Horchata de Chufa

Valencia, in my dreams it always seems,
I hear you softly call to me!
Valencia, where the orange trees forever,
Send the breeze beside the sea

Yes, that it the theme song of the Spanish coastal city of Valencia. I visited it a couple of years ago, in the middle of a local festival (The Feast of the Left Arm of St Vincent, or similar), and you could hear that tune for hours on end. It’s quite infectious and lends itself to getting into the party mood. It’s a great place – a beautiful old town with traditional architecture, stunning modern architecture, and a unique park planted along the former riverbed that snakes through the city.

When travelling, I am always one for trying local specialties, and in Valencia two things stood out. The first was the agua de valencia, a rather lethal combination of cava, gin, sugar and fresh Valencia orange juice. Very drinkable, but the next morning, you are feeling, well….shall we say, less than alert.

The second was more suited to daytime activities such as museums, churches and all that Valencian art. And believe me, you will need a little pick-me-up after all that agua de valencia the night before. I’m talking about a drink called horchata de chufa (in Spanish) or orxata de xufes (in Valencian), which you can find for sale on many street corners.

Horchata refers to a range of drinks often made from nuts, seeds or rice, which are ground and mixed with water and a little sugar to make a “milky” beverage. This version is one that is common in Spain, where it is often made from tiger nuts, and which is lightly flavoured with a touch of spices and citrus peel.

Yes, tiger nuts. Chances are that you’re probably not familiar with these little fellows as they are pretty uncommon outside of Spain. However, they are to be found pretty much everywhere in Valencia and you can usually hunt it down in other Spanish cities if you look hard enough. I’ve certainly never seen them in London, but that’s not to say you would not be able to track them down if you were willing to commit some serious shoe leather to the task.

Chufas (to give them their Spanish name) are not actually nuts, but small tubers of a member of the sedge family of grasses. They are the size of hazelnuts, but look like small, shriveled potatoes or dried-out root ginger. So they’re nothing more fancy that little bulbs! However, if you soak them, the tiger nuts turn back the years, absorb water and become plump.

The actual horchata you make from chufas is not pure white (as it would be if made from rice), but has a very light tan colour. It has a certain richness in terms of texture, and the flavour is fresh but not heavy. The cinnamon and lemon zest add a certain aromatic quality to it, but the flavour is nutty – think fresh almonds or hazelnuts with a hint of vanilla. It is very much a drink for a hot day – either served over ice, or even served like a frozen milkshake – an Iberian snow cone!

So why all this background? Because when I was in Barcelona in early springtime, I went to Casa Gispert, a specialist shop offering a vast selection of nuts and dried fruits, as well as seeds, oils, wines and chocolate. A good place for a bit of a rummage. Way, way at the back of the shop I found bags of chufas. I knew immediately what I should buy them. It was finally going to be horchata time.

Now that was a little easier said than done, for I was really making something completely outside my comfort zone. No idea whatsoever. Flattering myself that I can sort of guess whether a recipe would work out or not, I perused a few websites to come up with something that seemed sensible (see here and here). However, I’ve come up with my own version (below), which is a bit of a make-it-up-and-hope-for-the-best sort of recipe, but it seems pretty darn good to me.

The locals actually take their horchata de chufa so seriously that they have gone so far as to set up a council to regulate local tiger nut production, with some interesting-looking recipes. However, I must draw the line at this one. To understand the joke, I should explain that many cafés in Valencia serve horchata with a sweet iced bun. All very nice, but these buns are lumbered with the unintentionally hilarious name of farton. Hilarious to the ears of an English-speaker, but I am sure the poor waitresses were rather over the schoolboy humour.

Naughty jokes to one side, although making horchata takes a bit of time, most of that time is spent letting things soak or infuse. It’s actually a doddle to make and makes a really pleasant, refreshing and different drink for a warm day. Salut!

To make horchata de chufa  (makes 500ml / 1 pint):

• 125g tiger nuts(*)
• 600ml water
• 1/2 stick of cinnamon
• 1 small strip of lemon peel
• 100g white sugar

• pinch of salt(**)

1. Thoroughly rinse the tiger nuts. Cover with cold water and soak overnight.

2. The next day, rinse the tiger nuts, cover again with fresh water and soak for a second night. The tiger nuts will change from small and wrinkly to smooth-ish and plump-ish, but should still feel very firm.

3. Rinse the tiger nuts thoroughly, remove any bad nuts, and put them into a food processor with about 200ml water. Grind as finely as you can. You might want to do this in smaller batches.

