Monday, May 5, 2014

Horchata: Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The first time I had horchata was when I moved to Austin in 2002.  It was at a taqueria in the wee hours of the morning after a night at the clubs, and my friends were ordering tall red plastic glass after tall red plastic glass of it.  When I asked what it was and they described it as "milky, cinnamony, and sweet," it didn't exactly rouse my tastebuds.  But upon being coaxed into taking a sip so I could "see for myself,"let's just say it was a wake-up call.  The look and the smile on my face made all my friends laugh out loud.  And that morning marked my leap onto the horchata bandwagon as tall red plastic glass after tall red plastic glass found its way to my place at the table.

After that, any time I was at a Mexican restaurant (which was a lot) and horchata was available, you could bet money that I would be drinking it.  It was refreshing to me in a way that the fruit based agua frescas were not; the creaminess comforting and the sweet spiciness of the cinnamon invigorating.  Having its roots in Valencia, Spain, it is traditionally made by soaking a combination of rice and almonds in water overnight and then blending and straining the mixture, after which it is spiced, sweetened, and served over ice. 

Now while the classic preparation is vegan, I recall that every restaurant would seem to have its own take on horchata.  Some were creamier, some were spicier, some sweeter, some chalkier.  And my research confirms this:  There are SO many different recipes for horchata.  Some use just rice, some use rice and nuts together, some use sesame seeds or barley, and many incorporate dairy milk of some form to up the richness.  So, while delicious, not all horchata is created equal, and not all horchata is gluten-free and vegan.

Enter today's recipe. [cue lights and curtain]

Not only did I want to offer a version that was both gluten-free and vegan, but I also wanted to propose a recipe for those that are sensitive, intolerant, or allergic to grains and/or nuts.  Additionally, I wanted to make a recipe that is quick and easy, so that a hankering for horchata could be answered in minutes rather than hours or days.  And finally, given all those things, I still wanted to tip my hat to that memory when I first took that sip from my friend's tall red plastic cup and experienced a mass tastebud revelation: unique, amazingly delicious, and refreshing.

So without further ado, please enjoy my contribution to the massive library of horchata recipes on the interwebs.

Gluten-free & Vegan

Active Prep Time:  less than 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  none
Cooking Time:  none
Yield:  16 oz, or 2 tall glasses

16 oz unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chia powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2 pinches cayenne
1-2 pinches salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste

cinnamon sticks, to garnish

What you'll need:  blender, chilled glasses, lots of ice

1.  Combine all ingredients in blender.  Pulse a few times to hopefully discourage the ground ingredients from sticking to the sides of the blender, and then run continuously until thoroughly combined and slightly frothy.
2.  Check spice and sweetness levels and modify if desired.  Pour over ice into chilled glasses and garnish with cinnamon stick.

Horchata mise.

Let's take a spin.

Smells so delicious!

From the inherent creaminess of the coconut milk beverage, the nuttiness of ground chia, the sweet heat of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne combined, the smoothness of vanilla, the underlying sweetness of maple syrup, and the touch of salt and lemon juice to help tease apart all the flavors so they may all be enjoyed separately together, I quite love this recipe.  And while it may be different from the horchata(s) you have experienced, I hope you will still enjoy, and even love, this allergen friendly variation all the same.

Wishing all a Happy, Safe, and Joyous Cinco de Mayo!

Warning:  It won't last long. 


  1. I haven't met a horchata I didn't like. :D

  2. Horchata! I love it and I know that this recipe is a winner. Let's klink glassfuls of it together, soon! =)


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