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.


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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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Emilia Rosa
    Emilia Rosa
  • josu
  • Sophia Henkel
    Sophia Henkel
  • nanw.
  • Ashleigh Harrington
    Ashleigh Harrington
Photographer, dog lover, vegetarian [most of the time].


Emilia R. May 5, 2015
I have mexican, chilean, cuban friends and they all make orchata, each is a bit different. It's like saying: "this is not mac&cheese." Gimme a break! (And write in English, please.)
josu May 5, 2015
Emilia R. May 5, 2015
(Mmm... You are a "Member since May 5, 2015". Almost feels like you registered in order to whine and criticize.)
Sophia H. July 9, 2013
I have made Horchata before, different recipe but I used the leftover rice and almond paste in whole wheat bread. It was quite nice. I have also used the spent almonds from making milk for coco flavored cookies. They came out king of like soft sticky macaroons. If you are not sure what to do with left over just throw caution tot he wind.
Merrill S. July 9, 2013
Great ideas, thanks!
nanw. May 21, 2013
i have done that, although it was good (to me) some of my family members found it less appealing. i hope you enjoy it!
Emilia R. May 21, 2013
OK, I have one more question. I ended up with this nice dryish paste of rice (I used whole Basmati) and almonds. I wonder if I could cook it in milk and add sugar/sweetener? Just a thought, for I hate to throw all that beauty in the disposal...
Ashleigh H. May 20, 2013
Can't wait to try this! I loved having Horchata in Spain last year (although the tigernuts version) and have craved it so many times since!
Thanks for this =)
Ashleigh xxoo
nanw. May 19, 2013
may i suggest heavily straining it. we strained it once and after tasting it strained it again
Carolyn C. May 19, 2013
In a rush you cloud mix store bought rice milk and almond milk with powdered cinnamon..
nanw. May 19, 2013
honey will work
Carolyn C. May 20, 2013
next day. I made my Horchata this morning! I used 4 layers of cheese cloth over a strained. The milk mixture seemed smooth. I think I have come up with a use for the leftover pulp. I make feta ane recotta cheese with ground almonds. This pulp has the same consisting. I added a little more agave,added some chia powder and added a little gluten free xanthan gum to use as a binder and make the mixture spreadable. the mixture acts like cream cheese. I can now us it on my Gluten free bagels. I am not sure of the food value but the fiber from the almonds and chia could be benifitial.
Carolyn C. May 20, 2013
I used a strainer. Not good proof reading today!
msophelia May 19, 2013
looking forward to trying this! question: i may be missing something, but does the cinnamon stick go in the blender as well as the rest of the mix?
Cookie A. May 19, 2013
Yes, you do.
msophelia May 19, 2013
Dianecpa May 19, 2013
looks delicious!
Emilia R. May 19, 2013
Can something other than agave nectar be used--light honey or even sweetener?
Cookie A. May 19, 2013
Yes, you can use honey or sugar. Just start with 1/3 cup and add more to taste during the final blending stage.
nanw. May 19, 2013
tell me how it tasted! im very sceptical about horchata
Chef S. May 19, 2013
The real Horchata recipe
500 grs of Tigernuts
450 grs of sugar ground
2 liters of water
Wash the tigernuts well several times in different waters and put them to soak for 12 hours.
Then rewash and dry well.
Crushed them in a mortar until they are very ground.
Add water and for some 3 hours.
Passes it for a sieve or a colander of fabric, pressing it well to extract the whole juice of the tigernuts; the sugar is added; and without removing, when it is well disolved pass through ehw colander again to obtain the horchata.
Serve very cold or chilled.
rhion May 19, 2013
Yes, that is what was originally used in Egypt, which then spread throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, then into Spain with the advent of the Moors.

However, the idea of 'real' versus 'fake' is a fallacy. It was a drink made on a principle style, meaning anything available to go into it was fine. Like making sangria - it's whatever's on hand to serve the need. Rice and almonds are the most common versions of it world wide these days, due to tiger/chufa nuts not being something most people have any clue about.

When I lived in Malaga, it depended upon the season when it came to horchata. Sometimes it was almonds. Sometimes it was chufa. Sometimes it was rice. All of them were 'real'. And not only that, as good as grinding the meal by hand tastes, be realistic - very few people in a modern kitchen will bother with that. While I would, since I have several types of mortar and pestle, and a meal stone, most folks do not.
Chef S. May 19, 2013
The Horchata is made with chufa(tigernuts), you can make homemade "horchata" as this recipe, and I am sure is great. The horchata is not made with almonds in Malaga,or anywhere else, I spend 8 years working there and never tried it. Is like Sangria, it has a recipe, and anything else is "sangria" it can taste good but...
Kt4 May 19, 2013
Alright guys, let's not bicker. I appreciate knowing the *possible* origins of recipes and how things are made in all parts of the world. But if currently living with 4 ladies, all of whom love to cook, from 4 different countries has taught me anything it's that everyone has different versions of the same recipe. Knowing how creative people can get in the kitchen, I find it hard to believe there is only one "true" or "original" recipe for horchata, sangria, pierogi, or anything else.

Let's be friends, add some rum to our horchatas, and say "Cheers" to keeping the recipes coming!
Carolyn C. May 19, 2013
Just read the recipe, I am on the way to the kitchen to make the drink. I have food allergies, luckily almonds is not one of them. thanks for the recipe!
kimikoftokyo May 19, 2013
I've been drinking this for years. You can make a type of coquito from it as my family does.
proncis May 19, 2013
Is there a substitute for the nuts for those with allergies?
Margie F. May 19, 2013
Almonds are not nuts!
proncis May 19, 2013
Cross contamination. Better safe than sorry.
rhion May 19, 2013
perryarla May 19, 2013
Does anyone have suggestions for adapting this for a food processor? I've tried making a rice-only horchata in mine, but the food processor was not effective at grinding the grains. Perhaps I might have a better chance with almonds in the mix, but I wonder if a food processor is just the wrong tool for the job.
rhion May 19, 2013
I use rice in mine just fine. How long did you soak the grains? And also, what ratio of water to rice did you do? Another thing you can do, is toast the rice a little bit before soaking, which would cause the rice to expand more, making for a better target for the blades of your food processor.
AlexOlalde May 19, 2013
Use a blender, I make my horchata with a blender, and always turn out right
Lauren R. May 19, 2013
I use the dregs from nutmilk making in baking. Where butter is called for I use half butter and half nutdregs. Works out quite well
Zensister May 18, 2013
Thank you! Thank you! Most versions add dairy milk, which I'm allergic to. This is exactly what I've been looking for.