Is Horchata Actually Vegan? Here Is What You Should Know

Because of the harm caused by conventional dairy — food establishments now search for more sustainable alternatives. Many believe the answer is Horchata.

Wikipedia suggests Horchata originated in Valencia (Spain), but every Latin country has its own version of this drink. Therefore, you may find different Horchata drinks when traveling.

Horchata is defined as a vegetable drink and thus should be suitable for vegans.

However, if you go to a food establishment, don’t forget to ask the waiter about the contents of the Horchata. While Horchata may be generally considered vegan, it may also be sweetened with animal-based ingredients.

What Is Horchata?


Horchata is a refreshing vegetable drink that is common in most Spanish-speaking countries.

The drink itself can be made by blending rice, almonds, and cinnamon with fresh water. Ingredients like barley, melon seeds, tiger nuts, and sesame may be used as well.

The Valencian horchata, for example, is created with tiger nuts. But it’s not as popular as the rice-made Horchata drank in Mexico. Regardless of where you drink your Horchata, the core ingredients should always be vegetable-based,

Needless to say, it’s quite healthy in comparison to most drinks.

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Adding Sweetness To The Horchata

The reason Horchata is so addicting is that its flavor is sweet and refreshing.

Obviously, by blending the aforementioned ingredients, it’s impossible to create a sweet drink, that’s why a sweetener must be added. If you’ve ordered a chai frappuccino at Costa or Starbucks before, you’ll find some similarities in the flavor, with the Horchata being more refreshing and less sweet than a frappuccino.

Typically, the Horchata is sweetened by adding agave syrup and a bit of vanilla extract, but that’s because it’s often regarded as a more ‘sustainable’ drink.

Still, animal-based sweeteners are also used to make Horchata. A pretty common one is condensed milk, which adds a creamy layer on top that makes the drink even sweeter. One other possible choice is honey, instead of agave syrup.

If you want a vegan Horchata, you must first ask about the ingredients the establishment uses.

While you may find that in Spain establishments heed to your requests to use a specific type of sweetener, that may not be the case in developing countries.

Although from my experience, you shouldn’t run into any problems, as it’s a simple matter.

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Make Horchata At Home

Horchata is known for being quite an inexpensive drink, and it can be even more inexpensive if you make it at home.

All you need is a blender and these ‘easy to get’ ingredients:

  • Rice (Jasmin works well)
  • Almonds
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Agave Syrup

And you can make Horchata at home.

In the video above, Byron Talbott shows you how you can make Horchata in less than five minutes.

Plus, the variation he creates is entirely vegan, so you just have to follow what he does.

In addition, you can also look at this horchata recipe created by The Sweet Pea Chef. Instead of agave syrup, she uses maple syrup to give the horchata its sweetness. She also uses unsweetened almond milk instead of sliced almonds. This change makes the drink even more inexpensive for those yearning for a refreshing taste.

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Other Related Information

How different is Horchata from country to country?

Well, let’s look at how each country usually makes horchata.

Mexico — There are many recipes in Mexico, but the core ingredients are usually the same. Blended rice, water, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla. Some Mexicans may even add fresh fruits such as melon, as well as shredded coconuts. Sometimes, they even pour cow’s milk into the mix, so be wary before you order.

Puerto Rico — In Puerto Rico, the locals refer to Horchata as horchata de ajonjolí. Instead of using rice, they use sesame seeds with water and brown sugar. That results in a drink that can be enjoyed on its own,  or mixed with cereals.

Ecuador — This is probably where you can find the most distinct horchata recipe. In Ecuador, they also mix in herbs and flowers with escancel, which confers an accentuated red color to the horchata.

Honduras — Here soak riced is used with ingredients like cocoa, cinnamon, and vanilla. In some parts of the country, morro seeds are the primary ingredient, while rice is used in less quantity.

Nicaragua — In Nicaragua, the horchata is made very similar in countries like Mexico and El Salvador. The recipe combines morro seeds and rice, as well as ingredients such as cinnamon, vanilla and milk (instead of water).

El Salvador — The horchata in El Salvador is made primarily from ground morro seeds that are first dried in the sun. Ingredients like squash seeds, white rice, sesame seeds, peanuts, cocoa beans, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander seeds, and allspice are also added to the mix. The sweeteners are typically sugar and vanilla.

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Summary: Horchata is Typically Vegan

Most Horchata recipes are vegan, but in some countries or locations, condensed milk (and other ingredients) can be used to confer it with additional sweetness.

Therefore, it’s always a good idea to ask the waiter (or barman) about the ingredients before ordering, and if possible, request for your Horchata to not include any animal ingredients.  

Horchata FAQs


Is Horchata Dairy-Free?

The traditional Horchata is dairy-free — it’s made with just rice, vanilla, and cinnamon. However, some recipes like Mexican Horchata include evaporated milk. 

Is Horchata Gluten-Free?

Yes, the traditional Horchata is gluten-free. However, the recipe changes across different locations so you have to always question the ingredients before ordering. 

Does Horchata Contain Alcohol?

No, Horchata is typically alcohol-free. However, in some places, they add rum. 

Does Horchata Have Caffeine?

No, the traditional Horchata recipe does not contain caffeine. Some recipes online include coffee, so if you’re interested, you can find them with a quick Google search. 

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for over five years! I've set up this blog because I'm passionate about veganism and living a more spiritually fulfilling life where I'm more in tune with nature. Hopefully, I can use Vegan Foundry as a channel to help you out on your own journey!