Encebollado, Ecuador’s Classic Fish Stew

As a foodie, that first thing that caught my attention when I started learning Spanish was the cuisine.

 There are 21 Spanish-speaking countries, and each one has a fascinating cuisine each with represented with a tasty national dish.

I went through different recipes, from Spanish churros to Peruvian ceviche, and finally the Ecuadorian Encebollado. It’s without a doubt one of Ecuador’s most famous foods.

It’s a fish stew, with onions and a bunch of tasty ingredients.

In this article, we’ll go through all the details of the famous Encebollado.

What Is “Encebollado”?

Encebollado Soup
Encebollado Soup

The word itself is Spanish, and it literally translates to “onioned,” but the recipe doesn’t have that much onion in it.

I think it got its name because onions are usually on top, so it’s the most visual ingredient. Encebollado is the Ecuadorian national dish.

Encebollado is made of fresh tuna, onions, yuca, and a bunch of spices, along with the secret ingredient: cilantro. However, there are different variations for the soup that we’ll go through.

What caught my attention is that the Ecuadorians eat this soup for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Any time is a good time for a bowl of Encebollado!

I wanted to know when it all started, and I found out that the first Encebollado ever was cooked in a boat’s kitchen, in the middle of the sea.

The fishermen needed food. They had water, fish, onions, and so was the Encebollado, the most famous coastal soup in Ecuador.

How Can I Make Encebollado?

Traditional Ecuadorian Encebollado Soup
Traditional Ecuadorian Encebollado Soup with Chilfe Chips

Now without further ado, let’s get to the point and learn how to make Encebollado. This recipe is rich in spices, but it’s not spicy at all.

The ingredients are suitable for 4 to 6 people, and it takes around 90 minutes to be ready. It’s all cooked in one pot, so fewer dishes to be done. Perfect!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of cut fresh tuna
  • 1 pound of peeled and cut yuca
  • 2 tbsp of sunflower oil
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 2 tsp of paprika
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 8 cups of water
  • 5 chopped cilantro sprigs
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Recipe

  • Get a large pot and heat the oil
  • Add the onion, tomato, cumin, and paprika
  • Stir the ingredients for 3 or 4 minutes, but make sure not to fry them; we only need them to be sauteed
  • Add the water and cilantro
  • Raise the heat to boil
  • Add the chunks of yuca
  • Reduce the heat and let the yuca cook for 15 to 20 minutes
  • Now add the tuna and simmer the ingredients for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tuna and yuca are cooked
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Serve into colorful soup bowls and Bon Appetit

Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Encebollado

Ecuadorian Encebollado Soup and Chifles
Ecuadorian Encebollado Soup and Chifles

Knowing the recipe and ingredients is never enough to cook a meal. I prefer looking through the tips and tricks of how to make it.

There are always things to keep in mind, and knowing them ahead can spare you endless times of trial and error.

Tuna

The recipe requires fresh tuna, however, you can always go for canned tuna to save some time. Eventually, they both taste fine, but I prefer fresh tuna since it’s healthier.

Moreover, you can use other fish instead of tuna, like salmon for example.

Yuca

Yuca, Cassava Root
Yuca, Cassava Root

When it comes to yuca, I always prefer a fresh option. However, it’s not always accessible everywhere.

Keep in mind that if you’re getting frozen yuca, it’ll take more time to cook (from 30 to 40 minutes.)

If you’re able to find fresh yuca, then there are some things to be aware of.

Make sure you peel it well to remove any pinkish layer under the brown one. Also, when you’re cutting it, remove the stringy core.

Some people would cook the yuca, then set it aside, remove the core, and add it to the final soup.

It’s one way to do it, but I think it takes more time than just cooking everything together.

Spices

The recipe states you should use paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper, right? But who says you can’t add more?

Feel free to add the combination of spices that you prefer, for all I know it’s your soup.

Cilantro

Change whatever you want, but please don’t change the cilantro. This is the main ingredient in the Encebollado. It’s commonly used in most dishes in Ecuador, and you can always add celery or parsley to it if you please.

Other Ways to Cook It

The Encebollado is a delicious soup, and it has more than one variation so that you can customize it to your taste.

The Vegan Encebollado

My brother is vegan, so sometimes we need to look through variations to “veganize” the meals. Luckily, this was easy to do with the Encebollado.

The soup itself has vegetables and spices that are suitable for vegans, so changing the tuna won’t be that huge of a difference.

The idea here is that you’ll cook your soup as per the recipe, minus the tuna. You can also add some chickpeas with the yuca.

The Chicken Encebollado

This variation is suitable if you don’t like sea-food, or if you want some change in your soup.

You’ll need to get 2 pounds of chicken and cut it into chunks. Then you should marinate them and cook them in a hot pan with oil. The chicken will start turning white and then a bit golden; that’s how you know they’re done.

After that, go through with the regular Encebollado recipe and add the cooked chicken in the end.

What Goes with It?

Encebollado can be served with different toppings, so you can cook one pot, and eat it in more than one way. I like that because just one different topping can change the taste entirely.

In addition to that, if you’re inviting some friends over, it’s always nice to make all the toppings and let them choose what they prefer. Don’t worry, they’re all easy to prepare.

Pickled Onions

Pickled onions go with different dishes in Latin cuisine. Here’s what you’ll need to make them.

Ingredients

  • 2 sliced red onions
  • Juice of 3 or 4 limes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Recipe

  • Put the sliced onions in a large bowl
  • Cover them with boiling water
  • Leave them for 15 minutes
  • Drain the onions and rinse them with cool water
  • Add the lime juice, salt, and pepper to the onions
  • Refrigerate for 3 hours or more before eating

Chifles

Chifles, Plantain Chips
Chifles, Plantain Chips

Chifles are banana or plantain fried chips. It’s a famous snack and it only takes 15 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients

  • Green bananas or plantains
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Salt

Recipe

  • Peel the bananas or plantains
  • Slice them into thin slices
  • Heat the oil, then deep fry the slices
  • Make sure you fry a few at a time so as not to stick together
  • When they have a golden color, remove them from the oil
  • Let them drain on paper towels
  • Add salt to taste

Cancha

Maiz Cancha Peruvian Corn
Maiz Cancha

Cancha or corn nut is one of the toppings served with the Encebollado. It’s a popular snack in Ecuador and Peru, and it’s very tasty. You can buy corn nuts, but there’s always a way to make them at home, and it’s quite easy.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of maíz chulpe
  • 3 tbsp of olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of salt

Recipe

  • Heat the oil in a large pan
  • Add the chulpe and cover the pan as if you’re making popcorn
  • Shake it every now and then
  • When the chulpe pops and turns into a golden color that’s your cue to turn off the heat
  • Add salt for taste

Note: Sometimes, you can use popcorn. Yes, you read it right. I was astonished when I found out that popcorn is used as a topping for the Encebollado.

Final Thoughts

Ecuadorian Encebollado Stew with Shrimp
Ecuadorian Encebollado Stew with Shrimp

That was all on the Ecuadorian Encebollado. It’s healthy, it’s tasty, and you can eat it any time of the day.

It can be customized to your own taste, and you don’t have to go to Ecuador to enjoy a bowl of Encebollado. Will you try it any time soon?

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