Food and Cooking in Cuenca, Ecuador – Part 3

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Ecuador | 1 comment

Well, so far we’ve covered some of the challenges of food shopping and cooking at the high altitude for those of us who live here in Cuenca, Ecuador.

The good news with all of this is that I have had to learn to be more innovative and creative with my cooking style and recipes.

For those of us who are retired we most likely have tried and true recipes we have prepared for special occasions in the States for many years. So now we are pushed a bit further to experiment not only with improvising our old recipes but also to try new recipes and even dishes that are more indigenous to the country we now call home.

Selections from the Mercado

I have mentioned that the market and Mercado selections of many products are very different from what we are used to in the States.

Indulge in indigenous foods
Indulge in indigenous foods

I am going to give you some basic information about some of the fruits and vegetables that we are used to eating and their availability. I am also going to try to give you something of an idea about some of the fruits and vegetables that are more indigenous to this area.

There are far too many to address specifically how they are used in cooking here and of course, the recipes can vary widely.

I am also going to try to pass on to you an idea of some of the fruits and vegetables we have at home that may not be found here. Hopefully, this will help you to know more about what to expect and also what pieces of your favorite cookware you might want to bring with you or leave at home.

Assortment of fruit
Assortment of fruit

Ecuador’s weather consists of microclimate zones, basically subtropical, with a steady amount of rainfall all year which makes it ideal for growing many varieties of fruits and vegetables.

There is always an abundance of apples, bananas, pineapple, watermelon, oranges, lemons, limes, grapes, and grapefruit.


Strawberries are a bit seasonal but available off and on all year.

To that, we can add the more tropical varieties of mangos, papaya, plantains, guava, babaco, chiramoya, pitajaya (my personal favorite), and mora berries. And the list goes on from there.

Endless variations of recipes

You will quickly see how the possibilities for creating new dishes can become endless. Fruit smoothies are very popular here as well as desserts that showcase the beauty of the many exotic fruits. What may be missed that we are able to get in the States are some of the other types of berries we are used to seeing available seasonably, however, I have seen blueberries also at the market.

They also don’t have as many varieties of apples; Granny Smith and Gala seem to be seen the most. However, with the many choices available it is easy to substitute and I might add the flavors are incredibly vibrant and fresh. And the prices are even better.

 Plenty of vegetables

Vegetables are also in high supply. Plenty of lettuce, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, leeks, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocados are available all year round.

A wide selection of peppers is always on display, as well as the more exotic choclo, romicia, pelloro, melloco, and yuca to name a few.

Garlic (ajo) is used in many dishes and can be found in bulbs, minced, pureed, and peeled. I have yet to find chard or spinach. There are not as many choices of the types of squash that we are accustomed to seeing in the States either. Pumpkin is rare to find as well as our traditional orange yams, both missed at Thanksgiving time as well as russet potatoes for mashing.

As a final note, I think the best way to find out how the many types of local fruits and vegetables are used in cooking is to ask the locals or even google for recipes that include them. We also compare recipes with other expats who are brave enough to try. I hope you will enjoy experimenting. Stay tuned for my last Food and Cooking blog in this series. I will address some essential spices and herbs and other food items.

Please leave us your comments and as usual…Bienvenidos!

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