Ecuadorian churrasco is a traditional dish made with steaks, grilled or sometimes fried thin steak in a onion and pepper mix, topped with a crispy fried egg served with rice, French fries, ripe plantains and salad.
Most people know churrasco as a grilled thick cut of beef, very popular in Brazil, where they have specialty restaurants called churasqueiras, as well as in Argentina and Uruguay where churrascos are part of the popular asados or parrilladas.
Ecuadorian churrasco is sort of the poorer cousin of the Brazilian, Argentinean and Uruguayan churrasco. It was originally made with a thin cut of steak (though these days you can find variations with thicker steaks). It actually refers to an entire plate of food composed of beef , either grilled, or sometimes fried with onions and peppers, topped with fried egg(s). Served with the mandatory side dishes that consist of French fries, rice, fried ripe plantains, a small salad, avocado slices and hot sauce.Jump to Recipe
I used to think that this dish was unique to Ecuador. However I then discovered that variations of this steak and eggs dish are popular in other Latin American countries. For example, in Colombia, they call it bistec a caballo (translates as steak on horseback). In Peru, they call it lomo a lo pobre (translates as poor man’s steak). In Uruguay, they have a sandwich version with steak and egg called Chivito.
Even in Ecuador we have different variations of this dish. In the Sierra or Highlands it’s more common to have a simple seasoned steak, fried or grilled, then topped with the egg. In the Coastal areas it’s more common to have the steak with a saucy mix of sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes.
People in Ecuador are also very particular about the specific side dishes that should be served with the Ecuadorian churrasco meal. Fries & rice are usually must-haves, plus a side salad. Some also insist on fried ripe plantains, and avocado slices.
I like the way it allows you to combine flavors, a bite of egg and meat with some avocado or a bite of meat and some fries with some pickled onion. It’s also a good plate for kids because it gives them a lot of different options, even a picky kid will find something to eat on a churrasco plate. If eating this dish at a restaurant it’s definitely something to share – unless you are very very very hungry.
Most restaurants that serve national or traditional Ecuadorian food will have a version of churrasco on their menu. It is a pretty big plate of food, which is typical of an Ecuadorian almuerzo or lunch. The full lunch consistes of of a soup as a first course. Followed by a large plate of rice with meat, small salad, sides like yuca or cassava, potatoes, and plantains as part of the second course. Plus sometimes even a small dessert or fruit as a final course.
An almuerzo is a lot of food, you can ask for just the soup or just the second course if you feel it is too much. Even just the churrasco plate is a good amount of food with double carbs and double protein. I try to make on those days when we really deserve it (i.e. after hiking the whole day).
For a lower carb variation you can omit the rice. You can also replace the fries with a bean menestra. This might be considered sacrilege and you might have to call the dish by a different name, but I think the person or family eating the food should be able to customize the sides based on their preference.
Ecuadorian Churrasco plate components:
Grilled or sauteed/fried steaks (with or without sauteed onions/peppers)
Tomato and onion curtido salsa or a small salad
- 2 lb beef steaks skirt steak, flank or hanger type steaks are a good choice, for a higher end version of this dish you can also use sirloin, ny style, ribeye or tenderloin steaks
- 8-12 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 tbs ground cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
Variation with peppers & onions:
- 1-2 tbs oil
- 1/2 tsp ground achiote or annatto
- 1 tbs oregano
- 1 red onion cut in thick slices
- 1-2 bell peppers red/green or any color you want , cut into slices
- 2 tomatoes cut into thick slices
- Mix the crushed garlic, cumin, salt and pepper together to make a marinade for the meat.
- Rub the garlic cumin marinade on the thin steaks and let marinate for a couple of hours.
- Grill or fry the steaks over high heat to desired doneness; since they are relatively thin they won’t take too long to cook.
- If frying them and making the variation with peppers & onions, then remove the the steaks from the pan and let them rest. In the same pan, add the oil.
- Add the red onion slices and bell pepper slices, oregano, achiote, and a sprinkle of salt/pepper. You can also add additional garlic and cumin if you would like. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the onions and peppers are soft.
- Add the tomato slices and cook for a few more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- You can either add the steaks back to the pan and mix everything together, or just serve them with onion and pepper mix on top.
- Serve the steaks with a crispy fried egg or two on top and with the additional side dishes of rice, homemade fries, fried ripe plantains, tomato and onion curtido or your choice of salad, plus avocado slices and aji criollo. You can mix and match the sides according to your preference.