A Veggie In… Ecuador
Ecuador may not exactly be a gourmet paradise, but it’s an easy place for vegetarians to travel. Here are some tips to get you started…
The cheapest option for a meal in Ecuador is usually an almuerzo– a set lunch consisting of rice, beans, chips, salad, soup, plantain, and/ or some type of meat (usually chicken). Vegetarians and vegans can simply ask for an almuerzo without meat. A couple of warnings, however:
Sin carne means “without meat”, but “carne” sometimes just refers to mincemeat. So a meal containing chicken could be still referred to as “sin carne”. It’s best to also add “soy vegetariano/ vegetariana” (“I’m a vegetarian”), and to ask exactly what you’re getting. Here’s a list of the word you’ll need when ordering an almuerzo:
Pollo = chicken, carne = meat/ mincemeat, sopa = soup, vegetales = vegetables, ensalada = salad, frijoles = beans, platano = plantain/ banana, arroz = rice, queso = cheese (some soups may contain cheese).
Be sure to ask whether the soup is vegetarian/ vegan. I once asked for just chips and salad, which came with a bowl of soup on the side. I put my spoon into it to check for meat, and lifted out an entire chicken foot!
Restaurants in Ecuador will usually have a vegetarian option or two, though they aren’t very exciting- be prepared to overdose on pizza and vegetable lasagne. Vegans may have to shop around a bit more to find suitable options, but in larger towns and cities they will find their needs met.
Breakfasts usually aren’t included in hostels and guesthouses, but cheap and tasty breakfasts can be picked up in restaurants or local diners. These usually consist of toast, fruit, eggs, yoghurt, and coffee, and so are perfect for veggies.
Snacks/ street food
While grilled meat is sold on nearly every street corner, veggie and vegan snacks are harder to come by. One common option, however, is a grilled plantain (but be warned, this will be cooked on the same grill as the meat).
Empanadas are a popular option in Ecuador. These are pastries filled with meat or cheese. If you’re used to the tasty empanadas from other South American countries, then prepare to be disappointed- the cheese in Ecuador is usually of the bland Andean variety. Also, it may contain rennet, an enzyme from a cow’s stomach.
A popular route in Ecuador is trekking along Quilotoa loop (which I highly recommend!). Guesthouses along the way include breakfast and dinner in their room prices, and have no problem catering for vegetarians and vegans. Breakfast is usually fruit, bread, yoghurt, and maybe pancakes. Dinner is often the usual suspects of rice, beans etc. Soups make a welcome light meal while trekking in the cold, and most restaurants and guesthouses will have vegetarian and possibly vegan options (popular ingredients are potato, quinoa, and, of course, bland Andean cheese).
And that’s it! Ecuador won’t exactly set your tastebuds alight, but rest assured you won’t have to struggle to find a suitable meal.