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Reconstructing Salvadoran horchata

Allow me to offer you a break from the apricot oriented articles. 😉 I drank Salvadoran horchata for the first time a couple years ago, and I’ve been keen to figure out how to make it ever since. Unlike Mexican horchata, which is made primarily of rice, cinnamon and far too much sugar (at least the few times I’ve had it), the Salvadoran version is deliciously nutty with a hint of chocolate.

This recipe is an evolving experiment. Because I’ve improvised with many of the ingredients (and the preparation), it would not count as authentic. But I think it’s approaching something similar to Salvadoran horchata. Not the same as what my favorite pupuserías create, but tasty, with potential.

horchata salvadoreño

If you know of good instructions for making horchata Salvadoreña, please do share! Web searches mentioned morro seeds and tigernuts (chufas), but I couldn’t find a useful recipe. Would these items be available at a Mexican / Latino market? If so, do they have different names in Spanish and English?

In order to extract more flavor from the ingredients, I very briefly ground the solids (with the water) with a hand blender for a few seconds. I didn’t want a smooth purée, which would be trickier to filter and leave more grit, but rather a rough mince. Here’s a picture from the filtration step to give you an idea of the particle size. It’s okay if there are a few chunks; you just want to roughly break apart the rice and nuts.

The bits filtered out of the horchata.

Try to use the soft-stick cinnamon, if you can find it; it’s also known as Sri Lankan / Ceylon cinnamon, and is found in most Mexican and Latino stores. It has a mellower, fruity flavor, which I like in a cold drink. If you use the thick hard-stick cinnamon, pull out the sticks out before using the hand blender to avoid catching in the blades; then throw ’em back in during the chilling step.

Speaking of flavor extraction, during an early experiment I simmered the liquid and rice-nut mixture for about 20 minutes, before grinding and chilling in the ‘fridge. Bad idea! Cooking the rice made it glutinous, adding an unpleasant goopy texture to the drink that filtration couldn’t quite remove.

This horchata is only mildly sweet, so feel free to add more sugar or honey when serving. Like most horchatas, this drink separates a bit over time: have spoons handy for stirring. 😀

This recipe yields about 2 1/2 quarts. Next time I might see if I can get away with using 4 quarts of water instead of 3, without diluting the flavor too much.


  • 1 cup long grained rice, like Basmati
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, almonds, cashews, or a mix
  • 1 1/2 sticks of soft-stick cinnamon (otherwise substitute hard-stick cinnamon)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 quarts boiling water
  • additional sugar or honey, to taste


  1. In a heavy bottomed stock pot, roast the rice, nuts, cinnamon, pumpkin and sesame seeds over medium high heat until the rice starts to become golden. This should take about 10 minutes, and the mixture should become fragrant.
  2. Turn off the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. During this time, get the water boiling (sooner if you don’t have a fast electric kettle).
  3. Pour in the water. It’ll briefly sizzle loudly, then settle down.
  4. Stir in the both sugars and the chocolate, until dissolved. Let this stand for about 1 hour.
  5. With a hand blender, briefly grind the rice and nuts in the liquid, for about 10 seconds. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. Filter off the solids with a fine sieve, and discard. (There’ll be several cups to toss out, so into the compost bin!) Store the horchata in a carafe or pitcher. Serve with ice and further sweetening, if you want.


  1. luisa wrote:

    Of course la orchata salvadorena es la mejor, and we have more delisious food in El Salvador. I glad you like it

    Friday, 28 September 2007 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  2. Amy Arias wrote:

    Duh Salvadorians do it better!!!!

    Monday, 19 May 2008 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  3. Sara wrote:

    La horchata salvadorena es la mejor! I’m used to drinking it with water, but milk gices it a different good taste as well. As to the recipe, I just know what the traditional ingredients are, in case you want to fiddle with your experiment some more. These are the ingredients found in an “instant horchata mix” made in El Salvador: in English: Rice, morro seeds, sugar, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cacao seeds, peanuts, cinnamon, and vanilla. In Spanish (same order): arroz, semilla de morro, azucar, pepitoria, ajonjoli, cacao, cacahuate, canela y vainilla. Hope this helps. Good luck!

    Saturday, 13 June 2009 at 3:55 pm | Permalink
  4. Emmy wrote:

    Just remember that authentic Salvadoran horchata never contains any milk. And the key ingredients will always be rice, pumpkin seeds, and cinammon.

    Tuesday, 6 October 2009 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  5. jazmin wrote:

    im mexican and i love the salvadoran horchata better

    Monday, 15 February 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  6. Colleen wrote:

    This looks yummy! But if you’re going for the authentic Salvadoran taste, you can’t make it without dried morro seeds. It’s called “Horchata de Morro.”

    Wednesday, 10 May 2017 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

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