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Traditional Valencian fridge horchatera

Horchata (/ɔːrˈɑːtə/; Spanish: [oɾˈtʃata] (About this soundlisten)), or orxata (Valencian: [oɾˈʃata]), is a name given to various kinds of plant milk beverages of similar taste and appearance. It originated at least as far back as 13th-century Valencia, where it is known as horchata de chufa. In Spain it is made with soaked, ground, and sweetened tiger nuts, but in Mexico and other parts of the Americas the base is white rice. In West African countries such as Nigeria and Mali, it is known as kunnu aya. Different varieties can be served hot or cold, and it is even used as a flavour in other beverages, such as frappé coffee.

History and composition[edit]

A glass of horchata de chufa in Valencia

Horchata, which comes from the Latin term hordeata, which in turn comes from hordeum (barley), is a term related to a Mediterranean tradition of grain-based beverages and also the linguistic root of orgeat syrup. The Valencian or Chufa horchata is made with dried and sweetened tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus).[1] This form of horchata is now properly called horchata de chufa[1][2] or, in West African countries such as Nigeria and Mali, kunnu aya.[3][4][5] By 1000 CE it had spread to Hispania (now Spain) with the Muslim conquest.[1] There are 13th-century records of a horchata-like beverage made near Valencia.[6]

From Valencia, where it remained popular, 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,[2] or were served adorned with fruit.[1]

Today, these and other similarly-flavoured plant milk beverages are sold in various parts of the world as varieties of horchata or kunnu.


Horchata de chufa or kunnu aya[edit]

Two large jars of aguas frescas in a Seattle taquería. On the left is a jar of hibiscus tea 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[7] or, in West African countries such as Nigeria and Mali, kunnu aya[3][4][5]) is the original form of horchata.[1] It is made from soaked, ground and sweetened tiger nuts.[1] According to researchers at the University of Ilorin, kunnu made from tiger nuts is an inexpensive source of protein.[citation needed]

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.[8] There it is served ice-cold as a natural refreshment in the summer, often served with fartons. Horchata de chufa is also used instead of dairy milk by the lactose-intolerant.[citation needed]

The majority of the Spanish tiger nut crop is utilised in the production of horchata de chufa.[9] Alboraya is the most important production centre.[9]

In rare instances, various forms of aflatoxin may be present in horchata de chufa.[10]

Horchata de arroz[edit]

Hot horchata in Mexico

Horchata de arroz is made of rice, sometimes with vanilla and typically with canella[1] or cinnamon.[1][11][12]

It is the most common variety of horchata in Mexico and Guatemala.[citation needed] In the United States, it is popular in taquerías and Mexican ice cream shops.[13][14][15]

In Alvarado, horchata de arroz is scented with flowers of the Aztec marigold (cempasúchil or Tagetes erecta).[16]

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.[citation needed]

Horchata de arroz is one of the three typical drink flavours of Mexican aguas frescas, together with tamarindo and Jamaica.[citation needed]

Horchata de ajonjolí[edit]

Horchata de ajonjolí ("sesame horchata") is made with ground sesame seeds.[citation needed] In Puerto Rico, it is typically made by boiling sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon sticks in water, and then pouring the infusion over ground sesame seeds to be left overnight.[citation needed] The mixture is then strained through a cheesecloth.[citation needed] Some recipes call for added ground rice, ground almonds, evaporated milk, coconut milk, allspice and rum,[citation needed] or barley and lime zest.[citation needed]

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

Horchata de melón[edit]

Horchata de melón is made of ground melon seeds.[17][18][19][20]

Semilla de jicaro[edit]

In the Central American countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, horchata refers to the drink known as semilla de jicaro, made from jicaro seeds ground with rice and spices such as ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, tiger nuts and vanilla.[citation needed] Ground peanuts, almonds and cashews may be added.[citation needed] Because of these ingredients, horchata is usually strained before serving.[citation needed]

Ecuadorian horchata[edit]

