Are Churros Vegan?


Are Churros Vegan?

While churros come in characteristic shapes, they do come in different sizes and textures—i.e. the kind you get on the street are quite different from the kind at fast-food chains like Taco Bell. What we’ll do in this article is look at the vegan status of churros from all parts of the spectrum.

In general, are they vegan? Recipes vary, but most churros are non-vegan. The fresh variety, made with real pastry dough, tends to be non-vegan, as most contain eggs and milk. The highly-processed kind tends to be more vegan-friendly.

What we’ll do here is go over the various types of churros that tend to be vegan and the kind that usually contain animal products.

Non-Vegan Churros

Fresh Churros Usually Contain Butter and Eggs (Dough)

A churro is a fried-dough pastry, and pastry dough is often problematic for vegans. Churros predominantly use choux which is a light pastry that contains water, flour, butter, and eggs.

It gets by without a leavening agent, because it uses a high moisture content to create steam to puff the pastry.

Eggs and butter both serve several useful functions in pastry dough which is why animal products are common in fried pastries like funnel cakes.

Not all churro varieties will use high quality (yet non-vegan) pastry dough, but the kind you’ll encounter at restaurants will likely contain the stuff. And the kind served in Spain and Portugal (their country of origin), will most definitely contain these ingredients.

Prior to becoming vegan, I ate churros as street food when visiting Spanish speaking countries.

It’s important to note that not all “real” (and thus likely non-vegan) churros are thick. For example, in Spain, churros can be thin (often knotted) or long and thick. The latter is known as porras in some regions.

Fresh Churros Typically Contain Other Milk Products (Toppings and Fillings)

A lot of the variations discussed here will be common in Spanish Speaking countries as well as in North America if dining at restaurants serving authentic Spanish and Latin American food.

In America, churros served at street fairs and theme parks are often just rolled in cinnamon and sugar.1

Which sounds innocent enough, but then comes the dipping sauces and drizzles which often contain milk.

In Mexico, Cuba, and South America, churros are often prepared with fillings. These fillings can range from vegan (e.g. fruits like guava are common in Cuba) to chocolate and dulce de leche (Brazil).

Dulce de leche is a confection originating in Latin America prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to result in the Maillard reaction which gives it it’s characteristic flavor and color—an appearance and flavor similar to caramel.2

Dulce de leche is always non-vegan. After all, the term is Spanish for “candy (made) of milk” or “caramel”.

Non-vegan dips and fillings commonly served with churros include:

  • Champurrado*
  • Hot chocolate
  • Dulce de leche
  • Café con leche**

*Champurrado is a chocolate-based Mexican drink. It’s a warm and thick beverage known as atole. They’re largely plant-based as they’re prepared with either masa harina, masa de maíz, or cornflour and panela. But, the medium, while it can be water, is often milk.3

**Café con leche is what it sounds like: coffee with milk. Horchata is another creamy coffee drink that uses plant milk, but it’s much less common for this application.

Also, egg is often added to thicken the drink.

In Venezuela and Colombia, churros are often glazed with arequipe (a type of dulce de leche) and sweetened condensed milk.

Sweetened condensed milk is just sweetened cow’s milk that’s had the water evaporated out. So, it’s always non-vegan.

In some countries such as Uruguay, a savory churro is served with a melted cheese filling.

Finally, cajeta is commonly served with churros in some regions. Cajeta is a type of dulce de leche. It’s a confection of thickened syrup which is usually composed of a caramelized sweetened goat’s milk.4

Ultra-Processed “Churros” (Often Vegan)

I use quotes because some of these products wouldn’t be considered real churros by some standards.

Are Taco Bell Cinnamon Twists Vegan?

Yes, Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists are vegan. They contain wheat flour, rice flour, yellow cornmeal, salt, sugar, cinnamon, maltodextrin or dextrin, soybean oil, canola oil, and natural flavors.5

All of which are vegan-friendly.

Are Cinnamon Toast Crunch Churros Vegan?

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Churros are non-vegan by most standards, as they likely contain vitamin D3 derived from lanolin (wool oil). I say “likely”, because it’s mentioned on the nutrient panel, but not the ingredients. Not all vegans avoid such additives, but most consider lanolin D3 non-vegan.

Specifically, the ingredients label lists whole grain wheat, rice flour, sugar, cinnamon, canola oil, salt, dextrose, soy lecithin, trisodium phosphate, and BHT.6

It’s safe to assume that it does contain vitamin D, which would make the cereal off-limits to a lot of vegans, given that vegan vitamin D3, which is lichen-derived, is yet to be used for mainstream D3 fortification.

You’ll only find lichen-derived D3 in specialty vegan supplements. I’d like to think that one day it’ll be more common in fortified foods, but for now, it’s pretty impractical.

If you want to take the chance, or are not a particularly strict vegan, this cereal may be a good way to get your churro fix.

Tres Estrellas Churro Flour Mix

These are vegan.

This box is just the mix, mind you, but when making them for yourself you can forego the eggs and milk for vegan substitutes.

Ingredients include:7

  • Enriched Flour (flour, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Nicotinamide, Ferrous Fumarate, Zinc Oxide, Folic Acid)
  • Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Fat
  • Monocalcium Phosphate
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Iodized Salt
  • Sodium Propionate (preservative)

For a time, Taco Bell actually offered a real churro, but it seems to be off the menu these days. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it in case it resurfaces so that I can analyze the ingredients and post them here.

That’s it for the vegan status of churros. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:

References

  1. Churros. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churro
  2. Origen Mítico Del Dulce De Leche Clarín.com – https://www.clarin.com/sociedad/origen-mitico-dulce-leche_0_r1nl5JflRtx.html
  3. Champurrado. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champurrado
  4. Cajeta. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cajeta
  5. Cinnamon Twists. https://www.tacobell.com/food/sweets/cinnamon-twists
  6. Cinnamon Toast Crunch Churros Cereal. https://www.cinnamontoastcrunch.com/products/cinnamon-toast-crunch-churros/
  7. Tres Estrellas Flour Mix Churros. https://www.instacart.com/shop-and-save/products/255449-tres-estrellas-flour-mix-churros-17-6-oz

Drew

Hi! I'm Drew and this is the place where I nerd out about vegan and plant-based diets. I have a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Alabama and have taken dozens of classes in areas like organic and biochemistry, food science, medical nutrition therapy, nutritional genomics, and vegetarian diets. I'm still learning every day, and on this blog, I'll be sharing everything I discover about vegan diets as I go.

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