Encebollado: Fish (Tuna) Soup in Ecuador

Posted in: Ecuador Food, Ecuador Travel

Encebollado with yucaWhile living abroad one of the most common questions we are asked by locals and people thinking of moving to Ecuador is “do you like the food?” and “what’s your favorite dish?”

Bryan, Drew and I really like the food here in Ecuador.

I especially like that it’s not “hot” (as in spicy hot) and that it is very flavorful. Fresh cilantro is used in many of the traditional dishes, it adds a delicious flavor that I was not used to back in Canada. Most of the food is served with a small portion of hot sauce (known as ají – pronounced: a-he), so if you want to spice it up you can.

Encebollado – A Family Favorite

One of our favorite dishes is encebollado. Encebollado is a fish soup made with tuna fish, yuca, cilantro and pickled onions.

Encebollado with plaintain chips and popcorn

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was to hear what the soup was made of before trying it, I would not be all that excited about it. But when it all comes together and you add that squeeze of lime, it’s delicious! It’s served with crunchy plantain chips, toasted corn and/or popcorn. The flavors and textures make for an amazing dish.

Falling In Love With Encebollado

A friend of ours makes encebollado for a living and he invited us over one day to try it. I didn’t know what encebollado was so I didn’t have any expectations other than thinking that I would probably like it. I’m not that fussy about food and I like trying new things. Well, when I tried it, I loved it! I mean I really loved it. I had never tasted anything quite like it before. And now I’m hooked.

Encebollado with yuca

In Ecuador, encebollado is eaten at any time of the day, breakfast, lunch or supper. It has a unique flavor and it seems I’m always in the mood for it.

English Encebollado Recipe

I found a recipe in English while writing this post and I can’t wait to try making it myself. You can use potatoes in place of the yuca and you can use caned tuna if you can’t get it fresh. Please go to Laylita’s Recipes blog to find the instructions for making encebollado.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fresh tuna
  • 1 lb yuca, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbs sunflower oil
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 cups of water
  • 5 cilantro sprigs
  • Salt to taste

Ordering Encebollado

If encebollado is on the menu, I usually order it. I choose encenbollado at Los Cebiches de la Rumiñahui over pizza (Pizza Hut) or burgers (Burger King) in the Mall del Rio food-court in Cuenca (that’s where the pictures in this post were taken.) They only serve it on the weekend, so keep that in mind if you are on the hunt for some encebollado at Mall del Rio. Many other traditional restaurants serve it all week long.

Encebollado topped with popcorn

It’s good to remember that encebollado is also served as an onion salad. So when ordering it at a restaurant you might want to ask about it if the menu does not indicate whether it is a soup or salad.

Important note: Don’t forget the squeeze of lime, it makes it soooo much better! (It just might have you saying “Qué rico!” which means “how rich,” or “how delicious.”)

Have you tried encebollado? What did you think of it? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Since moving to Ecuador in 2009, Dena and Bryan have made their living as bloggers. Dena is a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for Canadian travel brands. She is a contributor to Bryan Haines and is co-founder of Click Like This - a photo tutorial blog.

19 comments… add one
  • Valeria Aug 17, 2015, 12:45 am

    Hola, soy de Ecuador, el encebollado es rico, el plato popular de los Ecuatorianos, si tienes hambre y comes encebollado te vuelves a comer otro plato, por si acaso es muy nutritivo, y no engorda.

  • Jimmy Rugel Aug 5, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Vivo en Ecuador y realmente es un plato muy exquisito, gracias por los comentarios.
    En Ecuador comemos mucho el Atún y se lo pesca bastante adentro en el océano, no creo que sea contaminado porque todos viviríamos enfermos y existen muchos ancianos

    • Bryan Haines Aug 5, 2014, 8:07 pm

      Gracias Jimmy! Lo comemos una vez a la semana – al menos!

  • Joyce Uzcategui Jan 22, 2014, 9:59 am

    I was inspired by Dena’s comments on this great soup, so I tried Laylita’s Recipe that you referenced. It was delicious. I can’t wait to taste the “real” thing in Ecuador. I just started a blog as I get ready for the move to Ecuador and to get practice learning the blogging process. I am still a novice. I did reference your blog and the soup. Hope you don’t mind.

  • A. Gee Jan 9, 2014, 9:16 am

    I have had Encebollado soup twice & each time was disappointed. This soup contains tuna, & tuna is meant to be eaten rare or raw, as in sushi or sashimi. When tuna is overcooked, it is tough. I can only chew it, but cannot swallow in Encebollado because it’s too tough. However, Ecuadorians are the experts in soup – their variety of soups is amazing, & I have not had another soup I did not like.

