Homemade Horchata Ice Cream (Plus 3 Flavor Variations)

updated Sep 3, 2020
Horchata Ice Cream

Horchata ice cream is just as delicious as the drink it's inspired by. Read on for our 3 variations: Horchata de Coco, Dulce de Leche Swirl, and Dirty Horchata.

Serves4 to 6

Makesabout 4 cups

Prep5 minutes

Cook25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Brittany Conerly

When the weather starts getting hot and sticky, that’s when the glistening vitroleros come out. They’re the large, often colorful containers that hold gallons of cold agua fresca. Mexican agua frescas are made with a wide variety of ingredients, but in many parts of the U.S., the most common flavors are jamaica, tamarindo, and horchata. No matter what kind you get, it’s bound to quench your thirst on a hot day — or after eating something particularly spicy. I grew up drinking horchata at my grandma’s house, and to me, it’s not summer without it.

Horchata dates back more than 1,000 years ago to Spain, where it was originally made with chufa (or tiger nuts). It has since spread throughout Latin America, and many countries have their own variation. Horchata de ajonjoli is a Puerto Rican version made with sesame seeds. A common take in El Salvador uses morro seeds. In Ecuador, horchata is actually a bright pink tea drink made of herbs and flowers. Even within Mexico, there are different ways to make it. Horchata de melón, for example, uses cantaloupe seeds to give it its creamy quality. But one of the most common ways to enjoy Mexican horchata is to use a blend of water, sugar, cinnamon, soaked rice, and sometimes almonds. 

Credit: Brittany Conerly

While the drink is usually dairy-free, some people make it extra rich by substituting water with milk. Last year, I adapted a dirty horchata recipe from Guisados, a well-known taqueria in Los Angeles, which uses whole milk and spikes the cinnamon drink with cold brew. Truly a perfect combo. I’m always searching for new ways to enjoy horchata because I simply love it so much. So when I got an ice cream maker, horchata ice cream seemed like the natural next step in my journey.

The base of this ice cream is adapted from the Ample Hills cookbook because its custard-like quality complements the spicy cinnamon taste just right. You can make it as is and delight in the flavors, but I’ve also provided three ways to switch it up. Use coconut milk for a horchata de coco spin, or mix in some coffee to make it dirty. Another favorite? Swirl in ribbons of dulce de leche (which is what’s shown here). No matter how you make it, horchata ice cream is just as cool and refreshing as the drink it’s inspired by.

Horchata Ice Cream

Horchata ice cream is just as delicious as the drink it's inspired by. Read on for our 3 variations: Horchata de Coco, Dulce de Leche Swirl, and Dirty Horchata.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes about 4 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 cup

    long-grain white rice

  • 1 2/3 cups

    whole milk

  • 3/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 cup

    dry milk powder

  • 1 2/3 cups

    heavy cream

  • 3

    large egg yolks

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg, freshly ground preferred

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • Pinch

    kosher salt


  1. Place the base of an ice cream maker in the freezer overnight if needed. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup long-grain white rice and stir frequently until the rice begins to toast and is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  2. Carefully add 1 2/3 cups whole milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup dry milk powder, as it will bubble up from the residual heat. Whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved and there are no lumps of milk powder. Add 1 2/3 cups heavy cream and whisk until incorporated.

  3. Place the pan back over medium heat and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 110°F, 3 to 5 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid in a liquid measuring cup. Remove the pan from the heat.

  4. Place 3 large egg yolks in a medium bowl. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the reserved 1/2 cup milk mixture to temper the yolks. Continue to whisk until it is an even color. Scrape the egg mixture back into the remaining milk mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

  5. Return the pan to medium heat and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 165°F, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.

  6. Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain the milk mixture and discard the rice or save it to make rice pudding later.

  7. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pinch of kosher salt to the horchata base, and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold, 6 to 8 hours or overnight.

  8. Transfer the base into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer instructions. After churning, eat it immediately if you want an ice cream that’s similar to soft serve. For a firmer texture, transfer to a container, seal, and freeze for 8 to 12 hours more before scooping.

Recipe Notes

3 Variations
1) Horchata de Coco: Replace the whole milk with 1 (about 14-ounce) can coconut milk.
2) Dulce de Leche Swirl: After churning the ice cream, fold in 1 cup dulce de leche, being careful not to overmix.
3) Dirty Horchata: Along with the spices, vanilla and salt, add 2 tablespoons instant coffee to give it a touch of caffeine.

Make ahead: You can make the base ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before churning.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.