Creamy, sweet, and delightfully refreshing, my Easy Homemade Horchata is a perfect drink for your summertime fiestas! If you love the flavors of rice pudding, you’re going to flip for this traditional Mexican beverage.

two blue-rimmed glasses filled with homemade horchata and garnished with cinnamon sticks

What is Horchata?

You know that white, milky-looking drink you see in large bee-hive glass jars at taquerías or sold by street vendors? That’s horchata! Served cold, it’s the perfect dairy-free summertime refreshment. 

Horchata (pronounced or-CHAH-tah) is one of the original alternative milks, before the plant-based craze was all the rage. It’s creamy and rich like milk, but is completely dairy free. In Spain, horchata has been made with chufa (tiger nut) since at least the 13th century, but in Mexico it’s made with rice.

Dried rice is soaked with water, then lightly sweetened and flavored with cinnamon and vanilla for a drink that is out-of-this-world delicious. When the weather is nice, I could literally guzzle this stuff!

As such an ubiquitous drink, there are a ton of recipes out there. Some include dairy (like evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk), while others have nuts (like almonds), and still others are flavored with fruits. While there are many variations of this delicious beverage (like my springtime Strawberry Horchata recipe!), this one is as classic and authentic as it gets.

This horchata is vegan and it’s also nut free. You’re welcome.

overhead shot of two glasses of horchata with cinnamon sticks on top of. an embroidered napkin

Why This Recipe Rocks

Basically every Latin family has their own recipe for horchata, and I’m so happy to share ours. My cousin Georgina shared her recipe with my mom, who then gave it a few tweaks of her own. I’m confident in saying that this recipe for classic horchata is as good as it gets!

By using simple syrup instead of granulated sugar, the drink is perfectly uniform in flavor. Pulverizing the rice beforehand eliminates any chalky sediment that can result in a gritty taste. Grinding the rice also helps thicken the drink, making it extra luscious.

I happen to love how simple this recipe is to adapt to your own preferences. Once you have the base for this thirst quenching (dairy-free) drink, you can experiment with the addition of more or less sugar. Heck, you can even decide to swap in some stevia to make this a sugar-free drink!

Since it does not contain milk, it will not spoil as easily as a dairy-containing beverage. That makes it perfect for picnics, long days at the water park or holiday celebrations. You can easily leave it on your buffet all day long without worrying about food safety. Just keep some ice cubes nearby for the best flavor!

two glasses of horchata on a wooden serving tray with embroidered napkins

Ingredients for Making Homemade Horchata

This drink is easy to make. In fact, you probably have all of the ingredients that you will need in your kitchen. Spoiler alert: there’s only five (5!) ingredients that you need.

wooden cutting board with vanilla, cinnamon stick, rice and sugar laid out for homemade horchata recipe

Notes & Substitutions

  • Long grain white rice: this is what gives the drink its unique flavor. Feel free to use any variety of white rice that you have on hand. Just note that more fragrant types like jasmine or basmati will impart their perfume on the beverage.
  • Cinnamon stick: I usually purchase canela in bulk at my Latin market. You can also find it in the spice aisle at your local grocery store, but it’ll likely be more expensive than the bulk bags at ethnic markets. If you don’t have canela, substitute with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. 
  • Cloves: whole cloves add a distinct pungent warm flavor, but can be omitted from this recipe. 
  • Vanilla Extract: I recommend Mexican vanilla for the best flavor. At the very least, do yourself a favor and get real vanilla extract instead of the imitation stuff.
  • Granulated Sugar: I use granulated sugar to make a simple syrup for uniformity, but you can opt to use cane sugar, coconut sugar, brown sugar, piloncillo or even turbinado sugar to make a syrup instead. If you prefer not to have the extra step, I’d recommend opting for liquid sweeteners like agave nectar or honey instead. You can also swap in sugar free alternatives like stevia or monkfruit if you prefer.
  • Water: Okay, technically this is a 6th ingredients, but it’s WATER. Once rice, cinnamon stick, and cloves soak overnight in water, it will turn into a creamy rice beverage.

Equipment for Making Homemade Horchata

While you definitely need a blender and some kind of strainer to make horchata, there are a few “nice to have” pieces of equipment as well.

