Not too long ago, I was talking on the phone with my mom and I told her that I make horchata on an almost weekly basis. She asked me what ingredients I use (rice, almonds, cinnamon, sometimes sesame seeds) and immediately after I told her she replied, “That’s not really horchata.”
Her response actually made me laugh because I’ve been so proud of making horchata as often as I can, since I enjoy drinking it so much during the summertime.
My mom grew up in El Salvador so the style of horchata that she likes most is, of course, Salvadoran. She promised she would look for morro seeds (pictured above), which is the main ingredient in Salvadoran horchata, and send them to me. She lives in the DC-metro area, so she didn’t have to look very long. A few days later, I had two pounds of seeds in my mailbox. If you’d like to read a little more about where the morro seeds come from, I found an informative post on Linda’s El Salvador Blog.
I did a search online for an horchata recipe using morro seeds, and I was surprised that there weren’t as many as I expected. My sister, Holly, sent me an e-mail with a few links that she found. I decided to take the ingredients of two recipes and make my own blend.
Along with the morro seeds, I used brown rice, soft Mexican cinnamon stick (or Ceylon cinnamon) as well as ground, a whole vanilla bean, half of a star aniseseed, unsweetened pure cacao powder, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and nutmeg. Then I toasted everything pictured below. I used what I had in my pantry, but I’ve read that you can also use toasted unsalted peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and allspice in your horchata blend.
After the morro seeds cooled off, I ground them in my food processor and sifted it all in a colander to get rid of any big pieces that may have been left. This took a lot of time and in the end, I don’t think it was necessary since I was going to blend and strain the horchata anyway.
Pictured above is all of the ingredients combined. It has the consistency of thick sand and smelled glorious and familiar to me. To be honest, I think my grandmother only made horchata from scratch a couple of times when I was growing up. She most likely prepared it more regularly when she lived in El Salvador, considering she made so many things – including processing and roasting her own coffee and cacao.
Even though my family was big on homemade foods, I grew up with the packaged horchata mixes imported from El Salvador. It was quick and easy for my mom to prepare it and if you find a good brand, it’s not too bad because there shouldn’t be any artificial ingredients in there like preservatives or dyes. I think most Salvadoran households use a packaged mix since it does take a lot of time to make horchata from scratch. Making things from scratch is almost like a meditative practice for me, so I don’t mind this at all.
My horchata turned out a little darker than it should be, even though Salvadoran horchata is typically darker anyway because of the morro seeds. I think I added too much cacao powder, but it’s not overly chocolate-y at all. It just adds a nice depth of flavor. I ended up sweetening the horchata with grated palm sugar (pictured below), which gives it yet another level of great flavor. I gave my husband a big glass after work and he enjoyed it a lot, which made me happy as he’s only ever had Mexican style horchata.
I got two half gallon jars worth of horchata and even though I blended everything really well with plenty of water, the flavor is so concentrated. It’s perfect after adding a little more filtered water and ice when we’re ready to drink it, so in the end it works out. Also even after straining and stirring, there will be some sand-like residue on the bottom of your glass. That’s just how I’ve always known horchata to be, though, and I don’t mind that at all.
Salvadoran Inspired Horchata
Important note: Please be aware that this is not a precise recipe because I ended up adjusting the flavors as I went and didn’t record measurements. My least favorite thing to do is test and write out recipes! I loved how it turned out for me this time, but I know that the recipe needs a little tweaking.
6 cups morro seeds
2 cups sesame seeds
1.5 cups brown rice – you can use any type of rice you want, though stick with medium or long grain
1/2 star aniseseed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1-3 Soft Mexican cinnamon sticks (or Ceylon cinnamon sticks) – I didn’t have a lot of sticks, so I supplemented with ground Ceylon
1/2 cup pure unsweetened cacao powder
1 small nutmeg seed (you’ll need about 1 teaspoon or more of fresh grounded nutmeg, to taste)
You’ll also need cheese cloth to strain the blended horchata
~ Toast the morro seeds, rice, star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg separately. Grind the morro seeds after they have cooled off. (You could also grind the other ingredients, but since everything will be blended with water it’s probably not necessary).
~ Blend the toasted rice with the cinnamon sticks really well, with enough water to cover. Pour into a bowl set over a fine mesh strainer. Press the rice mixture so that you extract as much water as possible. You’ll only be using the “rice water” and not the rice particles leftover. Rinse out the blender and put the rice water back in and add the whole vanilla bean, blend well and strain again.
~ In batches, blend 2 cups of the ground morro seed blend with 4 cups of water until you’ve used all of the morro seed blend. Combine the morro seed blend with the rice water.
~ You can adjust the consistency as much as you’d like, using water. Some people like to blend their horchata with milk, but I prefer it dairy-free because it’s more refreshing that way.
~ Sweeten with grated palm sugar, or whichever type of sweetener you prefer. Serve well chilled and add ice if you’d like.
One of my favorite spots to go to in southern Arizona is Sonoita, which is just 30 minutes away from our house. Not only is it just beautiful, it’s also part of what is known as wine country here.
There are so many wineries that offer great tasting wine, but our favorite is AZ Hops & Vines. They’re laid back, have various fun events throughout the season, and the views there are gorgeous.
We always grab a bottle or two of wine (usually a white and a red), a glass of wine, and hang out for a little bit. Take a look at their website for more information and if you’re ever in the area, be sure to check them out.