A city with a vibrant food scene and newly opened gastropubs and cafes, Spain’s capital Madrid, offers a treasure trove of delightful eats and drinks for even the most jaded repeat visitor. To us, Madrid’s most delicious treats were old school churros and cafe con leche.
These days in the US, churros are readily available in the freezer section of supermarkets and Latin American bakeries, high-end restaurants, coffee shops and fast-food chains. But, you have to eat churros dipped in hot gooey chocolate accompanied by a cup of cafe con leche in Madrid to differentiate the very best from the mediocre.
Churros are deep fried snacks made of flour, cinnamon, and sugar. To make this cruller-like strips, push the dough through a churrera (churro press) or pastry bag with a star tip. This process will form the dough into a stick with ridges. Next, lightly fry the dough until it becomes crispy on the outer crust and soft on the inside. The hot churros are rolled in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, then served with a cup of chocolate.
Many countries claimed to have invented churros. Some believed that the Chinese might have introduced it to the Europeans through the Portuguese sailors. Other groups think the nomadic Spanish shepherds in the highlands invented it. The highland shepherds called it the Navajo-Churro, or horns of the sheep.
Considered a comfort food in Latin America, churros in these countries are not quite the same as in Spain, even though the conquistadors introduced this dessert to the Central and South American nations. We’ve seen dulce de leche filled churros and chocolate filled churros too. Or churros served with Nutella, dulce de leche or champurrado (hot chocolate).
In Madrid, you’ll find churros in churro cafes or churrerias and street corner vendors. While in Madrid, we had churros every morning and sometimes for a late-afternoon snack. It doesn’t matter when or where you eat churros. Make sure you don’t leave Madrid without trying churros con chocolate (churros with chocolate) and cafe con leche or espresso.
The types of coffee in Madrid
At breakfast time in Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques, ordering coffee required one to have a little knowledge about coffee. The waiting staff had a list: cafe con leche, cafe solo, cafe solo doble, cortado, and cafe Americano. Cafe con leche is the most common type of coffee in Madrid. If you don’t know what to get, just say “cafe con leche” – which is coffee with milk.
Cafe solo is a single shot of espresso. Cafe solo doble is double shot. Cortado originated from Spain, and the word means “the cut.” A cortado coffee has a 1:2 ratio of espresso to milk. Simply, it’s the Spanish version of the Australian flat white. Cafe Americano is espresso with added water, in other words, watered down espresso.
For a Madrileno experience, we recommend getting cafe con leche with your churros. If you’re lactose intolerant, go for the cafe solo.
Churros con chocolate and cafe con leche
Due to time constraints, our churros and coffee experiences were mainly at the Ritz Madrid and the Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques.
We stopped by El Riojano, a century-old pastry shop for a cup of coffee and soletilla (ladyfinger cookie) dipped in authentic hot chocolate. El Riojano was started in 1855 by Damaso de la Maza, a baker for the Royal Family. We wouldn’t have discovered this fifth generation pastry shop if we didn’t go on a food tour with Devour Madrid.
Resources to read before heading to Madrid