Food,  Spain

A Quest to Find the Best Churros in Madrid

Before I visited Spain, I was of course familiar with churros. In the US, they are a staple at fairs, amusement parks, and Mexican restaurants. But Spain actually introduced churros to the Americas, and any traveler in Spain can’t help but notice a Churrería on just about every other street. Churros are a huge part of Spanish cuisine. This deep-fried treat is a very common breakfast food or late afternoon snack, and is usually eaten with a cup of warm chocolate for dipping. We recently spent a month in Madrid, and while there, I found myself on a noble quest to find the Best Churros in Madrid. Here’s what I discovered.

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Every Quest Needs a Trigger

When I booked an Airbnb for our month’s stay in Madrid, I was aware that it was located near a Churro and Chocolate place. What I didn’t know – it was located directly next to The Churro and Chocolate Place. Chocolatería San Ginés is widely considered, at least on the internet, to have the Best Churros in Madrid. And in fact, seems to be the most famous Churro and Chocolate Place in the world. It’s the Café Du Monde (beignets in New Orleans) of Churros & Chocolate.

Our host explained this degree of fame when we checked in – and took it a big leap further than my Cafe Du Monde comparison. He called Chocolatería San Ginés the Eiffel Tower of Madrid. When I raised my eyebrows at that, he explained that seemingly every tourist in Madrid makes a pilgrimage to Chocolatería San Ginés. And as tourism has grown in Madrid, so have the crowds at San Ginés…big daily crowds that are growing year by year.

But even more frustrating for him? He told us that in his opinion, the churros and chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés are just OK. That Madrid has other Churrerías that are just as good…if not better.

Well, I love a good quest. After all, I quested for the Best Chicken in Lisbon with great success. So after hearing our host’s assessment of Chocolatería San Ginés, I immediately decided that I would try to determine for myself which Churrería or Chocolatería serves the best churros in Madrid.

And so The Quest began….

First Up – Chocolatería San Ginés

The Vibe

I had no doubt that my quest needed to start at Madrid’s “Eiffel Tower”. After all, I didn’t need to go far….some of its outdoor tables were directly outside my apartment building’s door.

Chocolatería San Ginés is one of the oldest Churro and Chocolate establishments in Madrid. It was founded in 1894, and is located in a historic passageway within Old Town Madrid, adjacent to one of the city’s most historic churches. So it does ooze history and charm – certainly major factors in its popularity with tourists.

Lines of people at Chocolateria San Ginés in Madrid Spain

Chocolatería San Ginés doesn’t have just one storefront. It has actually grown to encompass five different storefronts, spread throughout various buildings surrounding the passageway. You’ll also find pockets of outdoor tables scattered through the immediate area too. Chocolateria San Ginés has morphed into quite the multi-headed beast over its 130 years.

Some of the outdoor tables at Chocolateria San Ginés in Madrid Spain

And honestly, it can be a little hard at first to figure out how to proceed at Chocolatería San Ginés.

One storefront is exclusively for takeout. One offers sandwiches and other basic food items in addition to Churros/Chocolate. A couple also have ice cream. Four offer indoor seating. One is labeled “annex” and is only open during the busiest hours.

If you want to eat outside, you order your churros inside first, then stand in another line, before giving your receipt to a waiter, who then brings your order once you are assigned to a table.

A waiter carries a tray of churros and chocolate at Chocolateria San Ginés in Madrid

If you eat inside, you order at the counter, then take your receipt to a free table where a waiter will collect your receipt and bring your order. (Also if you eat inside, you will be surrounded by photos of all the famous people who, like you, have flocked to San Ginés over the decades – Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart just to name a few that I saw.)

And just like the Eiffel Tower and Café Du Monde, there are usually lines. Lines going into all the storefronts, and an entirely separate line for the outdoor tables.

Lines of customers outside the popular Chocolateria San Ginés in Madrid

After a month of walking through all those lines on our way “home”, I can testify that Chocolatería San Ginés is very popular indeed. It’s even open 24 hours/day!

Sure there are times when not every San Ginés doorway has a line (usually in the early morning), but crowds of people is the norm. (Though I should also mention that the San Ginés staff does seem to handle the hoards all very efficiently.)

The Goods

Here’s a look at my first batch of Churros and Chocolate in Madrid…

A plate of churros and porras along with cups of chocolate and coffee at Chocolaterí San Gines in Madrid

You’ll notice that there are two different types of churros at San Ginés (and at most Churrerías in Madrid). The smaller thinner ones are the churros. They have well-defined ridges and are crispy on the outside with a chewy center. The larger thicker ones are called porras and are less crispy & more chewy. The churros and porras are not covered in sugar as we are accustomed to in the US.

Then there’s the accompanying cup of chocolate for dipping. This is a dark chocolate liquid which is thin enough to drink once you’ve finished your churros.

