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Texas Kitchen: Sylvia Casares’ buñuelos recipe

Buñuelos have a light, crispy shell covered in cinnamon and sugar. Photo by Paula Murphy

Sylvia Casares was born in the border town of Brownsville and traces her family heritage to Mexico, so it’s no surprise that Tex-Mex cuisine has always been of keen interest to the chef.

She would eventually gain fame as the “Enchilada Queen” in local publications while helming Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen in Houston, which offers more than 20 different enchiladas at each of its 2 locations.

Portrait of Sylvia Casares.

Sylvia Casares (aka the Enchilada Queen), chef-owner of Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen in Houston. Photo by Alex Martinez

These days, the co-author (with the late Texas food journalist Dotty Griffith) of The Enchilada Queen Cookbook (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016) is hard at work bottling her famous chili gravy and salsas for retail.

Casares shares this recipe for sweet, crispy buñuelos—a Latin American street food that’s considered a symbol of good luck and is traditionally served to ring in the new year.

The recipe was handed down from her mother and grandmother, neither of whom ever put the instructions to paper. “As I typically do with most of my recipes, I just worked on it until I hit the mark,” Casares says.

And while she doesn’t have a specific good-luck story from cooking or eating the flat, fried, cinnamon-flavored treats, Casares notes that she’s been blessed with a productive, healthy life. “I guess I could say that the buñuelos have served me well!”

South Texas buñuelos


Makes 18

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup water (very warm, 110°)
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar


In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Blend well using your hands or a large wooden spoon. With a fork, blend in shortening until well mixed.

Add the warm water; gently blend until all the ingredients come together, then knead no more than 20 times to form a smooth dough. Cover bowl with a towel for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.

After the dough has rested, knead once or twice, then break off pieces and shape them slightly smaller than a golf ball to make about 18 balls of dough. On a floured board and using a flour-dusted rolling pin, roll each ball into a disc about 1/8 inch thick and about 6 inches in diameter.

In a large saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil to 365°. Carefully place the discs one at a time into the hot oil. Fry each until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes, turning once or basting with hot oil to fry the top. Remove buñuelos and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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