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Homemade Horchata

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Every Friday, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Kate from Cookie and Kate shares a creamy, refreshing Latin American drink that you can make from what's in your pantry.


A traditional drink in Latin America and Spain, horchata (pronounced or-CHA-tah) is milky and sweet, sometimes spiced, and always delicious. Each country has its own version of horchata, but in Latin America, it is traditionally made with a combination of soaked grains, nuts, and seeds. If you've never tasted horchata before, imagine it as sweetened rice-and-nut milk with cinnamon, or iced chai tea without the tea. A glass of horchata over ice is perfect on a hot summer day: it’s creamy yet light, cold, and refreshing.

Before I share my recipe for horchata, though, I should confess that I’ve only tasted this drink here in the United States. I learned how to make it last summer in anticipation of an upcoming trip to Belize. While in Belize, I tried a soursop milkshake, watermelon juice, and fresh coconut water, but sadly, no horchata. Fortunately, I can make it at home with basic pantry ingredients whenever I like. 

More: Another creamy, dairy-free drink you can make at home? Almond milk.

My homemade horchata is adapted from Rick Bayless and calls for rice, almonds, and cinnamon. It is dairy-free and sweetened with agave nectar rather than sugar. And it makes a great cocktail: try adding Gosling's spiked rum or another dark rum to turn your horchata into a boozy treat. I can't promise that you'll find horchata exactly like this south of the border, but it is incredibly refreshing nonetheless. 



Adapted from Rick Bayless

Serves 4

2/3 cup long grain white or brown rice (dry)
1 1/4 cup blanched almonds
3-inch cinnamon stick
4 1/2 cups water, divided
1/3 to 1/2 cup light agave nectar, to taste


In a medium bowl, combine the rice, almonds, cinnamon stick, and 2 1/2 cups hot water. Allow the mixture to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.


Pour the mixture into a blender, add agave (start with 1/3 cup; you can add more later) and blend on high for several minutes, until the mixture is as smooth as possible. Add one cup of cold water and blend for 10 seconds. Taste, and add more agave as needed.


Place a large metal sieve over a large bowl. Line the sieve with cheesecloth (or use a nut milk bag or clean paint straining bag, which you can find at hardware stores). Pour the mixture through slowly, stirring as you pour. Press on the solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Squeeze the rest of the liquid out, then discard the remaining pulp. 


Pour the mixture into a pitcher and stir in the last cup of water. Pour into glasses filled with ice and serve. Mix with spiced rum for a creamy, spicy cocktail.


Note: You can either buy pre-blanched almonds or blanch your own. To do it yourself, just place 1 1/4 cups whole almonds in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let the almonds sit for a minute, then drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water. Use your hands to slide the skins off and proceed with the recipe as directed.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Kate Taylor

Tags: Spanish, Cocktail, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Small Batch