Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I can remember the first time I had horchata. I was in medical school and went to a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant on the west side of Chicago with a friend for lunch. She ordered horchata, and I had never heard of it. I went ahead and got one too, and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. Horchata is a traditional Mexican drink made of rice, sugar, and water. This weekend I was hankering for horchata, and had some time on my hands, so I decided to make it.

Making horchata from scratch, I discovered, is a long, drawn-out process. First, you have to pulverize rice into a fine powder. Based on the recipes online that I found, the best way to do this is using a spice or coffee grinder, neither of which I own. One recipe said to use a food processor, so I pulled out the Cuisinart and processed the heck out of one cup of rice. It took a long time and was very noisy, and didn't get all the rice totally ground. Then you put the rice into a bowl with water, almonds, and cinnamon and let it soak for six hours. After that you blend it again, and then strain it with cheesecloth.

So much work. Was it worth it? Of course. I learned from it, and satisfied my inner desire to make horchata from scratch. Would I do it again? Well, if I have a Mexican restaurant close by where I could just go and buy horchata, then no. Plus my husband didn't really like it, so unless I was with someone who loved horchata and really wanted to have some, I probably won't make it again. I thought the final product was pretty tasty though.

Oh another thing. I didn't realize almonds were so expensive. Two cups of almonds cost me about seven dollars! That makes this drink a little cost-prohibitive. I'll need to search around for an horchata recipe that doesn't call for almonds. I could also try substituting almond extract.

I found a few recipes and adapted them to my liking. Here it is. It's pretty close to the Gale Gand recipe, but maybe next time I would try the Rick Bayless version.


1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups skinless almonds
2-inch piece cinnamon bark
7 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ice cubes

Wash and drain the rice. Using a food processor or spice grinder, grind the rice until fine; combine with the almonds and cinnamon bark. Add 3 1/2 cups water and let sit overnight, covered. Blend rice mixture until smooth using a blender. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and continue blending. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Strain horchata into a bowl first using a metal strainer and then a double layer of cheesecloth; finish with up to an additional 1 cups of water until it achieves a milky consistency. Enjoy over ice.


Abby said...

Tell me when you're coming to Chicago and I'll buy you some almonds from Costco. So much cheaper that way. Plus you could find some other uses for almonds as well.

Genny said...

I'm Mexican-American, and no one in my family has ever put almonds in horchata. We actually soak the rice overnight, blend it with mexican cinnamon and water (including the water we soaked it in. Then add a can of evaporated milk and sugar. About a cup and 1/2 or two cups of rice soaked should give you around a gallon of horchata. No almonds! it's not neccessary. Never had it with almonds. Oh and you dont really need to strain it, but you can if you don't like the texture.

bonsai said...

truly, no need for almonds in real horchata. thats a nice american touch because we are so nutty for nuts here... and almonds are great...! but horchata is just sweet rice milk. nothing else but rice and the spices/sweet etc. and truly it doesnt have to be a lot of work. a strong blender is needed like a vita mix. the strongest blender out there. and like our other friend said, no straining is needed. if you dont like the texture just dont shake it up before you drink it. you can do something else creative with the rice sludge left over...