Beverage Tex-Mex

Horchata, a refreshing rice and almond beverage

Horchata | Homesick Texan

I have to admit that the first time I had horchata was not in Texas. Nope, I had it at here in my New York City neighborhood, at a local Mexican-food cart I frequent on Sundays. Now, this cart doesn’t sell it year round—when it’s cold they have champurrado instead. But recently, when the sun was shining and you didn’t need more than a light jacket to keep the breezes at bay, my vendor beckoned to me and said in Spanish, “At last, I have horchata!”

Horchata is one of those drinks I never really thought about making at home. For me, it’s always been a street treat—a refreshment I’ll grab on warm days when I’m shopping for chiles in Queens or the perfect cool chaser to a fiery taco.

Horchata | Homesick Texan

But last week I received an email from a reader who had fallen in love with it when they lived in Texas, but were unable to find it where the now lived. They asked if I had a recipe and so I decided to see what I could find.

Have you ever had horchata? It’s what’s known as an aqua fresca, which is a Mexican beverage that is a blend of sweetened water with fruits, seeds, nuts or grains. On the streets in Mexico City every corner has carts selling these refreshing drinks, but you can also find them in restaurants as well. Take the lunch place I ate at a couple of times. When you sat down, the server greeted you with their agua fresca of the day and this glass was never empty as the server was vigilant in keeping it filled. The presentation and ritual reminded me of how Texans drink their iced tea—a bottomless glass of cool, invigorating liquid that goes with everything, especially spicy dishes.

Horchata is very creamy and the first time I drank it I thought it was made with milk. But instead it’s a dairy-free combination of rice, almonds, sugar and water. Most will throw in some cinnamon, vanilla and lime for added depth and flavor as well. When researching recipes, I found that there was little variation in method—you just soak pulverized rice with blanched almonds overnight, blend it with water, strain it and enjoy. Sure, you have to be a little patient, but horchata is well worth the wait.

Horchata | Homesick Texan

In the warmer months you’ll always find a pitcher of iced tea in my refrigerator. But I’ll need to make room as I now plan on keeping a pitcher of horchata in there as well. Sure, I won’t stop drinking horchata on the street—I’ll need something to wash down the tacos and tamales—but now that I know how simple it is to make at home there’s no reason why I can’t enjoy it at any time.

Horchata


Ingredients:
2/3 cup of uncooked rice
1 1/4 cups of blanched almonds
1 teaspoon of lime juice
Zest from one lime
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar or brown sugar, depending on how dark you want the drink

Method:
In a blender or spice grinder, grind the rice until it’s powdery. Place ground rice, almonds, lime juice, lime zest and the cinnamon stick in a pot and cover with two cups of warm water. Let stand overnight or for eight hours.

After the mixture has soaked, take out the cinnamon stick and pour contents into a blender with two cups of water and blend until smooth. Take a mesh colander that has been double lined with cheesecloth, and over a bowl or pitcher slowly pour the mixture, wringing the cheesecloth to get every last drop out. You should have a milky, smooth liquid at this point. If there are still rice and almond bits floating around, strain it again.

In a pot, heat up one cup of sugar and one cup of water on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stir this sugar water into the horchata, along with the vanilla. Add one more cup of water and serve over ice or chilled.

Keeps for several days in the refrigerator, but I bet it won’t last that long! And you might notice some separation after a day, but just stir it and it’ll be right again.
Author:
Adapted by Lisa Fain from Rick Bayless


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  1. I'm in CA for the week, and just had horchata at this resturant called el indio here in San Diego yesterday!

    And then I see this recipe today – awesome!

    I will say the biggest thing I miss about Texas (now living in NYC) is the Mexican food.

  2. Awe how come no Chufa nut?

  3. Giggleblue–I hear you–the Mexican food in Texas is so much better.

  4. I always get this at El Rey in Houston. Perfect with the salty ropa vieja, although it's practically a snack by itself. Yum.

  5. Scott–I've never seen chufa nuts in NYC.

    Latter-Day Flapper–It's wonderful with salty foods!

  6. I just had a craving for this! It's the first day the temperature is almost 80 degrees–time for horchata! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I always thought there was milk in it too. Great to know how to make it! Can't wait to give it a try.

  8. I have been listening to the Vampire Weekend song 'Horchata' and thinking about it for weeks. Now I can make it myself. Thanks.

  9. i had never heard of horchata until a couple of years ago – but i instantly became a huge fan. i am so excited to make this at home.

