How to Make Your Own Horchata

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Horchata on crushed ice.

Okay, first off. I’ve gotten a lot of shit from those of you (you know who you are) who seem to think I don’t post here enough. Well, I’ve been busy. But I am listening to you, and I’m trying to fix that. Because I owe a lot to this blog, and to all of you guys, and so I’m making a conscious effort to add more content. Third post this year, WTF!

But listen, if for some reason you can’t get enough of me, you can always buy my book (and read it, hopefully), check out my regular column Easy Drinking on Food Republic, or my weekly column for Playboy. There’s lots of ways to get your dose of cocktail snark and helpful advice, is what I’m saying.

Anyway. You know what I love? Horchata. There is nothing in the world like a giant Styrofoam cup filled with pebble ice and sweet horchata while you nosh on greasy tacos from a street truck. Coming from California originally, it is one of life’s great pleasures. And since I’m obsessed with all things drink related, it got me thinking that I should really know how to make this delicious non-alcoholic beverage (and super awesome cocktail ingredient) at home.

Whenever I embark on this sort of thing, I always try a bunch of different versions from around the web and from my ever-growing home cookbook collection. And, of course, I’m never 100% happy with any of them. And so, I take the best parts of the recipes I do like, and throw them together with everything I know about technique, and after a few tries I usually end up with what I’m looking for.

There are many articles out there about Horchata, the history of it, and all of the different variations available. For our horchata, I wanted to stick to a few rules:

  1. Our horchata should be as simple as possible. A long series of complicated steps would be a failure here.
  2. Our horchata should have as few ingredients as possible. No almonds, sesame seeds, barley, or tiger nuts. Just the simple, spiced, sweetened rice milk you’d find at a taco truck.
  3. Our horchata needs to be made from simple, natural ingredients. No flavors, powders, or store-bought rice milk allowed.

What I ended up with was a simple, natural, delicious horchata that could be made with a minimum of tools and prep. Bear in mind, you will need some specialty tools to make this one, but they’re the sort of thing any serious bartender will usually have on hand. Anyway, there are just three simple steps to making great horchata.

California long-grain rice for making horchata.

1. Pre-soak the ingredients.

You’ve got to soften up the ingredients first, in order to combine those flavors and make it a little easier to pulverize that rice. So I start the night before and combine the rice, cinnamon, and sugar with hot water and let it sit overnight.

2. Grind up that rice.

Once everything is nice and soaked, the next step is to put the whole mixture in the blender and get it as smooth as possible. Hopefully you’ve got yourself a good blender. I mean, a normal household blender will work fine, but you’ll just have to run it on high for a really long time to grind up the rice. I’ve got a super fancy Wolf blender at home, of course, so it’s a snap. The Vita-Mix blenders we use at work do a beautiful job as well.

3. Fine-strain the whole mess.

Horchata is naturally a little chalky, but you definitely don’t want yours to be gritty. Even the finest of fine mesh metal strainers aren’t going to work here. You need to get yourself a nut milk bag. They’re cheap, they’re reusable, and quite frankly they’re a lifesaver when you’re filtering anything with a fine grind. I use mine all the time, I even make almond and cashew milk for home with it.

That’s it! Could that have been any easier? I doubt it. And once you chill it or pour it over some ice (or both), you’ll be enjoying the best horchata you’ve ever had outside of your favorite taco truck. The recipe is below…

Ceylon soft stick cinnamon, available online.

Baker's sugar.

 

Horchata Print Me

  • 1 cup California long grain rice
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1 three-inch long Ceylon soft cinnamon stick broken into pieces*
  • ½ cup sugar**
  1. Combine all ingredients, stir to dissolve sugar, cover, and let rest overnight or for up to 24 hours. Pour entire mixture into a blender and blend on high speed until rice is pulverized, about a minute. Strain through nut milk bag into a bowl and refrigerate. Horchata will separate, stir before serving.

* Don’t be tempted to use that rock-hard cassia bark they sell at the supermarket. Get yourself some soft, crumbly soft stick Ceylon cinnamon at your local Latin grocery, or online for cheap.

** I’ve tried all kinds of sugars, from agave syrup to plain white, and I’ve got to say that I prefer the plain white baker’s sugar. It doesn’t come to the party with any of its own flavors, so the rice and cinnamon can really shine through.

Recipe printed courtesy of jeffreymorgenthaler.com

18 Replies to “How to Make Your Own Horchata”

  • Angela Mora says:

    This is awesome, my friend! I’m going to attempt my hand at it and then see if it will allow me to make a Creme Brulee with it! 🙂

  • Josh says:

    Hey Jeff, how long will this keep in the fridge after its made?

