Dessert Tex-Mex

Churro brownies

Churro brownies | Homesick Texan

Often I’ll hear about new restaurants in Texas to try and because I’m thousands of miles away, I can only look at the menu and imagine how the food must taste. One such place is this new taco stand in Austin that my friends have been buzzing about called Taco Ranch. It’s nothing fancy but instead Tex-Mex favorites such as crispy tacos, breakfast tacos, queso, and chips.

One item on the menu that does appear novel, however, is the restaurant’s sole dessert. It’s something called a churro brownie, and I the first time I read this I had no idea what that meant.

For instance, a churro is fried dough dusted in cinnamon and sugar. The pastry is originally from Spain but it’s now common in Mexico, too. Yet beyond Spain and Mexico, churros are also found at many Mexican restaurants in the U.S. and there are even churro vendors on the subways in New York. Then there are brownies, which are crisp and fudgy chocolate bar cookies that sometimes veer into cake territory.

But what is a churro brownie?

Churro brownies | Homesick Texan

I figured it was a brownie coated in cinnamon sugar, and I was close. But when I finally got a full report on this confection, I learned that the churro brownie is not a chocolate-based bar but instead brown-sugar based, much like the treat we sometimes call blondies. Indeed, before blondies were known as such, a term that came into vogue in the late 1960s, they were called butterscotch brownies, recipes for which started appearing in publications in the 1930s.

So, without having had this restaurant’s rendition, I decided to go ahead and attempt to make my own. First, I adapted my family’s butterscotch brownie recipe from my second cookbook, and then before baking, I generously smothered it in a cinnamon-sugar topping. The result was good but a bit flat. It needed more sparkle.

For the next batch, I added a pinch of salt, which improved things but they still lacked something. Doing research on churros, I learned that in Mexico orange zest is occasionally used to flavor the dough. Thinking that was a good idea, I shredded some fresh orange peel into my batter, dialed down the sugar, and slid my pan into the oven. After they had baked, for a final boost of flavor, I lightly sprinkled them with flaked sea salt.

After allowing my churro brownies to cool, I cut off a wedge. (I had baked it in a skillet but the recipe would work fine in a baking pan, too). The topping was sweet and sandy with a hint of salt, while the base was soft with caramelized notes from the butter and brown sugar along with some brightness from the zest. They were excellent and I could have eaten them all but restrained myself to only eating half.

Is this what they serve in Austin? I have no idea but that’s okay, for if you enjoy the flavors of cinnamon, orange, and brown butter then you’ll find that these churro brownies are very fine indeed.

Churro brownies | Homesick Texan
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Churro brownies

Servings 16 brownies
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Flaked sea salt, for garnishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees and line with parchment paper or grease a 9-inch square-baking pan or 9-inch cast-iron skillet.


  2. On low heat, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, about 10 minutes.


  3. Once cool, add to the melted butter the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and orange zest until well combined. Add to the liquid ingredients and stir until a thick batter is formed.


  4. Spread the batter into the baking pan. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon then spoon evenly over the batter. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are set. (Be sure to not overcook as the churro brownies will harden as they cool.) Lightly sprinkle with the flaked sea salt, then allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.


  1. I’m going to start a batch of these as soon as I finish this email. Brings back childhood memories of both butterscotch brownies and churros. I never actually ate a whole batch of butterscotch brownies but sure wanted to – so good.
    Thanks!

    • Lisa Fain

      Carol–I know the feeling of wanting to eat a whole batch very well!

  2. We managed to wait until after supper to try out the churro brownies and, wow, are they tasty. Might need to bake more soon.

    • Lisa Fain

      Carol–So glad y’all enjoyed them! They do indeed go fast but fortunately they’re a cinch to make.

  3. Linda Astala

    I loved the butterscotch brownies my Kansas grandmother used to make. I think I remember tasting coconut in them from time to time too. I’ll add some orange zest next time I make blondies. Thanks, Lisa!

  4. Pamela Wood

    Lisa, I used 1/4 of piloncillo sugar and 1 1/4 c regular brown sugar in the recipe. Waiting for them to cool; they smell delicious and I bet they will be a great breakfast treat with coffee.

    • Lisa Fain

      Pamela–What a great idea to add some piloncillo sugar! And yes, they’re excellent for breakfast with coffee.

  5. Raleigh Tirion

    You just gave me a quest for next week. We will go try these Churro brownies and report back!

  6. Amy in Hunting Valley, OH

    I just made these and .. wow. It’s somehow more than the sum of its parts – complex, chewy and so cinnamon-y. I keep sneaking little bits even though dinner is in the oven. We didn’t have any oranges and I couldn’t bear going out on this cold rainy Sunday so I made it without the orange zest but next time, and there WILL be a next time soon, I’ll be sure to add it. Thanks for this amazing recipe!

  7. Addi Forgit

    Would like to make these tonight but I don’t have the oranges on hand! Could I make do with lemon zest? Or lime? Would like to avoid a trip to the store! 🙂 THANKS!

    • Lisa Fain

      Add–You could try it with lemon, though I think that it might be too bright and sour for these and instead I’d probably just leave out the zest. They will still be very good!

  8. K Meadow

    Great recipe. I did, however make two adjustments, both fabulous! I cut back on the brown sugar to 1 1/4 cups total in the batter; but that’s pretty typical for me, since most things taste too sweet to me. And I subbed 1/2 cup of medium grain cornmeal for 1/2 cup of AP flour (I like Bob’s.) Next day it was smashing for breakfast. A keeper!

    • Lisa Fain

      K–Love the substitution of cornmeal–I’ll definitely have to give that a try!

  9. (Texan now living in Florida)
    I really loved these! I think I added more orange zest than you suggested and cinnamon in the actual batter (not just on top) and let cool. When I served my guests I drizzled a melted Mexican chocolate sauce (semisweet chocolate + chili powder + whipping cream) on top. Yumm!
    I also like the idea of adding cornmeal to this (see above)

    • Lisa Fain

      Casey–I’m so glad you loved them! And I’ll have to try the Mexican chocolate sauce drizzle. That sounds fantastic!

  10. Lori Grunau

    Lisa,

    this sounds so good! Do you think I could double the recipe and put in a 9×13 pan? Can’t wait to give it a try!

    • Lisa Fain

      Lori–While I haven’t tried that, I reckon it should work just fine. You’ll probably need to bake it a few minutes longer. I’d start at 5 more minutes then go from there.

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