Is Horchata Vegan?

Horchata is a term for a number of herbal milk drinks that have a nice taste and appearance. Many people know they’re typically made from vegetable milk.

Still, if you’ve been vegan for any length of time, you know that there are a number of ways that companies can slip animal-derived ingredients into otherwise vegan food items.

Is that vegan? The traditional recipe for Horchata is vegan. Nevertheless, like many food products, some horchata is vegan, and there are no other formulations. Traditional recipes call for plant milk (usually from tiger nuts), and many producers use milk (actual milk) products.

Why Most Horchata Is Considered Vegan

Modern Horchata is crafted from vegetable milk. Most of the Horchata is produced with something named tiger nuts — which are not nuts at all.

Cyperus esculentus or tiger nuts or chufa (among other names) is a plant that belongs to the sedge family and is common across the world.

I would believe that many US readers have not heard of it because it is found most abundantly in Africa and Madagascar, Southern Europe, as well as in the Indian and Middle East subcontinents.

Again, they are not really nuts, but rather more like small edible tufts. These are about the size of a garbanzo bean (chickpea) but also have a saggy surface and chewy texture.

Usually, the taste is described as sweet and nutty.

Unlike almonds and cashew nuts, many of the substances found in the plant food are capable of escaping into the water, making them ideal for the production of plant milk.

Tiger nuts aren’t the only plant food used to create horchata milk. Rice is quite popular, particularly in ultra-processed drink mixtures.

If rice milk is used, it is called “Horchata de Arroz.” The form of rice milk also contains vanilla and canella or cinnamon. Most Horchata uses tiger nuts and rice.

Semilla de jicaro, for instance, is a common form of Horchata in some Central American countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica.

In such countries, Horchata corresponds to the beverage semilla de jicaro, which is made from jicaro seeds ground with rice and spices such as chocolate, sesame seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, tiger nuts, and vanilla.

Non-Vegan Horchata

The above applies to most of the Horchata, but keep in mind that food producers just love to throw in milk whenever they get a chance.

It seems that way, at least.

The food industry uses individual milk ingredients for some reasons in processed foods.

So, just because it isn’t milk-based, it doesn’t mean that you won’t find milk in the list of ingredients. For instance, it is quite common for milk proteins to be added as they boost the nutritional value.

Caseinates (a milk protein) helps to stabilize and emulsify ingredients, whereas whey (another major milk protein) helps with texture and gelling.

Often, lactose, the natural sugar found in milk, tends to give a sweet tang that adds to the taste.

Milk is therefore used in processed foods such as Horchata and other beverages to improve protein content, moisture, foaming, flavor, texture, and nutrition.

Occasionally Horchata de ajonjolí (Horchata with ground sesame seeds) calls for evaporated milk.

As an example of milk present in commercial Horchata, FrOzen Bean Horchata Drink Mix includes a non-dairy creamer, but a creamer (mostly made from co-cream).

It also includes non-fat dry milk, so I am not sure why they were using an anti-dairy creamer.

A further example is the Klass Powdered Hortchata Drink Mix, which includes the normal ingredients (rice flour, dextrose, sugar, maltodextrin, vegetable oils, thickeners, etc.) and skimmed milk powder.

Commercial Vegan Horchata

Mercader Horchata

This one isn’t a combination of drinks but actually comes pre-made.

It contains water, tiger nuts, sugar, emulsifier (mono-/diglyceride citric acid esters of fatty acids— a spoonful, I understand!)*, modified food starch, acidity regulators (trisodium citrate and sodium tripolyphosphate), natural lemon and cinnamon flavorings, and shock absorbers (carrageenan and gellan gum).

You may have found mono-and diglycerides in the ingredients. Mono-and diglycerides are, and at least used to be, controversial in the vegan community.

Such as the milk proteins listed above, they are used to emulsify and stabilize ingredients.

Several vegans want to avoid additives because they want to (and sometimes are) be extracted from animals.

Prefer palm oil, the presence of mono-and diglycerides does not make a food product non-vegan by most standards because they are typically plant-derived, and there is really no way to know when they come from plants and when they are not — unless the label says “plant glycerides.”

But if you want to be extra careful, you might want to avoid mono-and diglycerides.

This is about the vegan status of the Horchata.

Thank you so much for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:


  1. Sánchez‐Zapata, Elena; Fernández‐López, Juana; Pérez‐Alvarez, José Angel (2012-07-01). “Tiger Nut (Cyperus esculentus) Commercialization: Health Aspects, Composition, Properties, and Food Applications.” Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 11 (4): 366–377.
  2. World Checklist Of Selected Plant Families (wcsp)
  3. “Biota of North America Program, 2013 county distribution map”
  4. Altervista Flora Italiana, Zigolo dolce, Yellow Nutsedge, Cyperus esculentus L.
  5. Flora of China, Vol. 23 Page 232 油莎草 you suo cao Cyperus esculentus Linnaeus var. sativus Boeckeler, Linnaea. 36: 290. 1870.
  6. Goldstein, Darra (4 July 2018). “The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets”. Oxford University Press.
  7. Horchata De Arroz Tostado (toasted Rice Drink) Recipe.
  8. Horchata De Arroz Con Almendras (almond-rice Drink) Recipe.
  9. Horchata.
  10. Chandan R. Dairy-Based Ingredients. Eagen Press, 1997.
  11. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 431). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
  12. Horchata.
  13. Frozen Bean Drink Mix, Horchata, 2.8 Oz, 1 Count. Ksan –
  14. Klass Powdered Drink Mix, Horchata.
  15. Shop Horchata De Chufa from Valencia Online: La Tienda.
  16. Monoglyceride.
  17. Diglyceride.
  18. Sonntag, Norman O. V. (1982). “Glycerolysis of fats and methyl esters — Status, review and critique”. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 59 (10): 795A–802A.


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