Horchata is a broad name for any of a variety of drinks, popular in Spanish countries like Spain and Mexico, that start out with a nut or grain soaked in water. The drinks are often similar to products like rice milk and other nondairy milks, but usually have a much creamier consistency and are both sweetened and spiced. Most recipes that I’ve seen feature both nuts and a grain, usually rice, soaked in water for some period of time and then strained out before flavoring. The drinks are fairly simple to make and, in spite of the fact that they don’t necessarily have long ingredient lists, they often have a great complex flavor.
While horchata can be made with many different types of nuts (chufas/tigernuts are popular in Spain, for instance), Mexican horchata is often made with almonds and that is the type that I am most familiar with. To make my homemade horchata as quick and easy as possible, I opted to start off my batch with almond milk. Not only did it save me time, but I was able to find lightly sweetened vanilla-flavored milk, which gave me a fairly rich base to start from.
To the milk, I added ground rice that I had pulverized in my coffee bean grinder, along with sugar and cinnamon. I let the mixture soak at room temperature overnight (there really isn’t a risk of almond milk curdling, unlike dairy milk) and then ran it through a very fine strainer before chilling. The result was fantastic. It was creamy – much creamier than the almond milk alone – and had a wonderfully sweet-cinnamon flavor to it. It was really close to the versions sold at some of my favorite local Mexican restaurants and took very little time and effort to assemble. This will definitely be a regular feature in my kitchen now!
Easy Homemade Horchata
6 cups almond milk, vanilla flavor
1 cup basmati rice (or other short grain rice)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pour almond milk into a large bowl. If you only have plain almond milk, add a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.
Grind the basmati rice in a spice or coffee grinder until it is very fine and sand-like in consistency. Stir rice, sugar and cinnamon into the almond milk, cover and let stand overnight, or for about 10 hours. Additional sugar can be added to taste, if necessary.
Place a layer of cheesecloth over a strainer (or use a very, very fine strainer if you have one) and strain milk mixture into a large pitcher. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well-chilled, before serving.
If storing the horchata, it may separate a bit, so give it a stir before pouring it into a glass.
Soak overnight, then refrigerate until cold.