An orxateria in Valencia, Spain.

The drink horchata is another example of Moorish influences in the cuisines of México. The drink as it it was historically known dates back to ancient Rome where it was a medicinal drink made from barley. Etymologically this is where the word horchata was born; from the roman “hordeum” (barley) and “hordeata” (drink made from/with barley). As the drink travelled the world, borne aloft by the legions of Rome it was soon made from a range of different nuts, seeds and grains. The drink found its way to Spain via the Moors who introduced the chufa nut (1) as the base of the drink. The drink morphed again when the Spanish bought it to the New World. They didn’t bring the chufa nut but instead they bought a new grain, rice (2). Once it gained a foothold in México horchata continued its journey into Latin America and its ingredients continued to evolve (3). In Mexico and Guatemala, horchata is made of rice, sometimes with vanilla and always with cinnamon. It is a sweet, creamy drink.

  1. It’s actually a tuber but it kinda looks like a hazelnut when dried
  2. They also bought cane sugar and cinnamon
  3. Horchata in Puerto Rico and Venezuela might showcase sesame seeds while Salvadorans use morro seed (Cerscentia alata)

Horchata de Morro


  • 3Lb (1.3kg) Morro seed
  • 4oz (115g) whole cocoa beans
  • 8oz (230g) sesame seeds
  • 4oz (115g) cinnamon stick
  • 8oz (230g) pumpkin seed
  • 3Lb (1.3kg)  white rice


  1. toast all ingredients separately in a dry pan over low heat. Allow to cool
  2. grind all the ingredients together into a powder. It’s important to grind them dry (without adding water), in this way the Horchata powder will last longer because its ingredients will maintain its natural moisture. it is recommended to store the powder in an airtight container to extend its life and preserve its scent.
  3. To make horchata; blend the powder (to taste) in water and strain before drinking. You can add sugar or milk if you so desire

Horchata de morro can be purchased as a pre-prepared powder

The Tiger Nut : Cyperus esculentus

also called : chufa, tiger nut, yellow nutsedge

C.esculentus is a crop of the sedge family and is widespread across much of the world. It is found in most of the Eastern Hemisphere, including Southern Europe, Africa and Madagascar, as well as the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. In many countries C. esculentus can be found wild, as a weed, or as a crop. It is considered to be an invasive weed outside its native range.

C. esculentus is cultivated for its edible tubers (called earth almonds or tiger nuts) as a snack food and for the preparation of horchata de chufa, a sweet, milk-like beverage

Horchata de Chufa


  • 2 cups Tiger nuts
  • 4 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 2 tbsp white sugar (or to taste – you could also use maple syrup)


  1. Place the raw tiger nuts into a large bowl,cover with water and soak for 24 hours
  2. After 24 hours drain the tiger nuts, rinse them under cold water and add half to a blender, also add 1/2 of the remaining cold water (not the water the chufa was soaked in) and blend until well combined
  3. Add the remainder of the tiger nuts, the rest of the cold water, the cinnamon powder and blend until smooth and well combined.
  4. Strain the mixture well (use a nut milk bag if you have one) and squeeze the pulp to extract as much liquid as you can
  5. Transfer the liquid into a jug, sweeten to taste and mix well
  6. Keep the jug in the fridge for at least 4 hours to let all the flavours develop and to chill the drink well. Remember to always serve this horchata very cold

Chufa nuts in Egypt

Rekhmire was an ancient Egyptian noble and official who served as Vizier and Governor of the City of Thebes, during the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II, the sixth and seventh Pharaohs. A painting in the tomb of Rekmire showed the process of creating a tiger nut dish which would be presented as a sacrifice to the god Amun.

Workers are shown heaping the tiger nuts into large piles. The nuts are then pounded into a coarse flour, sifted, and mixed with a liquid of some sort (probably honey). Besides honey, oil may have been used as well as the binding fat to hold up the shape of the cake. The cakes are then shaped into long cones, and stacked in baskets. Spread out among the drawings, are faint short inscriptions in hieroglyphics that describe the process.

Close up of image showing tiger nut cones

Rekhmire’s Tiger Nut Offering to Amun


  • 1 cup of tiger raw nuts
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • ½ cup dates, chopped (optional)


  1. Pour ½ cup of hot water over the nuts and let soak for 20 minutes. Drain the nuts and use a food processor to grind the nuts into a powder.
  2. Add the tiger nuts, honey, oil, and dates all at once to a pan. Mix constantly on medium heat for two minutes. Then, turn the heat to a low simmer, so the honey doesn’t burn. Continue mixing for the next five minutes.
  3. Take off the heat and pour the tiger nut mix onto a plate.
  4. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  5. Form 10 balls from the mix . Shape the balls into cones, and stand them up. The mix is soft while it is warm and the cones may slump over. They will harden as they cool.

