Horchata: Its History & Recipe

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¡Hola! We are reaching the beginning of October and it is incredible how fast time is going! But we are so excited to be back in schools teaching, as well as starting brand new programs, such as our Mini Camp Saturdays


If you don’t know much about our program and what we do, we are mainly an after-school Spanish program that has teachers all around the Portland area teaching Spanish at different schools. Every teacher has a different theme that they teach for 6 weeks. One of those themes is Comidas (foods)! During one of the lessons, our teacher makes a quick horchata drink with our students, and they learn about its history. 


We wanted to share with you this history and recipe so you can do it at home with your child!


Horchata is a refreshing beverage with a long and diverse history that spans various parts of the world. Its origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations, and it has evolved over time to take on different forms in different regions. Here is a more comprehensive history of horchata around the world:


  • Ancient Origins:
    • The roots of horchata can be traced to ancient civilizations. In Egypt, there is evidence of a beverage called "hordeum," made from soaked barley, which is considered one of the earliest precursors to horchata.
  • Moorish Spain:
    • Horchata's introduction to Spain is often attributed to the Moors during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th to the 15th centuries.
    • The Moors made a beverage called "horchata de chufa" using tiger nuts (chufas), which were readily available in the region. This version of horchata gained popularity in Valencia and the surrounding areas.
  • Spain and the Mediterranean:
    • In Spain, horchata de chufa became a cherished and traditional drink, especially in the Valencia region. It was often consumed as a refreshing beverage, particularly during the hot summer months.
    • Over time, the popularity of horchata spread to other regions in Spain and the Mediterranean.
  • Latin America:
    • Horchata made its way to Latin America through Spanish colonization, where it evolved into different regional variations.
    • In Mexico, "horchata de arroz" is a popular version made from rice, sweetened with cinnamon and sugar. It is often served as a sweet and refreshing drink.
    • In Central America, variations of rice-based horchata can be found, sometimes flavored with ingredients like vanilla or cocoa.
    • Puerto Rico has its version called "horchata de ajonjolí," made from sesame seeds and often mixed with coconut milk.
  • North America:
    • In the United States, particularly in the southwestern states like California and Texas, Mexican-style rice horchata is commonly found in Mexican restaurants and taquerias. It is a beloved beverage, especially during warm weather.
  • Middle East and North Africa:
    • In the Middle East and North Africa, there is a similar beverage known as "horchata" or "horchata de chufa," made from ground tiger nuts. This drink has its roots in North African and Moorish traditions.
  • Worldwide Variations:
    • Various countries around the world have their own unique takes on horchata, often using locally available ingredients. In West African countries like Nigeria, for example, a version of horchata is made from millet or sorghum.


Horchata's history is a testament to its adaptability and enduring popularity across cultures. Whether it's made from rice, tiger nuts, sesame seeds, or other ingredients, horchata remains a refreshing and beloved beverage with a rich and diverse global history.



  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups water (for soaking)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • 2 cups whole milk (you can also use almond or rice milk for a dairy-free version)
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)



  • Rinse the Rice: Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it thoroughly under cold running water until the water runs clear. This helps remove excess starch.
  • Soak the Rice: In a large bowl, combine the rinsed rice, cinnamon stick, and 4 cups of water. Allow the rice to soak for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight in the refrigerator. Soaking the rice softens it, making it easier to blend.
  • Blend the Mixture: After soaking, discard the cinnamon stick. Pour the rice and water mixture into a blender and blend until you have a smooth, creamy liquid. This may take a few minutes.
  • Strain the Mixture: Place a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or a fine-mesh strainer over a large pitcher or bowl. Pour the blended rice mixture through the strainer to remove any solids. Use a spoon to press down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Sweeten and Flavor: Add the granulated sugar to the strained rice milk and stir until it's completely dissolved. You can adjust the sugar to your taste, adding more or less as desired. If you like, add vanilla extract for extra flavor.
  • Add Milk: Stir in whole milk (or your preferred milk alternative). You can also adjust the amount of milk to achieve your desired consistency. Some people like their horchata thicker, while others prefer it thinner.
  • Chill and Serve: Refrigerate the horchata until it's well chilled, at least 1-2 hours. You can serve it over ice cubes for an extra refreshing experience.
  • Garnish and Enjoy: Before serving, you can sprinkle ground cinnamon on top for a classic garnish. Stir well before pouring into glasses and enjoy your homemade horchata!


Note: Traditional Mexican horchata uses white rice, but you can experiment with different types of rice or even combine rice with other ingredients like almonds for unique variations. Many Mexican recipes can also use sweetened condensed milk in place of the milk and sugar. Adjust the sweetness and flavor to suit your preferences.

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About Kathryn López Resto

Kathryn is una Boricua! She is from Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. When she moved to Oregon, she didn't know any English, Spanish being her first language. For as long as she can remember, she has loved working with children and is passionate about helping kids just like herself! Kathryn works with us as the Associate Director of AiS and Director of our upcoming virtual program.