4. Pour the tiger nut/water mixture into a pot. Add the remaining 400ml water, the cinnamon and lemon peel. Stir and leave to sit in the fridge overnight.

5. Stir the horchata mixutre, then strain through a piece of muslin cloth to remove the bits of tiger nuts, cinnamon and peel. Squeeze the cloth to get as much liquid from the nuts as you can.

6. Add the salt to the milky liquid, and sugar to taste. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, and serve ice-cold(***).

(*) If you don’t have tiger nuts, you could use almonds or other nuts instead. If you do this, just soak the nuts overnight once as they soften more easily than tiger nuts.

(**) Salt is optional – I like it as it enhances flavours, but entirely up to you. Most likely not authentic…

(**) Horchata keeps for a day in a cold fridge, but won’t keep much longer than that.



Filed under Drinks, Recipe, Sweet Things

43 responses to “Horchata de Chufa

  1. I LOVE this post for so many reasons. I have had tiger nuts sitting in my amazon cart for months now, with the intention of making this–I lived in Spain for a year, so I know horchata, and agua de valencia (I’m all about local specialties too, much to the annoyance of my travel buddies sometimes)! The funny thing is that in the US if you see horchata it’s usually referring to the Mexican drink made from rice, so it’s fun to see you referring to the version I know. The Mexican one is different, though you can see the relationship. And…I even know the Valencia song, and seem to remember some of the words in Spanish, though I will spare anyone me trying to sing it.

    • I’ve had the Mexican rice version at Wahaca in London. It’s nice, but it’s a bit thinner than the version made with tiger nuts. I think they have more oil in them, so the resulting horchata is richer and has more flavour.

      I love the Valencia song too – it’s a guaranteed pick-me-up. You cannot help but be cheery when you whistle it 🙂

      • Cecikoi

        Hello, here from Mexico, I think you should try coconut horchata, instead of using rice we use fresh coconut, water and milk to make it richer. Drink it very cold, lots of ice, perfect for summer.

        • Hello there! Coconut sounds like a great idea too – a very good drink for the summer (except – it is no secret that the British summer is not that hot!) 🙂

          • Cecikoi

            Yes I know is not that hot, actually I lived in Birmingham a while a go, but you have to agree the taste and smell of coconut makes you feel like you are at the beach. You can make a nice horchata just to make you feel better. 🙂 Ceci.

  2. Kirsten

    Try as I might, I just could never get into horchata. It just takes like wet cardboard to me. And yes, I drink a LOT of wet cardboard.

    • Hi Kirsten – that’s fair enough! I often think there is nothing rational about some flavours – I love some flavours that others hate, and I cannot stand flavours that others adore. If you are at all curious (but I suspect you probably are not…) I also made a Christmas version of horchata using almonds and pine nuts, with a little orange zest and cinnamon. It was nice when chilled, but amazing when warm with a shot of rum.

  3. I’ll have to try that, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  4. Absolutely refreshing…Have you tried the ice cream version? it’s really good also. 🙂

  5. Carlie Chew

    Yummm, I love Horchata!!! I’ll have to try and make this, now I just need to find some Tiger Nuts : )

    • Best of luck – I had to go all the way to Spain to get them in the end! But I’m sure they are online, otherwise you can try something using almonds. Not authentic, but it should still taste good.

      • Maddi

        Hey, please can you tell me where abouts in Valencia you get these? And do they have lots of farms that produce them? I’m going soon and would love to try them! Thanks

        • Hi Maddi – that’s great that you’ve going, you’ll love it!

          There are lots of places selling the buns and the drink, but one of the more famous ones is Iglesia y Torre de Santa Catalina in the corner of Plaça de la Reina.

          So…the nuts. Now, I’m relying on my memory here, but I think you can buy them at the Mercat Central, which has lots of little stands – fresh vegetables and fruit, meats, fish and there are some selling dried fruit, spices and nuts. One of those places was selling tiger nuts (chufas) so try there. Otherwise ask someone, maybe in a horchata bar! Good luck – hope you have a great trip.

          Also, keep an eye out for Agua de Valencia – it’s fresh orange juice, gin, simple syrup and cava. Delicious but lethal!

  6. Keren

    I just returned from Ibiza and Madrid in Spain where I was drinking Horchata daily! My lactose intolerant friends were also happy to have such a refreshing and thick drink sans dairy!