  • Nikki Worley says:

    I love horchata!

    This past August I made a great horchata using starchy sweet summer corn and it turned out incredible. I call it corn-chata!

  • Butler says:

    Tiger nuts?

  • Butler says:

    Nut milk bag?

  • Gregory Rodriguez says:

    How much does the Horchata yield? Also, would you recommend to add any spirit to stabilize it for longer than a couple of days?

  • Ivan Gonzalez says:

    Being from Mexico City, I have to say that horchata water is very commmon here and it is quite good. However, in Veracruz, near Cozomaloapan River, there is a place where I got to try the “Horchata de Coco” water, quite delicious and easy to make; try it with gin or rum and it is fantastic. It is just soaked rice (as described by you), fresh coconut chopped in pieces, fresh coconut water, evaporated milk, and sugar (I once used vanilla bean suryp, it was unbelibably good! or you can even use condensed milk as a sweetener; the result is delicious and will give it a creamy texture). Blend the ingredients until smooth on medium high power, stain the excess of coconut pulp (which you can just eat, it is quite delicious), and sprinkle some cinammon on top if you´d like.

    The Horchata de Coco water will be good for about 3 day if well refrigerated.

    Enjoy and greetings Jeff!

  • Neil says:

    Great! Now I can make a Southbound Suarez. How do I make that Jeff? 🙂

  • Heath says:

    The rice paired with cinnamon will create a great flavor for Horchata, I love this, thanks for sharing.

  • Tara says:

    yes!

    more articles.

    Thanks Jeff

  • Ivan says:

    Hey, Jeff. I tried to make your horchata few days ago, pre soaked the ingredients and blended the whole thing with water and stuff, just took out cinnamon, was it the way that you meant, or should i blend just rice? btw i tastes pretty good but i had a problem with its texture, couldn’t find the nut milk bag in my city, and strained it through the cheesecloth. When you drink it you have a wierd feeling on your teeth, will a nutmilg bag change that? Thanks

  • Pablo Fernandez says:

    Jeff, if you ever go to Spain you HAVE to try “horchata de chufa”, the original horchata, in Valencia. It’s made with this:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyperus_esculentus

    It’s one of the most delicious, creamy, earthy drinks I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. And one of my life missions is the quest for the most delicious flavors in life, so there!

    By the way, I know many a Valencian who’d consider it blasphemous to call your recipe above “horchata”. I’ll just send them a link to your Amaretto Sour vid on the Morgenthaler Method… You had me cracking up at “I’ll call it whatever I want”, LOOOL.

    Just bought 2 copies of your book, by the way. Keep up the good work, my man.

    Best wishes from Spain.
    Pablo

  • Huggy says:

    I’m a little late to the discussion bit noted you don’t recommend using store bought Cinnamon sticks and provided a link to Amazon to buy it.
    Sadly, they don’t have it and posted they have no idea if they will ever have it again.
    To that end, I read an article that the best Cinnamon flavor-wise comes from Vietnam, but it is powdered and I enjoy it much better than any store or brand name Cinnamon.
    My question, then, is can an approximately equal weight of ground Cinnamon be substituted an be expected to taste as good as your recommendation?
    I suppose the taste is strictly a personal opinion as we all like things with specific ingredients, but as I have never tasted the cinnamon you suggest, it is doubtful I “know” what I am “missing” anyway.
    I’d just hate to waste time and ingredients and result with a flop.
    Thanks for your time and suggestions.

  • Kris says:

    Penzeys.com is my usual go-to for spices, they usually have a nice variety of cinnamon and a deal of some sort to help with shipping costs if you don’t have a local store.

    If you do have a local store I recommend a trip, especially for folks making their own cocktail ingredients at home. They have ‘testers’ to smell of pretty much everything and that can be super helpful if you have a missing aroma or flavor in mind but aren’t sure what herb or spices will get you there.

    They do usually run more expensive than your local Indian or Hispanic grocery, though. (My local Indian and Hispanic grocery stores only really sell larger packages of spices so sometimes I’m happy to pay the premium for a smaller amount from Penzeys just to avoid waste, since spices don’t keep forever.)

  • Cole says:

    Hey Jeff,

    This is great. I’m wondering if certain types of rice work better. I love the flavor of sweet, glutinous rice from Thailand. Could you make horchata or rice milk from another kind of white rice such as this? Thanks for sharing all of this great knowledge and experience.

    Cheers!

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