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If you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine or looking to get more acquainted with it, you might be wondering where to start.
When you sit down at a restaurant and peruse the menu, chances are that you’ll come across an item known as “horchata”. What is it? What does horchata taste like? Does it taste good?
These are a few of the important questions we’re diving into in today’s article.
What Is Horchata?
Horchata is the generic Spanish name for a class of sweet drinks that are made with ground spices, ground nuts, and grains.
Sometimes, horchata has other additions like seeds. It originated in Spain, but made its way to the Americas where it quickly transformed into the Mexican horchata, a drink made of rice.
This form, which is the most popular in the Western world, is made of sugar, rice, spices, and water. It looks similar to milk but is dairy-free, incredibly rich, and creamy.
Varieties of Horchata
Horchata can be found across a variety of cultures, and as such, it comes with a wide array of flavor profiles.
Mexican horchata, as I mentioned, is a variety that’s made of rice and spices, but across the country, this basic recipe can vary as different areas choose to enhance their horchata with either flowers or fruit.
The Spanish horchata recipe is usually made using tiger nuts, while the Puerto Rican version uses sesame seeds. The Central American horchata recipe uses nuts, legumes, and seeds interchangeably.
What Does Horchata Taste Like?
Since horchata is a drink that can be found in a variety of different places, it doesn’t have one singular taste or recipe.
However, the general consensus is that horchata is sweet and creamy, with a mild flavor and a refreshing after effect. It is also mildly spicy, with cinnamon or nutmeg being the key additive in many recipes.
How sweet horchata is depends on how much sugar or sweetener is added. The amount of added vanilla extract can also play a part in sweetness.
What Tastes Similar to Horchata?
Horchata is a very unique drink. There are very few other things that it tastes comparable to, however, it could be said that the taste of this drink resembles the taste of rice pudding.
So, if you’re a fan of rice pudding, chances are that you’re going to enjoy horchata, which is essentially rice pudding in liquid form!
Is Horchata Good For You?
Sure, horchata tastes great – but is it good for you, too?
As it turns out, horchata has a number of health benefits that prove that horchata is indeed incredibly beneficial for the body.
High in Fiber
Horchata is chock full of fiber, which is important for the digestive system. Fiber not only helps your body digest food but also aids in the absorption of nutrients.
In addition, fiber helps to control blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full and satisfied.
One serving of horchata contains 8.1 grams of fiber — that’s almost 18% of the average man’s daily recommended fiber intake and 33% of the average woman’s.
Boosts Cardiovascular Health
Horchata is high in potassium, which is a key player in preventing cardiovascular disease. Potassium helps to lower blood pressure, removing some of the stress and strain that is placed on the heart from having blood pressure that is higher than average.
Due to this, circulation throughout the body and, of course, the heart is increased, allowing for more oxygen to reach key areas.
Rich in Minerals
When it comes to minerals, horchata is a gold mine.
This simple, delicious drink has generous amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc. Together, these minerals work to provide the body with energy and to keep the bones strong and healthy.
The minerals found in horchata can also do wonders for the hair, skin, and nails, helping them to grow faster and stronger.
If the horchata you’re consuming is made from nuts, chances are that it’s packed with antioxidants.
Antioxidants are beneficial for their ability to help prevent the development of various diseases. They also provide your cells protection from harmful molecules that are found in the air.
A diet high in antioxidants can help ward off cardiovascular disease and various cancers, which makes the addition of horchata a great idea.
How To Make Homemade Horchata
Making homemade horchata is easy and only requires a few ingredients.
To make your own rice-based horchata at home, you’ll need to start with a few basic ingredients:
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 cups water
Here’s how to make it:
- Combine rice, two cups of cold water, and cinnamon sticks in a blender. Blend until both cinnamon and rice are ground up; add the remaining two cups of water.
- Pour mixture into a large bowl or juice pitcher; leave covered for at least 8 hours.
- Pour rice mixture through a fine cheesecloth or nut milk bag-covered strainer and discard leftover rice and cinnamon.
- Add vanilla extract, milk, sugar, and ground cinnamon; stir. Store horchata in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. At serving time, pour over ice and garnish with a cinnamon stick or a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Horchata Making Tips
- Serve over ice for the best taste and texture. Do not mix ice into a pitcher with leftover horchata, as the melting ice will water down the drink. Instead, add ice when you’re ready to serve.
- Experiment with your milk of choice. Using different types of milk will produce either a thicker or thinner horchata and change the way the drink tastes. Try using sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, evaporated milk, almond milk, soy milk, or full-fat dairy milk.
- Soak as long as possible. If possible, leave your rice soaking overnight. However, if this isn’t possible, try to leave it for 6-8 hours at the minimum.
- Consider reversing steps 1 and 2. If you don’t have a high-quality blender, consider soaking your rice before you blend it. This will make it easier to achieve the desired texture and reduce the amount of rice that is discarded later on.
- Play around with flavor. Instead of doing a plain horchata, consider trying different flavors. For example, strawberry, caramel, coffee, or ginger.