    • Hi Keren – I know what you mean – it’s a rich drink, but not heavy as there is no dairy in in, which is perfect when it’s really hot outside. Hope you enjoyed the trip

  7. You take amazing food photography! 🙂 What equipment do you use?


  8. Catskye

    Reblogged this on Catskye's Blog and commented:
    You’ve made dining even more beautiful.

  9. Wonderful post! I absolutely love horchata de chufa. The first time I had the drink was at the Boqueria Market in Barcelona – your post reminded me I need to try to make the recipe!

  10. holy yum! as soon as i get my paws on some tiger nuts, this is getting made — thanks for sharing! xo

  11. I like the idea of the Christmas version and putting it in the ice cream maker….maybe even add a dash of coffee to the mix. Thanks for Sharing.
    You Matter! Smiles, Nancy

  12. Yum! I already make my own nut milk, but what a brilliant idea to push it over the edge with some spices. Delish.

  13. Mmm, sounds delicious! Maybe I’ll have a go at making it. I’ve been in Spain for over a year and have yet to try horchata, but this is seriously tempting me.

  14. We had it first time in Barcelona, when Couchsurfing there with the kids. – Everyone loved it!
    Here, in Germany, you can buy ground Tigernut (called here “Erd-Mandel” flour) in organic shops and stores for health and nutrition supplies. Makes the process one step easier!

  15. Becky

    Yum! Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to try this out 🙂

  16. OMG I LOVE LOVE LOVE horchata! It’s the perfect summer-time drink……sweet, cinnamon-y, thirst quenching!

  17. Going to try this very very soon.. Sounds like a really good summer drink!


  18. Looove reading about ingredients I’ve never come across before. Tiger nuts, definitely new one on me! 🙂

  19. I love this! I am a bug fan of horchata, whether the Mexican one with rice kr the Valencian one with tigernuts. A local Spanish deli even sells ‘cafe con horchata’ over ice – a good alternative to iced latte if you ask me.

    I was at a wedding in Valencia recently and came home the proud owner of a bag of chufas, but I am embarassed to admit they had been sitting in my cupboard since – this post has given me new motivation to try out homemade horchata with tigernut (made even easier after my dad bought me a nutmilk bag which I have been using for homemade almond milk).

    Interestingly enough, tigernuts (including tigernutbutter, like almond butter just sandier and with more of a vanilla flavour) are surprisingly easy to come by in German healthfood stores, always wondered why.

    All the best


  20. The Yogic Housewife

    Yum! Love the sound of agua de Valencia! The gin would give it a kick. Though cant go past sangria with campari….Now might have to get my mother in law searching for tiger nuts in Madrid next week….

  21. Thank you for the post! Now I know what the mysterious liquid is in the huge container every time I go to my favorite Mercado! Now I just have to be brave enough to try it!

  22. Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand

    First of all the Feast of the Left Arm of St Vincent….who knew? I really enjoy paying a visit to your blog because I always pick up little snippets of information! I’ve also never come across tiger nuts before. It’s amazing when soaked in water it produces the milky appearance. I had to look twice at the ingredients as I was sure I was going to find milk or cream!
    A lovely recipe with wonderful photography 🙂

  23. Hi, I came across your blog while searching for a recipe for ‘Horchata de Chufa’.

    My Mum is from Sueca, a small agricultural village in Valencia, where she still has a place in a little known resort called ‘Las Palmeras’. We would spend entire Summers here when we were growing up. Most afternoons Mum would send one of us down to the ‘Horchateria’ with a big blue plastic jug to have it filled with ‘Horchata Granizada’ which is the frozen version of the drink and yes the ubiquitous bag of ‘Fartons’ to dip into it.
    The embarrassment of having to ask for those sweet doughy bread sticks by name still haunts me, but the pleasure of seeing my Mother and Grandmother (Yaya) enjoying their favourite afternoon indulgence together remains a fabulously nostalgic memory.

    I too adore Horchata de Chufas, thankyou for the lovely recipe, I hope to get a chance to try it sometime and surprise Mum!

  24. Frances antoinette

    Whether in Valencia or Mexico…Horchata is a great refreshing drink!

  25. I have always been a massive fan of this drink. I set up a brand of horchata de chufa in the UK and got it into supermarkets and even onto television. Please have a look at my website. Welcome your thoughts.

  26. I love horchata!!! It’s really fresh in hot days in summer!! I like it nigh frozen! It’s a perfect dessert in the beach or in a picnic too.

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