Make Your Own Horchata

Whenever I go back home, I try to visit a Mexican place downtown for two reasons--amazing guacamole with housemade chips and the horchata. Horchata (at least in the form served at these Mexican places) is a refreshing rice-based drink with a hint of cinnamon and nutty flavor. Kind of like rice pudding in milky drinkable form, and since I'm a big rice pudding fan, I thoroughly enjoyed horchata from the very first sip. I didn't know whether the horchata I'd previously had was housemade or not, but after my attempt to make my own, I have to assume it was probably store-bought in a powder form. Not to insult the taste or quality of it, but rather to say I found horchata much more difficult to make than I thought it would be. A lot of work for a drink! I made some mistakes along the way as well, unfortunately.

I based the recipe off of this one from Rick Bayless, except I ended up adding more ground cinnamon as the flavor from the stick alone wasn't strong enough. My first mistake was trying to blanch the almonds myself. Various sources claim that after pouring boiling water over the almonds and waiting for 5 minutes, the skins "slip right off". I must have done something wrong because I resorted to rubbing them one by one on a grater to start with, then peeling the remaining skin off with my fingernails (plenty of almond got up under them too, which hurt). Even if the skins on all the almonds came right off (some of them did), what a pain to have to peel a tiny skin off of 1 1/4 c of almonds--more than this many:

Horchata De Almendra

2/3 c rice, medium or long grain rice (I used jasmine rice)
1 1/4 cup almonds, pre-blanched
3-inch piece of cinnamon stick
Ground cinnamon to taste
2 c whole milk
2 1/2 c hot tap water
Sugar to taste (about 1 c)
  1. Combine rice, almonds, water and cinnamon stick in a bowl. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Blend on high with about 1/2 c sugar until the mixture is as smooth as possible, until the graininess is very fine.
  3. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth, trying to get out as much liquid as possible. Pour into a pitcher, add milk and more sugar and cinnamon to taste. Serve over ice.

The second mistake I made was using just a sieve to strain out the remaining solids of rice and almond. It ended up too grainy, and I had to let the drink sit for some time and then ladled the liquid off the top (I had no cheesecloth with me). I would highly recommend using the cheesecloth. But overall, the horchata itself still turned out delicious and refreshing, and I dare say better than the horchata I've bought in the past. (Note: I also saved the pulpy solids from above to try my hand at an horchata ice cream. Will report back later.)

Next up: A unique ice cream, for real this time!
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