  10. this is right up my alley. i actually have a whole conversation about horchata this past weekend.

    i made cilantro horchata for a cilantro-themed iron chef party a while back and it was good (adapted from bayless as well!), but the best i've had was the first – when i vacationed in spain a couple of years ago. de-light-ful!

    we need street carts in chicago!

  11. I can't wait to try this recipe. Thank you so much for posting it!

  12. Can't wait to try this one!

  13. I was wondering how to make horchata. I can't bring myself to drink it out of the giant machines at my local Mexican restaurants. I wonder if I would work with hazelnuts. I know a lot of people that aren't big fans of almonds.

  14. Dessert for Two–It's perfect weather for it!

    Lisa–I know! I was shocked when I learned there wasn't any milk. Enjoy!

    WildCilla–Love Vampire Weekend!

    Brooke–Hope you enjoy it!

    Julie–You're very welcome!

    Heather–Cilantro horchata? I'm definitely going to try that! And y'all do need street carts. Are there laws that prevent them?

    Maria–Enjoy!

    Deanna–I bet it would be delicious with hazelnuts!

  15. I just had a glass today, from HEB's new Agua Frescas bar! and it was surprisingly good! The weather isn't quite warm enough in Texas yet, but it was still yummy! I think I am gonna make some tonight. Having it made me wistful for my grandma, who made it when I was a child. Horchata and fried plantains were a regular after school snack.

  16. I could drink horchata by the gallon. Easy. Don't have a blender at the moment, but I've been meaning to buy one. What could be a better (non-alcoholic) reason than horchata? 🙂

  17. Our local Mexican "hole in the wall" restaurant serves a nice horchata, but now I can make my own at home with your recipe. Thank you!

  18. Oh my gosh–I live in Paris and miss horchata from the US more than anything! Thank you so much for this recipe–so excited to try this in the coming days!

  19. Linsey M.–Oh! I can't wait to check out HEB's agua frescas bar!

    Marie–Yep, I could drink it by the gallon, too.

    Farmer Jen–I have to admit that it's a treat having it in your refrigerator.

    Lucie–It's one of those rare Mexican recipes where all the ingredients can be found just about anywhere in the world. Enjoy!

  20. Lisa, only the rice goes in the blender, not the almonds, right?

    Thanks from Fort Texadelphia, PA!

  21. Hayden–No, the rice, almonds and soaking liquid all go into the blender. Just take out the cinnamon stick.

  22. I love almond milk, and so with some cinnamon, I bet this is quite lovely. Definitely need to make!

  23. yeah – that's the problem – we arent "allowed to". otherwise, I'm sure bayless would have plenty of street carts for his new "street food" mexican restaurant! we do however, have guys that push around tamale carts, but they can't "park" them…. bummer!!

  24. once, i thought i had posted a comment but now i am not sure – want to take the time to thank you for all of the stories and recipes and good texas warmth that comes through in your postings. it's SOOOO nice to read and i love the style of your prose and the pics and everything about your page. makes me feel like i am in a little texas window.

    and now have my name so it is more texas style friendly!

    you're the best lisa!

  25. Ahh. My husband used to get horchatas every weekend at Las Manitas in Austin (I opted for agua fresca de sandia)… Then a developer decided to turn the block into a new Hilton or some such and we switched to Polvos… Then I moved to Boston, sigh.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  26. The first time I had REAL horchata — as opposed to a mix — was a revelation. A Mexican restaurant near me makes it, and it is so incredibly creamy, almost like a latte. Freshly made definitely is best.

  27. Tasty Eats at Home–If you love those two things together you'll definitely like horchata.

    Heather–That's nuts!

    Jerrie Lee–Awww, thank you! You just made my day!

    Whole-Grain Texan–I'm still upset about what they did to Las Manitas. Such a shame.

  28. A few years ago in NYC, I had a frozen horchata cocktail at a Spanish restaurant in Chelsea… it was awesome! can't remember the name of the place — possibly El Quinto Pino? (Just googled to jog my memory.) Anyway, you should try it yourself. Horchata goes great with brandy.

    Some branches of La Michoacana here in DF sell strawberry horchata, which is also equally as fantastic, if not better, than the real thing.

  29. Thanks for posting this yummy recipe! Horchata is one of my favorite agua frescas and I've recently been thinking about finding a recipe. Didn't have to go too far 🙂

  30. Love horchata. I have great Texas horchata memories! I have a pretty neat mix for it that I picked up in El Salvador that includes a bit of chocolate. But I'll have to give this homemade version a whirl.

  31. Lesley–That's right by me–I'll have to order one of those. And strawberry horchata does sound fantastic. I bet it would be good with mangoes, too.

