Agua de Horchata

As a young girl growing up in East Los Angeles, aguas frescas were a weekend treat. 

After Misa (Mass) on Sunday, we would stop for pan dulce and a refresco (refreshing beverage). 

In the winter, our warm sweet bread was perfect with hot and thick champurrado or atole, but in the summer, the drink of choice was agua de horchata

This refreshingly light and mildly sweet drink served over lots of ice was the perfect summer refresco

The large glass barrels in the pan dulce shop were always filled with colorful variations of fresh fruity aguas, but the milky white rice and cinnamon drink was the one I could never resist. 

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I never understood how the sweet rice beverage could be derived from rice, water and cinnamon and I assumed it must be complicated because my abuela never made it at home. 

Now I know better! It is so easy to make, like most good things, it just takes time. 

This is a perfect summer beverage, and for the coffee addicts like me, adding a shot of espresso or cold brew to the horchata (or even using the horchata to add to coffee in place of milk or cream) is the perfect pairing.

Refresco indeed!

Agua de Horchata

Prep time: 5 minutes

Resting time: 3 hours minimum, to overnight

Total time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Yields: 1/2 Gallon of Horchata


  • 1 cup of white, long grain rice (plain white rice, not Jasmine or Basmati)

  • 1 Mexican cinnamon stick.

    *Note: Mexican cinnamon sticks are flaky and will break down and blend up easier than the thicker sticks.

  • 4 cups of hot tap water

  • ½ can of sweetened condensed milk.

    *Note: I use Nestle Carnation or La Lechera, which comes in a 14 oz. can

  • 4 cups of whole milk. Any milk substitute can be used here (low-fat, almond, coconut, oatmilk).

  • 2 additional cups of cold water

  • 1 serving of espresso or cold brew of your choice, per serving

  • Ice to serve

    *Note: Many recipes call for vanilla or cloves, which go nicely, but I prefer the simplicity of the rice and cinnamon. Either way, I encourage you to experiment.

  • Special equipment: cheese cloth, a sieve, a blender, a large, ½ gallon pitcher.

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Preparing the Horchata de Arroz

  1. Place rice, cinnamon and hot water into the blender and let the ingredients rest for at least three hours and a maximum of 8 hours before you are going to make it. *Note: I usually make it in the evening and let it rest overnight. Every so often, you can stir the ingredients with a spoon, but the rice will always stay at the bottom of the blender.
  2. When the rice is ready, you should be able to break it apart when you rub it between your fingers. This means it will break down when blended.
  3. Blend the mixture. Start on low and gradually raise the blender to high for several minutes until the mixture looks smooth.
  4. Pour the rice mixture through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth, into a big pitcher. Take your time and allow the cheesecloth to capture all of the bigger particles.
  5. Add 4 cups of cold milk of your choice, the sweetened condensed milk and two more cups of cold water. Test for sweetness, and add more sweetener if you prefer it sweeter.
  6. Stir all the ingredients together. The horchata will settle, so be sure to stir it before serving. You can use a ladle to serve it, or pour it straight from the pitcher. *Note: Rather than filling the horchata mixture with ice (like they do in taquerias) I prefer to pour the horchata over a glass of ice so that the whole mixture does not get diluted.
  7. Slowly pour a shot of espresso or cold brew (about 1.5 ounces) over the glass of horchata and ice, and sprinkle with a little extra cinnamon. ¡Delicioso!
  8. Store extra horchata, covered in a container, refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

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About the Author

Loretta Forquer

Loretta has a deep passion for cooking, entertaining, and bringing family and friends together for a great meal. She started cooking early in life at the apron strings of her abuelita, María Estela, who was a prolific Mexican cook. Since then, she’s worked in the specialty coffee and food industries including running her own cafés and catering business. She invites all of her readers to join in her journey through food experiences and recipes.

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