Horchata is a creamy beverage made from rice and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla. Sounds weird, but I swear it’s delicious, especially when paired with spicy Mexican food! Originally published July 21, 2015.
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The Best Vanilla Bean Horchata Drink
Last weekend my brother Nathan and I decided to have a Steak, Shake, and Movie night. So we went to the store to buy steaks and ice cream (literally nothing else, we’re purists). On the way back to my car I go to reach for my keys and realize I don’t have them.
When I go places without my kids I get so excited about the fact that I don’t have to bring diapers, wipes, hot wheels, extra socks, 15 broken crayons, and 1 year old Easter candy (what’s in YOUR diaper bag?), that I grab my phone, keys, and wallet and hit the road. Freedom!!
Nathan looks into the car before I do and says, “Keys are inside.” Whew, I think, good, locked in the car is better than not knowing where they are.
Then he opened the door. Not locked.
Then I see where the keys are. In the ignition.
Then I realize that the car is on. Like, ON. Engine running. I drove to the store, put the car in park, got out, didn’t lock it, and then bought ice cream. (Priorities?) Also, we stared at steaks for like 10 minutes before picking one. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?? Don’t stupid people deserve to have their cars stolen??
I think I need a drink. But not the kind you’re thinking (I’m LDS, hello). Horchata it is!! (Where’s my segue award?)
Horchata (or-cha-ta) has been one of my favorite drinks since I was a kid. My family and I would go to the local taquerias and order it there. When you live in California you can find pretty amazing Mexican food. Normally my parents were too cheap to pay for drinks for our entire family at a restaurant, but I’m the youngest and by the time I was a teenager, enough kids were moved out that my brother and I managed to get them to splurge for horchata when it was time for tacos. There is just nothing quite like that creamy soothing sweet taste after a basket of chips and spicy salsa.
And guess what the secret ingredient is? There are two actually. Sweetened condensed milk (be still my heart) and Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. << Please tell me you have tried this stuff. It adds AMAZING flavor to desserts and drinks. It’s basically all the benefits of a true vanilla bean, but without the mess or hassle. I buy it by the jug. I’m not even kidding. My current jug is almost gone. I use it in everything. Fun fact: did you know that “Madagascar Bourbon” references the region, not the liquor? Who knew right?
You’ll love this Horchata drink
Horchata is easy to make at home, you just have to remember to make it the night before, or at least a few hours in advance. Of course it goes great with Mexican food, but let’s not limit ourselves here. I can think of lots of other times I would want to drink horchata. Like every single day of the summer, for example.
What is Horchata?
Horchata is a sweet and creamy drink that tastes mostly like vanilla and cinnamon…but a little bit like rice. That might sound super weird if you’ve never had horchata before! It’s actually a milk flavor and just gives the drink more creaminess.
What does Horchata taste like?
Horchata has a light, sweet, creamy taste; the flavors you’ll notice most are vanilla and cinnamon. The flavor of the rice is really mild, but it is what makes horchata so special. If you’ve had rice milk before, you’ll notice some similarities, but it’s definitely unique!
Here’s a quick shopping list to help you gather your ingredients. See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!
- Long grain white rice
- Cinnamon stick (or cinnamon)
- White sugar
How to make the best Horchata recipe
Here’s a quick overview of how to make this recipe. Full instructions can be found in the recipe card below!
- Pour the rice into a mesh strainer and run it under your faucet for a good 30 seconds, or until the water runs clear. Add the rinsed rice to your blender.
- Add 4 cups of water and cinnamon stick to the blender. Blend until rice is slightly broken up, about 1 minute.
- Refrigerate overnight (7 or 8 hours is best).
- Pour liquid through a mesh strainer into a pitcher. Discard rice. Add vanilla, milk, and sugar to taste. Serve over ice sprinkled with cinnamon.
How to store Horchata drink Leftovers
You can refrigerate horchata for up to five days (as if it would ever last that long in my house, no way). You can also freeze it for several months. This is actually genius, I think I’ll start freezing it so I can have delicious cold horchata any time the craving strikes!
Best Horchata Recipe FAQs
No, Horchata is caffeine free. It doesn’t contain any ingredients that contain caffeine like coffee, tea, chocolate, etc. Just rice, sugar, cinnamon, milk, and vanilla.
Mexican horchata, as you’ve already learned, is based on rice. Spanish horchata is based on chufa nuts, also called tiger nuts, which aren’t actually nuts at all! They’re made from the roots of a plant called sedge, which grows in wetlands (I mean, so does rice). I’ve never tried it but apparently it’s like sweeter almond milk…sounds so good right?? All the horchatas!!!
What to serve with this Easy Horchata Recipe
I love Mexican food! And Tex-Mex food. And Mexican inspired food. Here are some of my favorite recipes to serve horchata with.
Taqueria-Style Chicken Tacos << 30 minutes to moist, flavorful chicken tacos (or do them in the crockpot). No jar of salsa dumping here!
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas << hearty, vegetarian, and so easy to make.
Carne Asada with Mojo Marinade << tender and juicy, these may just be the best carne asada tacos you have ever had anywhere.
Mexican Street Corn Dip (Elote) << skip dinner and just do dip. This stuff is addictive!
Beer-Battered Fish Tacos << these are a Rubio’s knockoff and worth all the frying!
Slow Cooker Pork Tacos with Mexican Coleslaw << just a simple spice rub and you’re setting (and forgetting) these in your crockpot.
Cafe Rio Sweet Shredded Pork for Burritos << or bowls! Or tacos! You decide, it’s all good.
