Taste the sweetest side of Quito with its traditional desserts
Quito is famous for its cuisine, its exquisite flavours reflected in iconic dishes like mote con chicharrón (hominy and fried pork belly), empanadas de morocho (meat-filled turnover) and yaguarlocro (goat soup). But, if you’re really looking to enjoy the local food, don’t forget an important cornerstone of Quito’s cuisine: desserts and sweets.
pristiños (fried pastry) and dulce de higos (fig preserves in spiced syrup), two of the capital’s traditional desserts that are served up in several restaurants and huecas (small cafés), particularly in neighbourhoods like La Ronda.
Another traditional dessert is helados de paila, ice cream made from a creamy natural jelly with an intense fruity flavour that is prepared in a bronze paila (pan) that rotates on ice with salt. You can try ice creams in places like the ice cream parlour Dulce Jesús Mío, which serves up more than a thousand unique and exotic flavours including the traditional colada morada (a traditional drink), caca de perro (sweet corn), café con humita (corn masa with cheese) and more. Another establishment, Helados de Paila de Pomasqui, offers more than 80 varieties: 11 traditional ones like mora (blackberry) and guanábana (soursop); 10 seasonal ones like borojó and arazá (types of fruit); and more than 60 gourmet ones that are made to order like chicha de jora (traditional fermented drink) and perejil (parsley); another option, the Heladería San Agustín, the oldest restaurant in the city’s historic district, has been serving traditional dishes for 165 years.
Espumilla, a combination of egg whites, fruit pulp and sugar, is a favourite dessert of young and old alike. Traditionally made with guava, today the varieties are endless and include flavours such as banana, strawberry, passion fruit, soursop and more. The historic district is home to many places that serve this drink, and you can also find it in markets and squares on weekends.
Colaciones, a round, white sweet made with sugar and peanuts, delight the palates of everyone who visits the city. Colaciones de la Cruz Verde, near Plaza de San Francisco, is one of the establishments that have been making these sweets by hand the longest using a recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation.
Quesadillas, a kind of pastry made with eggs, flour, water, sugar and the unique touch of achira starch, have become another favourite dessert for their delicate flavour and texture. Quesadillas de San Juan still makes their quesadillas using the original recipe and cooking times in a traditional brick oven.
Quito’s monasteries and cloisters also serve up ancestral dishes, the nuns preparing delicacies such as pure bee honey, delicados (a type of biscuit), other types of biscuits, empanadas, and a range of natural products.
Travelling to Quito, walking its streets, learning about its history and marvelling at its biodiversity is always highly recommended. And experiencing it with a sweet in your hand is even better!