The Creamy Ingredient To Simplify Homemade Horchata

If you've never had the pleasure of trying it, horchata is a cool, refreshing drink made with rice and water, seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon, and finished with milk. But while making it isn't too challenging, it's not necessarily the simplest recipe. The process of creating this treat starts with a cup of white rice and a cinnamon stick or two. After rinsing the rice to remove any excess starch, there are a couple of different methods you can use: You can soak the rice and cinnamon in some water or grind up the rice and the cinnamon with water in a blender or food processor and then begin soaking the mixture. In the end, you'll want to have several cups of water that have been strained to remove any rice or cinnamon pieces; this liquid forms the base of your horchata.

The challenge in this process comes when it's time to sweeten the drink. Adding sugar into a cold liquid can be difficult, as the granules don't dissolve as well as they do in a hot beverage. Fortunately, there's a way to combine two steps in the horchata-making process and avoid this problem altogether. Instead of adding milk and sugar separately, you can use a can of sweetened condensed milk in your horchata. This way, the sweetener blends into the drink quickly and easily — no need for endless stirring and finding undissolved granules in the bottom of your pitcher.

Sweetened condensed milk is a game-changer for horchata

While using sweetened condensed milk won't save you the time it takes to soak your rice, it will still save you some effort in your horchata-making process. You can even use this trick in dairy-free versions of horchata — there are dairy-free sweetened condensed milks out there made from coconut and oats. You could also try regular almond milk instead; this would give the drink an added nutty taste, and there are horchata recipes that include almonds as well as rice. If you go this route, however, your horchata might be a bit less creamy.

If you're not sold on buying a whole new ingredient just for one recipe, never fear — sweetened condensed milk can work wonders with other beverages as well. Add it to iced coffee to make a delicious latte, or try your hand at making Thai iced coffee or Thai iced tea, which often feature sweetened condensed milk as part of their recipes. Another popular creamy drink that uses sweetened condensed milk is coquito, a Puerto Rican beverage that is often compared to eggnog. Coquito, like horchata, is served chilled and flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, but it also includes some nutmeg — perfect for another spiced, sweet treat.