I Went to Cuba and Gorged on This Vegan Pastry, But It's Easy to Make at Home

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Justin Novak

image via Justin Novak

The line begins to form around the food cart before it’s even open for business. An industrious cook swirls sweet dough into fry oil until it turns a golden brown. Using a metal rod to stir the batter, it becomes one cohesive spiral. It’s sprinkled with raw sugar and in just seconds a new batch of fresh churros—a vegan pastry and common Cuban street food—are born.

The pastry, which is a mixture of a french fry and waffle consistency, is of Spanish decent, but the addictive treat is ubiquitous in Old Havana. The smell wafts through the aged cobblestone streets, melting any willpower you thought you had. The Spanish, of which Cuba is a former colony, left many marks here on the island, and churros are one of the good ones.

Fresh from the fryer, Cuban churros are slightly sweet and crunchy on the outside, with a pillow of soft dough in between. In what seems like a few seconds our first batch has disappeared. I’ll admit I enjoyed more than my husband but it’s only fair because I’m the one writing the story on them, right? I ordered just one batch because I was trying to be good, but in turn, had to stand in the now meandering line again to order more fresh churros.

The food on this island nation is meat heavy and if you stick to a plant-based diet, it’s hard to get by. The embargo has left Cuba without the best in fresh ingredients. Produce is especially difficult to find with the exception of tropical fruits like papaya and pineapple, which are grown on farms throughout the island.

On a number of occasions, I couldn’t find anything to eat and instead snacked on a MacroBar that I had brought from home. But churros, despite lacking any real heal benefits, is delicious local sustenance. And most of the recipes that I’ve seen, don’t include any animal products, making them a viable vegan option in Cuba or in your own kichen.

Upon my arrival back home, I can’t wait to make my own. I may not have a food cart, but I do have an affinity for fried dough. This isn’t a recipe that you should make everyday, but on those occasions when you’re looking for a semi-sweet treat that’s homemade and delicious, this is your jam. Add some extra pizzazz by drizzling your fresh churros with melted vegan chocolate.

  • 4Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached organic flour
  • 1/2 cup organic cane sugar or to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Preparation

  1. Combine water, 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat.
  2. Stir in flour until mixture forms a ball.
  3. Heat oil for frying (enough to submerge the dough) in a deep skillet to 375 degrees F. Pipe strips of dough into hot oil using a pastry bag. Fry the churros until golden brown and then drain on paper towels.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Roll drained churros in cinnamon and sugar mixture. You can also serve with melted chocolate.

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