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What's a Seco? Seco de Pollo, Carne, Chivo in Ecuador

Posted in: Ecuador Food, Ecuador Travel

secodechivocuencaecuadorOne of the cultural dishes you’ll find on most menus in Ecuador is the seco.

Have you tried it?

I’ve tried a few different kinds, and I like them all.

What’s a Seco? Seco de Pollo, Carne, Chivo…

A seco is a stewed meat dish, usually served with rice, a few pieces of avocado, some fried plantain, maybe some beans, and a small salad. It’s delicious!

There are a number of different kinds of seco: chicken, beef, lamb and cow stomach. A restaurant will usually serve a few different kinds on the same day. The only kind I haven’t tried is cow stomach. I’m not a fan of cow stomach. And I’m not really sure if it is a true seco, but we’ve been offered it as one.

Translation:

  • Chicken = Seco de pollo
  • Beef = Seco de carne
  • Goat = Seco de chivo
  • Cow Stomach = Seco de guatita
  • Lamb = Seco de borrego or seco de cordero

Seco is usually an inexpensive and filling option. It’s very flavorful and the meat is tender because it’s been stewed.

secodechivoinecuador

We find it funny that this dish is called a seco because in Spanish seco means dry, but the meat is served with the stew sauce. We asked a friend why they are called secos, and she said it’s because they are made with a mix of dry seasonings.

As with most Ecuador food secos are not spicy, which I like because I don’t like spicy hot food. It usually comes with a side of hot sauce, and sometimes some popcorn.

My favorite seco is the lamb meat seco. Where I had it, it was called seco do chivo (which actually means goat) but we were told they made it with lamb. It has a unique flavor, slightly different than the beef.

seco-de-chivo-ecuador

secodechivocuencaecuador

Here is a wonderful looking recipe (I haven’t tried it yet) for the lamb seco. There are lots of other great Ecuador food recipes on that site as well, enjoy!

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Your Turn

Have you tried this traditional dish? What did you think? Please share by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

12 comments… add one
  • John Birkett Jan 23, 2017, 10:31 pm

    Sounds unbelievable but seco although is dry in Spanish comes from the time that the English where in the Ecuadorian coast drilling oil with Angloecuadorian Oilfields in the early 1900, as people in the coast eat as first plate a soup ( not the best thing in over 40 degrees climate) the newcomers use to ask for the SECOND plate usually meat of some sort, so that’s why in time got distorted to SECO de something meaty. Is the same with bistec (normal plate of meat throughout Ecuador) guess what? got its name from beef steak. Plenty of very local distortion of English words are common in Ecuador.

  • diana Jan 25, 2015, 3:30 pm

    Im from ecuador and for future references its only called “guatita” not “seco de guatita’ and it is not a ‘seco” (: i personally not like it but who knows you might enjoy it!

  • Judith Moy Jan 2, 2015, 9:12 am

    Is it easy to be vegetarian in Ecuador? The seco recipes look divine but I’d prefer the dish without the “meat” component. I could easily live on avocado, rice, beans and plantains! Thank you.

    • Bryan Haines Jan 2, 2015, 12:16 pm

      Easy in Ecuador but not that easy if you want to eat out. There are some vegetarian options in the cities but they are almost non-existent in the small towns.

      There is abundant fresh produce options – all inexpensive.

  • Emily Jan 2, 2015, 6:26 am

    Good stories; wonderful recipe, too

  • maurice pittet Jan 1, 2015, 12:12 pm

    Nice to hear, in this age of denatured, GMO and pesticide/fungicide/chemical fertilizer “foods’ that some parts of the globe still have food as Nature intended.Hope it will last in this upside down world where ‘natural’ has to be legislated/protected from the predatory likes of Monsanto and industrial agri-commerce.

    • Bryan Haines Jan 2, 2015, 7:26 am

      While that would be nice, Ecuador isn’t much different than Canada or the US. Pesticides are used almost everywhere. A few months ago, we wrote about the organic food myth that some expats perpetuate in Ecuador.

  • Luis Gomez Jan 1, 2015, 10:39 am

    This is a story about seco I know: At the beginning of the 20th century oil was discovered in Santa Elena, Ecuador. So an English company was hired to extract it, this was the Anglo Company. They established a camp that soon became know as Ancon town (Ancon= ANglo COMpany). People from Santa Elena was hired by the English for doing chores like cooking.

    A lunch in Ecuador usually includes two dishes: a soup and the main dish or “Segundo” (second dish).

    English didn’t like the soup because it was hot and Ancon is a hot place (it is located near to the beach with a temperature over 30 degrees Celsius) so they asked for then”second”.

    The most common second prepared was the goat meat stewed (goat is an animal that is easily found in Santa Elena).

    As the English asked for the second, the natives started to call that dish the “second of chivo” and later because of the local pronunciation it became the “SECO” of chivo.

    I don’t know if this story was true but it sounds logical and credible, doesn’t it?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 1, 2015, 11:10 am

      Great story! Thanks Luis.

    • Isabel Jan 1, 2015, 3:09 pm

      The Anglo petrol company hired my grandfather as a diesel mecanic and my father was born and raised in Ancon 1937. To this day his favorite dish is Seco de pollo and Seco de chivo.
      Now as an adult, my kids and I went to live to Ecuador in Santa elena a few years doing volunteer work and have come to love seco. I learned to make it and my kids and foreign friends love it.

  • Louis-Marie Ste-Croix Jan 1, 2015, 9:56 am

    Cannot say I did
    My favorite when we visited the coast near Manta on the malécon where the expats meet on Saturday afternoon at # 16 I believe ?
    Linguini Alfredo con Ecuador Camarones, magnifico!!!!!

  • Ralph Sabean Jan 1, 2015, 8:05 am

    I’ve tried a couple traditional Ecuadorian recipes and though their chicken is very good, I tire of it because it seems people want it nearly every day. I am very glad I came to Ecuador this year because I love the fresh fruit and vegetables that are not yet Americanized or Canadianized They are not full of pesticide and cross breeding that weakens the overall taste of these cuisine delights. The meat is extraordinary is taste and texture. These products are not too mass produced or if they are it must very well cared for farms and no byproducts added to the Beef , Chicken or even fish from farms like in Canada. They are misused so we get antibiotic enhanced Fish. Beef we get with Cow diseases if from large slaughter houses. Pork we get with some kind of disease from feeding left over animal parts and the common Chicken flu. All in my opinion are caused by what they are fed and where they are raised. You can’t expect cows , pigs, chicken and fish to be healthy if kept in boxes that place them at very close proximity so disease spreads indiscriminately. Animals that have lived for thousands of years on plants should not have meat introduced into their diet and it should be banned by law. Ecuador has it way over these countries in Fruit, Vegetables, Meat, and Fish . Fish from the ocean in the wild are still good in Canada and the US. Meat and fruits grown locally in small establishments are still excellent as well. I have totally enjoyed my three month excursion to Ecuador so far and we still have a few weeks left.

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