Horchata Recipe: Sweet Mexican Rice Milk

Horchata Recipe -- Sweet Mexican Rice Milk

Have you ever tasted horchata — the sweet Mexican rice milk made with cinnamon? It’s one of my family’s favorite drinks. Because I live in Texas, horchata seems to be everywhere.

It’s sold in convenience stores right alongside lemonade, sold in the Mexican taquerias and panaderias that pop up in neighborhood strip malls, and served up at family barbecues. Yet despite it being so ever present, I recently discovered that not many of my Texan friends or family had ever tried horchata, let alone made it.

Unfortunately, almost all horchata recipes call for a lot of refined, white sugar. Some convenience store varieties are even made from mixes full of high fructose corn syrup. Naturally, I wanted better than that for my family, so I created this horchata recipe using 100% real food.

Horchata Recipe

This horchata recipe yields one gallon.

The Players

The How-To

1. Pour about half the water and all the rice into a blender, being sure not to overfill your carafe. Blend for one minute.

2. Pour this blended rice water into a gallon-sized pitcher or glass jar. Add the remaining water, cinnamon sticks, anise, and cloves and let stand at room temperature overnight, covered. (You could feasibly let it sit for as little as three hours, but the flavor won’t be nearly as awesome!)

3. Strain the rice water into the serving vessel. I use this double fine mesh strainer with a wooden handle, which you can pick up for about $7.

4. Stir in the remaining ingredients. If you’re going for authenticity, try it with the whole milk. If you need to be dairy-free, opt for the coconut milk. Be sure to stir until the honey is well dissolved.

5. Before serving, let it chill in the fridge. Horchata is traditionally served over ice in the summer; in the very least it’s always refrigerated. That said, my family takes heretical glee in enjoying horchata served warm in the winter.

Try it both ways, and let me know what you think!

(photo by justinwkern)


    • KristenM says

      Not really, no. It’s one of the few foods I don’t buy locally because I live in the South, where arsenic levels in rice patties are highest. I’m fairly confident that if I keep my exposure down and make sure I’ve got a healthy liver, I’ll be fine.

      You can read more about my opinion of arsenic in rice here:

      • erin says

        They have also recently found very high levels of lead in rice as well as the previous info on arsenic. I heard California grown had the least amount? Not sure though.

  1. Jennifer McLaughlin says

    I love horchata but had abandoned it for the sugar reason. So I am thrilled to see your post! :)
    Have you tried making it with brown rice?

    • KristenM says

      No, I haven’t. I think it might be a bit weird as the bran separates from the rice during the overnight soak, but you should give it a shot if that’s what you’ve got on hand!

  2. Diane says

    Never heard of this before! Sounds like a good warm nog to curl up by a window with a book while it snows outside. Will be trying this one out. Reminds me of the Puerto Rican cochito…..egg nog (can be made with or without eggs).

  3. says

    I like horchata! My boyfriend is Mexican, and sometimes I get to enjoy home-made horchata during holidays. When we visit his family in California, he usually gets horchata that comes from a fountain drink machine in restaurants– So gross!
    I can’t wait to try this recipe.

  4. Shantelle C. Stephens says

    Anybody have any ideas for fermenting this, I have consumed and made plenty, but would love to kick up some health benefits. Is there a precedent for fermented rice milk?

  5. nannette says

    Gah! Why the milk?! True horchata is made with chufa nuts! I make it with almonds because there is no way to get chufas here. And canella – Mexican soft stick cinnamon should be used. Never regular. It makes me batty that everyone seems to promote the notion that horchata is a dairy beverage . It is NOT!

    • KristenM says

      The milk adds a creamy texture, and I’ve been in plenty of Mexican homes where the families added a little milk to their horchata. It may not be what you’re used to, but it’s still a legitimate way to make this drink. (It’d be like me getting annoyed by the way Northerners add beans to their chili. Here in the South, that’s a big no-no. But it doesn’t mean it’s no longer chili.)

  6. Stacy Green says

    The recipe says to use uncooked rice but nowhere in the recipe does it say to cook the rice. Is the rice never cooked?

