Horchata de Oaxaca

Toasted Rice Water


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

Our horchata is inspired by the one created and still served at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca City. In the middle of the market there is an area where all they sell are aguas frescas and nieves (Mexican-style ice cream). Even on your busiest of days, it’s part of daily life in Oaxaca to buy an agua or a nieve and take a moment to just sit, people-watch, and enjoy life along with it. This recipe is an ode to Doña Casilda. She founded the popular booth in the mercado that specializes in aguas frescas. She is also known as the lady who, in 1890, invented this Oaxacan variation of Mexico’s most famous agua fresca, with a splash of red cactus fruit syrup, toasted walnuts, and sliced ripe cantaloupe. It is naturally dairy free. The key to this horchata recipe is getting the most aromatic jasmine rice you can find, toasting it, soaking it, and passing it through a double-fine-mesh strainer a couple of times and then finally passing it through cheesecloth to get that delicious milky texture.


  • 1 cup (95 g) white jasmine rice
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick
  • 6 cups (1.3 L) room-temperature filtered water
  • ¼ cup (50 g) cane sugar
  • 1 cup (160 g) chopped ripe cantaloupe
  • ½ cup (60 grams) pecans, chopped
  • ¼ cup (120 ml) fresh red tuna (prickly pear) juice or blended fruit + ½ cup of water, passed through a mesh strainer (optional; see Note)


In a large skillet under low-medium heat, add the rice and toast, while stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Let cool.

Soak the rice and cinnamon stick in 1 cup (120 ml) of the water for 2 hours. Once softened, grind the rice mixture on your blender’s highest setting for at least 2 minutes until consistently smooth. In a large pitcher, combine the remaining 5 cups (1.2 L) of water with the sugar and stir until the sugar fully dissolves.

Strain the blended rice mixture through a cheesecloth or double-fine-mesh strainer into the pitcher and stir.

Serve over ice, top with the chopped cantaloupe and pecans, and drizzle a bit of prickly pear syrup on top.