in Ecuador - a plate of trout, yuca chips and salad
Fruit in a market in Ecuador
Vegetable market in Otovalo, Ecuador
Traditional bread babies and purple drink

Ecuadorian food is generally simple but tasty.  Look out for typical dishes in the different regions of Ecuador.

Ecuador Food Facts

Ecuadorian food varies across with country with delicious regional specialities and different typical dishes in the sierra and the costa.  Food in Ecuador is generally simple but tasty and rarely spicy.  You'll usually find chilli sauce ("ají") on the table, so you can add as much spice as you like.  Rice is served with almost everything, including potatoes and many breakfast dishes.  Soup is almost obligatory at lunch time and is often packed with beans, pasta, vegetables and grains such as quinoa or barley.
Ecuador's food does not have a great reputation, but in fact there are a range of delicious traditional Ecuadorian dishes which you should try on your way around the country.  "Comida típica" translates as typical local food, refers to the traditional dish of the area and is worth looking out for.  In reality, the typical everyday dish in many rural restaurants is rice and chicken (or chicken and rice, for variety....) The diet can seem monotonous if you don't make the effort to ask around for the more interesting traditional dishes of Ecuador.
Breakfast in Ecuador can be quite substantial, for example chicken stew and rice, especially in rural areas where manual labourers need energy for a hard day's work.  Tourist breakfasts of juice, eggs, bread, etc. are usually available in hotels and on the "gringo trail", or you can improvise with bread and yoghurt from the bakery and fruit from the local market.  Encebollado (seafood and onion soup) makes an unusual alternative breakfast and is renowned as a great hangover cure.
Lunch is usually the main meal of the day in Ecuador.  Set lunches ("almuerzos") are available almost everywhere from Monday to Friday and are often great value at as little as $1.50 for a tasty and filling lunch (around $3.50 and upwards in the Galapagos Islands).  A typical almuerzo consists of a fruit juice, soup, and rice with chicken, meat or, occasionally, fish.  If you are a non-vegetarian, on a tight budget and open to trying new things, you should definitely go for the almuerzo, though you will probably want to top up your vitamin intake later.  Almuerzos are harder to find at weekends and in tourist areas.  See the veggie food page for tips if you plan to follow a vegetarian diet in Ecuador.
Evening meals for many people in Ecuador consist of coffee and bread or one of the many traditional but time-consuming recipes such as humitas (ground corn steamed in leaves with sugar and cheese to a sponge-like texture), quimbolitos (much the same but squidgier) and various other similar but slightly different steamed things.  All very nice, providing that someone's grandma has had time to prepare them for you, but they don't fill you up much and there is not a vitamin in sight.  
You may not have much choice of Ecuadorian evening meal, however, since many restaurants close after lunch or in the very early evening, especially in small highland towns or cold cities such as Ibarra and Riobamba, which are virtually moribund once it gets dark.  Larger or warmer towns and tourist areas are more likely to have restaurants open in the evenings.  If you are off the beaten track, fill up at lunch time and carry some nutritious snacks just in case!
Nutrition in Ecuador
Despite Ecuador being a fertile country full of many different types of salad vegetable, it's rare to get more than a token sliver of tomato with an Ecuadorian meal unless you specifically ask for salad.  Please keep asking, we are on a nutritionally educational mission here!  Malnutrition is an issue in Ecuador, even in rural areas full of fruit and veg., mainly due to lack of knowledge.  Please help by requesting vegetables or salad if you are presented with just chicken and rice, and praising establishments which do provide vegetables.  
If you spend much time off the beaten track in rural Ecuador, you may need to take vitamin tablets, or shop in local markets for carrots (zanahorias), avocadoes, radishes (rábanos) or tomatoes (tomates) to snack on.  (Of course, you will wash them in boiled or bottled water, and peel with your trusty penknife where relevant).  Fruit can be surprisingly hard to find in small rural villages - you are perhaps supposed to have your own fruit trees - and may be available only once a week from the fruit lorry.  See the tropical fruit of Ecuador page for a glimpse of the treats which might be available.

Ecuador Food Facts
Typical breakfast, lunch and dinner in Ecuador.  Tips on finding the best food in Ecuador.  Ecuadorian dishes and recipes.  Fresh food from local markets: tropical fruits and vegetables of Ecuador.