Locro de Papa is a classic Ecuadorian soup consisting of potatoes, cheese, and a special spice called achiote or annatto. The soup is very popular in Ecuador and is eaten more often in the Andes Mountains. I enjoy the soup as a main course but, in Ecuador, it is often served as a side to the main meal. A typical Ecuadorian meal consists of three courses with a soup such as Locro de Papa serving as the first course.
My first Locro de Papa experience
The first time I tried Locro de Papa was in Ecuador’s capital city of, Quito. We were visiting the country as part of a small gay tour group with the Galapagos Islands as our main destination. But we spent a few days in Quito before heading off on the big Galapagos adventure. We went to a restaurant located near the popular Plaza Foch called La Petite Mariscal, which serves a mix of French and traditional Ecuadorian foods. I decided to do a traditional Ecuadorian three-course meal for dinner and Locro de Papa happened to be part of it. It was a match made in heaven, as I think I happily ate gallons of the soup during my one-month stay in Ecuador.
Locro de Papa: What makes it different?
Typically, Locro de Papa is made with a specific variety of starchy potato that breaks down nicely into the soup. However when you’re making this soup at home, you can use any potato you like. The easiest potato to find is Russet and it’ll do nicely. Aside from the type of potato that is used in the soup, the main ingredient that distinguishes this potato soup from others is achiote. Also know as annatto, this spice comes from the seeds of the achiote tree. It adds an earthy flavor to soup with hints of pepper and nutmeg. The spice gives the soup its yellow to light orange color.
You’ll likely find achiote at any Latin American grocery in the United States. It’s sold in small packets which are easily ripped open when you use it. If you can’t find achiote then a suitable substitute involves turmeric, paprika, and nutmeg. The exact measurements are noted in the recipe below. It won’t give you the exact flavor but will get you fairly close and give your soup the appropriate color.
Locro de Papa | Ecuador
- 1 tbsp olive oil, or oil of your choice
- 1 whole onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp achiote (annatto) powder
- 6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled or shredded mozzarella
- Sliced Avocado
- Crumbled Queso Fresco
- Fresh Cilantro
- Aji sauce (hot sauce)
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook until almost soft, about 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, cumin, and achiote to the pan. Allow to cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Onions should be soft as this point.
- Add the potatoes to mixture and mix to coat them. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the water. Water should just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- Using a potato smasher, mash the potatoes. Don't overdo it. The soup's consistency should be creamy with chunks of potato.
- Turn the heat down low, stir in the milk, and cook for approximately 5 more minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the cheese until melted.
- Serve the soup with sliced avocado, crumbled Queso Fresco, Fresh cilantro, and/or Aji sauce
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* Learn to make Ecuadorian Colada Morada, a delicious purple holiday beverage!
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