I love churros. I grew up with Costco churros, the giant sticks as long as a child’s arm covered in cinnamon sugar, hanging out with the over-sized soft pretzels.   They are a mass market interpretation of a Mexican churro, and the image that most Americans carry around in their heads when thinking about churros.  But now that I am a part time expat in Spain, I am learning that there are many types of churro out there, and they are just waiting to show me their particular tasty subtleties.

For those of you who don’t know exactly what a churro is, though you may be few in our globalized world, it’s a tube of fried dough – somewhat like a doughnut, somewhat like choux pastry.  What decorations or fillings or dipping substances then come next varies with mood and geography.

In Spain churros are either a breakfast food or a late late night snack.  In Sevilla we ate them from a stand at the end of the Triana bridge when the bars closed down or when forced to get up at the crack of dawn to accommodate traveling guests. They are usually served as churros con chocolate – a spiral of dough is dropped into a vat of hot oil to fry up fresh, tossed into thick absorbent paper and chopped into 8 inch sections with serious scissors.  A seemingly small plastic cup of what is supposed to be hot chocolate is set in front of you, but it is actually the consistency of homemade pudding that has yet to set. Try to drink it and that little cup no longer seems quite so inadequate.

I do believe that churros are the perfect drunk food; that combination of grease and sugar that satisfies that absurd hunger for all things unhealthy that comes on after enough wine-soaked conversation.  For me, they are a kind of holiday food, specifically for Feria.  There are dozens of churrerías that only open for the week of Feria, combining the breakfast-drunk food options of churro time. Of course, other parts of Spain have their own churro traditions.  When I visited Santiago de Compostela, every cup of coffee came with a mini churro for dunking.  But for the best churros in Spain, it had to be Madrid.

What I’m about to talk about is no secret.  If you poke around any tourist tip website for Madrid, the Chocolatería San Ginés pops up.  It’s a breakfast joint near the Puerta del Sol (now famous for all those protests of the 15-M) that offers churros con chocolate to everyone they can cram into their doors.

I was introduced to this place by Rosa’s uncle Paco who hosted us when we chaperoned Rosa’s sister to a McFly concert. We took a six hour bus ride overnight and were shuffled around on a three hour walking tour of the city during this weather:

Beautiful, but when you haven’t slept, butts start to drag.  Tito Paco’s solution?   Breakfast!

While we struggled to keep our heads off the tables and waited for breakfast to arrive, Paco gave us the rundown on the history of the place.  Founded in 1894, he insists that the chocolatería is a literary as well as gastronomic landmark, as it provides the setting to a rather famous play called Luces de Bohemia which I was then assigned as a reading assignment  (I have to work on my vocabulary, first). That’s awesome, but it’s icing on the cake, because it needs no cultural help.  These are hands down the best churros I have ever eaten.

I prefer the skinny churros, the ones you see in every photograph here, and at the Chocolatería San Ginés they are perfectly fried, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The ridges grab the smoothest, richest chocolate that has ever graced my tongue and make me feel that just maybe I can keep going with my day.

This place is popular.

Portions are generous, and the small location is clean and bright. If you do visit, just know that you order at the cash register and then find a place to sit with your order number.  That was not clear.  How do I know so well how it works?  Well, we came back.  And that says a lot, considering our trip was a whole day and a half long. We actually went back for gift reasons, because they sell their chocolate, but since we were there…why not?

A few posts ago I apologized for talking about food that you would not be able to eat.  Here’s the good news: I gots the recipe.

Well, the whole world has the recipe.  The Food Network actually has a scaled down version of the cafe’s recipe for churros up on their website, though it advises rolling them in cinnamon sugar.  So, since my gift to my stepmother, Janey, was a box of their drinking chocolate, we decided to give it a try.   It would also help mitigate some of the weird re-entry culture shock symptoms I’ve been going through by helping convince me that  my time in Spain was not some bizarre fantasy world that only exists in my  mind.

So. Let’s do this.

Churros con chocolate

Recipe from Chocolatería San Ginés, via Food Network

Churro Ingredients:

1 c water

1/2 c butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 c flour

3 eggs, beaten

Oil for frying

If you want Mexican style churros:

1/4 c sugar

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Ingredients for chocolate:

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 c milk

4 oz dark chocolate, chopped

1/4 c sugar

A heads up:  I haven’t tried the recipe for the chocolate, because I had this at hand:

I’ll include the instructions off the Food Network website, but I haven’t tested them out. Though if you have a crazy stroke of luck and also have this little box, a translation note –

That English translation is wrong/less dramatic than the Spanish.  It should read: Dissolve the contents of this bag in a liter of milk boiled beforehand, then stir until you have obtained an exquisite cup of chocolate. You don’t need to add sugar.   It just bugged me, so there. Boil the milk before adding the chocolate mix.

So. Churros.

Add the salt to the flour.

Beat the eggs.

In a pot, boil the water and butter together over high heat.

Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and stir like a maniac with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball.

Remove the dough from the heat and add the eggs in little by little.

Set the dough aside and start heating the oil for frying (two inches deep in the pan).  Then, prepare the drinking chocolate.

If you have a mix you’d like to use, prepare according to directions.  I dissolved this in boiled milk as I am a good girl and do what I’m told.  Otherwise, dissolve the cornstarch in a cup of milk and set aside.  Add the other cup of milk to the chopped chocolate in a pot and melt over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the sugar and cornstarch, then reduce the heat to low and whisk constantly until the chocolate thickens – about five minutes.  Remove from heat and reserve in a warm place, whisking from time to time to get rid of any extra lumps and/or break the skin that forms on top.

When the oil has reached 360 F (ie, boiling oh my god that’s hot), start frying your churros in 6 inch tubes. How to make these tubes?

In Spain they sell churro makers on the cheap, but a pastry bag with a large star tip would work equally marvelously.  As I was at my dad’s place, I opted for the easiest option: a gallon-size ziplock bag with the tip cut off.

Fry! Fry each churro for two minutes, flip it, then fry for two minutes more.  When they are a nice golden brown, they are done.  Drain on a paper towel.  If you’d like, roll in cinnamon sugar.

Do not make these ahead!  They are best hot, fresh, and crunchy.

Fry up all your churros and munch on through, dipping in the chocolate until there are no more.  Then drink your chocolate if you dare.

Buen provecho!

3 Responses to “Churros”

  1. 1 Janey July 8, 2011 at 3:23 am

    Deliciouso Desa! Thank you for introducing me to this delectable delight. It was especially fun to receive the lesson on the making of the churros from you. I went to bed quite pleased and satisfied…this could be dangerous!

  2. 2 VeryHungryPerson August 15, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Looks so so gooood. but its midnight and i cant make it until tomorrow 😛

  3. 3 VeryHungryPerson August 15, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    it says the comment i posted before was at 8:22 but its midnight…………….

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!


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