Horchata is a milk-like drink from Spain made from soaked tiger nuts. In the Americas, particularly in Texas and in areas around Mexico, Horchata is made from rice, cinnamon, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Horchata is sweet and creamy with a smooth texture, and it has a taste like that of rice pudding. The starch from the rice is what gives it a texture that’s smoother and creamier than that of just plain milk. It is a very rich and refreshing drink that can be enjoyed as a dessert or a snack in itself
- Tiger nuts, used in Spanish Horchata, aren’t actually nuts. They’re tubers, like sweet potatoes.
- The Mexican version of horchata first appeared in the 16th century
- Puerto Rican and Venezuelan horchata are made out of sesame seeds.
- Salvadorian horchata is made from morro, a type of hard-shelled fruit.
Horchata Buying Guide
We will preface this by saying that commercially produced horchata or orxata will resemble those traditionally made, but it is a far cry.
Commercially available horchata is available in three forms. You can get them powdered, concentrate, and ready to drink form.
- Powdered – Powdered horchata drinks are basically powdered milk with sweeteners, cinnamon powder, rice flour, and a bunch of stabilizers and gums added to simulate the texture of real horchata.
- Powdered Chufa / Tiger Nuts – This is usually found in organic stores, and this can be used to create authentic Spanish horchata, but it is in no way an “instant” horchata mix.
- Concentrate – Much like powdered instant horchata, liquid horchata concentrates are usually made from flavorings and additive to simulate the taste and texture of real horchata.
- Tiger Nut Horchata – This is usually sold at specialty stores, but is different from the local Mexican-style horchata.
- Ready-to-drink – There are some Mexican style ready to drink horchatas available for sale in supermarkets, but make sure to check the labels for added stabilizers like gums and other chemicals.
Now with all that said, where can good Mexican style horchata be purchased? Well, in Texas, any quality Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant should be serving their own freshly made horchata. Another option would be to visit farmers’ markets where they will usually have someone making fresh horchata for sale.
Horchata Production & Farming in Texas
Authentic horchata can be found in every corner of the state, from restaurants, specialty drink stores, and even some roadside markets. There are even some stores that create specialty horchata-based drinks that people travel for miles just to have their horchata blends. Another place where you can also find authentic horchata is outside of Mexican supermarkets.
Chemicals and Additives:
Here are some of the chemicals and additives that we have found on labels of various commercially produced horchata:
|· High Fructose Corn Syrup|
· Palm Oil
· Corn Syrup Solids
· Sodium Caseinate
· Dipotassium Phosphate
· Mono and Di-Glycerides
· Sodium Silicoaluminate
· Soy Lecithin
· Xanthan Gum
· Guar Gum
|· Titanium Dioxide|
· Natural Flavors
· Silicon Dioxide
· Acacia Gum
· Natural and Artificial Flavors
· Potassium Sorbate
· Sodium Benzoate
We won’t be going through each one of those ingredients, but answer this question. Are all of those really necessary? When traditional Mexican Style Horchata only contains five to seven ingredients?
Powdered horchatas are usually packed in mylar bags. Ready to drink horchata in PET bottles or in cartons, just like regular milk. Horchata concentrates are packed in resealable plastic jugs.
Horchata is best enjoyed ice cold.
If regular horchata is getting too dull, it can also be blended with espresso to make a drink that rivals some of the more famous name-brand coffeeshop drinks.
There’s also another variant of horchata called the RumChata, which is basically horchata spiked with rum to make cream liqueur type drink.
For commercially purchased horchata variants, refer to the packaging for storage instructions. For homemade or traditionally made horchata, it can last inside the fridge for a couple of days before going bad.
How to Make Your Own Horchata:
If you have the time or if for some reason you aren’t able to visit your local Tex-Mex restaurants, you can always make traditional horchata at home, and the good thing is you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry already.
1 cup uncooked white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Ground cinnamon to garnish (optional)
Wash and drain the rice. Place the rice, cinnamon stick, and 4 cups of water into a bowl and place in the fridge for at least four hours. For best results, allow the mixture to soak overnight. (You can do this before going to bed at night)
Depending on the size of your blender, you may want to split the blending process into two. Puree the mixture until it forms a paste-like texture.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or with a cheesecloth and squeeze out every bit of liquid possible to a pitcher.
In the same pitcher, combine the condensed milk and the evaporated milk (and the vanilla if you want to add it), add four cups of water, and stir until well mixed.
Chill the mixture until cold.
Stir before serving and serve over ice!
This homemade horchata should keep in the fridge for about three or four days.
* For dairy-free versions, you can opt to use almond milk or soy milk