Try out these other awesome summer drinks!
Easy Cucumber Lime Punch << want to feel like you’re at a spa?? Drink this!
Basil Lemonade << you must try this!!! Such unique flavor!
June Bug (Orange Grenadine Ginger Ale) << This is fun in a glass. An awesome party drink!
Brazilian Limeade Recipe << frothy, tart, and sweet–perfect for a hot day!
Blue Cotton Candy Lemonade << this drink had me at cotton candy. Super tart AND sweet!
Agua de Jamaica from Simply Recipes (the fruity drink you find next to Horchata in taquerias!)
Pomegranate Lime Chia Fresca from Oh My Veggies
Blueberry Lemonade from Damn Delicious
This post is sponsored by Nielsen-Massey. When they contacted me about doing a post, I told them about the 32 oz. jug of Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste in my cupboard that is 3/4 gone. So needless to say, all opinions are my own! Love their products! Thanks for backing up brands I love, guys. Helps keep The Food Charlatan going. :)
Best Horchata Recipe
- 2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
- 2 cinnamon sticks, or 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup water, to taste
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup cream, or milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- More ground cinnamon and/or vanilla if desired.
- Place 2 cups of rice in a mesh strainer and run it under cold water for about 30 seconds, or until the water runs clear. Add it to a 9-cup capacity blender. (Blend in batches if you have a little blender.)
- Add 6 cups water, 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste, and 2 cinnamon sticks.
- Blend for about 1 minute, or until the rice and cinnamon sticks have broken up.
- Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours. A full 8 hours is best.
- Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a large pitcher. Discard the rice.
- Add the can of sweetened condensed milk, water, milk, cream, and sugar. Stir well and taste it. Add more ground cinnamon and vanilla bean paste if you want. Adjust the sugar to taste.
- Pour into glasses filled with ice and serve really cold! Enjoy! Horchata is perfect with any kind of Mexican food.
This sounds amazing – another use for my Vita-Mix – is there a little bit lower calorie version? Would the fat-free condensed milk work? Enjoy your recipes and blog – Diane
Hey Diane! This recipe is pretty forgiving. You could definitely omit the cream and use nonfat/1% milk. Certainly try out the fat free condensed milk. You can sweeten it however you want. Most recipes call for just sugar, so you could easily replace the sugar and sweetened condensed milk with Splenda or something. It will change the flavor a bit, of course, but I think it will still be good. Let me know how it goes!
Am I correct in assuming the rice is cooked or is it still raw?
Hey Alberta! No, actually, the rice is dry and uncooked. Happy horchata-ing!
I LOVE horchata! I always order it whenever I see it at Mexican restaurants. Avocado tostadas + horchata are my favorite combo!
GET OUT! I can’t even believe your car keys story, and I have to tell you the timing couldn’t be more perfect! I was in a godawful hurry on Sunday and I left the keys to MY HUSBAND’S CAR in the ignition while I ran into the liquor store to buy wine. Feel better now? I about died when I realized what I had done. Thank goodness the car was still there yo.
Ok I have been so curious about horchata for so long! I’ve gotta give this recipe a try!
Hahahaha somehow it makes it funnier that you were buying wine. But not that funny that it wasn’t your car, that would have been a DOOZY. :) Glad we made it out alive and with our cars Allie!
You are probably the funniest writer I read!! <3 How have I never had Horchata??? I need it in my life.
Okay that DOES it, I’m dropping off my kids with Jordan next time and taking you out for Mexican and we will order All The Horchata. You need this!
Oooh this couldn’t have come at better timing. My best friend is visiting in a couple of weeks and she is obsessed with horchata..it’s all she drank in college. I can’t wait to make this recipe for her! Your horchata looks absolutely delicious (and I love the whale!) XO
I wish horchata was all I drank in college!!! Although I probably would have been a lot fatter, haha. I hope you love it Beeta, have fun with your bff!
You left the car running? Hahahaha! You are your father’s daughter – Dad did that one time when he drove in to work, quite hilarious. Oh, and if I’d have known how delicious horchata was, I’d have stopped being cheap years sooner!
haha, it’s okay, people shouldn’t have to give in to the whims of their whiny teenagers, even when horchata is involved (I don’t plan to). I can’t believe Dad did that!!
There’s nothing in this drink that doesn’t excite me. As in, I wish I had everything in my house at this precise second so that I could make it. I could live off of sweetened condensed milk and NMV bean paste. Haha. Seriously. Making my grocery list right now.
Yay! I hope you love it Julie! Nielsen Massey is the best right?
I think your priorities were totally in order as long as you were buying ice cream. ;-) This horchata looks so good, wish I was sipping a glass of it right now!
Right Danae?? Ice cream trumps all :)
This looks AMAZING. Also that whale is the best part.
Haha I just couldn’t seem to throw that photo out, even though it’s a drowning cinnamon stick. He’s so cute!
Oh my goodness, that’s such a stressful thing to realize! Well, at least everything is OK. Meanwhile, this horchata looks AMAZING! I’ve always wanted to make my own but have been too lazy to do so. I think I’ll live vicariously through you :)
Thanks Sarah!! At least I still have a car! My sister in law texted me after she saw my post today and said that she’s done that TWICE before. At least I’m not alone?
I’ve never had horchata but this looks awesome! :)
Oh wow- I love Horchata but have always been too fearful to try it out myself- This looks right up my alley though- Cheers
It’s definitely worth a try Arman! Totally not a scary recipe :)