How many calories are in a large cup of horchata?

Horchata is a sweet, creamy drink made from ground rice or almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s popular in Latin American countries and the southern United States. A large cup of horchata can contain a significant number of calories, depending on how it’s made.

What Is Horchata?

Horchata originated in Spain but is now popular in Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern United States. The name comes from the Spanish word “orxata,” derived from “horchata,” an old Valencian word referring to a sweet medicinal drink.

Traditional Spanish horchata is made from chufa nuts (also called earth almonds or tiger nuts). Mexican and Central American horchata is more commonly made from rice. Rice horchata contains ground white rice, cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and sometimes lime juice or milk.

The rice is soaked overnight and then blended with water until smooth. Spices, sugar, and other ingredients are added for flavor. The result is a refreshing, creamy drink that is smooth yet grainy from the rice.

Horchata can be served cold over ice or at room temperature. It’s sweet but not overly sugary, with subtle spiced notes from the cinnamon. Rice horchata has a distinct milky appearance from the starch released during rice grinding.

Nutritional Value of Horchata

The exact nutritional value of horchata can vary considerably based on the ingredients and proportions used. For example, horchata made with milk will be higher in calories and fat thanversions made with only water.

However, most horchata recipes contain roughly the following per 1 cup serving:

  • Calories: 130-180
  • Total fat: 2-5 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0-2 grams
  • Total carbohydrates: 30-40 grams
  • Sugars: 20-30 grams
  • Protein: 2-4 grams

Since horchata is made from rice and often contains added sugars like cane sugar or sweetened condensed milk, the carbohydrate content is quite high. A 1 cup serving can contain up to 40 grams of carbs, most of which come from sugars.

Horchata is also relatively low in protein and does not provide significant amounts of vitamins or minerals. While the cinnamon provides traces of nutrients like calcium and iron, horchata should not be considered a highly nutritious beverage.

Calories in a Large Cup of Horchata

Standard horchata recipes call for a ratio of 1 cup uncooked rice to 4-6 cups of water. This makes enough horchata for 4-6 servings of around 1 cup each.

So how many calories are in a large 16-20 oz cup of horchata? Let’s do the math:

  • 1 cup horchata = 130 calories (on average)
  • Large 20 oz cup = ~1.5 cups
  • 1.5 cups x 130 calories/cup = 195 calories

A large 16-20 ounce cup of horchata made with water and no milk will contain around 195 calories. This is the calories in horchata made from a traditional recipe. Of course, the specific calories can range higher or lower depending on factors like:

  • Added milk – Adds calories and fat
  • More added sugar – Increases calorie count
  • Served over ice – Dilutes it slightly to lower calories
  • Made with larger rice-to-water ratio – Less concentrated so fewer calories per cup

Homemade horchata can also vary in its calorie density. But for a standard large cup size from a restaurant or food stand, you can expect a calorie count right around 195 calories.

Comparing Calories to Other Drinks

How do the calories in a large cup of horchata compare to other common drinks?

Drink Calories (16-20 oz)
Horchata (traditional recipe) 195 calories
Soda (Coke, Pepsi) 200-250 calories
Sweet tea 180-200 calories
Orange juice 210-250 calories
Coffee drinks (lattes, frozen blended) 250-400 calories
Milkshakes 500-800 calories

Horchata is moderately high in calories compared to other non-alcoholic beverages. It contains more calories per ounce than iced tea or coffee drinks, but less than soda, juice, or milkshakes.

It’s important to note the serving size too. Many coffee shops serve 12 oz “small” drinks, while horchata is often sold in 16 oz or even 20 oz portions. Check the serving size to get an accurate idea of calories in one cup.

Tips for Lightening Up Horchata

There are a few easy ways to reduce the calories in a cup of horchata if you’re looking to lighten it up:

  • Use less rice: Cut back to around 3/4 cup of rice per 4 cups of water.
  • Skip the milk: Avoid adding any milk, sweetened condensed or evaporated milk.
  • Reduce sugar: Cut added sugar to 1/4 cup or less.
  • Boost cinnamon: Extra cinnamon provides flavor with no calories and balances sweetness.
  • Water it down: Add some ice or extra water to dilute it down.
  • Limit portion: Stick to a 12 oz serving size rather than 16-20 ounces.

With modifications like these, you can bring the calorie count down to 100 or fewer calories per serving.

Should You Drink Horchata on a Diet?

If you’re closely watching calories for weight loss, horchata may not be the best choice since a full cup is roughly 200 calories. However, it can be worked into a reduced calorie diet in moderation.

Some tips for enjoying horchata on a diet include:

  • Stick to smallest size available, usually 12 oz
  • Skip sugary add-ins like whipped cream
  • Ask for light or no added sugar
  • Treat it like a dessert rather than a drink with meals
  • Balance it out by cutting calories elsewhere in your day
  • Drink water alongside it to help fill up

While horchata won’t help with weight loss, the occasional small serving can add sweetness and flavor to your diet when balanced with an overall healthy eating pattern.

The Bottom Line

A large, 16-20 ounce cup of traditionally made horchata contains approximately 200 calories. This Mexican drink packs a fairly high calorie punch due to its carb- and sugar-rich ingredients of rice, sugar, and cinnamon.

Horchata lovers can adapt the recipe to be lower in calories by decreasing the rice and sugar. But in its original form, a cup of this creamy chilled beverage will provide a significant amount of your daily calorie intake.

Enjoy horchata in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet, and stick to small sizes to keep calories in check.

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