You may have ordered horchata at your local Starbucks, but have you ever tried an authentic version of the beverage? 

Starbucks’ “Horchata Almondmilk Frappuccino” is made from cinnamon dolce, caramel and coffee flavored syrups along with almond milk and whipped cream, but true horchata is quite different. 

Horchata has enjoyed a rising presence in U.S.-based restaurants, its appearance on menus growing 24% over the past four years, market research firm Datassential found. Horchata flavored ice cream was even one of the top trending flavors of 2019. 

Learn about the beverage’s origins and how to make an authentic Mexican version below. 

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Horchata was originally popularized in Spain, known as horchata de chufa and made of dried tiger nuts, water and sugar. But the drink originated in modern-day Nigeria and Mali (called kunnu aya) as early as 2400 B.C., LATV reports. The Moors brought the drink to Spain during the Muslim conquest and horchata de chufa became widely known. 

With cross-continental roots, LATV calls it a “tribute and acknowledgment to the resilience of Afro-Latino culture.”

As horchata traveled, the exact recipe changed and became reminiscent of the region it was made in. Traditional Mexican horchata is made from rice while Oaxacan horchata, also from Mexico, is often served with chopped walnuts, melon and pear ice cream as a dessert. Venezuelan chicha is similar to horchata in that it’s made from soaked rice and has a thick, creamy consistency, Remezcla reports. There’s also Salvadoran horchata which is made with rice, peanuts and morro, sesame and pumpkin seeds. Nicaraguan horchata is made similarly using morro (or jicaro) seeds. Puerto Rican horchata de ajonjolí is made with sesame seeds, and Ecuadorian horchata is made as an herbal tea. 

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What does horchata taste like?

Horchata is a thick, creamy consistency and has a sweet, cinnamon taste similar to rice pudding. Different types of horchata may vary in flavor, especially depending on if they are made with rice or nuts. 

How do you make horchata

According to My Latina Table, you can make authentic Mexican horchata using rice, sugar, almonds, evaporated milk, milk, water, vanilla extract and cinnamon sticks. You’ll also need a fine mesh strainer and blender along with large bowls to soak the ingredients.

  1. Soak rice, cinnamon and almonds in a bowl of water for at least five hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Strain and dispose of the water from the mixture
  3. Blend the mixture with evaporated milk until a smooth mix is formed.
  4. Strain the liquid into a pitcher and add vanilla, sugar and milk, stirring until well combined. Add a liter of water and serve over ice.

You can also try different types of horchata, like this recipe for Puerto Rican horchata de ajonjolí or Oaxacan horchata.

How to make holiday horchata

Horchata also makes an appearance around the holidays with a cinnamon variation of the drink. Because it can be served warm, there are plenty of holiday or Christmas horchata recipes to try in the cold, festive months of the year. Disney even makes its own holiday horchata at the Festival of Holidays at Disneyland in California. Try this Rosa Mexicano-inspired “Winter-Warmer Horchata” or this spiked holiday horchata from LatinoFoodie.

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