Horchata

horchata

By noon yesterday, the temperature in my apartment was nearly 100ºF (38ºC) and with the sun bearing down full force on the entire city, and so few trees to provide any shade, it was the first scorching day of summer in Paris. Having lived in temperate San Francisco for much of my life, I was used to days that were always moderate; winter and summer weather could be nearly identical and one never had to do the seasonal ritual of the shifting of clothes when one season ended and another one began.

Another thing I got used to in San Francisco was ice-cold horchata, a rice-based Mexican drink always available at many of the taquerias and burrito joints in the Mission that I frequented. But as much as I love horchata, it was odd that I never gave it a whirl at home. So when I got my hands of a copy of Paletas by Fany Gerson, a nifty little guide to making Mexican frozen pops and drinks, I dialed in on the horchata recipe in the book and gave it a spin.

rice for horchata straining horchata

I had wondered why the recipe didn’t say to blend the rice with some of the warm water, which I thought would make it easier to break the rice down into small pieces required for the infusion. But a few seconds after I hit the “Blend” button, I realized why not.

(But it did give me a good excuse the clean every single surface in my kitchen, which was now covered with sticky-damp little nubbins of rice.)

blending horchata horchata

And although I was a bit skeptical of what I thought was a too-small amount of rice, which might not be enough to give the horchata that special rice flavor, it was spot-on. That first icy sip cooled me right down, and I think that’s going to be the first of many sips this summer.

horchata


Horchata

About 6 cups (1.5l)

Adapted from Paletas (Ten Speed) by Fany Gerson


I used rice milk since I like the flavor of it and it is a bit lighter than regular milk, although there are versions of horchata that use plain milk (whole or skim), coconut milk, or even sweetened condensed milk. Feel free to use what you’d like, although if using coconut or condensed milk, sweeten the horchata to taste.

Speaking of which, on first taste, I thought this was a little sweet. But after pouring it over ice, I realized the sweetener was just right. The original recipe called for the full cup,bBut you may wish to start off with the smaller amount sugar (or even less) and add more if you wish.


  • 2/3 cup (120g) white rice (see Note)
  • 3 cups warm water
  • One 2-inch (5cm) cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 to 1 cup (150g-200g) sugar
  • 2 cups (500ml) rice milk or regular milk
  • Ground cinnamon, for serving


1. In a blender, grind the rice so it is in fine pieces, roughly the consistency of very coarse polenta. (If your blender won’t go that fine, that’s okay and just break up the rice as much as possible.)

2. Transfer the rice to a bowl then pour warm water over it and add the cinnamon stick. Cover and refrigerate at least eight hours, but preferably overnight.

3. Pluck out the cinnamon stick then puree the rice and water until it’s as smooth as possible. Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth, squeezing it relatively firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

4. Stir in the sugar and milk, mixing until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary. Refrigerate until completely chilled.


Serving: Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

Storage: Store the horchata in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Note: The original, and most other horchata recipes I’ve seen, recommend using long grain rice. However I used short grain rice, and was pleased with the results. In Spain they make horchata with chufa, which are not easy to find, depending on where you live.




Related Links and Recipes

Making Horchata: Which rice is best? (The Kitchn)

Mexican Restaurants in Paris

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Atole

Chili with Chocolate

Sour Cream, Cherry, and Tequila Ice Pops (Lottie+Doof)

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Carnitas

Almond-Rice Horchata (Homesick Texan)

Chocolate Mole

118 comments

  • Just a thought on the cheesecloth: I used it, and found that it did not strain the rice gunk out all that well, leaving some at the bottom of the glass. A friend suggested a tea towel instead, which is finer weave, so it will catch more of the gunk. This will solve the problem for your French readers as well. (EXPENSIVE cheesecloth is a preposterous proposition)

    Folks: A tea towel is a very light towel that would be used to wipe up light spills or line a tray to catch the odd spill when you are carrying drinks. It is usually about as light, or lighter than, a cloth napkin (also a usable option).

  • I’ve always wanted to make horchata! My favorite taqueria has an amazing version, but I don’t have a chance to go there often. I only have brown rice at home. Do you know it that would work?

  • David,

    Absolutely love, love, love the blog.

    Quick question: Does the sugar dissolve well in the room temperature liquid? In reading the recipe, I was wondering this immediately.

