Bolones de verde are one of the most common snacks you’ll find throughout Ecuador.
You’ll find them sold on the street, in markets, bus stations, cafes and restaurants. But, my favorite are the homemade bolones you’ll find in grandma’s kitchen.
The below recipe is adapted from a simple recipe used by Michelle’s mom – an Ecuadorian native. Like many Ecuadorian dishes, it’s simple but takes practice to get right (I’m by no means a master).
What I like most about the simplicity of this bolones de verde recipe is that it gives you room to experiment. I love spice. Not just adding it as a sauce (aji) at the end, but throwing some chili into the mix itself. You can do a lot with the recipe once you get the basics right.
When I first arrived in Quito I was obsessed with humitas. Obsessed. I made it my mission to seek out the best humitas in cafes all over Quito. I still love them, but my tunnel vision meant I’d overlooked the bolon.
That was until I visited Manta and found myself wandering around in a local neighborhood that was not exactly tourist-friendly. There were a bunch of people lined up at a portable cafe eating something out of little plastic bags. Its popularity was promising so I asked what it was. After confirming (several times) that it didn’t have any meat, I grabbed my own little bag of bolon.
It was tasty and filling. I’ve since had much better bolones, but that first introduction sticks with me because it exemplifies what bolones really are – a tasty, simple, budget-friendly snack that can be enjoyed by everybody.
I made this video whilst I was in quarantine in Australia. Yep, I was visiting family in Australia when COVID 19 struck and I had to isolate in Australia away from Michelle and the kids. It’s been hard, but we are safe and very grateful.
The only ingredient that was a little difficult to find was plantains. Not every supermarket stocks them, but some fruit markets do.
The other main substitution was cheese. I would normally use a queso fresco for the filling, but I substituted that for whatever cheese in the fridge that would melt well. I used cheddar, but mozzarella would probably work better.
This recipe does not include pork or lard (for frying). These are common in many of Ecuador's bolones.
Peel the plantains and cut into 3 to 4 parts depending on the size of the plantain.
Peeling the plantains is the most difficult (and time consuming) part of making bolones. The greener they are, the more difficult it is to pry the skin away from the flesh. Use a knife to wedge out the skin. Cut out the remaining stubborn green bits. I keep my peeled plantains in water to keep them from browning whilst I prepare the others.
Once peeled, cut into 3 or 4 parts. You want the sizes consistent so they are evenly cooked.
Sidenote - we've included plantains in our fruits and vegetables of Ecuador article if you're interested in availability and prices.
Add salt to water and bring to boil. Add plantains and reduce heat to med-high. Cook until the plantains are soft enough to mash with a fork. Remove plantains from water and transfer to a bowl. Keep the salted water as you may need it later.
Mash plantains well until there are no lumps. Depending on the type of plantain used and how green it is, you may need to add a little water that you saved. Add in small amounts (ie 50 ml) and continue to mash until the dough is uniform and soft.
Add butter. The starting point is 1 tablespoon per plantain. But as each plantain is slightly different, add this tablespoon by tablespoon until the dough is ready. Taste and add more salt if desired.
The dough should be pliable but not sticky. When you make your first ball, the surface should be smooth and free of cracks. If it starts to crack, then it's too dry and will break apart when you fry it.
Dice onion very finely and mix to combine with dough.
Take a small handful of dough and roll into a ball. Use your thumb to make a large hole almost to the other side of the dough. Add grated cheese to the hole and cover up the hole.
You can also make an oval shape if you prefer (Michelle does).
Heat up your oil and cook on medium/high until the outside is crispy and the cheese is melted. I prefer to shallow fry mine, but you can also deep fry.
Turn this into a full breakfast by serving with a fried egg, chili sauce (aji) and a coffee.
Do you have a favorite bolon recipe? A favorite addition? Let us know in the comments.
If you've spent anytime in Quito or Guayaquil, you've come across Ecuador's chain of coffee shops, Sweet & Coffee. The chain currently has over 100 stores nationwide and has a Starbucks feel to it, even the colors have a passing resemblance. However, the pastries have kept to their roots with local treats like torta de choclo.
