A delicious Mexican beverage made from rice (or almonds or chufa {a.k.a. tiger nut, a tuber}). Generally, you let the pulverized rice (or almonds or chufa) soak in water for several hours in combination with sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Then you strain out the pulp and serve the remaining liquid chilled.

To briefly add to the above writeup, in the U.S., Mexican restaurants or small fast food joints often sell horchata. It is most commonly found next to OLE! pina colada and that sweet orangey drink they call Bang. Or Orange Bang or something. As underaged (for drinking legally in California) young'uns, my friends and I often drowned our sorrows in large styrofoam cups of horchata on the rocks for 99 cents a round.

a horchata recipe

1 cup long grain white rice
2 cups skinless (and boneless) almonds OPTIONAL
1-inch stick canela or other cinnamon
8 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Ice cubes

Wash and drain rice. Using a spice grinder (or a blender), grind the rice for a few minutes until fine; combine with the almonds (if using) and cinnamon bark. Add 3 1/2 cups water and let sit overnight, covered. Blend rice mixture until smooth using a blender. Add 2 1/2 cups of water and continue blending. Add and dissolve sugar and add vanilla extract. Strain horchata into a bowl first using a metal strainer and then a double layer of cheesecloth. (Don't skimp on these steps or the drink will come out tasting like chalk); finish with up to an additional 2 cups of water until it achieves a milky consistency. Serve and enjoy over ice (see recipe for ice).

I was five years old when my dad drove the family down from Holland to Spain for the summer holidays. We left Amsterdam in the middle of the night, but my brother and I never slept a single minute; the excitement was simply too much. We were going to travel two thousand kilometers in a tiny Austin Morris.

We got stuck somewhere around Paris, even though my dad had tried his best to avoid the morning rush hour. He sat behind the wheel, cursing at the French commuters, even though he seemed more frustrated about his route scheduling. I was lucky catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

Somewhere down in central France my brother and I would finally fall asleep. My dad got a bit more relaxed since he no longer had to worry about all the monkey business on the back seat. From there it was one final rush to Barcelona: the boat taking us to the Balearic Islands would not wait for us.

We arrived with plenty of time to kill. Enough time to take the cable car overlooking the city, climb on board the fake Santa Maria, and visit the Sagrada Familia. As we walked back along the Ramblas towards the harbor, I drank my first Horchata de Chufa.

Some holidays last a lifetime

The original Horchata, the Horchata de Chufa is made from Chufa nuts (a.k.a. tiger nuts, earth almonds, tubers.) The chufa nut was originally grown in the middle east, and especially Egypt and Sudan. During their occupation of Spain, the Moors imported the chufa, which seemed to grow particularly well in the region of Valencia.

The origin of the Horchata de Chufa is a myth. Once upon a time, there was a girl living in a small village in Spain. One day, the king of Aragon and Catalunya visited the village, and the girl offered him a drink she had prepared from chufas. The king liked it very much and he asked her what it was. When the girl told him the recipe, the king uttered: "això és OR, XATA!" (Catalan: this is GOLD, cutie!)

The drink became known as Horchata de Chufa, and became popular throughout Spain. The Spanish brought the chufa nuts and the horchata recipe New World.


1 lb. chufas (use almonds if you cannot find these)
1 lb. sugar
2.5 quarts of water
1 cinnamon stick

  • Rinse the chufas in clean water; rub the chufas between your hands until they are clean, and the water runs clear.
  • Soak the chufas for 12 to 14 hours in plenty of water.
  • Again rinse the chufas in clean water until it runs clear. Drain off all the water.
  • Mash or blend the chufas. The chufas should form a smooth paste. Add a little water if the paste is too dry.
  • Add 2.5 quarts of water to the paste, and add the cinnamon stick. Refrigerate the mixture for 2 hours.
  • Add sugar and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Strain the mix through a metal wire mesh filter, and then trough a clean damp cloth. The strained liquid should not have any large particles left (repeat the filtration with a double folded cloth if necessary.)
  • The smooth, milky liquid can be served directly. Or even better: put the Horchata in the freezer, stirring it occasionally so that it forms a slush.

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