Guelaguetza’s horchata de Oaxaca, the most famous agua fresca in Los Angeles

Guelaguetaz horchata
Guelaguetza’s horchata, served Oaxacan-style with melon, pecans and homemade prickly pear syrup.
(Camily Tsai / For The Times)

Guelaguetza’s horchata is inspired by the one created and still served at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre in Oaxaca City by Doña Casilda, who runs a popular booth in the mercado that specializes in aguas frescas. She is also known as the woman who 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. This recipe appears in the upcoming cookbook “Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico” by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral.

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

Guelaguetza’s Horchata de Oaxaca

10 minutes, plus 2 hours soaking. Makes about 6 ½ cups.


  • 1 cup white jasmine rice
  • 1 piece (1 inch) canela (Mexican cinnamon)
  • 6 cups room-temperature filtered water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped ripe cantaloupe
  • ½ cup whole pecans, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup Prickly Pear Syrup (see recipe below)


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and toasted, about 4 minutes. Transfer the rice to a large bowl, add the canela and 1 cup water, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
  2. Transfer the rice mixture to a blender and process on high for at least 2 minutes, until consistently smooth.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 5 cups water and sugar in a large pitcher 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 to combine.
  4. Pour the horchata over ice in cups, then top with some of the chopped cantaloupe and pecans and a drizzle of the prickly pear syrup.

Adapted from Guelaguetza’s co-owner Bricia Lopez.


Prickly Pear Syrup

25 minutes. Makes 1 ¾ cups.

Prickly pears grow abundantly in Oaxaca and give the regional variation of this agua fresca its pink hue. If they aren’t available near you, boil strawberries into a syrup and substitute that.


  • 10 ounces (about 2 large) ripe red tunas (prickly pears)
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar


  1. Place the prickly pears in a medium saucepan and cover halfway with water. Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Cook the pears, swirling and rolling them in the water occasionally, until very soft and falling apart, about 10 minutes. Using a potato masher, mash the pears in the pan, then scrape the pulp and liquid through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard the skin, pulp and seeds. Rinse out the pan.
  2. Pour the juice back into the saucepan (you should have about 1 ½ cups), then add the sugar. Place the pan over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 5 minutes, using a spoon to skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
  3. Pour the syrup into a bowl, let cool, then transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.

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