If you’ve ever been to a Mexican restaurant, you’ve no doubt seen horchata on the drinks menu.
This traditional Mexican drink is made with rice, milk, and spices – but what exactly does horchata taste like?
Well, you’re in luck – because we’ve got everything you need to know right here!
In this handy guide, we’ll take you through all there is to know about what horchata is, what they taste like, and how you can make horchatas for yourself!
What Is Horchata?
First things first – what exactly is horchata? Well, as it turns out, that’s a bit hard to answer.
Horchata (also known as orxata) is a type of traditional Mexican drink that can take several different forms.
However, there are a few things that make up a horchata that you can’t go without. Authentic Mexican horchata is made with rice, milk, and spices.
While plant milk is the most common type of milk used (particularly rice milk or almond milk), you can also use cow’s milk if you want a dairy variation.
The rice is mixed with water and is left to soak with cinnamon sticks overnight.
The cinnamon sticks and water are then discarded, and the rice is strained out.
It’s then mixed with milk, and flavored with vanilla and cinnamon for a sweet, refreshing drink perfect for a summer’s day.
Horchata can have a few variations, but this basic recipe – for the most part – stays the same.
First of all, there are many different versions of a horchata depending on where you find it.
While Mexican horchatas use rice as their base, Spanish horchatas instead use soaked and ground tiger nuts for an earthier, nutty taste.
Meanwhile, horchata from El Salvador (see also ‘23 Traditional Salvadoran Foods And Recipes‘) uses melon seeds as the base, or a mix of melon, sesame, and morro seeds.
These give a similar nutty taste to Spanish horchatas, but with a lighter flavor and a slight fruity sweetness.
Other variations on the horchata add fruit such as strawberries for a sweeter flavor, or other flavors such as coffee or even chocolate.
Some horchatas also add nuts to give it an even stronger nutty, earthy taste.
You can also grind the rice before soaking it; this gives the horchata a thicker texture and removes any chalky or gritty taste.
Adding a splash of simple syrup adds some extra sweetness, making it a perfect dessert drink.
So What Does Horchata Taste Like?
Okay – so now that we’ve established what exactly a horchata actually is, let’s take a closer look at what it tastes like!
A traditional Mexican horchata uses just a few basic ingredients, and – as a result – it has a simple, delicate flavor.
The gentle nuttiness of the rice combines with the rice or almond milk for a slightly nutty flavor, which can be deepened by switching to animal milk.
The addition of spices such as cinnamon and vanilla add a more complex taste to the horchata, and double down on its subtle sweetness.
The main flavor of horchata is its creaminess.
The combination of rice and milk give it a slightly thick and deliciously creamy taste and texture, but without it becoming heavy.
Instead, it has a light and even refreshing taste that is only increased by the addition of cinnamon and vanilla.
Its flavor is very similar to rice pudding, for obvious reasons, and this translates to a creamy and sweet drink that borders on rich without being overpowering.
Variations on a horchata can affect its flavor. For example, as we’ve mentioned before, Spanish horchata uses tiger nuts instead of rice as a base.
This gives it a deeper nutty flavor and an earthiness that makes its taste more pronounced.
Meanwhile, Salvadoran horchata (or horchata de morro) has a sweeter, almost fruity taste due to its blend of morro, melon, and sesame seeds.
Horchata de morro can also include peanuts for a nuttier flavor, or even cocoa for a sweeter chocolatey taste.
Because of its relatively simple flavor, horchata makes a great base for other ingredients.
As we said earlier, some horchata recipes add fruit such as strawberries, passion fruit, or ube (a type of sweet purple yam from the Philippines).
You can also add things like cocoa powder to give it some chocolatey flavor, or coffee to add extra nuttiness and the earthy taste of coffee.
While these variations on the traditional recipe all add something new and great to this classic drink, the standard horchata recipe is still delicious with its light, creamy flavor and hints of cinnamon and vanilla.
What Goes Well With Horchatas?
While you can easily enjoy a horchata on its own, it also makes a delicious pairing for many foods.
A lot of Mexican food is heavy on spices, and a nice, cool horchata is a perfect way to bring some relief from the heat.
The combination of milk and rice helps soothe your mouth and stomach while eating spicy food, while its delicate taste doesn’t overpower or take away from the delicious flavors of Mexican cuisine.
Its subtle flavors and delicate sweetness also make horchatas perfect as a dessert drink.
The cinnamon and vanilla are a great balance to other sweet flavors, while its light and refreshing taste prevent the horchata from being cloying or overwhelming.
Because horchatas use milk as an ingredient, whether dairy or non-dairy, they don’t go well with overly acidic dishes.
This is because the milk inside can curdle, making this delicious drink less than refreshing.
Instead, serving it with savory or sweet dishes is the way to go.
You can also add alcohol to a horchata if you’re looking for a more adult version of the drink.
Keeping the Mexican and Latin American theme, drinks such as mezcal (see also ‘Mezcal Cocktails: The 20 Best‘), rum, or even tequila are all great additions to a horchata.
The sweetness of these alcohols, which are all made with either agave syrup or sugarcane, helps accentuate the sweet taste of the horchata.
Meanwhile, the soothing milk and rice help reduce the burn of the alcohol and let the horchata go down almost dangerously smoothly.
How To Make The Perfect Horchata?
So we’ve covered what horchatas are, as well as what they taste like. Now, let’s see how to make one for yourself!
We’ve already gone over the basics of how to make a horchata, but this handy guide will break down each simple step so you can make the perfect authentic Mexican horchata with ease.
Step One: Soak The Rice
First of all, you need to prepare the rice.
Wash the rice before soaking it to remove the excess starch that would give the drink a gritty taste by rinsing it under water.
Then, add it to a bowl of water with several sticks of cinnamon. Leave the mix to soak overnight so the flavors infuse.
Step Two: Strain The Mixture
Next, strain out the mixture to separate the rice from the water.
Dispose of the cinnamon sticks and the water, and blend the rice and milk together until it’s smooth and light.
You can either use liquid milk, or a combination of condensed and evaporated milk.
If you ground the rice before soaking it, you shouldn’t need to blend it too much (if at all).
Strain it again into a pitcher to get rid of any leftover solid pieces.
Step Three: Add The Cinnamon And Vanilla
Now, flavor the drink with some ground cinnamon and vanilla extract.
Don’t go overboard here, as you don’t want the cinnamon and vanilla to be overpowering.
Step Four: Serve And Enjoy
Add some ice to the pitcher and stir to cool it down. Pour it into a glass with some more ice, and enjoy!
Horchatas are a delicious creamy drink with a delicate, lightly sweet, and nutty flavor.
This tasty drink is perfect on its own, or paired with all sorts of meals and desserts.
Now that you know more about what a horchata is, what it tastes like, and how to make one for yourself, all you need to do is give it a try.
We’re sure you won’t be disappointed!