Dipping a churro into a cup of chocolate in Madrid

My immediate assessment? The churros were fine but didn’t have a lot of intrinsic flavor themselves so were definitely begging for chocolate. The porras were quite a bit greasier, so I didn’t really like them. And the chocolate was thinner and not quite as chocolatey as I expected.

So honestly, I was a little underwhelmed. Were the best churros in Madrid indeed elsewhere?

I hoped I’d find better. On with my quest!

Churrería Chocolatería 1902

Next up was Churrería Chocolatería 1902. As should be obvious from the name, this Churrería was founded in 1902, just a few years after Chocolatería San Ginés. And it’s just a block away from its more famous competitor.

Outside Churrería Chocolatería 1902 in Madrid Spain

The Vibe

At Churrería Chocolatería 1902, you’ll find a tiered cafe-style dining room. With only one counter and no outdoor seating, the ordering system is much less complicated than San Ginés. Like San Ginés, you place your order at the counter upon entry, sit down, and wait for a server to attend to you. We were slightly put off here immediately when we were told that we couldn’t sit down and eat unless we also ordered drinks (coffee, bottled water, whatever) with our churros.

When we visited here at around 10 am, it was busy and there was a short line out the door to get in. The wait staff seemed overwhelmed and not nearly as efficient as the much busier San Ginés. In fact, they never brought part of our order – even after we pointed it out.

The Goods

As you see, the churros at 1902 are shaped differently – and this looped churro is a common churro shape in Spain. These were the crispiest churro of any that I tried on my quest – and my least favorite for that reason. They weren’t very chewy, and chewy is a desirable quality in my mind. 1902 also serves porras, but I really didn’t like the porras at San Ginés, so didn’t order any here.

Churros and chocolate at Churrería Chocolatería 1902 in Madrid

A potential advantage of visiting Churrería Chocolatería 1902 is that they offer several different types of dipping chocolate. In addition to the traditional dark chocolate, you can get milk chocolate, a Bailey’s chocolate, chocolate with dulce de leche, and several others.

Ever since we visited Buenos Aires last year, I have a bit of a dulce de leche addiction. So in addition to the traditional dark chocolate, we also ordered the dulce de leche version.

And it was a disappointment. In the photo below, you can see how clumpy it was. I think those were clumps of dulce de leche. I wasn’t actually sure. Plus I couldn’t discern any dulce de leche flavor. The dark chocolate was also disappointing. We found it flavorless and very watery.

Churros dipping into clumpy chocolate at Churrería Chocolatería 1902 in Madrid

Overall, our experience at Churrería Chocolatería 1902 wasn’t good. In fact, so much so, we immediately headed two blocks up the street to a different place called Chocolatería Valor – hoping for a win.

Chocolatería Valor

When I’d asked our Airbnb host which establishment he considered to have the best churros in Madrid, he told me to try Valor. He said it was his choice because he considered their chocolate the best. And as you’ve probably gathered from what I’ve written so far, I agree that chocolate quality is a key to the whole Churros and Chocolate experience.

And it makes perfect sense that Valor has great chocolate. Valor is the largest chocolate company in Spain. While their main focus is chocolate bars, candies, and drinking chocolate, they also serve churros and chocolate in their dessert-themed cafes throughout the country.

Outside tables at Chocolatería Valor in Madrid

The Vibe

As we entered our neighborhood’s Valor, we immediately noticed the old-school cafe vibe. The large steel containers filled with chocolate stood directly in front of us on the counter. Here we were seated first, and then gave our order to the friendly server, just as you would in a typical cafe. You can see in the photo below that after having departed a packed 1902 and its harried staff, we found Valor to be a sea of calm.

The interior of Chocolatería Valor in Madrid

The Goods

The churros at Valor are quite different than any other place we visited. They are the same size as traditional churros, but are a deeper color of brown and don’t have any ridges. For me personally, they offered a nice combination of crisp and chewy, but Mrs. TT didn’t like them.

Churros and chocolate at Chocolatería Valor in Madrid

However, we did both agree that the dipping chocolate at Valor lives up to its reputation. It was thicker, richer, and had more chocolate flavor than the other places we’d tried so far.

Dipping churros into the chocolate at Chocolatería Valor in Madrid

So at this point, I was giving the edge to Chocolatería Valor in my quest for the Best Churros in Madrid – ridges or not. Plus, the overall dining experience here was also the very best (and remained the best of any place I visited on this quest).

Churrería Santa Ana

But then I found Churrería Santa Ana. I found it as I searched Google maps for churrerías in central Madrid. And I couldn’t help but notice its 4.7 Google rating. Higher than any other churrería that I found – including San Ginés.

And I read its rave churros reviews.

And I read its rave porras reviews.

So unquestioningly, my quest for the Best Churros in Madrid took me on a 15 minute walk from my apartment one morning to check Churrería Santa Ana out.