  7. John Glavis says

    This is our second year of growing chufa sedge nuts (Cyperus esculentes var.sativa) at our biodiversity research center here in Northern California. We made our first batch of horchata de chufas for Thanksgiving and it was other-worldly coconut-creamy and sweet enough on it’s own. Originally from pre-dynastic Egypt later carried to Spain by the Moors, the Valencia region is still renowned for its horchata de chufa. With its 36% oil, which when pressed many say is far superior to olive oil, and it’s use ground as a high protein flour it seems yet another under-utilized food source.
    Biodiversity holds a treasure-trove of ancient heirlooms for our gardens and our tables…and new delicious recipes for our plates…

    • says

      Just gotta say that your info about chufa nuts (which I had never heard of) made me excited to try them. I love old foodstuffs being brought back or brought to new folks. Thanks for the info John:) Will we find them at a San Fran Farmers Market anytime soon! lol!

      • John Glavis says

        Thanks Laura – I envision bringing many of the foods we have (re)discovered to the market in the next few years. Presently we are preparing to offer our first selections : Andean tubers, including oca, mashua, ulluco, and yacon (I will make another post for these on your FB page), and the incredible medicinal food from the Izu islands of Japan – Ashitaba. Our chufa trials were very successful and we are planning to expand production by working cooperatively with area farmers.

    • Bacchal says

      I was just about to mention the use of nutsedge in Spanish horchata when I saw your post. This “weed” was quite prolific on the organic farm I worked at in Southeast Michigan. We spent hours uprooting them from the beds of cultivars. It was a bit of an art trying to pull them up with the nut intact. I was surprised by the similarity in taste to coconuts. Even the texture was the same. At one point, we had an entire mason jar full at the farm in order to make horchata. Unfortunately, they were forgotten about and went bad. I would sill love to try the Spanish version of it.

  8. John Glavis says

    Greetings Bacchal,
    Thanks for your comment… I continue to be enthralled by the possibilities of chufa. It is amazing how many delicious and nutritious foods are unknown in the U.S. and quite exciting to find plants that will work in American gardens. Our chufa harvest was large this year and I am hoping to find other farmers interested in production. I am also in touch with Spanish growers and hope to make arrangements to import organic chufa soon so we don’t have to wait….

  9. says

    I just got back from Mexico and the horchata was amazing. I’ve been planning to make my own recipe but now I don’t have to. Thanks girl!

    • galactic muffin says

      You literally find them in all feilds in the US. Look up wild yellow nutsedge (chufa nut plant) on google images and you may recognise this common “weed”. Then go out there and start digging them up. Youll find all the chufa nuts you will ever want.

  10. Amy says

    I am going to check at the airline Dr. Farmers markets for these chufa nuts. Sounds very interesting.Really, they are from THAT weed? Wait, I need to go pull that from the garden right now! I live in Houston, and we bow down to a good red chicken with horchata to wash it down. The contrast of spices it wonderful.

  11. says

    I’m allergic to 99% of all grains, including white rice. I can, however, eat sprouted grains. I want to try this with sprouted brown rice. I wonder if it will work! I will report back!

  12. Keri Kennelly via Facebook says

    Yum! :) Had some at a restaurant over the weekend. I’ve only made it once and it was the traditional way. Will look forward to trying this recipe. Thanks! :)

  13. Howard Gray via Facebook says

    The real version is from Spain (or possibly Egypt) and is made using Tiger Nuts. Using rice is the bastard peasant version.

  14. says

    Last fall at Wise Traditions they served a gelatin dessert also called horchata. Could this beverage be used to make something similar? Have you ever had horchata gelatin?

  15. Sue Kaufman says

    I recently have discovered horchata and found your page, thank you for sharing this recipe! I’ll be trying it soon.

  16. says

    Horchata is great. My kids love it even with hardly any sweetener. They also love kombucha, kefir, and beet kvass. Lately I’ve been making herbal tea gelatin for them almost every day. No sweeteners at all and they(6,5,and 2) gobble it up. For more of a treat I make jamaica(hibiscus) gelatin with just a few tablespoons of raw honey.

    Here soda is like a once a year special drink, only when a restaurant happens to serve all natural root beer.

  17. says

    Vickilynn Haycraft, yes, it’s made with uncooked rice. :) Don’t worry, it turns out really good!! 😀 In fact, horchata is delicious! :) Love it with Mexican food! I’ve only made it myself once, but it was gobbled down. :)

    I’d have to agree though, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a replacement for soda, as it’s more of a sweet milk in flavor. Kombucha would be more fitting as a soda replacement, I would think, as it’s got the fizzy aspect to it. :) However, many of those have alcohol in them, which generally isn’t recommended for kids, lol. 😀

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