  • Food processor: A food processor is great to pulverize the rice, but this step can be skipped, and is not necessary.
  • Blender: A high-powered blender will be needed to blend rice and cinnamon stick.
  • Cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer: You need to strain the rice mixture after you blend it to avoid a grainy texture. I like to use cheesecloth and a strainer, but you can also use a nut bag
  • Vitrolero: A vitrolero (glass barrel jar) is the traditional way to serve aguas frescas, but feel free to store and serve in a pitcher or glass milk bottle.

How to Make Agua de Horchata

In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Over low heat allow the sugar to melt, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

In a food processor or coffee grinder, pulverize the rice so it is the consistency of ground coffee.

food processor with dried white rice

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool; add rice, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Cover and let soak for eight hours or overnight at room temperature.

After soaking, break the cinnamon stick in half, and place the water, rice, broken cinnamon stick, and cloves in a blender. Puree for 2 to 3 minutes.

blender with rice, water and spices for making easy horchata

Pour the liquid through a fine strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, into a pitcher. Squeeze the excess liquid and discard the solids.

hand straining homemade horchata by stirring mixture through cheesecloth lined mesh strainer

Stir in the vanilla and 2 cups of the thin simple syrup.

Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring and serve over ice.

More of a visual learner? Watch this video to learn how to make horchata at home.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will horchata keep for?

For best results, keep any leftovers refrigerated and serve within 5 days of preparing. 

What is the best kind of rice to use for horchata?

The most authentic horchata is made with long grain white rice. That said, I’ve heard of people using basmati and jasmine rice with great results! Just note that these more pungent varieties will infuse their own perfumed flavor to the end result. Long grain brown rice can also be used, though you should note that it will taste nuttier than white varieties. 

Have you used other types of rice to make homemade horchata? If so, please leave me a comment below! I’d love to know how it turned out.

Is horchata vegan?

Yes! Well, at least this classic recipe for horchata is. If you happen to get some from a street vendor or restaurant, I’d recommend that you ask to make sure.

What other sweeteners can I use for horchata?

I use granulated sugar to make a simple syrup for uniformity, but you can opt to use cane sugar, coconut sugar, brown sugar, piloncillo or even turbinado sugar to make a syrup instead. If you prefer not to have the extra step, I’d recommend opting for liquid sweeteners like agave nectar or honey instead. You can also swap in sugar free alternatives like stevia or monkfruit if you prefer.

If you like horchata, you will love these recipes:

Have you made this horchata? Rate the recipe and leave me a comment below to let me know how it turned out! 

Agua de Horchata (Rice and Cinnamon Drink)

4.75 (4 ratings)
Milky, yet dairy free Mexican classic drink is made with rice, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and served ice cold. It is sweet and refreshing.

Ingredients

Thin Simple Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar

Instructions 

  • In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Over low heat allow the sugar to melt, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
  • In a food processor or coffee grinder, pulverize the rice so it is the consistency of ground coffee.
  • In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool; add rice, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Cover and let soak for eight hours or overnight at room temperature.
  • After soaking, break the cinnamon stick in half, and place the water, rice, broken cinnamon stick, and cloves in a blender. Puree for 2-3 minutes.
  • Pour the liquid through a fine strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth, into a pitcher. Squeeze the excess liquid and discard the solids.
  • Stir in the vanilla and 2 cups of the thin simple syrup.
  • Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring and serve over ice.

Video

Notes

  • No canela – If you don’t have canela substitute with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. 
  • Cloves – whole cloves add a distinct pungent warm flavor, but can be omitted from this recipe. 
  • Vanilla extract – I recommend Mexican vanilla for the best flavor.
  • Food processor: A food processor is great to pulverize the rice, but this step can be skipped, and is not necessary.
  • Blender: A high-powered blender will be needed to blend rice and cinnamon stick.
  • Cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer: You need to strain the rice mixture after you blend it to avoid a grainy texture. I like to use cheesecloth and a strainer, but you can also use a nut bag
  • Vitrolero: A vitrolero (glass barrel jar) is the traditional way to serve aguas frescas, but feel free to store and serve in a pitcher or glass milk bottle.
  • How to store: Refrigerate horchata and serve within 5 days of preparing. 
Calories: 819kcal, Carbohydrates: 211g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 107mg, Potassium: 159mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 173g, Calcium: 47mg, Iron: 7mg

Photography by Raemi Vermiglio

Originally published: July 2011. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.