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.
This horchata recipe yields one gallon.
- 3 C. uncooked white rice
- 3 qts. filtered water (where to buy water purifiers)
- 4 sticks of cinnamon (where to buy authentic, fresh, out-of-this world cinnamon)
- 2 star anise pods (where to buy organic, non-irradiated star anise)
- 5 cloves (where to buy organic, non-irradiated cloves)
- 3 C. whole raw milk or coconut milk (where to buy coconut milk)
- 4 tsp. vanilla extract (make sure it’s real vanilla)
- 1 C. honey (where to find raw honey)
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)
Do you worry about the arsenic levels in rice products? We have cut way back on rice recently.
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:
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.
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?
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!
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).
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.
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?
Have you made it yet? Is your version as good as the original?
Dawn @ peelingbacktheonionlayers.com says
We love horchata! I never thought of adding coconut milk, though! I can’t wait to try your recipe! 🙂
A Table in the Sun says
What a great idea. I only use non dairy milks, but haven’t yet tried making my own.
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!
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.)
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?
That’s correct. The rice is never cooked!
Rachel M says
Mmmm horchata! I just thought to swing by my favorite taco joint to get some, but this looks much cleaner. Thank you!
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…
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.
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.
What do you do with the rice afterward?
John Glavis says
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….
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!
Where do you find chufa nuts?
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.
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.
This is super chalky every time. Help! It could be so good!
Corrianna C 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!
Jennifer Taylor via Facebook says
God Bless You!! my hubby and kiddos will be SO happy to see this in our house ~
Susan D. McLean via Facebook says
coconut sugar is low glycemic
Susan D. McLean via Facebook says
and tastes great
Ayumi Owczar via Facebook says
Thank you for sharing! I love this stuff!
Marie Rogers via Facebook says
Thank you for this recipe!!!!
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! 🙂
Elvia Terrazas Rascon via Facebook says
yes, too sweet at times, you can’t enjoy it! Thank you!
Rebecca Marchbanks via Facebook says
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Aur Beck via Facebook says
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.
Melanie Johnson via Facebook says
I guess that makes me a peasant. 🙂 I loooove horchata!
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?
Sue Kaufman says
I recently have discovered horchata and found your page, thank you for sharing this recipe! I’ll be trying it soon.
Anneliese Papaurelis via Facebook says
How about water?
Elizabeth Brooks Pavich via Facebook says
I think this is that drink you like Mark Cramer
Maile Denlea Armstrong via Facebook 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.
Sam Stanton via Facebook says
Horchata is delicious….but it’s not a “soda replacement” by any means!
Eat Beautiful via Facebook says
Katherine Agudelo via Facebook says
So good and sweet and cinnamony great now I want some of mexican horchata.
Carrie Saagim via Facebook says
I love this stuff
Keri Kennelly via Facebook 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. 😀
Luis Roberto via Facebook says
Horchata is not Mexican. It has been in Central America also for centuries.
Peggy Smith via Facebook says
I love this.
Tia Anyanwu via Facebook says
So delish we love it including the ice cream version too.
Lucy Deenin via Facebook says
Trisha Kazan via Facebook says
Do you think putting the rice through a coffee grinder dry, then adding it to water would work? (Recipe-wise, not saying it would necessarily be good for the grinder)
Annelle Figueroa-Diaz via Facebook says
Shallie Best Lucas
Roxanne Rieske via Facebook says
Love horchata! I make it with Indian basmati, which gives it a slightly toasty flavor.
Stacy Smith via Facebook says
Elena, for next year’s posadas?!
Elena Colletti via Facebook says
My absolute favorite!!!
Please be careful. Rice has high arsenic content. Please check out online for more information.
Aunt Fran says
Hi The addition of anise and cloves sounds interesting. Have you ever tried cardamon?