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My Family’s 100-Year-Old Venezuelan Chicha Recipe Is Cinnamon-Spiced Comfort in a Cup

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You only need five ingredients to make this delicious drink, and it’s just as perfect when served warm as it is ice-cold.

Growing up, I would spend most summers visiting my extended family in Caracas, Venezuela, which meant good times filled with laughter, joy, and tons of delicious food. One particularly fond (core) memory I have is making chicha, a sweet, rice-based beverage similar to Mexican horchata, with my grandmother while she reminisced about her wilder younger days.

Now, as an adult, I’ve scoured through every family group chat and recipe box, and I’ve finally resurfaced our go-to family chicha recipe that’s equally as hydrating as it is comforting. A sip of it, and I’m instantly transported back to my grandmother’s no-AC apartment overlooking the beautiful mountainous hillsides of the capital city. Discover how to make this delicious Venezuelan drink ahead—plus, how to easily make your own vegan version with just a few minor modifications.

What is Venezuelan chicha?

Perhaps one of the most popular Venezuelan drinks (aside from Frescolita, IYKYK), chicha is a rice-based drink that’s traditionally made by soaking rice in water that’s then flavored with a mixture of condensed milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. The result is refreshing, creamy, sweet, spicy bliss. (Think: A no-egg version of eggnog that’s slightly looser in consistency and isn’t synonymous with just the holiday season.)

Chicha is popular year-round in Venezuela, as it pairs perfectly with just about any local dish, like cachapas, arepas, or empanadas. And while you can find chicha just about anywhere you go in Venezuela (restaurants, supermarkets, a friend’s house, my reusable water bottle…), you might also come across chicheros, which are street vendors that sell fresh-made batches of chicha to locals.

What’s also important to note about this drink is that much like any abuela’s top-secret recipe, each family tends to have a slightly different variation of how to make it. As such, I’m sharing two ways of making chicha: My family’s version (because we don’t gatekeep around here) and chef Jesus Diaz’s, the author of the Venezuelan-inspired cookbook Cocina Delicioso con Chef Yisus

To that end: I’ll disclose that perhaps Diaz’s version is the more traditional approach, while my family’s version always hits the spot for me, at least (but maybe I’m just biased). Plus, it takes a fraction of the time to prepare it. Of course, you can be the ultimate judge.

@ajacarlitos ¿Sabes como hacer la chicha tradicional de arroz venezolana? 
Dime de que está hecha la chicha de tu país. 📌Ingredientes: – 1 taza de arroz – 6 tazas de agua – 400 gr leche condensada – 2 tazas de leche – 1 rama de canela – 1/2 cdta de sal – Canela molida – Mucho hielo #receta #fyp #recetasfaciles #recetasrapidas #ajacarlitos #colombia #usa #mexico #cocina #antojo #viernes #marzo #comida #rapido #facil ♬ TQG – KAROL G & Shakira

How to make chicha (my family’s way)

I’ll reiterate it may not be traditional, but it sure is tasty—and between us, it’s much easier to make. First things first: You’ll start by combining six cups of water, four tablespoons of cream of rice (it’s gluten-free!), and a pinch of salt in a large pot and carefully bring the mixture to a slight boil while stirring constantly to prevent it from overflowing. At this point, you can add a cinnamon stick and a few cloves for added flavor, but it’s optional.

Once the mixture thickens, allow it to cool completely, and using a cheesecloth, you’ll strain the mixture, reserving the liquid that comes through. Then, in a blender, combine the reserved rice liquid, four tablespoons of milk powder (or vegan milk powder), six tablespoons (or to taste) of sweetened condensed milk (or vegan sweetened condensed milk), a teaspoon of good-quality vanilla extract, and one tablespoon (or to taste) of ground cinnamon, and blend until smooth.

And there you have it: A homemade batch of chicha that’s ready in under 20 minutes. BTW, the drink should be served cold (or over ice) and garnished with an additional sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

Venezuelan chicha chef jesus
Photo: Cocina Delicioso con Chef Yisus

How to make chicha (the more traditional approach)

As I mentioned, although delicious, my family’s recipe might not be the most traditional. As such, I’m also including Diaz’s chicha recipe, which involves cooking the rice from scratch. First, you’ll want to rinse one cup of rice until the water runs clear. Then, you’ll want to soak the rice in two cups of water for a few hours, along with a cinnamon stick. Once it’s soaked, you’ll transfer the rice to a pot, cover it with five cups of water, and cook the mixture until the rice is soft and creamy (about 40 minutes).

Once the rice is cooked, you’ll remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly before transferring it to a blender, along with one can of condensed milk, one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and one cup of milk, and blend until smooth. To serve, garnish with ground cinnamon or a bit more condensed milk. It’s simply delicioso.

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