Ecuadorian llapingachos

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This recipe will teach you how to make llapingachos. Llapingachos are Ecuadorian cheese stuffed potato patties that are crunchy on the outside and full of melty, cheesy goodness on the inside. All of the ingredients in this recipe are gluten free, vegetarian, nut free, and egg free.

Llapingachos - ecuadorian potato pancakes

Peeling potatoes for llapingachos

Peeling and boiling potatoes is one of the first steps in any recipe for llapingachos. I have a quick tip for anyone who is making llapingachos, or any other dish that requires you to peel and boil multiple potatoes. You are better off not using a potato peeler at all. It is much easier to boil the potatoes with their skins on and then remove the skins after the potatoes are done boiling. If you drag a fork along the outside of the boiled potatoes, the skins will fall right off.

Keeping llapingachos intact

I have had a few mishaps where my patties fell apart while I was cooking llapingachos. Here are a few tips for making sure you llapingachos do not fall apart when you cook them on the stove.

  • My first tip is to make sure that your potatoes are very well mashed before forming your llapingachos. If there are any large chunks in your mashed potatoes, they will induce fault points where your llapingachos are more likely to crumble.
  • Coating llapingachos in a light dusting of gluten free flour before cooking will help them maintain their shape. This will prevent the llapingachos from sticking to surfaces and also help them form an extra crispy crust. 
  • Add a liberal amount of oil to your pan when you cook llapingachos. Melted cheese and mashed potatoes can get stuck to a dry pan pretty easily. 
  • Llapingachos that are thicker will stay together better. I would recommend keeping them at 1 inch or more thickness if it is your first time making llapingachos. I make mine thinner than average due to a personal preference, but there is no need to make them as thin as mine are in the pictures.
  • It is really crucial that you allow your assembled patties to set and thoroughly cool before throwing them in your pan to cook. If they are still warm, they are much more likely to fall apart.
  • My final tip is to make sure you are using a proper spatula to flip your llapingachos. This seems obvious, but it has to be said. I often use a knife I have already been cooking with to flip pupusas or pancakes so as to not dirty another utensil. I tried the same with my llapingachos and it did not go well.

If you are having trouble flipping your llapingachos, you can try baking your patties instead. If you bake your llapingachos, flipping them is not strictly necessary. You can bake llapingachos for minutes 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the edges brown and crisp up. The texture won’t be quite the same if the patties are baked, but they will still be cheesy and delicious.

Llapingachos - ecuadorian potato pancakes

What are llapingachos served with?

Llapingachos are traditionally served on a full plate with a peanut sauce (salsa de mani) and other toppings such as fried egg, avocado, sausage, chorizo, and curtido. For the purposes of this post, I dressed my llapingachos with Mexican cream and green onions. 

Llapingachos - ecuadorian potato pancakes

Shaping your llapingachos

Molding your llapingachos into the correct shape can be tricky if you are not used to making llapingachos or pupusas. There are a few different ways you can create these patties, so if you are having trouble with one method there are always other options. Here are a few methods you can use to shape your llapingachos. 

  • I will start out with the most common method. Start by rolling the potato mixture into a ball. Then use your thumb to create a hole in the ball. Expand the hole until the ball turns into a little cup (see the second image in this post for clarification). Stuff this cup with cheese, leaving a little bit of extra space at the top so you can pinch the rim of the cup together over the cheese. Pinch the rim of the cup together so that you have a cheese stuffed ball. Slowly flatten the ball between the palms of your hands. 
  • My next method is similar to the first. The main difference is that rather than leaving a little extra space at the top of your potato “cup”  so that you can pinch the top of the cup together, you fill the cup to the top then cover it with a little potato “hat”. Work the potato dough together by pinching the sides of your “cup” and your “hat” together. This method works well if you like to stuff your llapingachos with as much cheese as possible. This is what I usually do.
  • The last method is to make two flat potato patties then cover one in cheese and lay the other on top of it. You can then pinch the patties together around the edges. I would recommend this method as a last resort if you are really having trouble flattening your cheese filled potato balls into patties. If you use this method, your patties will end up thicker with more potato and less cheese.  

If your llapingachos start to tear and the cheese starts to spill out, do not get discouraged. You can always grab a little extra potato and use it to patch the hole.

Ecuadorian llapingachos

These Ecuadorian cheese stuffed potato patties are gluten free, vegetarian, egg free, and nut free.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Resting time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Ecuadorian
Keyword: egg free, gluten free, nut free, vegetarian
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

Potato dough

  • 4 medium sized russet potatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 stalks green onion
  • 2 tsp ground achiote or annatto (substitute 2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp oregano)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin

Other ingredients

  • 1 cup shredded quesillo cheese (substitute mozzarella or monterey jack)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp gluten free all purpose flour (optional)

Instructions

Potato dough

  • Chop the onion and green onion into fine pieces
  • Fill a large pot half way with water and heat it over medium high heat. Stab holes in the potatoes with a fork and add the potatoes to the water once it starts boiling. Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes or until you can stab the potatoes with a fork and they feel tender on the inside. You can move on to the next step and cook the onions while the potatoes boil
  • Heat 1 tsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and green onions. Cook for 10 minutes or until onions start to brown. Stir occasionally. When the onions are done cooking, ad in the ground achiote and cumin and mix well
  • When the potatoes are done boiling, drain the water from the pot and run a fork over the potatoes to remove the skins
  • Mash the potatoes and mix the onions into the potatoes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature

Llapingachos

  • Start to form the potato patties. Grab some of the potato dough and roll into a ball. Use your thumbs to create a hole in the center of the ball and slowly widen this hole until you have a little potato "cup". Fill this cup with shredded cheese then pinch the tops of the cup together to form a cheese filled ball. Slowly flatten this ball between the palms of your hands to form a thick potato pattie. Repeat until you are out of potato dough.
  • Dust these patties with gluten free flour to help them maintain their shape (optional)
  • Put the patties in the refrigerator to cool for 20-30 minutes
  • Heat the remainder of the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large pan. Cook the patties for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they start to brown

Substitutions

  • If you are not able to find quesillo cheese, you can substitute it with monterey jack cheese or mozzarella cheese. The flavor of quesillo cheese is more similar to monterey jack, but the texture is more similar to mozzarella. I generally use mozzarella.
  •  If you are having trouble finding ground achiote powder, you can substitute it with sweet paprika. I recommend using 2 tsp sweet paprika and 1/2 tsp oregano. 

Enhancements

  • I like to cut up a jalapeño pepper and add it into the onion mixture to give the potato dough a little extra flavor. I add the pepper to the onions about 2-3 minutes after they have started to cook. 

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