Helados de Paila in Ecuador: A Tradition Frozen in Time

To speak of helados de paila in Ecuador (paila ice-cream) is to speak of the variety of different fruity flavours and aromas of Ecuador. Often times, the mere mention of helados de paila to an Ecuadorian immediately conjures up images of the paila itself in their minds – an archaic-yet-handsome-looking giant bronze bowl. Following the image of this mesmerizing tool is the magic that happens inside of said bowl – the creation of the ice-cream itself. In this blog, we invite you take a brief look into the wonderful, culinary world of helados de paila in Ecuador.

helados de paila in ecuador

Photo by: hannah

A Brief History of Helados de Paila in Ecuador: A Tradition Frozen in Time

Helados de Paila in Ecuador are believed to have started in Ibarra, a city located up in the Northern Highlands of Ecuador. It began in a time when refrigerators were pretty much non-existent throughout the majority of Ecuador and, so the story goes, would only be made when it hailed and/or there was ice available from the provincial ice maker.

helados de paila in ecuador preparation

Photo by: Condor Travel

It is what some might call an “old school” way of preparing ice cream, but modernity still claims it as its own, as dozens of individuals can still be seen lining up to the get their helados de paila in Ecuador at parks or at shops throughout the big cities.

Helados de Paila in Ecuador: What They’re Like & How They’re Made

They have a texture that might as well be described as being like an Ecuadorian-style sorbet, both refreshing and comparatively light on the creaminess factor when compared to traditional ice-cream. Their ingredients solely consist of: fruit, sugar and ice. They come in a variety of flavours that are sourced from some of the most iconic of Ecuadorian tropical fruits, these of which typically include:

  • Blackberry
  • Soursop
  • Naranjilla
  • Coconut
  • Tree Tomato
  • Strawberry
  • Mango
  • Passion Fruit

Helados de paila in Ecuador are made by blending any one of these fruits with a little bit of sugar. Once that’s prepared, the famous paila must also be prepped. This second step involves placing wheat at the bottom of the giant paila and then, on top of that, placing a large quantity of ice and salt (preferably sea salt) over the ice. The use of ice allows the temperature of the mixture around the paila to get colder.

Once its set up, the sweetened and blended fruit is poured into the paila and thus begins the slow and relatively intensive process of stirring (the trick is to have a rhythm and pattern of stirring) its contents into what eventually turns thick and relatively creamy.

Using a wooden spatula, these helados de paila in Ecuador are removed from the paila itself and then served in cones, cups or sometimes even miniature pailas (for aesthetic kicks). New and exotic flavours that are added to this list of fruits are also options such as mochaccino, oreo, bubble gum, mint, chocolate, almond flavours and many more.

helados de paila in ecuador product

Photo by: Chaplintin

Fun Dietary Fact: Helados de paila in Ecuador contain no milk! This makes it a lactose intolerant-friendly choice for those that are craving a bit of ice-cream on a hot day!

Helados de Paila at Casa Gangotena: A Scientific Twist on the Preparation of Helados de Paila in Ecuador

At Casa Gangotena’s beautiful and captivating restaurant, helados de paila are prepared using something that’s a little bit special. As the traditional process with ice takes a bit of time, the restaurant at Casa Gangotena chooses to use liquid nitrogen in its preparation of the iconic Ecuadorian dessert. It’s a beautiful moment to top off your exquisite meal with, as you watch the mesmerizing “waterfall of white clouds” spill out over the paila as your waiter stirs the fruit extract and then serves this delicious Ecuadorian-style sorbet right there on your plate!

With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia.