This Llapingachos Recipe from Ecuador makes a dozen of cheesy Ecuadorian Potato Pancakes! Made with potatoes, sautéed onions, and stuffed with queso fresco, these babies are the perfect potato patties!
Serve with Ecuadorian Peanut Sauce and a zesty onion salad to take them to the next level! More serving options below.
I’m starting off 2023 with some Llapingachos ⎯ HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Of course, the first recipe of the year had to be Ecuadorian!
I have been wanting to show you guys how to make these Ecuadorian Potato Cakes for a while now because they’re cheesy, easy to make, only call for 4 ingredients, and they’re DELICIOUS!! Also, you can make them ahead of time (I usually make these the night before and fry over the following 2 days),
PS: I recommend serving these with tons of Salsa De Mani (Ecuadorian Peanut Sauce) but below are more serving ideas!
What Are Llapingachos?
Llapingachos (yah-peen-gah-chos) are basically potato cakes made with a mix of mashed potatoes and sautéed onion, and stuffed with cheese.
You want to use some type of queso fresco for these. Depending on where you live, you might find different types (I use queso Manaba which is a type of queso fresco).
What to eat with Llapingachos
- Salsa De Mani. Here‘s the recipe. This is a savory peanut-based sauce that’s creamy and velvety and packed with flavor. Please try it with your llapingachos because it really does take them to the next level. I also love this over regular boiled potatoes and cheesy yuca tortillas!!
- Curtido salad. This is a simple salad made with red onion, tomatoes, and lime juice. It’s very refreshing and zesty and it brings freshness to the dish!
- Fried eggs.
- Chorizo of your choice. Bacon also works if you have that on hand. Or you could totally skip this and go for a vegetarian meal, you honestly don’t *need* meat, this dish is pretty filling!
- Ecuadorian Rice and Beans (Menestra). My go-to dinner ever since I moved to Ecuador, you can add a few llapingachos to the side for extra deliciousness!
Ecuadorian Llapingachos Ingredients
Potatoes. I recommend using the starchiest ones so your llapingachos will hold their shape nicely without being too soft or crumbly. Russet are your best options in the USA but you can make any type of potato work if you have to, you’ll just need to be extra careful and gentle when assembling and frying.
Onions. I’ve seen people use both white and spring onions for llapingachos so either will work.
Achiote oil or vegetable oil. Achiote oil is basically vegetable oil infused with achiote (annatto) spice. You can get achiote oil in your local Latin grocery store or stick to the ground version (use it like every other spice). The taste is very mild but earthy and it’s mostly used to add some color to the dish. If you can’t get your hands on achiote you can skip it and just use vegetable oil instead.
Cheese. You want to use queso fresco for this recipe for best flavor. That’s what you’d use in Ecuador. I like Queso Manaba which is a type of queso fresco made in the north of the country. It’s nice and salty and brings some character to your llapingachos. Any queso fresco will work though. You can find queso fresco in your local Latin grocery store or even your regular grocery store if they carry specialty products.
Butter or oil for frying. I like to fry mine in butter because extra flavor but you can also use vegetable oil or even margarine, lard, or chorizo/bacon grease.
How to make cheesy potato pancakes Llapingachos
STEP ONE: Boil the potatoes. Simply add the potatoes to a large pot with salted water and allow to come to a boil. Cook until done. A good way to check for doneness is to insert a knife in the center of one of the potatoes: if there’s no resistance, meaning the potato is tender, and it slides off your knife very quickly, they’re done. Remove them from the pot and place them in a bowl.
STEP TWO: Saute the onions. Add the oil to a skillet over medium heat and allow the oil to heat before adding the onion. Season with salt. Allow to cook until softened. If you’re using achiote oil or achiote powder, your onion will turn bright yellow/orange like mine!
STEP THREE: Make the llapingacho mixture. Mash your potatoes until smooth then add the sautéed onions to the mashed potatoes. Season with more salt, if necessary (you can taste the mixture, everything is cooked!). Allow the mixture to come down to room temperature before moving onto the next step or it’ll be harder to work with texture-wise.
STEP FOUR: Assemble the llapingachos. Form the mixture into 12-13 balls, then make an indent in each ball and stuff with crumbled queso fresco, then form into a patty. Make sure the cheese isn’t coming out of any of the patties or it will melt and burn when they’re cooking.
