Agua de Horchata

When it comes to taquerías, the only thing more dependable than the requisite plastic container of pico de gallo is the dispenser of horchata lurking just behind the counter. Since I’m usually eating my way through a two pound super burrito–that’s rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and chorizo, for me–a gulp of cool, sweet horchata is exactly what I need to cut through the grease and cool the fire.

For those of you who don’t know, horchata is essentially a rice milk with the addition of sugar and cinnamon. There are about as many of variations of this sweet drink as there are taquerías in California, and they’re not all created equal. I find myself drawn to those versions that taste more custardy–a lot like melted ice cream–usually with the inclusion of vanilla and milk (whole, sweetened condensed, or evaporated).  After purchasing an instant commercial mix at a local Mexican grocery store, which only left me with a pitcher of flavorless chalk water and a bad taste in my mouth, I set out to make a version modeled after one of my favorite taquerías. The result was everything I had hoped it would be: creamy, refreshing and just sweet enough. This stuff is great by itself, but even better when served with good Mexican, like tacos de cochinita pibil.


This recipe is extremely easy to prepare, however there is quite a bit of straining involved.  I used a conical sieve along with some cheesecloth and the results were great.  A bit of sediment is unavoidable it seems, but after a good stir everything is reincorporated. You definitely want to serve this over ice as it will keep the drink cold while further diluting the rich drink.


  • 3/4 cup uncooked, long grain rice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 7 cups, cold filtered water
  • Ice cubes for serving
  • Whole cinnamon sticks for garnish


  1. Place the rice in a medium-sized bowl and add enough water to cover by one inch. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to soak overnight.
  2. The following morning, place the rice and its soaking liquid into a blender.  Add the cinnamon and vanilla and blend on high for at least 30 seconds.  Pour the blended rice, cinnamon and vanilla mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large serving pitcher, reserving the sandy rice sediment.
  3. Return the reserved sediment to the jar of the blender and add the sweetened condensed milk along with 2 cups of cold water. Blend again on high for at least 30 seconds.  Repeat the same straining procedure as in step 2, making sure to press on the rice solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  You may now discard the rice sediment.
  4. Rinse your strainer thoroughly before lining it with two layers of dampened cheesecloth.  Pour the contents of the pitcher back through the cheesecloth lined strainer into a large bowl.  Pour the contents of the bowl into the pitcher for the last and final strain.  Add 3 more cups of water to further dilute the mixture.  Make sure to stir the pitcher before serving in order to reincorporate the sediment.  Serve over ice and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Makes about 2 quarts

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  1. This looks delicious! I’m in Mexico right now on a teaching exchange and I’m definitely enjoying the many aguas frescas. Even though I’m lucky enough to have delicious horchata that is readily available, I’ll have to give this recipe a try. Yum! There’s nothing like a pitcher of horchata with some good tacos al pastor.

  2. I agree with you about taquerías. I love the yummy, greasy food at a cheap price. I’m not a big fan of horchata, but my girlfriend is. Thanks for this recipe and the lovely photo.

    • Gina
    • September 25th, 2009

    What a beautiful photograph. I never order horchata, but I think I’ll try to make this — it just looks so good!

  3. I love horchata. It’s so creamy and refreshing! Yours came out beautifully. I recently posted about a pecan milk that I made, which is very similar except you don’t have to strain. So wonderful!

  4. I have never tried horchata although we saw it often in Spain, always full of sugar though. As we can’t have dairy I have been searching for a recipe to try it for myself without sugar. I thought it was made with almonds or nuts, not rice? Do you think it’s different in Spain and Mexico, maybe that’s why I got the idea it was nut based. Sounds delicious anyway!

    x x x

  5. There is indeed a large difference between authentic Spanish horchata and the Mexican version. From what I understand, the Spanish version is made with chufa nuts (also known as tiger nuts). Apparently the Mexican’s began using rice as a cheap substitute for the expensive and hard to find chufa. Horchata can be made with the addition of almonds and I’ve also come across many versions without dairy. In those recipes the primary sweetener was granulated sugar and not sweetened condensed milk. Hope this info helps.

    • yamilex
    • December 15th, 2009

    agua de horchata is soo good i drink it like everyday thats how good it is ^_^ , i just love it so much c(=

  6. I agree with Mike! I’m from Spain and we do the horchata very differently, using only ‘chufa’, sugar and water and I’m sure it tastes much better 😉
    Great website, by the way.

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