By Margarita Gokun Silver
July 24, 2017

Mention the word horchata and many immediately think of the refreshing rice-based drink from Mexico. Yet this isn't the only kind that can replace a cold soda on a hot day or substitute a cup of hot tea on a cold afternoon. Here are some of our favorite horchata recipes -- along with traditional variations on this sweet, refreshing treat.

Make Mexican horchata in your blender. This refreshing rice- and milk-based drink is gently spiced with cinnamon and vanilla. It's easy to make. And it really takes the sting off spicy foods.

Photo by KGora

A refreshing rice drink with evaporated milk, vanilla, and a hint of cinnamon. "This version does not need to be boiled," says LatinaCook. "Make a slush by adding crushed ice."

Photo by Klearz

Here's a horchata with a cold-brew coffee kick! Iced cold-brew coffee combines with rice-almond water.

Photo by Kim's Cooking Now

This tropical horchata is the perfect refresher for hot summer nights and sunny days at the beach. Coconut milk adds richness and body to this classic rice and cinnamon drink, and the vanilla notes make it taste almost like dessert.

This version calls for soy milk. "Just as yummy as taqueria horchata," says Vanessa.

Photo by Diana71

How the World Does Horchata

Here are more ideas for flavoring your homemade horchata.

Spanish Horchata
Made with soaked and ground tiger nuts mixed with water and sugar, Spanish horchata is considered the predecessor to other horchatas. In fact, Spaniards have been turning sweet tiger nuts into a refreshing horchata since the 13th century. "The best tasting horchata is the one that's made with good-quality tiger nuts," says Tino Bendicho, the owner of Horchata Mercader, a Valencia, Spain-based family company that's been making horchata for three generations. The locals like the drink served either cold or mixed with ice like a frozen shake and accompanied by fartons, long, flaky sweet pastries that they dip into their horchatas.

In the 16th century, Spanish colonialists brought horchata to Latin America. But because tiger nuts weren't cultivated there, rice and other ingredients were used as substitutions.

Recipes for Mexican horchata are numerous but the usual ingredients include blended rice, water, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla. Some people add fruit such as melon, and some experiment with including shredded coconuts, almonds, or lemon peel.

El Salvador
In El Salvador, horchata is made from the seeds of the morro, a fruit that looks a little like green coconut and grows attached to the trunk or large branches of the morro tree. After drying in the sun, the seeds are ground and mixed with water to make the horchata.

The drink, which some in Nicaragua refer to as horchata, is similar to its Mexican and El Salvador counterparts in that it combines both morro seeds (known in Nicaragua as jicaro seeds) and rice in the recipe. Sometimes cinnamon and vanilla are added for flavor and milk is used instead of water.

In Honduras, soaked, ground rice is the basis for the drink with other ingredients such as cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla added to taste. In some parts of the country morro (jicaro) seeds make up the prime ingredient with rice added into the mixture.

Puerto Rico
The horchata in Puerto Rico is called horchata de ajonjolí and it uses neither morro seeds nor rice. Instead, people on the island grind sesame seeds -- either toasted or plain -- with water and brown sugar. They then strain the mixture and the resulting drink can be consumed either on its own or mixed with hot cereals or smoothies.

Ecuadorean horchata is probably the most different of them all because it involves no rice or seeds of any kind. Often referred to as horchata lojala, it's made from a mix of herbs and flowers known for their medicinal qualities with escancel giving the drink its distinctive red color. Ecuadorian horchata is also the only horchata that can be served—and enjoyed—either cold or hot.

"When it comes to delicious, unique, and refreshing summer drinks, it's hard to beat horchata," says Chef John. "We're doing a Mexican-style horchata, which is done with rice and almonds. The result is something that sort of looks like milk, but is much lighter, and pairs perfectly with all your favorite summer foods."

Want more? How about Horchata Pops?!

Here's a super-modern twist on an old treat. Sweet, spicy and cool, these refreshing pops combine the classic Latin American rice beverage with hot cinnamon whiskey and cayenne. The combo of ice cold and spicy heat makes is a summertime thrill! See how it's done:

Check out our collection of Latin American Recipes.