    Yaya–My pleasure–enjoy!

    Bria–Oh, chocolate! Yum!

  32. I'm a big fan of El Rey's horchata, too. And I just recently found that Kern's (the people who make my beloved apricot nectar) sells horchata in half-gallon cartons at HEB. Hallelujah! That's how I discovered my latest find — that horchata instead of milk for cream of rice cereal is almost like a quick trip to nirvana!

  33. It's nowhere CLOSE to summer over here in Wisconsin… but I'm definitely filing away the idea for keeping a pitcher of horchata in my fridge. So refreshing!

  34. Margaret

    My favorite paleta is arroz con leche, which tastes like frozen horchata. Do you have a recipe? I can't find one.
    Thanks

  35. can you make this with brown rice, too?

  36. Omg, thank you so much for posting this. I love horchata!

  37. Hola, Lisa!
    I can get lost in a colbalt blue rimmed glass of horchata. Dios mio de mi vida, I think I will make some right now so I can have some tomorrow!
    Clementina
    "A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate"
    http://www.tazadechocolate.blogspot.com

  38. Trailerpark Bodhisativa–Half-gallon cartons? Wow! And I'll have to make that cream of rice cereal with horchata.

    Lo–It is indeed refreshing. Hope it warms up for y'all soon!

    Margaret–Let me see what I can find.

    Elis–You're very welcome! Enjoy!

    Ellie–You can make it with brown rice.

    Clementine–I so love those cobalt-blue rimmed glasses!

  39. Sounds wonderful. Is the rice cooked or raw?

  40. GIRL!!! wow!! I grew up drinking this since I was like 10 when I used to hang out at my sis in law's fam's Authentic Mexican and El Salvadorean restaurant. When I started waiting tables there, I'd have about 3 tall glasses during my shifts. To this day, I stop by and grab some to go. It's one of their classic drinks, homemade a few times a week. You've just inspired me to make some myself… the worse I've ever had though is at Habana's in SOHO. that stuff is an insult to the inventors of this fabulous and refreshing drink.

  41. I just had a cup of this horchata and i have to say, it's fantastic! I might add a little less of the simple syrup next time but I think my quest for the best homemade horchata recipe is over.

    On a whim I decided to save the leftover rice/almond/vanilla (I added a half teaspoon of ground Tahitian vanilla bean because I couldn't help myself) and dry it out in the oven. Maybe it'll be useful as a cornmeal substitute in some kind of cake? It sounds silly but it just smelled too good to throw out, and I figure, it's basically just slightly spent almond and rice meal…

  42. Dandy–It's raw.

    Bren–Fortunately, I've been spared Habana's–thanks for the intel. And what a wonderful memory!

    Pen and Paper–What a good idea! I'll have to try that because it does seem a shame to waste it.

  43. I'll have to try this, however when in Mexico DF, I'll stick with pulque.

  44. I first had horchata in Oregon, during a picnic organized by a Mexican family. I could have finished the whole cooler alone!
    Then we moved to Texas, love of my life.
    Now we live in Europe and I could kill for some ribs and a burrito. I could hurt someone even for a Taco Bell menu!

  45. I cannot believe I have never had this. It sounds like something I would love. I am going to see if any places have it nearby and if not I will attempt to make it!

  46. Anonymous

    My first time reading your blog. Love it. My husband loves horchata. By the way I am a New Yorker living in Houston. I live near a Fiesta supermarket in Williamsburg. By which Fiesta did you say you got the hot dogs? Would love to try.

    -AlmostJosephina.blogspot.com

  47. Anonymous

    P.S. In the Mexican stores in Chicago, you can buy a gallon, as you would buy a gallon of milk. It's not bad at all.. just needs a lil cinnamon flavor… but really good at about $2.50 a gallon.

  48. To get the full horchata experience, it must be drank out of a plastic bag.

  49. In India, we make a similar drink with just almonds, sugar, & cardamom. The almonds are soaked in milk overnight, then ground with a giant mortar & pestle. It's one of my favorite memories from my last visit and I have been drinking horchata here in Texas as a substitute!

  50. Most horchata is too sweet for me where I live in Mexico. I made your recipe and halved the sugar. I think less sugar allows the other flavors to pop out.

  51. It never occurred to me that I could make horchata at home! The lime surprises me – wouldn't guess it was in there. We're having a Cinco de Mayo party at work this week, and I may have to bring some horchata — but I need one of those big glass jugs to serve it from!