  • IMHO, the best horchata comes from Central America, where it is made with ground seeds of the Jícaro (AKA Morro) gourd, which grows on a type of Calabash tree. Jícaro gives Central American horchata a rich, toasted flavor totally absent in the Mexican rice (or rice and almond versions). Central American horchata is flecked with brown specks of ground jícaro and the sludge at the bottom is stirred into the drink — not something you try to totally filter out.

    Love your recipes David and your blog!

  • Funny, I had never heard of this type of horchata. Spanish horchata is made of “chufas” (tiger nut) and it’s very typical in cities like Valencia.

  • Hi Dave,
    First things first: I love your blog. Can’t get enough of it.
    i lived in San Diego for 2 years and horchata was an everyday drink for us. Now I live in Birmingham, AL (dont ask me why, i dont know either) and we are melting!
    I was wondering why did you not use a food processor instead of a blender?

  • Hi David,
    I want to thank you so much for the horchata recipe. I made it yesterday and I love it. I always have a glass of milk with ice cubes in it before bedtime and this kicks it up a notch. The addition of the cinnamon stick makes it a perfect drink.

    To add to Lola’s comment…..I tried a food processor first and the grains of rice just whirled around and did not break down. I put them in a Waring blender and it did the job without a problem.
    Thanks Dave for once again adding goodness to my life !

  • Apologies to all. If cheesecloth is too coarse, tea towel is WAY too fine. Stick with the cheesecloth, and put up with the gunk at the bottom of you glass. 8-(

  • I love this blog and have for two years now. When i make Horchata, I use pantyhose to strain it. I make a simple syrup, adding the juice of one Key lime and vanilla extract to sweeten it. It makes a great cocktail with Tequila and lime.

  • Yum! Thanks for the recipe. In Valencia, Spain recently I tried Horchata made from Chufa nuts (it tastes similar to almond milk). It’s supposed to give you a kick of energy which I definitely found to be true but am not sure whether it was from the sugar or the actual chufa nuts.

    I’ve also had the Mexican horchata made from rice in Guanajuato. They had tonnes of different flavours including grass flavoured horchata! I wouldn’t recommend drinking the stuff from street-vendors – I’m pretty sure the horchata I drank off the street made me sick! It was pretty refreshing though!

    • Yikes, grass? But I hear you on the street vendor food in Mexico (and elsewhere.) So much of it is really great, but you do need to watch out. I got really sick once in Mexico and it was an experience I don’t wish to repeat either..

  • What an AMAZING horchata recipe! I grew up in San Diego and practically lived off this stuff. Now I’m in Israel, where neither of the two Mexican restaurants (if you can even call them that) bother to make horchata. But now I have a simple and lovely recipe for horchata that’s even, dare I say, better than what I loved back home. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you, David. Just in time for my next trip to Spain. Now I know what horchata is and will try it. Sounds delicious.

  • I haven’t had horchata in years. I am glad to have a such a delightful reminder while reading your blog. I’m having dinner guests tomorrow and plan to add this to my menu.

  • I’m adopting this recipe as my new favorite. I’ve made horchata before and it was always kind of watery. Here in KC we had a “food truck festival” this past friday, and I was delighted to find the very best horchata I’ve ever had there, courtesy of a little place called Poco’s. So, I searched for a new recipe and was so excited to see you had just posted this, David! So I made it immediately. I didn’t think my blender would grind the rice all by itself without any liquid, but it did, happily. I started steeping at noon and it went for about 20 hours. The resulting frothy stuff smelled a bit of yeast, so I figure I picked up some probiotics too. :-) Probably should steep in fridge? I used 2/3 C sugar and that seemed a little long. But other than that, it was divine. I like the milk addition – some don’t use use milk, but it adds rich texture that I appreciate. So David, as usual, a big hit. Merci beacoup!

  • I’m the manager of a seasonal/local bakery and cafe, and latched onto your horchata as a drink special for the month of July. We are serving it with a shot of espresso–a horchata latte if you will. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Might one skip the grinding and use rice flour? I get mine in San Francisco’s Japantown for other purposes… and just thought it may be a shortcut?

    • A few others asked this in previous comments and the problem is that when you combine flour and water, you’re likely going to get a clumpy soggy mess that you won’t be able to strain. Plus I don’t know if rice flour has the same taste as rice.