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Churro’s History: Spain’s Sweet Tapas

They are long, cylindrical pancakes that have become one of the most well-known Spanish desserts in the world, a true irresistible calorie bomb. Here is the history of Churros.

By Cookist

The dough resembles that of a choux pastry for cream puffs, but the similarities end there: churros – whose name literally means "pancake" – have become the most well-known and loved Spanish dessert, sweet tapas to eat at any time of the day. Whether in a restaurant in Madrid or along the streets of Barcelona, these fried delights with a long and cylindrical shape are made with just a few ingredients, mixed together to create a rich and fragrant mixture, that will be accompanied (and dipped) strictly with hot chocolate.

However, legend has it that Churros are much older than the Spanish civilization, and that their origin dates back to a very distant historical era and an even more distant culture.

History of Churros, the Dessert that Dates Back "to The Creation of the World"

Some scholars have argued that to trace the origin of Churros, one must "go back to the creation of the world". An extreme statement, but one that indicates an important aspect: although today Churros are associated with Spain, not everyone is convinced that their origin can be linked to the Iberian Peninsula.

A branch of researchers, in fact, has come to deny the Spanish origins of Churros and has asserted that in reality the pancakes were imported by the Portuguese directly from the East. According to this theory, in fact, the explorers brought from China one of the secret recipes of the Ming dynasty: the dough of Youtiao (also known as Youzagwei), a preparation made of fried strips to eat for breakfast. Churros would therefore be the direct descendants of that oriental gastronomic delicacy, and would have taken on their characteristic appearance because those who imported the recipe were forced to modify the dough's appearance, as to not be discovered by China, which strictly prohibited the sharing of locals' knowledge with foreigners.

As fascinating as this theory on the birth of Churros is, it is not the most widely accepted. Most food historians and industry experts, in fact, attribute the birth of the dessert to Spain's nomadic shepherds. Unable to reach the city to buy bread, during their stay in the Iberian hills, the shepherds were forced to invent a simple dough that could be quickly cooked in a pan. The name itself strengthens the credibility of this theory: Churros strongly resemble the Navajo Churro, a breed of sheep typical of Spain that descends from the Churra sheep, and which has horns incredibly similar to the shape of the Churros.


Whatever the true story, Churros took hold in Spain until they became a typical dessert, exported first by the Conquistadores and then by Spanish immigrants until they also became a specialty of Central and Southern America, where each nation created its own personal version. The Conquistadores also created the association between Churros and chocolate, when they brought South American cocoa back to their homeland in the 1500s, which was perfect for dipping the pancakes in.

The Secret of Churros: Here's What Makes Them so Good

Do you want to know what the real secret of Churros is? Their simplicity. Literally three ingredients are enough to create an irresistible (and quite caloric) dessert. To prepare Churros you only need flour, water and salt, and then a generous dose of sugar to sprinkle them with after frying. To create their characteristic shape, however, the secret is the Churrera (hurrera), a sort of pastry syringe with a star-shaped nozzle, from which the mixture is poured directly into a pan full of boiling oil. If you don't have a Churrera, you can also use a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle.

Churros should be eaten hot, but you can keep the raw batter in the fridge, storing it inside the piping bag, for a maximum of 12 hours.


How (and Where) to Eat Churros

According to tradition, Churros should be eaten by dipping them one by one in a cup of hot, thick chocolate: a very caloric breakfast or snack, but certainly very inviting. Alternatively, some also dip them in café con leche (our latte), to start the day more lightly.

Churros were once the typical Sunday dessert or breakfast on holidays, but now there are many places where you can always find these irresistible sweet tapas: just stop in one of the many Churrerias in the country, open from morning until late in the night. In Madrid, the undisputed home of Churros, there is the Chocolatería San Ginés, which has been churning out Churros 24 hours a day since 1884, a true institution for tasting Churros.

In Barcelona, however, as in all of Catalonia, the Churrerias are called Xurreria, but the taste does not change: the most famous in the city are those of La Pallaresa, in the heart of the Gothis Quarter and also very popular with locals, who meet here to share the snack ritual. Also worth trying are the churros de la Granja Dulcinea, a café with a more traditional and fairy-tale touch that was much frequented by Salvador Dalì.

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