Global desserts: Spanish churros

The other weekend, my husband and I lured our sons out of the warm comfort of their beds with one singular temptation – churros.

We had our sights set on spending the afternoon in Pilsen, taking advantage of the Chicago neighborhood’s annual art gallery walk. But, before we did, we knew we had to make sure our two young sons were appropriately fueled up – and we knew churros would do the trick.

Yes, we thought that the lure of the long, spiral-like, deep-fried donut, coated with cinnamon sugar would spur them to get up, get dressed, and get going. And, we were right.

Fresh, hot churros from Xocoatl

Churros FillingsOur first stop that morning was a strategic one. We started our neighborhood adventure at Xocoatl (2214 S. Wolcott Ave.).

The famous churros factory, with five other locations across the Chicago area, is not to be missed. Once inside the door, you’re overtaken with the delectable smell of just-fried churros.

And, then there are the fillings.

While most churros are typically fried, rolled in cinnamon sugar, and served up hot and fresh to waiting customers. At Xocoatl, you also can choose to have your churro filled with one of four standard fillings – strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, and cream cheese. Plus, each day, the churros factory adds a special filling to the selection, making it even harder to make your final churro filling selection.

Fresh, filled churrosThat’s why we made the bold decision to have one of each. And, we were not sorry at all.

We walked out of the churro factory with a paper bag filled with five churros, each one exuding an irresistible smell, which got stronger and stronger as the paper bag got more and more soaked with grease.

As parents, we know that sometimes an art gallery walk isn’t all that exciting to two young boys. But, with our churros in hand, we were all ready for anything.

The origin of the ever-popular churros 

Churros are a popular snack around the world. But, their origin isn’t exactly clear.

According to the Huffington Post, some say that churros were originally made by nomadic Spanish shepherds. Living among the Spanish mountains, the shepherds devised a way to easily make and fry the churro paste over open fires.

But, according to Wikipedia, others are said to believe that churros were brought to Europe by Portuguese sailors from Northern China. While in China, the Portuguese learned how to modify the dough for youtiao, a long, deep-fried strip of dough eaten in China, by passing the dough through a star-shaped tip to give the churros its well-known ridges.

The shape of the spiral-like shape of the churros is said to resemble the horns of the Navajo-Churro sheep, which are decedents of the Churra sheep of the Iberian Penninsula. To me, this fact helps give a bit more insight into the country may be able to lay its final claim to the origin of the “churros” name.

As noted by Huffington Post, there is complete agreement on the fact that the conquistadors introduced them to Latin America. And, today, churros are enjoyed around the world.

How churros are enjoyed around the world  

Credit: Xocoatl

Credit: Xocoatl

The shape of churros and how they are eaten can vary from country to country.

In Spain, churros can be thin and knotted or long and thick. There, they’re usually eaten for breakfast, dipped in thick hot chocolate, or served with café con leche.

In Latin America, churros are available in cafes for breakfast and also enjoyed as a snack.

In Colombia and Venezula, churros are glazed with dulce de leche and sweetended condensed milk – instead of the standard cinnamon sugar-mixture.

Fortunately, filled churros aren’t just found at Xocoatl in Chicago. In Cuba, churros are filled with guava. You can enjoy dulce de leche-filled churros in Mexico and Argentina. And, in Brazil, churros are filled with chocolate and dolce de leite.

But, not all churros are sweet. In Uruguay, churros also come in a savory version, filled with melted cheese.

Here, in the US, churros are often sold by street vendors from churrerias, or churros stands, who serve them up hot and fresh for awaiting customers. Chicago’s Xocoatl originally started as a stand at the Maxwell Street Market. As its churros became more popular, the husband and wife duo who ran the stand opened one store – and then another and another.

These days, you can easily say that churros have gone mainstream, with the “donuts” sold at the quick-service restaurants at Costco stores for a mere dollar. They also have become a mainstay at local festivals and amusement parks.

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Demands of our sons to go back for more churros  

Now, even several weeks after we indulged in a paper bag-filled with churros from the Xocoatl, my sons are anxious to go back and try more. But, we have to be strategic about it.

Yes, my sons want to go back each day of the week to try the special filling of the day. We were lucky to try the pineapple filling that one Sunday. But, that leaves 6 more “special” flavors for us to try. It’s a good thing that we’re up for the challenge.

But, for me, I’ve secretly set my sights a little higher. I can’t wait for the one day when my sons also can enjoy churros from a café or churrieria in Spain, Latin America, or one of the many other countries where churros are eaten around the world.

Have you tried a churro? Where have you enjoyed them? What is your favorite variety? Please share your thoughts and favorites in the comments below. 

There is a lot more multicultural discussion and fun to be had together.  Be sure to “like” Raising World Citizens on Facebook to join in on the conversation. And, come along with me on a visual journey of my efforts to raise two world citizens on Instagram.

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