AGUA FRESCA: Easy Horchata

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked for an horchata recipe since I began blogging. But each time I start explaining how to make it from scratch, I can see people start to lose interest around the time I mention that making horchata from scratch involves soaking rice and cinnamon sticks overnight and then grinding it and straining it. When I make it from scratch I sometimes also blanche almonds and soak them with the rice for an added depth of flavor. But the average person asking for a recipe always seems to get a frown on their face when they realize making it from scratch takes a little extra time and effort.

It was because of this dilemma of nobody wanting to take the time to soak and grind the rice that I began experimenting in the test kitchen to try to make an acceptable quick recipe substitute for those times when we just need a quick fix of a tall, cool glass of horchata. This is the simplest recipe I came up with that passed the taste test with family and friends. It beats any powdered or pre-made liquid mix I’ve tried from a variety of grocery stores. The store-bought mixes always taste either too sweet or too fake to me. I hope you enjoy this version if you’re looking for a quick but yummy horchata recipe!

RECETA:

Horchata

  • 32 ounces of rice milk
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3.5-4 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pinch of ground cinnamon to garnish each glass

In a saucepan, add the rice milk and cinnamon sticks and heat over a medium-high flame until the liquid comes to a boil. The liquid will get frothy and start to foam up the side of the saucepan; just use a kitchen whisk to stir and deflate the foam. Reduce to a simmer and whisk in the sweetened condensed milk.

Allow the mixture to simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce slightly. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of boiling water. Stir well to incorporate. Transfer to a pitcher and allow to come to room temperature. When it reaches room temperature, store it in the refrigerator to chill before serving. Garnish each glass with a few ice cubes and a pinch of ground cinnamon.

Note: if you like your horchata a little sweeter, you can increase the amount of sweetened condensed milk one ounce at a time until desired sweetness is reached.

Yields about 4-6 servings.

  • Do you make your own horchata at home?
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Comments

  1. says

    I love horchata, cannot stand the instant powder mix, so of course, I love a “cheat” recipes like this one! I have a similar trick: to fake the blanched almond flavor I use a mix of rice milk and almond milk. Great video, Maura. xogabriela

    • says

      Gabriela, the powders and instant mixes really gross me out because I always feel like they taste too sugary or have a fake flavor that is not quite right. I love your idea of adding almond milk – I will definitely try that next time! Thanks for the tip!

  2. says

    Now I’m really thirsty! My mother taught my oldest son to make it from scratch a few years ago, he makes it from time to time but it’s a bit gritty, but with good flavor. My younger son who loves horchata, was asking about making it but his eyes glazed over relatively quickly.

    This is much easier, quicker and cleaner. I like it!

    • says

      Joe, I love horchata made from scratch but besides the time investment of soaking the rice overnight, I’m also not a fan of the grit. There are some places where I order it regularly in Chicago and Mexico City where the grit at the bottom of the cup is so fine you can hardly notice it. But when you’re making it at home, sometimes it’s difficult to grind it so superfine! And of course, the mess of straining the rice, sticky hands, etc… It took me several tries to get this recipe to pass in my house, but it was well worth the work. It saves me SO much time when I’m going to have company and want to serve a few different kinds of aguas frescas. But now that you all know my secret to quick horchata, you won’t be as impressed if you end up as a guest at my table :P Oh well, it’s worth passing on the tip so you all can enjoy horchata at home without all the work! If your younger one tries to make it, let me know how it turns out and what you guys think!

  3. says

    Enjoyed the video!

    I’m not crazy about Mexican rice horchata. I love Salvadoran horchata, (made from morro seed) – and there’s no way I’d even attempt to make it from scratch. I just use the mix and some milk, (I also add a couple packets of Splenda.)

    It’s one of my very favorite things.