Churreria Santa Ana home of the best churros in Madrid Spain

The Vibe

It’s a hole-in-the-wall vibe here. Definitely a hole-in-the-wall vibe. But as I know from years of traveling, hole-in-the-walls often serve up the very best things to eat.

Santa Ana is located on a quiet non-touristic street and is only open in the mornings. It’s a take-out establishment only. And if you look carefully underneath the sign, you can see that Santa Ana was established in 1895 – only one year after San Ginés. When I entered, there was only one Spanish local in line ahead of me at the counter.

Each time I went (yes, I went back!), the man behind the counter (who I presume is the owner) came out of the kitchen and slapped a huge freshly fried porra swirl on the main counter. He would then cut off pieces according to my order.

A freshly fried porra at Churrería in Madrid Spain

And then he poured chocolate into a takeaway cup from a small machine behind the counter.

The chocolate dispenser at Churrería in Madrid Spain

The Goods

Based on Santa Ana’s Google reviews, I did decide to give porras a try again. And I took a bite of one as I left the shop.

And it was amazing!

In fact, I immediately found a park bench. Mrs. TT, waiting back at the apartment, would have to wait a little longer while I gave it all a quick try – freshly cooked.

The best churros in Madrid from Churreria Santa Ana on a park bench

The porras (and churros too) actually had flavor, and a touch of salt to further accentuate it. Plus both types were perfectly chewy and the less greasy than any others I tried on my quest.

Close-up of a porra along with a cup of chocolate from Churrería Santa Ana in Madrid

Unfortunately, the chocolate was pretty weak. Not as bad as 1902, but still fairly watery and lacking in strong chocolate flavor. But, as was clear from my vantage point at the counter, chocolate is not the focus at Santa Ana. It’s all about the Churros. Good enough to eat all by themselves.

Chocolat

Even though I was pretty sure that I’d found the best churros in Madrid at Churrería Santa Ana, I continued questing nonetheless. And tried one more place I’d read about in my online searching called Chocolat.

Chocolat is a more recent addition to the Madrid Churro and Chocolate scene, having been founded in 2003. Chocolat’s website outlines its Master Chocolatier’s artisanal approach to his chocolate. And after a lot of disappointing chocolate on my quest so far, I definitely wanted some artisanal chocolate.

And so I found myself taking another 15 minute walk one morning from our apartment – to the Las Letras neighborhood in central Madrid for one last stop on my quest.

The Storefront for Chocolat in Madrid Spain

The Vibe

Though not as tiny as Churrería Santa Ana, Chocolat is still pretty small when compared to the first three churrerías I visited. Inside you’ll find a long counter with several tables. The place was mostly full when I arrived, and there was a short line waiting for takeaway too. On the website, Chocolat indicates that their churros are only served hot directly from the fryer in the morning. I presume that you can still get them while supplies last through the afternoon when the café also serves salads, sandwiches, and burgers.

Inside the Chocolateria called Chocolat in Madrid Spain

The Goods

I took our order to go and walked back to our apartment as quickly as I could. The churros were still warm when I walked through the door, and the chocolate was still piping hot.

Dipping churros into chocolate from Chocolat in Madrid Spain

The verdict? While the churros were average and comparable to San Ginés, the chocolate was unquestionably our favorite. It was the thicker and richer like Valor’s. But where Valor’s chocolate had a touch of bitterness, Chocolat’s was a little sweeter – which I preferred. This was Mrs. TT’s favorite chocolate too.

The Grand Finale

And as we looked at the remaining chocolate in Chocolat’s styrofoam cup, it immediately became clear how this quest needed to end.

We saved what remained of the Chocolat chocolate.

I returned to Churrería Santa Ana the following morning.

And we put a stamp on this quest by enjoying the mix and match Best Churros and Chocolate in Madrid!

Final Thoughts

Obviously, I couldn’t try all the churros and chocolate places in Madrid. I suppose I could have tried more, but let’s just say it’s not healthy to eat churros and chocolate too frequently.

But I did try to sample some of the most popular and best reviewed places. And I did eat at Santa Ana and San Ginés twice for the sake of clarity.

I think the bottom line here is that if you want good churros and chocolate in Madrid, you have plenty of options, and don’t necessarily need to deal with the crowds at Chocolatería San Ginés.

Based on my personal quest, I think that the best churros in Madrid are at Churrería Santa Ana. And the best chocolate is at Chocolat. And I can recommend both Chocolat and Valor as great places for one-stop churros and chocolate.

But if you want historic vibe in a touristic location. Or…want to eat churros where Stevie Wonder did. Then you won’t go wrong at Chocolatería San Ginés either.

If you happen to have a different favorite place for Churros in Madrid, then feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

And for more on my worldwide travel eating adventures, then be sure to check out these posts:

A Great Cooking Class in Cartagena Colombia

Eating Bifanas in Lisbon – Just Like My Travel Hero

Seeking Out Great Korean Food in Las Vegas

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