  52. I've never heard of Horchata, but this sounds like it would be super tasty. I can't wait to give it a try!

  53. I absolutely love horchata. Made some a while back and mixed the leftovers with a little Kahlua for a killer cocktail. I'm with you, homemade horchata is well worth the wait.

  54. Erika Salas

    I just stumbled upon your blog…and I already love it! I'm a native Texan now living in Arizona. Granted, not too far from my homeland, but I still miss lots of things…especially the food! Thanks for all the recipes…I'll be sure to come back! 🙂

  55. This article may mostly be blasting Sophie Dahl, but you got a positive mention at the end!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/28/sophie-dahl-food-bloggers

  56. I made your horchata for a little fiesta this weekend in Boston. Almost all of the attendees had lived in Texas at one point in their lives and all appreciated this tasty drink. [I actually used brown rice, 'cause that's all I had, the puree was tan but it strained out white.]

    I also made a tres leches that I think you'd appreciate.

    http://www.wholegraintexan.blogspot.com/

    Thanks again!

  57. Since I am in nice and balmy Houston. I drink it year round. I've always chalked the unique flavor as one of life's mysteries. Now I have the urge to try it out at home!

    Oh and doesn't this song make you want one RIGHT now?

  58. I made this this weekend and it came out delicious, though perhaps a bit gritty. Maybe I need a finer mesh strainer. Or maybe I just need to let the stuff sit and strain through in its own sweet time instead of pushing the almond pulp around to speed things up.

  59. Duncan–Never had pulque! Quite keen to try it, though.

    Linda–I'm surprised Taco Bell isn't in Europe yet.

    Weekend Cowgirl–I hope you enjoy it!

    Almost Joesphina–Welcome! The Fiesta at 1960 and 249 is where I saw the Mexican hot dog stand.

    Anon–I'll have to see if they sell it by the gallon in Spanish Harlem.

    Dean–Ha!

    Kathleen–Good to know! I'll try it that way next time.

    Nishta–There's a variation of this drink in Norhtern Africa and Spain as well.

    Janna–The lime adds a bit of brightness but you can't really taste it.

    Whisk-kid–Enjoy!

    Mike–What an excellent cocktail!

    Erika–Welcome! And you'd think that Arizona would have decent Tex-Mex.

    Cecilia–Wow! Thanks for sharing!

    Whole-Grain Texan–I usually use Texmati white-brown rice and find there's no difference. Glad y'all liked it!

    C–Love that song!

    Meredith–Did you also use a cheesecloth?

  60. I've heard a lot about this but never tried it. In my neck of the woods where it is always warm, I think I have to get down to making this one day.

  61. I tried horchata once on a road trip and i fell in love with it! it's so refreshing! Speaking about it makes me feel like having it.. LOL..

  62. I'm a native Texas and lived here almost my whole life and just had horchata for the first time at Mexican cafe in New Braunfels! One taste of this and you're hooked for life! I bought a mix at Walmart and it's pretty good but a little sweet – going to try to find the above mentioned gallon at HEB. Maybe I'll try your recipe. 🙂 Nancy

  63. Hello hello from Austin, TX! Your blog is my new addiction and all of my friends want to wish you and your kin years and years of good tidings. =)

    Sorry if I missed it in the description/comments but I was wondering how much does this make? A quart give or take a bit? If I'm looking to keep a gallon or so of this in my fridge on a weekly basis how much would I need to increase the ingredients?

    Thanks so much, your blog warms my heart and my belly!

  64. Courtney J–I'd say a quart is about right.

  65. Anonymous

    Hi Lisa, was wondering if you've ever run into problems making horchata? I tried using this recipe, and let the ingredients soak on the counter overnight. The next day it was very bubbly. Almost as if it had fermented. I went ahead and continued to make it according to the recipe, but it did not turn out well. Was wondering if I made a mistake leaving it out on the counter overnight, instead of placing in the fridge? Or maybe the lime has something to do with it? Was just wondering if you've ever experienced something like this? I've never attempted to make horchata before.

    Thanks!!
    Rhianna

  66. Rhianna–I've never heard of that happening, so I don't know what to tell you. Perhaps try refrigerating it next time.

  67. Anonymous

    Hi Lisa, my name is Eve and I have only lived in Texas for about a year now, but I have had so much fun going out to eat and trying to recreate the food at home. Both my husband and I love Horchata, but my husband is allergic to nuts. Is there a good, nut free recipe out there that you know of? I have been trying to find one.

  68. Eve–Unfortunately, I don't know of a nut-free recipe off the top of my head. Perhaps you can just make cinnamon-lime flavored rice milk.

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