Ecuador: Llapingachos (Stuffed Potato Pancakes)
I make no secret about my love of potatoes, from latkes to papas a la huancaína. I’m back with yet another South American take on the humble tuber – this time from Ecuador. It’s time we talked about llapingachos.
Llapingachos are kind of similar to Cuban papas rellenas, which I am more familiar with. Papas rellenas are mashed potato balls, stuffed with meat and/or cheese, and deep fried. Llapingachos are mashed potatoes, shaped into patties and filled with cheese, then flattened and cooked (or fried) in a skillet. I mean stripping it down to the basics we’re talking potatoes and cheese here. What could possibly go wrong?
I spoke about it on Instagram when I was making these, but I made an important (to me) edit to the recipe I was following. Too many South American recipes don’t include garlic! I added it into my Peruvian huancaína sauce and I added it into the mash here. It took the flavor to the next level and I’m not sorry about it. So these may or may not be traditional, but I maintain that they are delicious.
What have I got for you in today’s history section? Well, not much. Historians don’t exactly know when llapingachos came to be, but we do know about the potato. The potato is native to the Andes Mountains in South America. It has been cultivated since antiquity, long before colonial times. Llapingacho itself is a native Quechua word that combines “llapin” (to smash) with “gacho” (fried). So perhaps as long as potatoes have been growing in the highlands, Quechua were smashing and frying them. However llapingachos came to be, I’m glad they did. Fried onions (and garlic, in my case) mixed with potatoes? Heaven.
The one problem that I had while making these was sourcing achiote powder. Achiote (also called annatto in stores) is a ground-up seed that is used as a coloring and flavoring agent. It has a subtle, earthy flavor that is only present in large quantities of the spice, so I substituted it with turmeric. If you have achiote on hand, by all means use that, but I found that the turmeric worked in a pinch.
As I mentioned in my Peruvian post, Latin America cuisine gets a reputation of being meat-centric. But thanks the the humble potato, there are a wealth of vegetarian-friendly recipes to be found. These are traditionally served alongside meat but can be dressed with a simple avocado, tomato, and leaf salad to keep it vegetarian. You could even top it with aji amarillo to spice it up and keep things interesting! Whatever you serve these llapingachos with, I hope you enjoy this time-tested recipe. Until next time, here’s to good drinking, great eating, and even better living!
- 3 lb Russet potatoes
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (divided)
- 1/2 yellow onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tsp ground achiote or turmeric
- salt (to taste)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain and then mash. Set aside to cool.
- In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp of the oil over medium high heat. Sauté the onions until fragrant and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté about another minute until fragrant. Take off the heat and stir in the achiote or turmeric. Salt the filling to taste. Mix in with the potatoes.
- Scoop some of the potato and onion mixture into your hand and form into a ball. Make a depression with your thumbs and open it slightly. Fill the opening with cheese and seal the potato over the cheese before flattening with your hands into a pancake. Repeat until all of the potato mixture has been used.
- Heat the remainings Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the pancakes in shifts, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Be careful about flipping them too much as they will be delicate. Allow to dry on a paper towel-lined plate, then serve with your choice of toppings and enjoy!
- This recipe is adapted from the one found here. I recommend this blog for exploring more Ecuadorian cuisine!