Bunuelos are popular fried dough balls or fritters that are served as snack in all the Latin American countries, (such as Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Cuba, Colombia and Spain) and also in Mediterranean and Asian countries (such as Turkey, Greece, Morocco and Philippines, respectively). This snack is generally served during the festivals of various cultures, such as Christmas, Ramadan and Hanukkah. It is also known by various other names such as bimuelo, birmuelo, bermuelo, burmuelo and bonuelo and in Catalan, it is known as bunyol. These fried balls usually have some kind of filling or topping, which are savory or sweet.
Bunuelo is believed to have originated in Spain, among the Morisco people. This dough based snack was prepared with a flavoring of anise and topped with either sweet or savory ingredients. Today, this snack is very popular in most parts of world and has many regional variations as well.
Bunuelo is traditionally prepared with matzo meal, which is mixed with salt, eggs and water. The contents are blended well and dropped into hot oil with the help of a spoon. When the balls turn golden brown and are completely done, they are drained on paper towels and served with either a savory side dish, such as boiled eggs or a sweet side dish, such as maple syrup or sugar and cinnamon. Syrup made with guava, brown sugar and cinnamon is another popular accompaniment of this Mexican snack.
Buñuel’s has many regional variations, which are detailed below –
Colombia – This variation is a traditional Christmas snack that is made with curd white cheese, which is made into balls and fried till golden brown. This snack is generally served with manjar Blanco.
Cuba – This variation is prepared with yucca and malinger dough that is twisted into a figure 8 and coated with anise caramel and then fried.
Nicaragua – This variation is made with yucca and is generally served during holidays. The yucca dough is rolled into balls and then deep fried. This snack is usually served with honey.
Italy – Frijole or frittle is the Italian version (Veneto) of the snack, which is generally eaten during carnival, as part of the Venetian tradition. It is prepared with a custard filling and some varieties are even filled with apple slices.
Zeppole is another popular Italian bunuelo that is made with dough balls, which are usually about 2 inches wide. They are also known as fritters or doughnuts and have a powdered sugar coating. The filling may comprise of jelly, pastry cream (cannoli), custard, or butter-honey mixture. They are available in the form of puffed up balls, like bread or even as pasta.
Holland – Oliebollen is the Dutch version of the snack, which gets its sweetness from vanilla extract and raisins/currants, added to the dough.
Popular Bunuelo Recipes
Colombian Christmas Cheese Fritters (Bunuelos) –
Farmer’s cheese (Queso fresco) is the key ingredient of this snack. The cheese is mixed with corn starch, brown sugar, egg and a little salt. This mixture is shaped into balls and deep-fried till golden brown. These fritters are served with a coating of powdered sugar.
Bunuelos de Queso –
These are Puerto Rican cheese fritters that go well with any main course dish. Sifted flour (with baking powder and salt) are added to beaten egg mixture (made of eggs, milk and sugar) and mixed well. Once the batter is formed, cheese (Swiss, Parmesan or Jack) is folded in and spoonsful of this batter is dropped into hot oil and fried till golden brown. They are served hot.
Note: Chopped ham, dried oregano and paprika too can be added to the batter.
Bunyols de vent/Bunuelos de viento –
These are Spanish fried balls that are dusted with powdered sugar and then coated with chocolate glaze. Anise liquor or lemon peel can be added to the dough for flavoring and the balls can be filled with egg custard, cream or marmalade. .
Banana Bunuelos –
These are Spanish banana fritters. They are made as savory and sweet and are usually served as an afternoon snack or as dessert.
Flour is added to egg mixture (made of egg yolks, milk, sugar and vanilla extract) and beaten to a smooth consistency. Meanwhile, egg whites are whisked till they peak and folded into the flour mixture. Banana slices are added to the batter and folded in. Spoonfuls of this banana batter are fried till golden brown and served hot after excess oil is drained out on paper towels.
Flour tortillas are also used for making Bunuelos, which are usually covered with sugar and cinnamon.