Horchata (/ɔːrˈɑːtə/; Spanish: [oɾˈtʃata] (listen)), or orxata (Valencian: [oɾˈtʃata]), is a name given to various beverages, which are generally plant-based, but sometimes contain animal milk.[1][2][3] In Spain, it is made with soaked, ground, and sweetened tiger nuts. In Latin America and other parts of the Americas, the base is jicaro, melon or sesame seeds, or white rice, along with other spices. Different varieties can be served hot or cold, and may be used as a flavor in other beverages, such as frappé coffee.

A glass of horchata de chufa with some fartons in Valencia


The name probably derives from a Latin word for barley, the term hordeata, which in turn comes from hordeum (barley), related to a Mediterranean tradition of grain-based beverages.[4] The Italian and Maltese orzata, the French and English orgeat have the same origin, although the beverages themselves have diverged, and are generally no longer made from barley.[5]

History and composition

Traditional Valencian fridge horchatera

The drink originated in North Africa,[6] and it is estimated that during the 11th century, it began to spread throughout Hispania (now Spain and Portugal).[1] There are 13th-century records of a horchata-like beverage made near Valencia,[7] where it remains a common drink.

From Spain, the concept of horchata was brought to the New World. Here, drinks called agua de horchata or simply horchata came to be made with white rice and cinnamon or canella instead of tiger nuts.[1] Sometimes these drinks had vanilla added,[8] or were served adorned with fruit.[1] Similarly flavored plant based beverages are sold in various parts of the world as varieties of horchata or kunnu.


Horchata de chufa or kunnu aya

Two large jars of aguas frescas in a Seattle taquería. On the left is a jar of jamaica, and on the right is a jar of horchata. Restaurant employees serve the drinks by ladling them from the jars into glasses.

The drink now known as horchata de chufa (also sometimes called horchata de chufas[9] or, in West African countries such as Nigeria and Mali, kunnu aya[10][11][12]) is the original form of horchata.[1] It is made from soaked, ground and sweetened tiger nuts.[1][13][14] According to researchers at the University of Ilorin, kunnu made from tiger nuts is an inexpensive source of protein.

The Valencian or Chufa horchata is made with dried and sweetened tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus).[1] This form of horchata is now properly called orxata de xufa.[1][8]

It remains popular in Spain, where a regulating council exists to ensure the quality and traceability of the product in relation to the designation of origin.[15][16] There it is served ice-cold as a natural refreshment in the summer, often served with fartons.

The majority of the Spanish tiger nut crop is utilised in the production of horchata de chufa.[17] Alboraya is the most important production centre.[17] In total, sixteen Valencian municipalities grow tiger nuts protected by the quality seal, the only one that guarantees its Valencian origin, which in aggregate cover around 485 hectares of tiger nut fields, with an approximate annual production of 8,000 tonnes, which is normally all sold by the time it is harvested. [18]

In rare instances, various forms of aflatoxin may be present in horchata de chufa.[19]

Horchata de arroz

Hot horchata in Mexico

Horchata de arroz (es) is made of rice, sometimes with vanilla and typically with cinnamon.[1][20][21]

It is the most common variety of horchata in Mexico and Guatemala. In the United States, it is popular in taquerías and Mexican ice cream shops.[22][23][24]

In Alvarado, horchata de arroz is scented with flowers of the Aztec marigold (cempasúchil or Tagetes erecta).[25]

Though horchata de arroz was once typically homemade, it is now available in both ready-to-drink (shelf-stable or refrigerated) and powdered form in grocery stores, principally in the U.S. and Latin America.

Horchata de arroz is one of the typical drink flavors of Mexican aguas frescas, together with tamarindo and hibiscus.

Horchata de ajonjolí

Horchata de ajonjolí ("sesame horchata") is made with toasted ground sesame seeds. In Puerto Rico, it is typically made by pouring boiling water over sesame seeds and left to soak 24 hours. It is then strained adding sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Evaporated milk, coconut milk, and rum can be added.

Horchata is also made with sesame seeds, water and sugar in Zulia, an area in the west of Venezuela.

Horchata de melón

Horchata de melón is made of ground melon seeds.[26][27][28][29]

Semilla de jicaro

In the Central American countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, horchata refers to the drink known as semilla de jicaro. Its base is made from grinding jicaro seeds, also locally referred to as "morro" seeds, with rice.[30][31] Depending on the region, other additions include ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, tiger nuts, vanilla, ground peanuts, almonds and cashews.

In Nicaragua, it is made with semilla de jicaro and rice as a base. They are toasted and then ground into a fine powder. The powder is then mixed with water or milk and mixed with cinnamon powder and sugar.[32][33] Cocoa beans are sometimes added to the horchata, also toasted and ground with the base.[34]

Ecuadorian horchata

In Ecuador, horchata is a clear red infusion or tea of 18 herbs, and is most famous in the province of Loja. Some of the herbs used are escancel or bloodleaf, lemon verbena, lemon grass, mint, chamomile, lemon balm, rose geranium, among others. It is not at all related to horchata of other Latin American countries, it simply shares the same denomination.

