While Cinco De Mayo is certainly a good date for making Horchata – I am talking about the fruit date.
Horchata (pronounced or-cha-ta), is typically a sweet, milky drink that was originally made from ground tiger nuts, and was very popular in Spain. Most people however, are more familiar with the version made popular in Mexico, which is usually made from rice milk and LOTS of sugar!
In recent years, Horchata has really caught on as a “trendy” drink, and you can find it everywhere from restaurants to coffee shops to cartons of it in grocery stores.
It wasn’t until this past visit to New Mexico that I had actually had my very first Horchata at a little restaurant in Mesilla, a town in Las Cruces.
This creamy, milky, sweet drink was delicious! Not only was it refreshing to drink, but the salsa they served us was really spicy, and drinking the Horchata after eating a chip full of salsa, it immediately took the searing hot pain away!
For me, there was only one problem. Most Horchata that you buy, is usually made with either dairy (in the form of condensed or dried milk), a lot of added sugar, or both. Having an allergy to dairy, I decided to find an alternative recipe that did not include the dairy or any added sugar, but would taste just as good and be just as refreshing.
Enter, the date. Dates are a fruit that grow on the Date Palm Tree (similar to how coconuts grow, only these are big clusters of dates). There are many varieties of dates, but here in the U.S., you will usually find two varieties – The Medjool Date and the Deglet Noor Date.
For my recipe, I used the Deglet Noor variety. It has less sugar than the Medjool variety, but is still very sweet and has more of a nutty taste to it than the Medjool. You can certainly use either variety in this recipe, according to your own likes and tastes. Both varieties act as a great replacement for added refined sugar in recipes. If you are considering a more healthy way of eating, and looking at plant based alternatives, dates can be a great way to sweeten up a recipe without adding refined sugar.
The following recipe is completely plant-based. If you are not necessarily a fan of plant-based recipes, feel free to change it up. If you do follow a plant-based diet, I highly encourage you to give this recipe a try – it is delicious!
Horchata – Dairy Free / Refined Sugar Free
3/4 cup Long Grain White Rice
2 Cups Hot Water + 4 Cups Water
1 Cup Oat Milk (you can use any plant based milk. You can also use dairy milk if you are not plant-based)
1/2 cup Dates (I used Deglet Noor, but Medjool is fine as well – just may be a bit more sweet)
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 Cinnamon Stick
Ground Cinnamon (optional)
Some sort of blender or food processor
In a pot, add the rice and the 2 cups of hot water (do not cook or boil the water,). Let sit for about 2 hours.
Drain the rice.
Add the rice to the blender (or, in my case, I used my immersion blender, so I kept the rice in the pot after draining the water out).
Add the 4 cups of water, the Dates, the Vanilla and the Cinnamon Stick.
Blend until the Dates are small(ish) specks. You do not have to puree this until it is smooth.
Pour into the cheesecloth
*I used my jelly strainer to make this, but you can also use a sheet of cheesecloth and place it over the top of a bowl – just make sure to secure it on the bowl somehow. You can also wrap the piece of cheesecloth around the ingredients, forming a bag of sorts, but you will have to hold it and squeeze it.
Let drain into a bowl. You can stir it around with a spatula, and squeeze the bag. The point is to get as much of the liquid out as you can. It should resemble a damp clump in the bag when you are done.
To the bowl of liquid, add the cup of Oat milk, and whisk.
Pour into a large jar or pitcher. Chill.
To serve, pour over ice and sprinkle with cinnamon.