    • says

      Tracy, funny you mentioned horchata made with morro seeds. I actually got a private message on Twitter earlier today from someone who grew up near Morelia, Michoacan, and said they only knew of horchata as being made with melon seeds. The truth is, there are several ways of making horchata depending on the region of Mexico that you come from (or other places in Latin America, and even Spain). Actually, there’s a well-known chain that sells wine, liquor and gourmet treats throughout Mexico called La Europea, and they sometimes carry a Spanish brand of bottled horchata that I like. There are just so many variations on horchata, you can’t go wrong (er, OK, that’s not completely true; but I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no ONE definitive way to make it). In fact, last summer my local Spanish-language daily newspaper did a small feature with three different recipes of horchata made with rice, melon seeds and peanuts. I knew about rice and melon seeds but never had heard of peanut horchata before! I will have to see if I can dig that clip out (of course you know me, I clipped it from the paper and saved it) and if I can find it, I will post it for everyone.

  4. Elizabeth says

    My husband and I just made this and it. was. great! His only request is that I look for the original recipe, complete with soaked/ground rice, etc. (So…um…could you point me in the right direction, please?)

    Keep on rockin’ on!

    • says

      Elizabeth, I’m so glad he liked it. I do have a recipe completely from scratch that I haven’t posted here. Let me also look through a few cookbooks to see what I can do to point you in the right direction :)

  5. Nykeya says

    I like you recipe a whole lot better than the one I saw in the magazine. Your recipe was so much simpler. I started the looking at the recipe in the mag and went with yours.

  6. says

    I love making Horchata from scratch!!! But it is so very nice of you to post this for others who don’t. We keep it around like other people keep tea in this house. Will definitely bookmark you and pass this on to those who love it but don’t enjoy the kitchen as much.

  7. Joy says

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’ve been looking for a cheater method to making horchata. My question is this: When do I remove the cinnamon sticks? or Do they stay in the liquid the entire time?

    Thanks!

  8. says

    My salvarorean grandmother made the best horchata in the whole world. It was flavorful and very fragant. I remember when she was toasting the rice with cinnamon, sesame seeds, some peanuts, some cacao beans, morro seeds and coriander seeds… the house was full of sweet aromas. I haven´t had a better horchata and I miss it. The instant mix is worlds apart from the real thing! In Spain they make it with chufas. It´s very good,too.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    • says

      Hi Kelsey, no, I wouldn’t recommend that you use just-blended rice water. You are not going to get the same taste or consistency. The traditional way of making this with homemade rice water involves soaking and takes a lot longer (typically overnight).

  9. Charlie says

    We’re trying to make a simple (so yes to store bought rice milk), no-dairy (so no to condensed milk) version. Any ideas how to tweak your recipe? Thanks!

  10. Nancy says

    Thanks, I’ll try this recipe. People are so afraid of a little time and effort. How can soaking rice overnight while you sleep be hard? I’m more afraid of boiling over the rice milk and then trying to keep it at a simmer while remembering to stir occasionally for an hour. You’re right about the grit with homemade though. I have to figure out how to get less of that.

  11. A.J. says

    Hello Maura,
    Thanks for this info.This is a great straight to the point recipe, I am planning on using this recipe along with some Rum (Rumchata)for an upcoming Superbowl party for 20 or more people.So I am planning on making 3x or maybe even 4x of what the recipe ingredients call for.Do you think 12 cinnamon sticks & 4 3.5 to 4oz of sweetened condensed milk is required to make 4x the horchata.Or do you think that would be way too much,being that 3 cinnamon sticks can go a long way?
    Keep up the good work.
    Thanks again,
    A.J.

    • says

      Hi A.J., thanks for writing in with your question. I’ve never made such a large batch, but I think it would be a good idea to have everything on hand and be conservative with the sweetened condensed milk, adding it to taste. You may not like it to be very sweet, so if that’s the case, you can use a little less than the recipe calls for, and if you do like it sweet, you can use the directed amount. You could start with 6-8 cinnamon sticks (because they’ll go a long way, but it depends whether you’re using regular cinnamon sticks or Mexican cinnamon sticks) and then if you feel later after cooking that it needs more cinnamon, you can stir in a little ground cinnamon to taste (start with about a half teaspoon and increase from there until you’re happy with the flavor). Good luck! Let us know how it turns out.

  12. Brouning says

    Hello there I like most these post love Horchata and want to make it from scratch. I want to go for quality rather than convenience so, like Elizabeth wrote above could you point me to the scratch recipe? I tried a recipe I found online and it turned out like sludge. As it did for everyone who tried it apparently.

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