1–1/2 cups medium- or long-grain white rice, cooked soft
3–1/2 cups water (or more, to taste)
1 can evaporated milk or 8 ounces fresh whole milk or dairy substitute
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
ground nutmeg or cinnamon to dust over served horchata (optional)
Heat the evaporated milk with the vanilla beans, if using, in a medium saucepan. Allow to cool. Remove beans and reserve for another use.
Combine the rice, water, and sugar in a blender, and blend on high speed for several minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. You may need to do this in a few batches.
Strain through a fine sieve (use cheese cloth if you don’t have a good sieve) into a pitcher and add evaporated milk with the beans removed, then scrape some of the vanilla seeds into the Horchata. (Rinse the beans well and dry them for using a second time.) If using extract, add now. Taste, and adjust sweetness to taste.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve plain or over ice. Use a vanilla bean as a swizzle stick and dust with nutmeg or cinnamon if desired.
Variation: As many people are lactose intolerant, I have made Horchata using both soy and coconut milk instead of the evaporated milk. It’s delicious! Simply use a little more of the dairy substitute and cut the water proportionately.