Chichen Itza’s horchata, a master class in simplicity

Chichen Itza horchata
Chichen Itza’s horchata, lightly enriched with almonds and sweetened with both piloncillo and American-style brown sugar.
(Camily Tsai / For The Times)

For Gilberto Cetina, chef at Chichen Itza, horchata should be as simple as possible. His method, though, improves the basic recipe by making a “tea” with the canela and piloncillo before blending it with the rice and a small amount of almonds for added richness.

All-Clad’s three-piece stainless steel strainer set makes easy work of straining rice water for silky smooth horchata.

Chichen Itza’s Horchata

15 minutes, plus overnight and 2 hours soaking. Makes 7 ½ cups.


  • 9 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup grated or finely chopped piloncillo (6 ounces)
  • 3 sticks canela (Mexican cinnamon)
  • 3 ¾ cups long grain white rice
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole almonds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Light brown sugar, to taste


  1. In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Add the piloncillo and canela, stir until the piloncillo is dissolved, then let steep overnight at room temperature.
  2. Place the rice and almonds in a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 6 cups water to a simmer, then pour in the canela-piloncillo “tea.” Pour the simmering mixture over the rice and almonds and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Using an immersion or stand blender, blend the rice and water mixture, then pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Stir in the vanilla extract and add brown sugar to taste. Refrigerate the horchata until chilled before serving over ice.

Adapted from Gilberto Cetina.

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