The urban and rural people who consume the “horchata” drink in the Loja province report wellbeing benefits, and believe that this herbal mixture infusion promotes a healthy digestion, improves memory, and acts as an hepatic anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. There is also genotoxic activity in some of its ingredients.[35][4]

Horchata as a flavor

An horchata-flavored doughnut

Horchata, as a flavor, makes appearances in ice cream, cookies, and other sweets, and other products such as RumChata, an alcoholic tribute to the beverage.[36] Some smoothie shops, cafés, and McDonald's in the U.S. have been experimenting with horchata-flavored frappes.[37]

See also


  1. Goldstein, Darra (4 July 2018). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199313396 via Google Books.
  2. "Guatemala - Daily life and social customs | Britannica". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 3 June 2022. horchata (cold milk mixed with rice, cocoa, and cinnamon)
  3. Farell, Oriol Sans (23 July 2015). The Milky Life: The Practical Guide on Lactose Intolerance. Editorial AMAT. ISBN 978-84-9735-805-7. Horchata milk, in its natural form, should not contain lactose because it is a vegetable drink made from tigernut, water and sugar. However, manufacturers often add lactose to it to improve the product, so please read the label carefully to find out the list of ingredients before you drink horchata milk.
  4. Rios, Montserrat; Tinitana, Fani; Jarrín, Pablo; Donoso, Natalia; Romero-Benavides, Juan Carlos (9 March 2017). ""Horchata" drink in Southern Ecuador: medicinal plants and people's wellbeing". Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine. 13 (1). article №18. doi:10.1186/s13002-017-0145-z. PMC 5345160. PMID 28279218.
  5. Lobscouse & Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels : Grossman, Anne Chotzinoff; Thomas, Lisa Grossman ISBN 0-393-04559-5
  6. Taseer, Aatish; Ruiz, Stefan (2021-11-11). "Tracing Mexico's Complicated Relationship With Rice". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  7. Clifford A. Wright, Mediterranean Vegetables, 2012, ISBN 1558325913, s.v. 'chufa'
  8. Cho, Susan; Almeida, Nelson (29 May 2012). Dietary Fiber and Health. CRC Press. ISBN 9781439899373 via Google Books.
  9. Grigson, Jane (1 January 1983). Jane Grigson's book of European cookery. Atheneum. ISBN 9780689113987 via Internet Archive. horchata (chufa OR tiger).
  10. Cho, Susan; Almeida, Nelson (29 May 2012). Dietary Fiber and Health. CRC Press. ISBN 9781439899298 via Google Books.
  11. Cheney, Dina (3 May 2016). The New Milks: 100-Plus Dairy-Free Recipes for Making and Cooking with Soy, Nut, Seed, Grain, and Coconut Milks. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781501103940 via Google Books.
  12. Gittleman, Ann Louise (19 May 2017). The New Fat Flush Foods. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 9781260012071 via Google Books.
  13. "Authentic Spanish Recipe - Horchata de chufa". Spain on a Fork. 31 March 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  14. "Make horchata and fartons". Bake-Street. 5 August 2021. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  15. "Consejo Regulador de la D.O. Chufa de Valencia. Horchata de Chufa de Valencia - Portada". Chufadevalencia.org. 2002-12-31. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  16. "About us". Tigernut of Valencia - Chufa de Valencia. Retrieved 12 October 2022.
  17. Leitch, James Muil (4 July 1967). "Food Science and Technology: Manufacture and distribution of foods". Gordon and Breach via Google Books.
  18. "Horchata de Chufa (Tiger Nut): The famous summer drink from Valencia". Spanish Club Blog. 12 June 2022.
  19. Weidenbörner, Martin (24 January 2014). Mycotoxins in Foodstuffs. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9781461487272 via Google Books.
  20. "Horchata de Arroz Tostado (Toasted Rice Drink)". Saveur. 25 August 2011.
  21. "Horchata de Arroz con Almendras (Almond-Rice Drink)". Saveur.
  22. Emeril Lagasse, Horchata Recipe : Food Network Taste of Mexico, 2007.
  23. Horchata Recipe & Video - Martha Stewart.
  24. Refreshing Rice Drink: Horchata de Arroz by Karen Hursh Graber 2003 (MexConnect).
  25. Gonzalez, Anita (4 July 2018). Jarocho's Soul: Cultural Identity and Afro-Mexican Dance. University Press of America. ISBN 9780761827757 via Google Books.
  26. "RECIPE: Horchata". Los Dos. Archived from the original on 2017-07-31. Retrieved 2016-08-02.
  27. "Horchata de Melón (Cantaloupe Seed Drink)". Saveur. 25 August 2011.
  28. Adriana Janovich. "Heavenly Horchata" - The Spokesman-Review APRIL 29, 2015
  29. "Horchata de semillas de melón". allrecipes.com.mx. Archived from the original on November 29, 2012.
  30. Spiegel, Alison (July 10, 2014). "Why Horchata Is Your New Best Friend This Summer". HuffPost. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  31. "Starbucks' Latest Frappuccino Takes Inspiration From Horchata Drinks". nbcmiami.com. August 10, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  32. Wei, Clarissa (November 9, 2015). "A Taste of Nicaragua: Three Traditional Drinks". Eater. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  33. "Las distintas aplicaciones del jícaro como fruta tropical". Hoy Digital. July 8, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2021.
  34. "Horchata de Arroz Recipe (Latin sweet rice beverage)". Whats4eats. July 11, 2008.
  35. Bailon-Moscoso, Natalia; Tinitana, Fani; Martínez-Espinosa, Ruth; Jaramillo-Velez, Andrea; Palacio-Arpi, Alejandra; Aguilar-Hernandez, Jessica; Romero-Benavides, Juan Carlos (December 2017). "Cytotoxic, antioxidative, genotoxic and antigenotoxic effects of Horchata, beverage of South Ecuador". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 17 (1): 539. doi:10.1186/s12906-017-2048-x. ISSN 1472-6882. PMC 5735544. PMID 29258490.
  36. "RumChata fights to protect trademark" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2018. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  37. "McDonald's Testing Horchata Frappes in Southern California". Foodbeast. May 12, 2014. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
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