Horchata is a drink made primarily with rice and spices. Although it is white in color and creamy, it usually does not contain milk.

homemade horchata

In Spain horchata is made with chufa (tiger nut) but in Mexico it’s made with rice. Most Latin families that make it have their own special twists.

My cousin Georgina shared her recipe with my mom, and she gave it a few tweaks (using simple syrup instead of granulated sugar and pulverizing the rice beforehand to eliminate chalky sediment and a gritty taste). Grinding the rice also helps thicken the drink.

Horchata is that white milky-looking drink you see in large bee-hive glass jars at taquerías or sold by street vendors. It’s the perfect summertime refreshment.

Once you have the base for this thirst quenching (dairy-free) drink, you can experiment with the addition of more or less sugar. Since it does not contain milk, it will not spoil as easily as a dairy-containing beverage.

Dairy-free Agua de Horchata (Rice and Cinnamon Drink)

If you love horchata you will love these recipes:

Yield: 4 to 5 cups

Agua de Horchata (Rice and Cinnamon Drink)

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

Agua de Horchata (Rice and Cinnamon Drink)


Thin Simple Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar


  1. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Over low heat allow the sugar to melt, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
  2. In a food processor or coffee grinder, pulverize the rice so it is the consistency of ground coffee.
  3. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat; add rice, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Cover and let soak for eight hours or overnight at room temperature.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Stir in the vanilla and 2 cups of the thin simple syrup.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring and serve over ice.
Photography by Jeanine Thurston