There's approx 27 Sweet & Coffee outlets in Quito. This is where I had my first coffee of theirs; it was in Mall el Jardín and I wondered if there were any more of these in town. Little did I know how popular they were.
With 48 locations in Guayaquil, you can barely walk a few blocks without coming across a Sweet and Coffee. This is where I'm writing this article. Michelle and I are on our way to Galapagos and have stopped over in Guayaquil for a night.
The map below shows the current locations of Sweet & Coffee throughout Ecuador:
This is my main reason for coming here. The coffee is good, predictable and cheap. A regular latte will cost around $2, which is pretty good value compared to some other coffee chains such as Juan Valdez. A summary of some of their coffee offerings are below:
Americano with milk
Flavored Cold Latte
They have a variety of tasty sweet and salty food options such as carrot cakes, three milk cakes, chochlo cake, coconut cheese cake. They range in price starting at $2.00 up to $4.00. You can also buy whole cakes for $15 (carrot cake), with most cakes around the $20-$25 range.
I am a sucker for founder stories as I appreciate how much effort goes into running and growing a business. There is a great interview with the founder Richard Peet below. One of Richard's previous ventures was running a nightclub appropriately called 'Coffee Club'. Surely a sign of things to come! Turn on English subtitles if you're having issues following.
Are you a Sweet & Coffee fan? Feel free to share your favorite go-to menu item in the comments below.
When we first visited Cuenca on our holiday / scouting trip, Michelle's mom told us we NEEDED to visit calle Las Herrerías. I had no idea why and honestly it just slipped our minds.
Then, we ended up staying at an AirBnB right by Las Herrerías and I'm so glad we did.
Why? The tortillas of course.
This little street is popular for two reasons. The first gives the street it's name - the blacksmiths and artisans that set up shop on what was the city limits. They strategically placed themselves here because they could be close to the farmers that were not allowed to take their livestock further into the city.
You can still find several iron workshops in action, selling handicrafts such as chandeliers and crosses to adorn newly built houses.
The popularity of the iron artisans gave way to the second reason to visit the street. The tourists that came to visit the artisans needed to eat and cafes selling local foods like tamales, humitas, bolones and tortillas sprung up along the street.
This is the reason I love Las Herrerías and why I think you should swing by.
The tortillas are fresh, tasty & cheap and the street has a cheerful, local vibe.
I'm so glad you asked. There's numerous different types. I've taken prices from Cafeteria Las Herrerías:
Tortilla de yuca
Yuca is a root vegetable. These are white, fluffy & tasty.
Tortilla de choclo
These corn based tortillas are dense and tasty.
Tortilla de maduro
Maduro is a ripe plantain, so these are sweet.
Tortilla de verde
Made from green or unripe plantains. These are not sweet.
Steamed corn cake served in corn leaf.
Sweet steamed corn with raisins
Savory steamed dough with a meat & veg filling.
Bolon de queso
Green plantain mixed with cheese, served as a ball
Bolon mixto (queso & chicharon)
Like above, but with pork too.
Platano con queso
Grilled sweet banana with cheese & butter in the middle
Almost identical to a bolon, but not rolled into a ball & comes with a fried egg.
We all have our personal favorites as you can see from the above picture. You can also see the aji, or mild chilli sauce in the middle. This is a common accompaniment for a lot of different foods in Ecuador.
You can of course get a range of different beverages, with the hot chocolate and juices being our favorites. I've included the various other menu items below including main dishes, but have to admit we don't normally have the mains here - as we generally just stick to snacking on this street.
Calle Las Herrerías is a 15 min stroll from Centro Historico along the Tomebamba River. The walk along the river itself is a treat and you can easily visit here after taking in the Ruinas de Pumapungo.
A bonus to be found on this street is a little shop that sells good quality coffee beans. It's about half way up on the right. They will sell ground coffee for about $4.30 / pound. But, if you ask for whole beans (granos) they'll take delight in whipping out a secret stash of higher quality beans and sell it for $5 / pound.
Do you have any other tortilla hot spots to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below. We are always on the lookout for tasty new cafes.