  • Terry Andrews Dec 11, 2013, 9:44 pm

    We loved eating that soup but we ordered it with shrimp. We would go about 11:30 in the mornings and get it fresh and hot. If we waited much later there would be a long line and chance of running out because of it’s popularity. When we get back there permanently I am going to learn to cook some of those wonderful dishes.

  • Ted Donohue Oct 21, 2013, 10:32 am

    Para-medical advice sounds a bit far to the Left. Some people would like control the very day of their death…or yours.

  • mcooks Oct 11, 2013, 2:47 pm

    I love that you posted about this dish! We usually eat a vegetarian version when we come across it, but haven’t tried the traditional one with fish, but will try it next time we’re out and about. Also, I’m glad that you referenced Laylita’s website. I have found some of the most useful Ecuadorian recipes there.

  • Alba Gee Sep 29, 2013, 8:40 am

    I apologize for sending a question on vaccinations on the encebollado page. Still figuring out this web site.

  • Alba Gee Sep 29, 2013, 7:59 am

    Hello. We’re coming to Deleg near Cuenca at the end of October for 3 months to do volunteer work where there’s a greater need. Vaccinations are very expensive in the US. Is it possible to get the yellow fever and rabies and hepatitis and any other vaccination in Cuenca for less? We do plan to cross the border over to Peru for a short stay in the back thank you.

  • Frank Barnes Sep 27, 2013, 8:50 pm

    Sounds great! I’m sure making it here in the states would not taste anything like it does there.

  • Rachhel Sep 27, 2013, 3:06 pm

    Hiya, I have been planning on coming to South America backpacking around February, very excited! I do have some concerns though, one of them being that I am a strict vegetarian, no meat fish, bi-products ect.. I was wondering how a vegetarian might get on out there? ANY advice will be great thanks.

    • Bryan Haines Sep 27, 2013, 4:55 pm

      There are some places that serve vegetarian dishes but this isn’t a very common lifestyle here. Meat plays an important role in the diet. You can get vegetarian pizza. While you may have more options at some of the higher end restaurants, the average food stall won’t sell many meals without meat.

    • Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac. Sep 27, 2013, 5:21 pm

      Rachhel, I am in same boat as you are. Have been in Cotacachi (Imbabura) for about 2 weeks. Rare most places I think but in this town there is actually a vegetarian restaurant (Bhakti) open only for lunch. There are couple other places that have veg options on menus but by and large, restaurant menus are centered around meat and fish. Look for hostels to stay in that have kitchen available and just eat your own cooking! There is an great mercado here and little tiendas are all over, at least in this town, selling tropical fruit and some veg and you can get both dried beans and also same (frijole types) that are fresh and take only about 30 min boiling at 8000 ft to cook. You can eat very very well indeed w/ a little creativity and ingenuity. In the mean time, cram in all the Spanish language skill you can accumulate as it will make everything much easier. You will likely have a wonderful time and grand adventures!

  • Maureen Douglas-Fernand Sep 26, 2013, 10:07 am

    I absolutely agree! Encebollado is one of my favorite things to have when I go to Ecuador.. it is a great bang for the buck as well!!! Your blog makes me hungry!

  • Robert Badgett Sep 26, 2013, 9:25 am

    I agree. We recently spent three weeks in Ec and I ordered encebollado at every opportunity. I quickly learned to not order anything else because the bowls were so large. A great meal in a bowl! I will try your recipe soon. I think I’ll sub potatoes for yuca, though.
    The only competition was Locro so I ate lots of soup in Ecuador.

  • Geoffrey Levens, L.Ac. Sep 26, 2013, 8:40 am

    I do hate to rain on a great parade but feel duty bound as an alt.medical practitioner. Fish of all types has become quite polluted. Of very high concern is heavy metal accumulation up the food chain. How/why this is the case is a very long story but suffice to say, Tuna is near the top of the list for mercury which is potent neurotoxin and immunosuppressant.

    http://www.epa.gov/hg/advisories.htm

    I have actually seen people who were very symptomatic and required chelation therapy to regain their health and their only know exposure was frequent consumption of tuna. YIKES! right? I love fish myself but really almost never eat any because of what I know about this.

    And I do apologize from being the Cassandra on this post. I am a foodie from way back…

    Geoffrey

  • Valentine dumoulin Sep 26, 2013, 8:35 am

    Hello you 2
    Hes i saw the soup it does look delicius ,pero no se ,,,gusto la comida but i will try when we get there

  • Jim Morgan Sep 26, 2013, 8:33 am

    Looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it when I return in November……….

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