This horchata drink recipe is a go-to at our house — it’s a creamy, milky drink that’s full of cinnamon flavor. Served over ice, it’s perfect for sipping on warm days, but the warmth of the cinnamon flavor makes it perfect for cooler months, too.
There are multiple types of horchata. Horchata de chufa is the original, Spanish version of the drink, made from tiger nuts. This easy horchata recipe, though, is more similar to the Mexican version, made with rice.
Whether this is your first time trying this rich drink or you’ve been looking for a way to recreate the ones from your favorite Mexican restaurants, this is sure to be the easiest and best horchata that you’ll want to make again and again.
Why You’ll Love Horchata
There are so many reasons to love this sweet beverage!
- Tons of Flavor – Since this recipe uses cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon the warm flavor is far more robust. Also, storing horchata overnight instead serving it immediately allows for more flavor to infuse into, creating a more well-rounded version of the drink.
- Perfect Texture – Avoiding sugar by using sweetened condensed milk instead makes for a silky smooth drink.
- Versatility – You can drink this thick, creamy drink to cool you off on a hot day (with or without the addition of liquor), or you can pair it with your favorite sweet or savory Mexican recipe.
These simple ingredients come together to make the most sweet and luscious horchata.
- Long Grain White Rice – The rice is the unique ingredient that makes up the base of this beverage. It contributes to its smooth and creamy consistency.
- Fresh Water – The water is the other foundational ingredient for the base, helping the rice to become liquefied in the food processor. However, we do not use hot water because it tends to make the rice sticky by activating too much starch.
- Cinnamon Sticks (Lightly Smashed) – This spice gives the drink its signature warm flavor.
- Whole Milk – Whole milk helps to give the horchata a smooth and creamy consistency.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – Using condensed milk makes the drink sweet and creamy — use a bit more or less to get just the right amount of sweetness. You can buy it at most grocery stores or make your own homemade sweetened condensed milk.
- Vanilla Extract – Vanilla balances the horchata and adds even more warm flavor.
- Ground Cinnamon – Ground cinnamon adds a bit more rich flavor to the drink and makes for a great garnish.
- Ice – Use ice so that the drink remains chilled while sipping.
How to Make Horchata
It’s easy to make this traditional Mexican drink — just be sure to leave plenty of time so that it can chill in the refrigerator to soak up the flavor of the cinnamon sticks.
- Blend rice and water. Place half of the rice and half of the water into a high-speed blender or the bowl of a large food processor and pulse until combined.
- Repeat process with remaining rice and water. Pour the mixture into a large bowl or large pitcher and repeat the process with the remaining rice and water.
- Add cinnamon sticks. Once all of the rice and water mixture are in the bowl, add two cinnamon sticks.
- Chill. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator. You can refrigerate it for as little as 2 hours but you’ll get the best results from refrigerating it overnight.
- Strain. Remove the mixture from the fridge and pour it through a fine mesh sieve into a separate bowl or pitcher.
- Remaining ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients to the water and rice mixture and stir to combine.
- Serve over ice. Serve immediately over ice with a dusting of ground cinnamon or store in the refrigerator.
What to Serve with Horchata
This delicious drink is a perfect pairing with sweets like churros, tres leches cake, pastries, rice pudding, or sugar cookies. It’s also a surprisingly delicious way to wash down some savory foods like spicy jalapeno steak tacos, chile verde pork, and crispy Mexican chicken.
Variations on Horchata
You can make a variety of modifications to take your horchata to the next level or to accommodate dietary needs.
- Spices – Add nutmeg for even to kick up the flavor.
- Alternative Dairy – Use almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, or oat milk to replace the whole milk. You can also get sweetened condensed versions of coconut milk and oat milk.
- Sweetener – For more sweet flavor, add a drizzle of maple syrup or a little bit of brown sugar. Alternatively, if you’re trying to consume less sugar, you can use heavy cream in place of the condensed milk and use a sugar-free substitute to sweeten it.
- Add Alcohol – Vodka, rum, brandy, and coffee liqueur all work well when mixed into horchata.
- Ice – Make an extra batch of horchata and freeze it to make ice cubes. Then use those in place of the ice to avoid watering down your horchata.
Storage and Freezing
Since horchata incorporates dairy, be sure to keep it in the refrigerator.
Make Ahead: You can make horchata ahead of time and store it until ready to serve. Be sure to stir it well before serving.
Refrigerator: The best way to store horchata is in a pitcher or airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge.
Freezer: Horchata can be frozen for up to 3 months. Pour it into a resealable freezer bag or an ice cube tray. You can also use popsicle molds to make horchata popsicles.
Common Questions about Horchata
Mexican horchata is a blend of rice, water, creamy dairy, cinnamon, and vanilla. Some versions call for sugar while this one derives its sweetness from sweetened condensed milk.
Dirty horchata is a mix of traditional horchata and a shot of espresso, giving the creamy drink a burst of robust coffee flavor.
Horchata’s thickness can be attributed to the fact that it’s a rice-based drink. The starches from the rice are responsible for the thickening.
More Delicious Drinks
We love sipping on cocktails and mocktails. This is excellent one to add to the recipe book.
- Working in two batches, pulse together the rice and water in a large food processor. Mixture does not need to be smooth.
- Place this and the 2 cinnamon sticks in a large pitcher or bowl. Cover and chill overnight.
- Pour the rice mixture through a fine mesh strainer, discarding solids.
- Stir in the whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon.
- When ready to serve, fill serving glasses with ice and pour the horchata mixture over the ice. Garnish with a dusting of reserved cinnamon.