sugar and spice: traditional mexican horchata with vanilla

I adore horchata; I used to see it all the time at taco shops back home, but I never really knew what it was. Until my friend Josh ordered it and insisted that I try it. One sip of the sweet, creamy, cinnamon-y drink and it was love. It's the perfect summer drink, and I recently had the bottled kind at this Mexican-Korean restaurant called Korilla.

What I didn't know was how easy it was to make. And that it's also called "tigernut milk," because in the Spanish version it's made from tigernuts instead of rice. But there are only six ingredients. The time-consuming part is allowing the rice-water mixture to sit at room temperature, so I prepped it before work and let it sit the entire day, and then made the drink when I came home. It's easy and quick (once you've done the first part), and if I ever have summer garden parties or something, this is what I'll serve.

I did some research, and there are endless variations of it. Some recipes call for milk, some call for almonds, and some call for rum(?!). I liked this recipe that I found on Pati's Mexican Table because it included vanilla.


Yields: 6 servings
Prep: 2-8 hours
Cook: 15 minutes


  • 2 cups long-grain white rice

  • 3 cups hot water

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup granulated sugar (personally, I would half this)

  • A pinch ground cinnamon (for garnish)

Place the 2 cups of rice in a bowl and add 3 cups hot water (we only had half-white/half-brown rice, so this was kind of experimental).

Roughly crumble the cinnamon stick into the mixture and let rest for 2-8 hours at room temperature.

Again, prep only takes a couple of minutes but the rice mixture has to sit for a pretty long time, so I'd recommend prepping it in the morning and then coming back and mixing it right before you serve it in the afternoon or evening. The longer you let it sit, the rice-ier it will be.

Pour the rice mixture in the blender with the 1 tbsp vanilla and blend until smooth.

Strain into a pitcher or container. Stir in the 1 cup sugar and chill.

Stir well and serve over ice cubes, sprinkled with pinch of cinnamon. And you're done!

Personally, it was a little sweet. I served it to a nine-year-old and she said it was sweet, so take that as you will, and maybe half the sugar when you make it (I included the original recipe because I haven't tested it with half-sugar). But I can already tell I'm going to be making this all the time, because it's so easy and simple and refreshing, and it's not as terrible for your health as juice or soda.

Let the fiesta-ing begin!