In Ecuador, horchata is a clear red infusion of 18 herbs, and is most famous in the province of Loja.[21]

Horchata as a flavour[edit]

A horchata-flavoured doughnut

Horchata as a flavour makes appearances in ice cream, cookies and other sweets, and other products such as RumChata, an alcoholic tribute to the beverage.[citation needed] Some smoothie shops, cafés, and McDonald's in the U.S. have been experimenting with horchata-flavoured frappes.[22]


The name derives from Valencian orxata, probably from ordiata, made from ordi ("barley": Latin *hordeata < hordeum).[21] The Italian orzata, the French and English orgeat have the same origin, though the beverages themselves have diverged, and are generally no longer made from barley.[23]

A charming false etymology recounts that James I of Aragon, after being given the drink for the first time by a local in Alboraya, exclaimed in Valencian, "Açò és or, xata!" ("That's gold, pretty girl!").[24][25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Goldstein, Darra (4 July 2018). "The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets". Oxford University Press – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Cho, Susan; Almeida, Nelson (29 May 2012). "Dietary Fiber and Health". CRC Press – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b Cho, Susan; Almeida, Nelson (29 May 2012). "Dietary Fiber and Health". CRC Press – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b 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 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Gittleman, Ann Louise (19 May 2017). "The New Fat Flush Foods". McGraw Hill Professional – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Clifford A. Wright, Mediterranean Vegetables, 2012, ISBN 1558325913, s.v. 'chufa'
  7. ^ Grigson, Jane (1 January 1983). Jane Grigson's book of European cookery. Atheneum – via Internet Archive. horchata (chufa OR tiger).
  8. ^ "Consejo Regulador de la D.O. Chufa de Valencia. Horchata de Chufa de Valencia - Portada". Chufadevalencia.org. 2002-12-31. Retrieved 2014-07-15.
  9. ^ a b Leitch, James Muil (4 July 1967). "Food Science and Technology: Manufacture and distribution of foods". Gordon and Breach – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Weidenbörner, Martin (24 January 2014). "Mycotoxins in Foodstuffs". Springer Science & Business Media – via Google Books.
  11. ^ "Horchata de Arroz Tostado (Toasted Rice Drink)". Saveur.
  12. ^ "Horchata de Arroz con Almendras (Almond-Rice Drink)". Saveur.
  13. ^ Emeril Lagasse, Horchata Recipe : Food Network Taste of Mexico, 2007.
  14. ^ Horchata Recipe & Video - Martha Stewart.
  15. ^ Refreshing Rice Drink: Horchata de Arroz by Karen Hursh Graber 2003 (MexConnect).
  16. ^ Gonzalez, Anita (4 July 2018). "Jarocho's Soul: Cultural Identity and Afro-Mexican Dance". University Press of America – via Google Books.
  17. ^ "RECIPE: Horchata". Los Dos. Archived from the original on 2017-07-31. Retrieved 2016-08-02.
  18. ^ "Horchata de Melón (Cantaloupe Seed Drink)". Saveur.
  19. ^ Adriana Janovich. "Heavenly Horchata" - The Spokesman-Review APRIL 29, 2015
  20. ^ "Horchata de semillas de melón". allrecipes.com.mx.
  21. ^ a b 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. article №18. doi:10.1186/s13002-017-0145-z.
  22. ^ "McDonald's Testing Horchata Frappes in Southern California". Foodbeast. May 12, 2014. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  23. ^ 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
  24. ^ Valencia & the Costa Blanca, Miles Roddis, Lonely Planet, 2002, ISBN 1-74059-032-5 Google Books
  25. ^ MTV Spain, Fernando Gayesky, Elizabeth Gorman, Kristin Luna, Andre Legaspi, Frommer's, 2007, ISBN 0-7645-8772-2 Google Books
  26. ^ Consejo regulador denominación de origen Chufa de Valencia,"Història de l'roxata de xufa".

External links[edit]