This Mexican Sweet Rice Drink (Atole de Arroz) is a creamy cinnamon and vanilla-infused hot beverage with a porridge-like consistency that’s perfect cold weather days.
Atole or atol, as it is known in some Central American countries, is a traditional hot beverage that is especially enjoyed during holidays in Mexico. The original version is made with corn masa, water or milk, raw cane sugar, and sometimes certain flavorings like cinnamon or vanilla. Other kinds of atole are made with nuts, seeds, oats, and even puréed fruits. This rice version is very simple to make, requires minimal ingredients, and is a thick and creamy vegan hot drink for cold days. Serve it for breakfast or as dessert. Here I served it with a slice of homemade pan de canela (cinnamon bread).
I love this recipe because it reminds me very much of a favorite of mine called sahlab, a similar Middle Eastern hot and creamy beverage. This atole differs in that it has an interesting texture from the blended rice. You can choose to sip it or, instead, eat it with a spoon. The flavorings are up to you but in the recipe below I include cinnamon and vanilla. I went a little crazy and bought a LOT (way too many!) of Mexican vanilla beans on my last trip to Mexico and I’ve been trying to use them in different recipes. The provenance of this atole makes for the perfect opportunity. You can substitute or supplement these two with other flavorings like a few pieces of lemon or orange rind, a sprig of lemon verbena, a stalk of lemongrass, a few lemon leaves, or even some chopped chocolate or cocoa powder.
- 4 cups nondairy milk (soy milk or homemade almond milk)
- 2 sticks cinnamon (or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon or both)
- 1 vanilla bean, split (or 1¼ teaspoon vanilla extract or both)
- 4-5 Tablespoons raw sugar (or coconut sugar or plain white sugar)
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup rice
- 2 cups water
- Add the nondairy milk, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean, sugar, and salt to a large pot over medium-high heat and bring it to a simmer. Turn off the heat.
- Rinse the rice a few times, then drain and put it into the blender with the water. Blend on high until the rice is broken down into the texture of coarse sand (around 1 minute blend). Make sure there aren't any large or whole pieces of rice stuck to the side of the blender jar. You want a uniform consistency.
- Add the blended rice to the simmered milk and turn the heat back on to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring frequently. Once bubbles start to break the surface and the mixture has thickened, reduce heat to low. Cook the mixture on low for 10-12 minutes while stirring frequently.
- The rice should now be cooked. Take a taste to ensure that the little bits of rice are completely soft. Remove from the heat and now add the ground cinnamon or vanilla extract (if you're using them). Serve while hot in cups or mugs with a spoon on the side and a garnish of cinnamon on top.
-I like it with 4-5 Tablespoons of sugar but if you like it sweeter, go ahead and add more sugar after you've taste-tested the doneness of the rice.