What Is Horchata?

When you’re out at a Mexican restaurant, you want something ice cold and creamy to offset the spicy food you’re eating. No, don’t order milk. Get horchata. What is horchata, you ask? Well, today we’ll be examining all the different facets of this wonderful liquid! You can’t spell “horchata” without “chat,” so let’s get talking! 

What is horchata?

Horchata can be a lot of things, but basically it’s a creamy, sweet, milky beverage usually made with a plant-based milk. It provides a soothing balm to much of the heat that Mexican dishes can bring to the table, and has been delighting both young and old for centuries. 

What is in horchata?

It depends on who’s making it! In Mexico, horchata is traditionally made with a base of sweetened rice milk and spiced with cinnamon. In Spain, it’s made with tiger nut milk (actual nuts, not from real tigers). In Puerto Rico, horchata is made with sesame seeds, sugar, and water. 

If you’re in the U.S., then you’re probably drinking Mexican-style horchata. That’s classically made with rice milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and some sort of sweetener like condensed milk or agave nectar. 

Does horchata have dairy?

Despite its milky consistency and white pigment, horchata is typically dairy free. However, dairy is often added to up the creaminess factor in many modern horchata recipes, so do be sure to inquire about its lactose level before enjoying! 

Where is horchata from?

Though it’s most commonly associated with Mexican and Spanish cuisine, horchata actually originated in North Africa a long, long, long time ago. We’re talking 2400 B.C., according to Thrillist. But in the 11th century, it began to spread throughout what is now Spain and Portugal. 

How is horchata made?

While recipes may vary, in general, horchata starts by soaking grains, nuts, or seeds overnight in water. This mixture is then drained (or blended), and sugar or other spices are added to sweeten the beverage. No fairytale elves like the ones that mend your shoes! Just good old fashioned grain soaking! 

What does horchata taste like?

Traditional Mexican-style horchata has a smooth, creamy cinnamon-tinged taste with a hint of vanilla. 

How to pronounce horchata correctly?

Horchata is pronounced with a silent “H” at the beginning, making it come out “or-chaa-tuh” when said correctly. If you’ve decided to ignore me and pronounce it incorrectly, you might as well throw some numbers in there. You’re already pronouncing it incorrect, so the damage is done! 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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