Which Type Of Rice Tastes Best For Homemade Horchata?

Horchata is like a festive rice pudding that you can drink (let's go). Recipes and proportions vary, but the iconic Mexican beverage is typically made from some combination of rice, maple syrup, water, and cinnamon and is traditionally served chilled. Some foodies add whole milk, cream, or evaporated milk into the mix for a richer mouthfeel. It can also be made with full-fat oat milk or coconut milk for a vegan-friendly bevy. 

The resulting liquid that comes from the long rice soak is plenty creamy on its own — but the "milk vs. water" debate isn't even the aspect of horchata that we're deep-diving into today. In this rice-forward delicacy, which type of rice is right for the job? Rice is a big deal in Mexico. As of 2021, foodies in Mexico collectively consume over 1 million tons of rice every single year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best type of rice for making Mexican horchata is a special variety grown in Mexico, specifically in Morelos. 

Arroz de Morelos is thick, fluffy, and federally protected. It's that good — and that region-specific. Its unique texture makes Morelos rice the ideal fit for an authentic, flavorful batch of Mexican horchata. Admittedly, few foodies are likely to find arroz de Morelos stocked in their local grocery store. If this specialty item can't be found, long-grain white rice is the next-best substitute. Short-grain rices tend to stick together when cooked and retain more moisture, whereas long-grain rices remain separate and lighter, which ultimately keeps your drink from clumping.

Long-grain jasmine rice makes a great horchata base

Basmati and jasmine rice are both types of long-grain white rice, but jasmine rice is a slightly better fit due to its plump, pliant texture and slightly sweet taste. Believe it or not, the same type of rice commonly used in Chinese takeout fried rice is also the key to a killer batch of horchata. Still, that doesn't mean you can't experiment with different proportions to customize your batch. After all, the history of horchata is rich with experimentation. 

The drink can be traced back to Ancient Rome, and proto-horchatas have included licorice root, figs, tiger nuts, and red amaranth. Different cultures have developed their own versions of the drink, but one thing remains clear: Foodies around the world dig horchata. Feel free to employ some creative liberty here — but keep in mind that long-grain white rice is the best tool for the job when it comes to the drink's base. Once complete, garnish your creation with a light dusting of demerara sugar and a whole cinnamon stick. 

Horchata can be served as-is for a non-alcoholic sipper, or can also be easily spiked with a splash of rum or vodka. The sweetness makes even a secretly strong batch go down shockingly smooth, too. (Talk about a happy holiday.) Horchata also makes a great palette-calming complement to spicy foods like pork tamales, pozole rojo, and savory sopapillas or empanadas, all popular dishes served on holidays in Mexico. But horchata is delicious year-round and also makes a great chiller alongside a plate of tacos on scorching hot days.