How Do I Make Mexican Homemade Horchata?

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  • Start to Finish: 10 hours including soaking time
  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty Level: Beginner

In Mexico, it's adored by children and adults alike and it can be found on street-corner carts, in restaurants, at roadside lunch stops, on food trucks and in virtually every household. White, creamy and fragrant, the rice milk drink known as horchata is made either with or without dairy, but always with cinnamon and vanilla. Make it at home and you will never, ever have to remind your kids to finish their milk, even if there are no cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 cups hot (not boiling) water
  • 1 large Ceylon cinnamon stick 
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla (no imitation, please)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for topping

Directions

To have your refreshing horchata ready for a midday treat, start the night before by putting the rice into a glass bowl with the hot water. Place the cinnamon stick on a dish towel, fold it over and give the stick a whack with a mallet or a rolling pin. Throw the broken cinnamon and the vanilla bean into the water. Cover the bowl and leave it to sit overnight on the counter.

When you wake up in the morning, run to the kitchen and uncover your rice. Stir the mixture and fish out the vanilla bean and the major chunks of cinnamon. Pour half the mixture, half the sugar and half the milk into a blender or food processor. Hit the button and blend on high until it's about as smooth as you can get it.

Using a strainer lined with cheesecloth, strain the mixture into a large glass pitcher or jar, squeezing as much liquid as possible from the cheesecloth. Repeat the blending process with the remaining mixture and strain that into the same container.

Tip

  • It's important not to have any chunky bits in the horchata. It's OK to grind up the rice in a food processor before soaking, but for heaven's sake, don't cook it. Blend it as thoroughly as you can and if you still have little lumps after the first straining, strain it again.

Refrigerate the horchata. When you're ready to serve, pour it over ice and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Some like to spike it with a shot of rum.

Substitutions and Additions

  • Add 1/2 cup ground almonds to the soaking rice mixture
  • As is often done in Mexico, substitute canned condensed or evaporated milk for half the regular milk
  • Use agave syrup instead of sugar
  • Top with nutmeg instead of cinnamon
  • For a nondairy horchata, use coconut milk or almond milk
  • You can make horchata with just water and a touch of lime zest. If the mixture is too thick, just add more water.

Tip

  • Even though it's traditionally served cold, warm horchata is a welcome treat on a cold evening.

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