Recipe for Classic Horchata is Texas Mexican

Horchata is a classic “agua fresca” and also a prime example of how people and food constantly evolve as they define their identity.  A delicious Mexican iced drink of almonds and rice essence, horchata was brought to our region and our people by the Spanish when they came as conquerors.  How did the Spanish learn to make horchata?Horchatasml.jpg  From the Arabs when the Arabs conquered them in Spain during the 8th-13th centuries and made this cool refreshing drink using the tuber, tiger nuts (chufas).  In this region tiger nuts were replaced by rice and almonds.  Voila, a new drink with ancient roots was born.

Every region, from Houston to San Antonio to Oaxaca, has Horchata variations.  Down in Oaxaca the drink is made with rice and almonds and served with a splash of prickly pear puree and cubes of cantaloupe.  Now that’s nice!  The Oaxaca recipe follows below.

Here in the Texas Mexican, region, just North and South of the Rio Grande River, the drink is straightforward, leaving out the almonds altogether and using just cinnamon as a seasoning.  The right blending of these ingredients with ice is brilliantly simple, simply brilliant.  Who needs all that other stuff in this heat!

Texas Mexican Horchata
(NOTE: Thanks to my blog readers, Mexican-American Texas families who continue to preserve and hand down these recipes that have been in Texas for centuries)
Ingredients  Makes 2 quarts
1/2 cup rice
2 quarts water
2 sticks Canela (Mexican cinammon)
1/2 to 1 cup sugar or to taste

1.  Bring the water, cinammon and rice to a simmer and cook until the rice is just barely tender, about 10-15 minutes
2. Remove the canela and process the rice and water in a blender until the mixture is completely smooth and there are no particles at all.  You may have to do this in small batches.
3.  Pour the mixture into a pitcher and add the sugar according to your taste.
4.  Chill thouroughly,  (at least two hours) and serve over ice.
You are drinking a unique identity drink of the Arabs, the Spanish and Coahuila Texas Mexican,

Horchata Oaxaqueña (NOTE:  This recipe thanks to Chef Iliana De La Vega of the CIA who tirelessly documents and champions Mexican cuisines)

Ingredients Makes 2 quarts
3/4 Rice, rinsed in a colander
1 cup Almonds, blanched and peeled
1 stick Canela, Mexican cinammon
1 1/2 quart filtered water
3/4 cup simple syrup (you can use agave nectar instead, hmmmm!)
1 cup cubed cantaloupe
1/2 cup pecans pieces
3/4 cup prickly pear puree

1.  Soak the rice, almonds and canela in 3 cups of hot water overnight or for at least 6 hours.
2.  Process the mixture in a blender until completely smooth.
3.  Strain into a pitcher through a fine mesh sieve in order to remove any particles.
4.  Add the simple syrup or the agave nectar according to your taste and chill thoroughly
5.  To serve, place about 1 Tbspn cantaloupe, 1 tspn pecan pieces, and 1 Tbspn of the puree in a tall glass, add ice, then the horchata. Serve with long spoons for stirring.
This will take you to the Northern Sierra Madre mountains of Oaxaca!

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Some rights reserved by K. Yasuhara

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