Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Horchata, pronounced or-cha-ta, is a traditional Mexican drink made with ground rice. It has a cool, milky, white texture with a sweet side and a burst of cinnamon. Because of the spicy and firey flavors of Mexican food, it's a popular choice to soothe your tongue. Spain also makes an horchata, but I believe it's with ground nuts. I saw Andrew Zimmern try it once on Bizarre Foods and he said it was disgusting, so I'll stick with the rice version!

I never had horchata, or even heard of it, before moving in with Johnny. His ex-wife was Mexican and her culture introduced him to it, and now he can't order Mexican food out without getting horchata. I tried a sip of his once, and while it's a bit of a surprise at first, you really will fall in love with it. Sometimes we order from our favorite Mexican place not for the food, but to have an excuse to get large, milky glasses of horchata!!

Down in the basement I found an old cookbook, presumably from Johnny's married life, entitled Mexican Cooking for Dummies. I made horchata from their recipe once before, but it was very pricey. It used 1 quart of milk and 4 cinnamon sticks for only 3 quarts of drink.

In the latest issue of Food Network magazine, chef Aaron Sanchez shares his recipe for horchata and I saw it was entirely different than the Dummies recipe, so decided to give it a go so we could compare.

Sanchez' Horchata recipe:

1 cup long-grain white rice, rinsed
1 cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican cinnamon canela
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon for garnish, optional

Combine the rice and cinnamon stick with 4 cups water in a blender; pulse to coarsely grind. Transfer to a large bowl and add another 4 cups water; soak at room temperature for 3 hours.

Puree the rice mixture in a blender in batches until smooth. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into a pitcher. Mix in the sugar; chill.

Stir the horchata well before serving. Pour into ice-filled glasses; garnish with a dusting of ground cinnamon if wanted.

Preparation-wise the Dummies recipe blows this one out of the water. Nutrition and price-wise I prefer the Sanchez recipe. Both have pretty great tastes, but I kind of prefer the lighter, crisper version of Sanchez', versus the thicker, milkier Dummies one.

Having made, and tasted, both of these recipes I'm going to combine the positives of both in the future. The Dummies version has you grind the dry rice on it's own until it's a fine powder, then mix with the liquids and let it sit. This was easier than all of that soaking and blending time. The Sanchez version uses only one pricey cinammon stick and saves you the extra fat, calories, and cost of using a full quart of milk. So, in the future I'll grind the rice and cinnamon stick first, let soak, and then discard the sediments - no blending, no milk, no extra cinnamon sticks.

If you're not ready to jump into making horchata at home, I highly recommend ordering it the next time you go out to get Mexican or buying a carton (usually sold by the soy milk) to try it! You'll be surprised!


Nowheymama said...

And the Sanchez version is dairy free!

I saw an Iron Chef episode recently where someone (Mario Batali?) made horchata with wild rice instead of white rice. It came out this cool purple color.

Justin said...

i should have looked out for this while I was in san francisco last week. i'm impressed you made it yourself. you know, you should post links to cookbooks on amazon if you write about them. yeah, okay, I happen to work for the company that publishes the dummies books, so I'm biased, but i'm a blogger too, and so I understand both sides. publishers REALLY like it when you post links to their books. it's nice for the authors too.

Laura said...

ohhhh I'm in to alternative milks so this is on the list!

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

Its so funny, we just saw this on maybe the Food TV network??

My kids were like, what is that?? Now I can tell them! I had no idea!

Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Dandy said...

I love horchata but never thought to make it at home, thanks!

live pura vida said...

There's another really good South American drink like this that's made with quinoa, milk and strawberries. It's very light and equally as good for a morning drink as it is after dinner, plus you get a lot of protein from the quinoa. I *think* it's about 3 cups milk, a cup of quinoa (cooked) and a pint or so of strawberries thrown in the blender.

Cyndi said...

My husband is Mexican so he grew up on horchata. I have embraced pretty much everything from the Mexican culture, with two very (disturbing to my husband) exceptions....menudo and horchata. I just never could develop a taste for it. On the other hand, give a banana licuado (or better yet, Corona) and I'm in heaven! :)

Anonymous said...

wow, how fascinating!
I think Korea has something like this too, a cold rice soupy dessert, called sik-hae.

Alisa - frugal foodie said...

I love making horchata - ground almonds are a yummy added touch!

Sweetie Pie said...

I've never made my own, but I'm now feeling inspired! Thanks for sharing what you learned as well as a recipe.

I wish I had some now!!