This smooth and creamy Mexican-style agua de horchata is made from rice water, cinnamon, vanilla, sweetened condensed and evaporated milks. You’ll need a blender, mesh strainer and a large pitcher to make this drink. Recipe also includes tips for making a vegan or dairy-free version! Makes 8 delicious servings.
There’s nothing more delicious than a cold glass of horchata and some golden, fried churros! I have a fantastic recipe for churros with dulce de leche – check it out here! Horchata and churros make the perfect match!
What is horchata?
Horchata (pronounced or-chah-tah) is a plant-based drink that’s popular in Spain, Mexico, throughout Latin America and in parts of Africa. It’s often made by soaking grains, nuts or seeds in water, straining the liquid and mixing it with milk, sweetener and spices.
This rice-based version of horchata originated in Mexico. Also referred to as ‘agua de horchata’, it belongs to a family of drinks called ‘aguas frescas’ which are chilled beverages that are extracted from fruit, vegetables, nuts or grains.
There are so many variations of horchata, I list just a few further down in this post!
Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to make agua de horchata! Refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities and exact measurements.
- Long grain rice – it’s recommended that you don’t use jasmine or basmati rice as they have distinct flavors that will alter the taste of your horchata.
- Filtered water – tastes better but you can also use tap.
- Cinnamon sticks – you can use use regular or Mexican cinnamon sticks. Mexican cinnamon is more mild and sweet, and has a paper-like texture which is softer to blend.
- Vanilla extract to enhance the flavor
- One can of sweetened condensed milk – adds sweetness and makes the horchata creamy
- One can of evaporated milk – nutty flavor adds depth to the horchata
- A sprinkle of ground cinnamon
Refer to the ‘variations and substitutions’ segment below for recommended vegan/dairy-free substitutions.
You won’t need anything fancy, but these tools are highly recommended:
- High-powered blender
- Mesh sieve (strainer)
- For silky smooth horchata, a cheesecloth or a nut-milk bag is recommended. Line your sieve with the cheesecloth, or use the nut-milk bag (which doesn’t require a sieve).
- Pitcher or large carafe for serving the horchata. If you don’t have a pitcher with a wide mouth, you can combine the ingredients in a spouted mixing bowl.
- Rubber spatula
Just a quick note: I usually skip the cheesecloth/nut-milk bag, but that’s because I don’t mind a little graininess! Lean on your preference.
How to make agua de horchata – step by step
Steps 1 and 2: Rinse and soak your rice overnight
Rinse the rice thoroughly and place it in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon sticks and fill the bowl with 4 cups of water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator overnight, or for a minimum of 4 hours.
Note: as you see here, I used Mexican cinnamon but you can use regular. I broke the cinnamon to release a little extra spice, but you don’t have to.
Step 3: Blend the rice water
Transfer the soaked rice, cinnamon and water to a blender. Pulse on high speed for 1 full minute. You’ll need to work in batches if your blender isn’t large enough to hold all the liquid at once.
Step 4: Strain the rice and liquid
Pour the liquid through a mesh strainer into a pitcher or bowl. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the rice from the bottom of the blender. The rice should be very grainy at this point and contain specks of cinnamon. It may even resemble a paste.
Use your spatula to press all of the liquid out of the rice and through the strainer. If you want to line your strainer with a cheesecloth you can, this will make the horchata extra smooth. You can also use a nut-milk bag for this step and squeeze the liquid from the bag using your hands.
Step 5: Combine the strained liquid with milk
Add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and 1 can of evaporated milk to the bowl/pitcher. Add the vanilla extract and stir.
If you used a bowl to mix the horchata transfer it to a large carafe or another type of vessel that’s easy to pour from.
Step 6: Serve the horchata
Pour the horchata over ice and serve right away, or chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before serving. Chilling it in the fridge before serving will enhance the flavors and thicken the horchata slightly.
For a lighter version of horchata, serving over ice is recommended as the ice will dilute it slightly.
Variations and Substitutions
As I mentioned, there are so many variations of horchata! Here are just a few:
- Horchata de ajonjoli – made from toasted sesame seeds. Check out my friend Marta’s authentic Puerto Rican recipe here.
- Strawberry horchata (horchata de fresa) – this variation is made by adding fresh strawberries!
- Orchata de xufa – originated in Spain, uses tiger nuts instead of rice.
- Vegan/dairy free horchata – use a plant based milk in place of the condensed milk and evaporated milk – I prefer oat milk because it closely mimics the creaminess of cow’s milk. You can also use rice milk, almond milk, or coconut milk.
- Without sweetened condensed milk – You can omit the condensed milk and double up on the evaporated milk or another milk of your choice. For sweetness you can just use sugar. I’d start with ⅓ cup and add more as needed.
- With alcohol – horchata is traditionally non-alcoholic but you can certainly add liquor of your choice. I always recommend light or dark rum for creamy drinks!
Horchata’s shelf life is about 4 days. Store it in the refrigerator and shake or stir before serving.
- Use long grain white rice – you’ll want to avoid fragrant rice varieties like jasmine or basmati as they impart their own flavors into the drink.
- If you can find Mexican cinnamon sticks, use them! They’re more mild in flavor and you’ll taste the rice more.
- For silky-smooth horchata, line your mesh strainer with a cheesecloth or use a nut-milk bag! I want to re-emphasize this tip for anyone who’s turned off by grainy textures!
Other drink recipes you’ll love:
Agua de Horchata - Easy Recipe
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 4 cups filtered water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk 1 can
- 12 ounces evaporated milk 1 can
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- a sprinkle of ground cinnamon
- Thoroughly rinse the rice and place it in a large bowl
- Pour 4 cups filtered water over the rice. Place the cinnamon sticks in the water and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
- Once the rice and cinnamon sticks have soaked for at least 4 hours, uncover the bowl and transfer the rice and water to a blender. Blend the rice and water on high speed for 1 full minute. You may need to do this in batches.
- Pour the rice-water over a mesh strainer into a bowl or wide-mouthed pitcher. Line the strainer with a cheesecloth or use a nut milk bag if you want it to be extra smooth.
- Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla extract and stir.
- Horchata can be served over ice right away, or you can chill it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
- Be sure to use long-grain white rice. Avoid using basmati rice or jasmine rice because they can impart their flavor and alter the taste of the horchata.
- I prefer to use filtered water, but if you're comfortable using tap water, go for it.
- Mexican cinnamon sticks works great for this recipe if you can find them! They have a slightly sweeter taste than regular cinnamon, and have a softer, papery texture which breaks down easier when blended.
- For more cinnamon flavor, break or cut the cinnamon sticks in half just before soaking them.
Just a few tips for you!
- Rinse the rice thoroughly before soaking to remove any chemicals, dirt and debris.
- Make sure to be remove the blender blade before pouring the horchata over the strainer. Don’t attempt to brush the pulsed rice off with your fingers!
- Don’t leave the horchata sitting at room temperature. Store it in the refrigerator.