Christmas means… buñuelos time! If you come from a Latin American family, chances are you’ll have buñuelos for dessert this holiday season. According to the New York Times, this fritter-like treat has its origins in Spain and almost every Latin American country has its own version. 

While Mexican buñuelos are sweet, deep-fried, and covered in syrup, the Cuban and Nicaraguan version is made with yuca, and the Colombian ones are made with cheese.

In any case, tradition says it brings good luck to eat buñuelos during the holiday season and that’s why we’re seeing them everywhere these days. Trust us, type “buñuelos” on TikTok and you’ll find yourself trapped for days in deep-fried dough heaven. 

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But the two most popular are the sweet Mexican kind and the cheese-filled Colombian ones. So let’s go ahead and break down their basics. We’ll also share some easy recipes so that you can try both at home. Maybe this can turn into a family buñuelo contest. May the best win!

Mexican sweet buñuelos

Instagram darling and chef Esteban Castillo from @chicanoeats is a fan of this dessert. As he explains in his blog, there are two main types of Mexican buñuelos. First, buñuelos de rodilla, which are dough-based, flat, shaped like a circle, and covered in piloncillo syrup (brown sugar).

Second, buñuelos de viento, which are batter-based. They get their characteristic snowflakey shape thanks to an iron rosette mold that you’ll need to dip in the batter as you can see in the video below. 

Instagram @chicanoeats

His favorites are the latter, in case you were wondering. And he includes his own yummy recipe in his latest book with sweet recipes, Chicano Bakes (Harper Collins 2022).

“Every time I have [buñuelos de viento], I think back to my childhood and the posadas season,” he told Thrillist.

To get them right, follow the full recipe and step by step on his blog, Chicano Eats, or his book. ¿Un secreto? “I like to tell people to leave the rosette inside of the hot oil because when you dip the rosette into the batter, you want to make sure that the batter is sizzling,” Castillo explained. This will make it easier, so once you dip it back into the hot oil, it’ll release seamlessly.

Colombian savory buñuelos

Gonzalo Calle Asprilla iStock / Getty Images Plus

Shaped like little balls, Colombian buñuelos are fritters made with a mix of cheese and cornstarch. Even though they’re most popular during the holidays, Colombians also love to have them for breakfast with hot chocolate or cafecito year-round. 

Now, the golden rule to make good buñuelos might be easy to remember, but not always easy to achieve: “crispy on the outside, soft and cheesy on the inside,” writes food blogger Erica Dinho from My Colombian Recipes. 

If you want to get the traditional recipe right, you’ll want to make them with queso costeño, a quite salty white cheese that comes, as you may have guessed, from the coastal regions of Colombia.

As Dinho explains, its texture is “a bit harder than queso fresco.” Since this is not that easy to find in any supermarket in the US, she uses alternatives like feta cheese, which is similar in texture and flavor.

So how to get the right texture? The Colombian blogger insists that the secret is in the temperature of the oil you fry the buñuelos in. “The oil can’t be very hot or very cold. Be sure the oil is heated to 300 to 320 grades F,” she explains. Get every detail and full recipe on her blog