STEP FIVE: Chill in the refrigerator. While this step may seem inconvenient, I highly recommend doing it for at least 15 minutes because it helps the llapingachos to keep their shape and “harden up” a bit. These babies are very soft and there’s no extra “glueing” agent such as eggs or flour to keep them together so chilling helps them hold their shape better, making the next step easier.
What I usually do is make a bunch ahead of time and then cook them over the following two days for dinner, lunch, breakfast, etc. This way they’re already ready to be cooked and can add them to any dish!
STEP SIX: Cook. I recommend using a cast-iron skillet for these so they can get perfectly crispy on the outside but a regular skillet will also work. You can use butter, margarine, oil, lard, or chorizo/bacon grease to fry these. It’s up to you, really. I usually use either butter or chorizo/bacon grease, depending on what I’m making. These all add extra flavor but oil would be healthier lol.
Can I make these ahead of time?
Yes! This is what I like to do, usually.
There’s 2 ways you can go about this: you can boil the potatoes and then store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 days and then follow the recipe from step 2, or you can chill the prepared llapingachos (step 5) overnight or up to 2 days, and cook them when you’re ready.
I like to make a bunch of llapingachos ahead of time and then store them covered in the refrigerator and fry them over the following 2 days.
How do I store and reheat them?
You can store your cooked llapingachos covered or in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days and reheat them in a skillet until hot. I recommend using a skillet for reheating because it’ll keep the outsides nice and crispy.
HAPPY COOKING FROM THE EQUATOR!! I hope you’ll love this Llapingachos Recipe or Ecuadorian Potato Pancakes as much as I do!
PS: Please leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating ⭐️ if you make it! Your comments make my day!! You can also tag me on Instagram @itsdamnspicy 🌈💘
More Ecuadorian Recipes you’ll love:
- Pan De Yuca (Ecuadorian Cassava Cheese Bread)
- Ecuadorian Rice And Beans (Menestra Recipe)
- Chicken And Yellow Rice (Arroz Con Pollo)
- Rosca De Reyes Recipe (Ecuadorian Three Kings Cake)
- or check out all of my Ecuadorian Recipes!
- 3 lb (1.3 kg) potatoes (preferably high-starch potatoes such as Russet, peeled and cut into chunks)
- 1 tbsp achiote oil or vegetable oil (if you can't find achiote oil, you can get achiote powder here instead, add the ground achiote to the potatoes when mashing them)
- 1 white onion (minced)
- 1 cup (140 g) queso fresco (I like Queso Manaba but any queso fresco works)
- Butter, oil, margarine, lard, or chorizo/bacon grease (for frying)
- Boil the potatoes. Add the potatoes to a large pot with salted water, place the pot over high heat and allow to come to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until done (about 10-15 minutes). To check for doneness, insert a knife in the center of one of the potatoes: if there's no resistance, meaning the potato is tender, and it slides off your knife very quickly, they're done. Drain the potatoes and place them in a bowl.
- Saute the onion. Add the achiote oil or vegetable oil to a skillet over medium heat and allow the oil to heat. Add the onion and season with salt (if you're using achiote powder, add it in now). Saute until softened (about 3-4 minutes). If you're using achiote oil or achiote powder, your onion will turn bright yellow/orange. Once the onion has softened, turn off the heat.
- Make the llapingacho mixture. Mash your potatoes until smooth then add the sautéed onions to the mashed potatoes and mix. Season with more salt, if necessary. Allow the mixture to come down to room temperature before moving onto the next step or it'll be harder to work with texture-wise.
- Assemble the llapingachos. Form the mixture into 12-13 balls, then make an indent in each ball, fill it with crumbled queso fresco, then form into a patty. Make sure the cheese isn't coming out of any of the patties or it will melt and burn when cooking.
- Chill in the refrigerator covered or in an air-tight container for at least 15 minutes or up to 2 days.
- Cook. I recommend using a cast-iron skillet for these so they can get perfectly crispy on the outside but a regular skillet will also work. Add butter, margarine, oil, lard, or chorizo/bacon grease to the skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 llapingachos to the skillet and fry for 1-2 minutes or until browned, then flip and fry for another 1-2 minutes or until browned. Be very gentle when working with your llapingachos because they're extremely soft.
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