Horchata in Popular Media

Horchata plays a role in the TV adaptation of one of my favourite movies the Quentin Tarantino horror schlachtfest “From Dusk till Dawn”. This movie follows somewhat of a Robert Rodriguez mexploitation formula with México and Mesoamerican mythology playing a starring role. In the TV series one of the main protagonists Richie Gekko has a particular fondness for horchata.

From Dusk Till Dawn : Season 1 Episode 2 – Blood Runs Thick

Brothers Gekko – Seth (on left ) and Richie (on right)

Richie : (Sighs) It’s about time. I could eat a horse. Okay. (Sighs) Anything?

Seth : Just a beautiful morning in Texas.

Richie : What is this?

Seth : Those are two chicken tacos. What? That’s what you ordered, right?

Richie : No, I ordered chicken tinga. (Chuckles) This is chicken mole. Not to mention, you put pico de gallo on them. You do realize that mole is the sauce, right? You don’t sauce the sauce, Seth, unless you have no taste buds or you fail to apply yourself. I’m just glad it’s not beef jerky and squeeze cheese.

Richie : So, they didn’t have any horchata?

Seth : Hor-what?

Richie : Oh, come on, man. Delicious agua fresca, made of rice, cinnamon, and milk?

Seth : Oh, Jesus Christ. Okay, what the hell is it with you and Mexican food all of a sudden? I mean, seriously, do you got some new broad in your life you’re not telling me about? Is her name Carmen? Does she run a burrito truck? What? Seth, all I’m saying is that you need to apply yourself.

Richie : Apply myself. Okay. Well, I’m about to apply my fist to your goddamn face, okay?

Seth : Eat your food.

Richie : (Sniffles) Just because I live in the woods doesn’t mean that I can’t plan a job anymore. You should have let me plan this one.

Seth : Richard, listen to me. Now, it is a beautiful day in the Lone Star State. So, why don’t we just celebrate my freedom and the undeniable fact that history is being made right here, right now? The Gecko brothers ride again. You got your balls on?

Richie : Screwed on tight. Any son of a bitch messes with you… You got my back.

Seth : Here’s to getting rich and fat.

Richie : And dying in the arms of a beautiful woman.

Richie and Seth then assault and rob the Abilene Mutual Bank.

Later on, in the bank

Happiness is a cold horchata (even for a delusional psychopath).

(Standard) Horchata

  • 1 1/3 cups uncooked long-grain white rice 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 x 5cm cinnamon sticks
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of caster sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water (or you could use milk – optional)
  1. In a large jug or bowl add the rice, the water, and the broken up cinnamon sticks. 
  2. Allow to soak overnight
  3. Blend the mixture (in batches) about for 2 minutes or until the rice and cinnamon sticks are well ground.
  4. Strain the rice mixture through a fine mesh strainer, into a jug and discard the rice. Strain the mixture until all the grit is removed. You want this drink to be smooth and creamy
  5. Stir in the extra water (or the milk), vanilla and sugar (sweeten to your preference).
  6. Chill until ready to serve. Stir well before serving and serve over ice.

Options : you can add ½ cup of chopped almonds to the rice before soaking to add extra creaminess (particularly if you do not want to add milk)

Another grain (well technically a seed) of probably my most favourite Mexican plant (after papaloquelite that is) is that of the amaranth. This seed can also be used to create another variety of horchata.

Horchata de Amaranto


  • 250g whole amaranth seed (don’t use the puffed variety)
  • 12 cups (3 litres) of cold water
  • 2 cups (500ml) milk
  • Honey (Option –  If you do not have honey, you can substitute sugar as a sweetener)


  1. Blend or grind the amaranth seed as fine as you can
  2. Mix the amaranth flour with half the water and let stand for ten minutes.
  3. Strain the seed/water mix and place in a large jug
  4. Add the milk, the rest of the water (or as much or as little as you prefer) and sweeten with honey. Refrigerate.
  5. Serve this drink icy cold

Horchata de Amaranto de Tlaxcala (Adapted from a recipe by Edgar Cruz D)


  • 10g amaranth flour
  • 15g amaranth (whole)
  • 800ml milk
  • 200ml evaporated milk
  • Honey (to taste)


  1. in a large jug place the amaranth flour and grain pour over the milks.
  2. mix well and allow to soak for 30 minutes
  3. Blend mix well. Strain (if you so desire) and sweeten to your liking. Maybe use agave syrup or maple syrup instead of honey.


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