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  • Writer's pictureElise

Cook Book Club: May's ingredient is Achiote Powder. The country: Ecuador!

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

This year we are doing things a little differently. Instead of simply an ingredient, we are highlighting entire cultures. Kits will include this ingredient, a recipe that highlights it, a little history on the ingredient or recipe, maybe some insight into the culture and some best practices. All recipes are from writers native to the country covered. I'll post the recipes and information here as well, so let's get cooking!


A Brief History of Ecuador and Its Cuisine

Ecuador's history reaches back into the mists of time, with a number of smaller indigenous groups holding its land for thousands of years until the Inca, originating in what is now Peru, overcame them and stayed until the Spanish in the 1500s, and eventual independence in the 1800s. What this means for the cuisine is that much of the food is heavy in potatoes, fish, yuca, rice, beans, shellfish, and plantains, with decent reliance on the introduction from Europe of chicken, beef, and pork. Of the often mixed cuisine of South American, Ecuador is one of the truest to its roots. Even its delicacies are rooted in their indigenous history with, and I apologize for those with Americanized sensibilities, guinea pigs being considered one of the top celebration foods. I am told it tastes like a cross between duck and rabbit.


Main Event

Locro de Papa

(Ecuadorian Potato & Cheese Soup)

Adapted from Laylita's Kitchen for use by the Brown Deer Library Cookbook Club


  • 10 medium sized potatoes peeled and chopped into small and large pieces

  • 2 tablespoons oil

  • 1 white onion diced

  • 2 garlic cloves minced

  • 2 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp achiote powder (aka annato powder)

  • 7 cups of water

  • 1 cup of milk or more

  • 1 cup grated or crumbled cheese quesillo, queso fresco, mozzarella or monterey jack

  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves only, minced

  • Salt to taste

To serve:


  1. Prepare a refrito or base for the soup by heating the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot; add the diced onions, minced garlic cloves, cumin, and achiote powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.

  2. Add the potatoes to the pot and mix until they are coated with the refrito. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring a every couple of minutes.

  3. Add the water and bring to boil, cook until the potatoes are very tender. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes in the pot, don’t mash all of them, the consistency of the soup should be creamy with small tender chunks of potatoes.

  4. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the milk and let cook for about 5 more minutes. You can add more milk if the soup is too thick.

  5. Add salt to taste

  6. Add the grated cheese and cilantro, mix well, and remove from the heat.

  7. Serve warm with the avocados, scallions, queso or feta cheese and aji hot sauce.

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