Horchata is a traditional Spanish beverage made from tiger nuts (called chufa in Spanish). It originates from Valencia, where locals savor it on terraces all summer long. For me personally, it was love at first sip.
In Valencia, each specialist horchatería has its own “secret” horchata recipe. As a general rule of thumb, this is where you’ll find the best horchata in Valencia. Some cafés and most ice cream shops also serve decent horchata. However, the bottled stuff found in supermarkets is full of additives, flavorings, and preservatives and has a strange taste I personally dislike.
As you can see, I’m a bit of an horchata snob. This is what happens when you live in Valencia and every time you step out the door is an opportunity to spoil your tastebuds with the most delicious horchata de chufa.
I’ve drank my weight in Spanish horchata over the years and I can say that not all horchata was created equal. As much as I love having a glass of tiger nut horchata on a terrace, I also enjoy preparing my own homemade horchata.
Making horchata at home is super easy. But I must admit that it took me a bit of trial and error until I found my favorite Spanish horchata recipe. This recipe tastes amazing, with or without sugar, it goes well in coffee as a milk substitute, and it lasts for up to 2 days in the fridge.
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What is Spanish horchata?
Spanish horchata is a traditional beverage that hails from the Valencia region in Spain. It’s made by mixing ground tiger nuts (chufas), water, and sugar. The result is a plant-based milk that is refreshing, dairy-free, and naturally flavorful with a unique and pleasant creamy texture.
In other countries, especially in Latin America, you’ll find different horchata recipes that call for rice, almonds, or other types of nuts instead of chufa. However, horchata de chufa is as Valencian as the paella.
Spanish horchata is packed with nutrients. You can enjoy it alone or pair it with fartons (elongated confectionery glazed with sugar), croissants, ensaimadas, or sponge cake. Out of all, the most traditional horchata companion is the fartón.
In Spain, tigernut horchata is often referred to as horchata de chufa or simply horchata. It’s considered a traditional summer beverage with a long history – apparently, in Valencia, people were drinking horchata as far back as the 13th century and likely way before that.
Tiger nuts arrived in Spain with the Moors, somewhere between the 8th and the 13th century. And before that, there are records attesting that tiger nuts were used in ancient Egypt and Persia.
In spite of their name, tiger nuts are not actually nuts; they are small, grass-like tubers, with a naturally sweet and nutty flavor.
These days, chufa is extensively cultivated in only one place in Europe – the fields of Alboraya, just north of Valencia. Outside of Europe, it’s also grown in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali and to a smaller extent, in certain Latin American countries and the USA.
Tips for preparing a delicious Spanish horchata
Making your own Spanish horchata at home using this recipe is super easy. By doing so, you can enjoy the healthiest and most affordable version of horchata there is. Here are a few tips for preparing Spanish horchata.
- Soak the tiger nuts for a full 24 hours. This is crucial, as soaking softens the tiger nuts and makes them easier to blend.
- Authentic Spanish horchata is made with only 3 ingredients – chufa, water, and sugar. Some horchata recipes stray from the original by including cinnamon and lemon peel. The result is just as delicious, although it tastes slightly different.
- If you prefer your horchata less sweet, reduce the amount of sugar compared to what I used in this recipe. If you want to make sugar-free horchata, skip the sugar altogether. Personally, I love sugar-free horchata made with nothing but tiger nuts and water.
- Make sure all recipients you use are cleaned properly. This will prevent the horchata from going bad and you’ll be able to enjoy it for longer.
- Sugar and cinnamon are natural preservatives. Incorporating them into your horchata recipe could potentially extend the shelf life of the drink to some extent.
- If you don’t enjoy using a nut milk bag (squeezing and cleaning it is no fun) and this is stopping you from making horchata more often, then consider getting an inexpensive vegan milker like this one. This option is less messy and requires less effort.
How to serve Spanish horchata de chufa
- Spanish horchata is meant to be enjoyed ice cold, either on its own or accompanied by fartons. Fartons are capable of soaking up a lot of horchata – they were invented for this purpose.
- No fartons? No problem. Other sweet and spongy pastries without cream can also be dunked in the horchata with a certain degree of success. Better still if the pastries are fresh out of the oven and slightly warm – the contrast in temperature is quite nice.
- You can enjoy horchata pretty much any time of the day. In Valencia, people usually have a glass of horchata in between meals, as a sweet pick-me-up. Spanish horchata is never paired with savory dishes nor served as a dessert. See what are some typical Valencian desserts.
- Never add ice cubes to Spanish horchata as this will water it down, diluting its flavor and consistency. If you want to enjoy ice-cold horchata, freeze some horchata in ice cube trays. Then add the horchata ice cubes to your liquid horchata.
- Similarly, if you want to make horchata granita, freeze horchata in ice cube trays, then crush the ice cubes in a blender using the pulse function. Depending on your blender, you might also need to add some liquid horchata.
- In Valencia, horchata is sometimes enjoyed with lemon or coffee granita in equal proportions. I also love to add sugar-free horchata to my morning coffee, as a milk substitute.
Other horchata making tips
- Once you’ve made this horchata recipe, you can store it in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days or in the freezer for up to a week.
- You can use the leftover tiger nut pulp in oatmeal, smoothies, or cookies as a substitute for flour.
- If you are living in Valencia, or anywhere else in Spain, the best place to buy chufa is your local market. If you live anywhere else, try your local health food store or the internet.
Spanish horchata recipe card
Spanish Horchata Recipe
- High speed blender
- Nut milk bag/fine mesh strainer
- 250 g (8.5 oz) tiger nuts
- 100 g (3.5 oz) sugar (can be substituted for honey, agave syrup, or maple syrup to taste)
- 1 l (4 cups) water
- 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
- lemon peel from 1 lemon (optional)
- Wash the tiger nuts thoroughly to remove all the dirt.
- Put the tiger nuts in a bowl and cover them with water. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge. Allow to soak for 24 hours.
- Drain and rinse the tiger nuts under cold water.
- Place the tiger nuts in the blender and add 1 liter of cold water. Blend on high speed until you get a smooth and creamy texture. This might take a few minutes.
- Place the mixture in a bowl and leave to macerate for 3 hours in the fridge.
- Place a nut milk bag, fine mesh strainer, or cheesecloth over a large bowl. Pour the mixture through the strainer to separate the tiger nut pulp from the horchata liquid. Squeeze or press to extract as much liquid as possible.
- (optional) Add sugar to taste (or sweetener of your choice) and stir thoroughly until it dissolves completely. You can also use powdered sugar as it dissolves quicker.
- (optional) Add the cinnamon stick and/or lemon peel.
- Refrigerate the horchata for a couple of hours or until chill. If in a hurry, you can also put it in the freezer.
- Before serving, give it a good stir as some settling may occur.
- Pour the chilled tiger nut horchata into glasses and enjoy.
- Store any leftover horchata in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Shake or stir before serving.