Churros are a world-famous fried dough pastry that is said to have originated in Spain at the end of the Middle Ages. However, their exact origin is somewhat debated. It is widely believed that churro may actually have its origins in China where Portuguese merchants first tasted “youtiao” — “oil-fried stick” — a golden-fried salty delicacy. The Portuguese then recreated this treat back home and added sugar.
In neighboring Spain, shepherds would fry strips of dough and coat them in sugar to give them an easily portable snack during their long journeys in the mountains. Over time, the shepherds came to call the delicious sweet pastry “churro” since the shape reminded them of the horns from the Navajo-Churro breed of sheep. Churros gained popularity in Spain and became a common street food, often sold by street vendors and at fairs and festivals. They were typically enjoyed with a cup of thick, rich hot chocolate perfect for dipping the crispy churros.
Churros eventually made their way to other parts of the world through Spanish colonization and trade routes. They became particularly popular in Latin America, where they were embraced and adapted into local cuisines. In Mexico, for example, churros are often filled with sweet fillings such as chocolate, caramel (cajeta), sweetened condensed milk or fruit preserves. In some countries, like Argentina, churros are typically thinner and almost always served with dulce de leche.
Today, churros are enjoyed worldwide and have evolved. They can be found in various sizes and shapes, and are often served with different dips, coatings, or fillings, depending on different regional tastes. Recently, churros and churro-inspired flavors have seen increasing demand in the USA showing up on restaurant and fast food menus and in popular foods like ice cream, cereals, chips, shakes and candy bars. Churros have also seen increased pop culture references in Saturday Night Live skits, churro recipes from Disneyland and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia, as well as references from celebrities obsessed with churros like Kylie Jenner and Charles Barkley.
From the thin and crispy churros dipped in rich hot chocolate in Spain, to the thicker churros filled with cajeta or dulce de leche in Mexico and Latin America, to the alluring cinnamon-sugary treats on the streets of Disneyland (introduced in the 1980s) and local Costco warehouses, the churro is a global favorite! And now, mini churros are a gourmet indulgence of deep-fried happiness that wows at catered weddings, parties and company events - and in your kitchen!