Horchata is a rice-based drink from Mexico. While horchata is not traditionally dairy-free this recipe is dairy-free! This recipe has has rice, toasted almonds, brown sugar and vanilla!
The First Time I had Horchata
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t super familiar with different types of Mexican food. Living in South Florida, the food that was there was mostly from the Caribbean and South America. But soon after moving here, I quickly learned the difference of Mexican food from Jalisco, Sonora, Colima and Mexico City. It was fascinating to understand and eat my way through the different regions. Mexican food immediately became my next-in-line favorite behind Peruvian food. I’m a bit bias 🙂
One drink that has quickly won my heart is horchata. At most taquierias, it’s made close to this way but with a can of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. You can do this, too, if you like. I would just say to eliminate the brown sugar and add those two in addition to these ingredients. It will definitely be milkier. I love this version because it’s dairy-free and I find it a bit lighter and more refreshing.
Where is Horchata from?
Horchata is made in Central America, Spain and Mexico. All of these countries make versions that are slightly different from the other. The one we’re making mostly resembles the Mexican version but even within Mexico it can vary.
What is Horchata?
While versions vary, Horchata in Mexico is always a rice-based drink. This version you see here consists of rice, toasted almonds, cinnamon sticks, brown sugar, salt and a bit of vanilla, All of these ingredients are soaked in water for about 4 hours or overnight. This softens all of the ingredients and then when it’s blended, it all marries together. Run it through a strainer and you have a delicious aqua fresca!
What’s Is Horchata Made Of?
- White Long-Grain Rice. You don’t want long grain rice such as basmati or jasmine. I find them too fragrant and they impart their flavor on the horchata.
- Slivered Almonds. I tested this recipe where I toasted ALL of the almonds and found that it made the horchata taste too much like almonds. So, now the recipe you see below, only toasts 1/4 cup. I found that to be the perfect amount.
- Brown Sugar. I found that a lot of traditional Mexican recipes used piloncillo sugar. Since piloncillo sugar can be difficult to find, I found that brown sugar gives a comparable flavor. It’s rich and delicious.
- Cinnamon Sticks. You can’t have horchata without the flavor of cinnamon. Whole Mexican cinnamon sticks are preferred.
- Kosher salt. Like any sweet item, we need a bit of salt to balance out the flavors. You can’t taste it at all.
- Vanilla Extract. I used a small amount of vanilla extract. There’s just a hint of the flavor.
- Filtered Water. If the water from your tap “tastes” like tap water then definitely use filtered water. I do always and it makes all the difference.
How to Make Horchata
- Toast the almonds. Remember, we’re only toasting a small amount of the almonds. As a result, it’ll add the absolute best amount of toasty flavor. Pour them to a large bowl.
- And then add in the rest of the almonds, rice, cinnamon sticks, vanilla and salt.
Pour in the filtered water.
- Allow everything to soak for at least 4 hours. I soaked mine for about 6 hours. If you want to store it overnight, I would cover the mixture and stick it in the fridge.
- Pour the mixture into the blender. I had to do this in two batches since my blender wasn’t big enough.
- Place a sieve over a bowl and pour it the horchata through it. As a result, it will eliminate a good amount of the pulp.
- *Options* I wanted it silky smooth so I passed it through a nut bag. This step is optional.
You could also nestle two sheets of cheese cloth on a sieve and pour it through there.
- Add ice cubes to glasses.
- Pour the horchata in the glasses and top with a bit of cinnamon.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
A lot of people want to know, does horchata have dairy? does horchata have milk? The answer isn’t a total simple one. There are recipes that include dairy (mainly evaporated milk and/or sweetened condensed milk. This recipe is totally dairy-free. If you want to make it creamier, you’re more than welcome to add a can of evaporated milk to the mixture and stick it in the fridge to soak.
- 1 1/2 cups (6.5 ounces) blanched almonds, divided
- 2 1/2 cups (17.5 ounces) uncooked white rice
- 3 whole cinnamon sticks
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract , (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 cups filtered water
- In a medium skillet, set over medium-low heat, add 1/4 cup blanched almonds. Toast the almonds until medium golden brown, about 3-5 minutes, tossing them every so often.
- Transfer the toasted almonds and untoasted almonds to a large bowl. Pour in the white rice, cinnamon sticks, browns sugar, vanilla extract, salt and filtered water. Mix everything up until combined and cover the bowl. Let sit at room temperature for 5 hours. Or overnight in the fridge.
- Depending on the size of your blender, you may need to do this in batches. Transfer the horchata mix (including the cinnamon sticks) to your blender (adding what will fit, giving room at the top for blending). Blend for about 1 minute, until the horchata turns cloudy and white. Pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl to catch the majority of the nut pulp.
- Place a nut bag in the center of a bowl and pour the once-strained mixture into the nut bag. This will eliminate the majority of the grit from the horchata and make it silky smooth. Gently squeeze the nut bag so the horchata runs out.
- Continue this process until you work with the rest of horchata mixture. Serve over ice and top with a dusting of ground cinnamon
If you end up making this Horchata, let me know on Instagram!
Looking for more Latin-inspired recipes? Here are some of my favorites: