Food in the Galapagos: 7 Must Try Dishes 

When you think of the Galapagos Islands, it’s probably the archipelago’s wildlife diversity and its links to Charles Darwin that come to mind, rather than its culinary offerings. But this remote destination boasts an enticing gastronomy that draws heavily on the seafood from its surrounding waters. It is also influenced by the traditions of Spanish, Andean, and Amazonian cuisines that have all left their mark on Ecuador’s tastebuds.

Scattered across both sides of the equator, the Galapagos Islands lie around 550 miles off the coast of Ecuador and became part of the country after it emerged as a sovereign state in 1830. They lie at the heart of one of the most abundant marine ecosystems in the world and encompass a diverse range of landscapes that include lushly vegetated highlands and arid volcanic terrain.

The isolation of the Galapagos Islands might lead you to believe that its culinary offerings are lacking and that meal times take a back seat to wildlife encounters. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, with an abundance of delicious dishes awaiting that draw on local ingredients and unique flavors.

In this guide, we'll introduce seven of the top dishes to keep an eye out for while enjoying the incredible scenery, gorgeous beaches, and abundant wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.


Traditional Arroz Marinero seafood dish in the Galapagos in a big cast iron pan ready to be served


1. Arroz Marinero

Arroz marinero is the Galapagos Islands’ most famous rice dish and makes for a hearty lunch or dinner. It consists of various shellfish such as clams and mussels, which are combined with vegetables and infused with their flavourful juices. Yucca, onion, and plantains are common additions, as are avocado and chili.

Once cooked, this delicious mix is served over rice that has been infused with garlic, pepper, coriander, and achiote, a spice that is extracted from seeds of the achiote tree and gives the dish a reddish tinge. In some restaurants, you’ll find an extra special version of arroz marinero made using camarones (shrimp).


2. Seco

While many of the Galapagos Islands’ dishes focus on seafood, this is one for meat lovers. But it’s not the choice or cut of meat that makes the dish what it is but the flavorful and fragrant sauce. Chicken, lamb, beef, and even goat can be used to make seco, with the meat and sauce served over rice, usually with a side of fried plantations and/or slices of avocado. Seco is not only filling but it’s also widely available across the islands and is usually a cheap eat.


Ecuadorian Encebollado fish stew topped with pickled onions and tomatoes


3. Encebollado

It’s impossible to talk about food in the Galapagos Islands without mentioning encebollado, which is considered the national dish of Ecuador. It is found throughout the country’s coastal regions and is thought to have been inspired by the Basque dish of marmitako.

Encebollado is a thick, fish-based soup that is often served up at breakfast time by local vendors. That being said, it is equally popular at lunch or dinner. In addition to fresh albacore tuna, it features boiled cassava, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. It is sometimes served with a side of plantain chips and garnished with lime juice, chilis, and cilantro.

Amongst locals, encebollado is lauded as an effective hangover cure, although we can’t verify if that claim has scientific backing!


4. Arroz con menestras

While the Galapagos Islands aren’t renowned for having a lot of traditional vegetarian dishes, this one is a great option if you’re after a meat or seafood-free meal. Arroz con menestras is like a lentil stew, although it often features other types of beans as well. The pulses are cooked with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, as well as cumin and cilantro, with all of the flavors being absorbed into the stew.

In addition to rice, arroz con menestras is often served with patacones (fried plantains), slices of avocado, and salad. In some restaurants, you’ll also find non-vegetarian options with a side of roasted or fried meat.


Seafood soup in a white bowl with red lobster


5. Langostino Encocado

The Galapagos Islands are famed for their red and green spiny lobsters, which are combined with coconut milk to create this mouthwatering dish. Hint: if you see any dish with the word “encocado”, it means “cooked in coconut”. Garlic, onions, ginger, and peppers are used to enhance the flavor, as are orange and lime juice.

If you love langostino encocado and want to try Galapagos lobster in other forms, keep an eye out for lobster gratin, garlic cream lobster, and lobster with caviar and pink sauce on restaurant menus.


Three ladies eating a seafood and rice dinner with a side of broccoli on the beach in the Galapagos Islands


6. Ceviche

Ceviche is found throughout Central and South America and is traditionally made using fresh, raw fish that is cured in citrus juices and accented with a hint of chili. In the Galapagos Islands, you’ll find traditional fish ceviche and versions made with shrimp, crab, squid, and octopus, as well as locally caught lobsters.

But the archipelago also has a completely unique take on this beloved dish where canchalagua (star mollusk) is the star of the show. Canchalagua features a round, black shell and has a flavor that is not unlike clam but with a texture that more closely resembles octopus. The mollusk is combined with onions, peppers, tomatoes, and lemon juice to create a ceviche like no other.


Bowl of cooked shrimp with garlic and a lemon wedge


7. Sopa marinera

Translating as “seafood soup”, this traditional and warming dish is found throughout the Galapagos Islands, although the recipe can differ slightly from restaurant to restaurant. It really is a meal in itself and is sometimes more akin to a stew than a soup.

Sopa marinera usually features clams, shrimp, crab, and locally sourced fish that is cooked in a broth flavored with onions, tomatoes, and ground peanuts. White wine, bay leaf, and cilantro are usually added to the mix, as is achiote and a little bit of flour to thicken it.

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