Horchata– This is gold, girl!

When you hear the word “horchata”, what comes to mind? I’m sure the answers will vary. The most literal-minded of you will think “rice milk”, some of you may simply associate it with the concept of the “taqueria”, while others might draw a complete blank. I for one can’t get the image of the mouthy whores of the Mission district out of my head. Not that I associate them with actual drink, it’s just the phonics of the word that lead me there.

The word horchata is derived from the Valencian word orxata, which itself is derived from ordiata (from the Latin word for barley, hordeata ). A popular, though quite unsubstantiated, myth tells the story of a young Moorish girl who gave King James I of Aragon a beverage of ground chufa (tigernut or earth almond) and upon drinking, the king exclaimed, “Això és or, xata!” (This is gold, girl!).

So there you have it. Believe it or not.

The origins of the beverage are as cloudy as the drink itself. The Egyptians had a similar drink made of barley water mixed with honey. The Arabs brought a form of it up to the Iberian peninsula in their unconquerable days, and the Spanish have loved it so much for so long that they ended up pouring it all over the New World.

In Mexico, the beverage is made of rice, water, cinnamon, and sugar. In Spain, the chufa is the preferred source of starch. El Salvador has its own version, too. Pretty much everybody has their own version which they deem to be correct, but the essentials remain the same: a source of starch, water, and some form of sweetener. Cinnamon is commonly used (and personally, I feel that horchata without cinnamon is just plain rice milk). Lime or lemon zest are also frequent guests in the mix. It is entirely up the the preferences of the individual making it.

And I say make your own. It requires more effort than wandering down to your local taqueria to buy some, but it is inexpensive and extremely satisfying– much more so than those whores in the Mission, certainly. And it’s gold. It’s tasty white gold, girl.


After examining several recipes, I settled on one that included almonds. The almonds give an extra bit of complexity to this otherwise humble-but-wonderful beverage.


1 cup long grain white rice
1 cup chopped almonds, without skin
5-6 cups of water (depending upon one’s preferences)
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup simple syrup or sugar. You may use less or more, according to your taste for sweetness.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. In a coffee grinder (that does not smell of coffee), pulverize the rice into dust. Most effectively done in two or three batches.

2. In a suitable container, combine rice, almonds, cinnamon and 3 cups of water. Let sit covered overnight.

3. The following day, REMOVE CINNAMON STICK, pour the mixture into a blender and purée until as smooth as possible, adding as much sugar and water as you like.

4. Strain the horchata. Some prefer to do this through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. I prefer to use a tea towel, since there is a lot of grit involved. It takes a bit more time and hands-on wringing, but the gripping and twisting motions are an excellent way to work out pent up aggression, and the results are much better. So I think.

5. Refrigerate or simply serve over ice with a scant sprinkling of ground cinnamon.

Makes about 5 to 6 cups, depending.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
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13 Responses to Horchata– This is gold, girl!

  1. giddy says:

    When I hear “horchata” I think of Skip. He used to have banana horchata (from Ralph’s or Von’s, most likely) in his fridge sometimes. Which then reminds me of the time I called him and asked what he was doing, and he was eating a sandwich. “What kind?” I said. “Uh, don’t laugh,” he said. “Oh, I won’t laugh, why would I laugh?”

    “Um, mustard and oregano.”

  2. Nicky D. says:

    a. This is sounding like my dad’s rice pudding, but w.out the milk and in a glass.

    b. I can’t imagine what pent up aggression you might have.

    c. Mustard and oregano? Bring ‘er.

  3. michaelprocopio says:

    Giedra– BANANA horchata? Well, I never. Sounds rather good. Who knew that the Ralph’s chain of grocery stores was so progressive in the 1980’s?

    “Nicky D”– Perhaps you are right. It is rizogalo for those who cannot handle solid food.

  4. Dani says:

    Welcome back!
    We all have a little “whorechata” in us.

  5. missginsu says:

    You neglected to mention my favorite horchata fact… chufa are also known as tiger nuts.

    Or maybe I just like that detail because I enjoy the phrase “tiger nuts.” 🙂

  6. michaelprocopio says:

    Dani– Thanks very much. I feel I’ve been away a long time…

    Miss Ginsu– Apologies. I thought I’d mentioned that, but did not. Who doesn’t love the phrase “tiger nuts”?

  7. Your foodie articles are more fun than any other I’ve found. And I don’t cook!

  8. Love your informative post on horchata. I’ve had horchata de chufas in Valencia, and of course, my mother’s Mexican horchata–they all taste wonderful to me. Only we forgot to mention an essential ingredient for the best horchata in the world–amor.

  9. ursula says:

    There’s a song by Vampire Weekend, in which they talk about Horchata. I never knew what it was and never thought to find out.
    But now I don’t have to !
    Thanks Michael.

    • michaelprocopio says:

      Oh yes, Vampire Weekend. The thought of drinking horchata through the mouth hole of one’s balaklava is an intriguing one.

      If there are any other food stuffs you are curious about, let me know and perhaps I might just blog about it– Im always looking for ideas.

  10. Tara says:


    I love your writing! I actually just found your blog through reading about Food Blogger Camp from several different blogs. I started with David Lebovitz’s blog and now–after several links to others who were at Camp–I’m here. And I think I am officially obsessed with food blogs.

    I’ve been meaning to look up a recipe for horchata, lately, and here you have one posted with history and all. 🙂

    Anyway, I have a question about this recipe, which I hope isn’t too dumb… in Step 3, do you pour everything including the cinnamon stick into the blender?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Michael Procopio says:


      It sounds as if you had to travel nearly as far to get to my site as I had to fly to get to camp.

      Thank you very much for stopping by. And thank you even more for letting me know about my recipe error. I have corrected the mistake and placed the warning to remove the cinnamon in bold letters to atone for my sins.

      What’s strange about your timing is that I am actually sitting here at my desk drinking horchata. Seriously.


      • Tara says:

        Thank you for the clarification. I wouldn’t call it an error, though. I’m sure it’s an unspoken rule that the cinnamon stick must always be removed before such things as blending, and you probably didn’t think it was necessary to mention it. I just wanted to make sure that I shouldn’t leave it in because what if I took it out and the horchata didn’t come out the way it’s supposed to?? Haha. I hope I don’t sound too crazy.

        Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your horchata… I think it’s time for me to go make some. 🙂


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