Llapingachos: Traditional Ecuadorian Potato Pancakes

Llapingachos (pronounced: yah – peen – GAH – chos) is often referred to as the ‘potato pancake of Ecuador.’ It’s one of Ecuador’s most popular dishes.

 Llapingachos originated in the mountainous regions of this South American country.

Simple and delicious, llapingachos is an easy dish to make. It’s crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Everyone will be begging for more!

Read on to find out more about this delicious dish!

What are Llapingachos?

Llapingachos are a traditional Ecuadorian dish made with potatoes, onions, cheese, and spices. Boiled potatoes are mashed, shaped into patties, and stuffed with cheese. Then, the patties are cooked on a griddle. These potato patties can be eaten at any time, with any meal. You can add a fried egg on the top for a well-balanced breakfast. Or you can eat them with sausages and some avocado slices on the side for a filling lunch.

Llapingachos are commonly served with a savory tomato-onion salad. You can also put some aji on the side of your plate or drizzle it on top of the patties.

Aji is a spicy sauce that South American dishes can’t live without. It’s made using the various strains of Peruvian aji chili peppers.

The most popular version is the one that includes fresh, creamy cheese in the center. It’s often served with fried onions.

The Origins of Llapingachos

The name ‘llapingachos’ has a Creole origin. It comes from the Kichwa word ‘llapina.’ It’s loosely translated to ‘to crush into a soft mushy consistency.’ This dish dates back to pre-Hispanic times.

Nowadays, you can easily find llapingachos in restaurants, as well as the local markets and food fairs.

How to Make Llapingachos

Ecuadorian Dish Llapingachos
Ecuadorian Dish Llapingachos

Two main ingredients give llapingachos their unique flavor: Papa Chola and achiote oil.

Papa Chola

Before we make llapingachos, let’s get acquainted with the famous Papa Chola: The magic ingredient that gives this recipe its mouth-watering flavor.

This type of potato is known for its red-skin and yellow, creamy flesh.

It’s quite firm when raw. But when you cook it, Papa Chola quickly turns soft and mushy.

Achiote Oil

One main component of llapingachos is achiote oil

This type of oil can be found at nearly all Latin American grocery stores or you can buy achiote oil on Amazon.

If there’s a large grocery store near you, you can find it in their international food section.

When all else fails, you can use achiote seeds instead. They’re also known as annatto. Simply saute 2 tablespoons in 1 cup of good quality olive oil.

When you notice the olive oil begins to turn bright orange or deep yellow shade, it’s time to remove it from the stove. Turn off the heat and strain the oil in a sieve. Place it in an air-tight jar for later use.

Now, let’s get cooking!

The following ingredients should make about ten medium-sized llapingachos. If you prefer, you can make them smaller. This will yield more servings. Plus, that small size would be perfect as appetizers.

Ingredients

  • About 2 pounds of Papa Cholas
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, chopped and diced
  • Half a block of Queso Fresco, farmer cheese, or Monterey Jack.
  • Achiote Oil
  • Vegetable oil or lard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparations

Here’s how to make llapingachos step-by-step.

Step 1: Boil the Potatoes

First, chop the potatoes into quarters, then place them in a large pot of salted water.

Bring the water to a boil. Cook the potatoes on low heat until they’re tender. It should be ready in around 30 minutes.

Step 2: Saute the Onions

While the potatoes are boiling, place a pan with about 1 tablespoon achiote oil on medium heat. When the oil heats up, place the diced onions in the pan. Cook the onions until they’re soft and golden in color.

Step 3: Combine the Potatoes and Onions

Once the potatoes are done, drain them. If you haven’t peeled them, now is the time to do so. Next, mash the potatoes to a smooth consistency and add the sautéed onions.

Mix the potatoes and onions until they’re well combined, then add salt and pepper to taste. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set aside. It should stand at room temperature for about an hour and a half.

Step 4: Add the Cheese

The next step is to cut the cheese into quarter-inch cubes and add them to the potato mixture.

Step 5: Make the Patties

Slightly wet your hands to avoid the potatoes sticking to them. Form a ball about the size of a lemon in your hands.

Flatten the ball into a patty; each patty should be a quarter-inch thick. Place the patties on a baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until they’re firm to the touch.

Heat a griddle or skillet on the stove. You can choose lard to pan-fry your llapingachos or use vegetable oil. When the lard/vegetable oil is hot enough, place the patties in the griddle.

Fry the patties for around 2 minutes on each side. You’ll know it’s time to flip them over when they start turning a nice golden color. Also, the cheese will get soft and warm.

It’s best to serve llapingachos immediately. You can also keep the patties warm in the oven if you’re going to serve them later.

Llapingacho Cooking Tips

Making Llapingachos
Making Llapingachos

The secret to getting llapingachos just right is to keep at it. The more you make this dish, the better you’ll be at perfecting it.

Try these fool-proof tips to get your llapingachos looking and tasting amazing!

Pick the Right Potatoes

If you don’t have access to Papa Chola, you can use Russet potatoes. You can also use any other type of potato with high starch content.

Some chefs use Yukon gold potatoes, but they tend to get too mushy if you’re not careful.

Let the Mixture Rest

Allow the potato and onion mixture to rest for no less than half an hour before making the patties. The longer they set, the more they’ll keep their shape. After shaping the patties, let them sit for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Flip the Patties Once

Avoid flipping the patties over too many times. Use that first patty as a test to see how long it takes each side to get to a crispy, golden-brown finish.

Different Ways to Enjoy Llapingachos

Llapingachos Traditional Potato Pancake from Ecuador
Llapingachos Traditional Potato Pancake from Ecuador

The truth is, llapingachos taste delicious no matter what you pair them with.

Another reason why they’re so popular is that they can be eaten at any time during the day; breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Here are some of the many delicious ways to eat these famous Ecuadorian potato patties. 

  • As an appetizer, a la carte
  • Covered with a creamy peanut sauce (salsa mani)
  • As a garnish for roast beef, or other meat dishes
  • Topped with a tomato and onion salad
  • With a sliced avocado on the side, lettuce leaves, and pickle relish (curtido)
  • With a fried egg on top
  • With chorizo sausages on the side

A Final Note

Llapingachos Dish from Ecuador
Llapingachos Dish from Ecuador

Llapingachos is easy and quick to make. It’s a meal packed with nutritious flavors.

The best thing about llapingachos is that it could be anything you want it to be.

You can enjoy it as part of a wholesome breakfast, filling lunch, or hearty dinner.

The history and origins of llapingachos also seem to boost its flavors somehow.

Knowing that they form a part of the Ecuadorian culture makes them taste that much more delicious.

Hungry for more traditional Ecuadorian dishes, check out Encebollado, Ecuador’s Classic Fish Stew.

And for all your Latin food needs, shop our Ecuadorian food section for fresh ingredients and products.

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