Lunchbox Horchata Cookies

When I think back on all those first days of school, I, of course, remember them from my perspective:

Praying to the Homeroom Gods that I would get the best teacher assignment;
Packing away my sticker and Sweet Valley High book collections, knowing they would be gathering dust while I spent nine months doing stupid stuff like studying and learning;
Buffing my Trapper Keeper to a Bat-Signal-bright sheen;
And selecting just the right outfit to make just the right impression on that first, fortuitous day.

But, in retrospect, things must have been pretty rough for my Mom and Dad as well.

My brother, sister and I tended to want to eat regularly, and I’m sure keeping growing bodies in nutrition and energy requires a more sophisticated strategy than simply throwing some Flintstone vitamins into the morning’s pancake batter.

Plus there’s the matter of keeping up with food trends and what we would inevitably see our friends bringing to school lunch that we would then have to have for our own the next day, along with the question of what to prepare for the near-holy after-school snack. And dinner! Sakes alive, don’t forget dinner!

All that without having the benefit of hitting up the Interwebz for ideas. Talk about walking uphill to school both ways in the wintertime – that must have been rough.

I thought about this while I was preparing these cookies. I think that when I have little tots of my own to feed and lunchboxes to fill, I will try these cookies out on those little taste buds.

They’re sweet, so they’re already in the door.
The horchata meal gives them a nice crunch so they’re satisfying.
And they include blanched almonds, rice, and sesame seeds so they do a growing body good.

Plus they’re not your average lunchbox cookie so you may score some extra bonus points for that.

And let’s face it:  the worst case scenario is that your son or daughter turns up their nose, running into the warm embrace or some horrific concoction like a quadruple-stuffed, deep fried, sprinkle-crusted Oreo and leaves these lovely, satisfying cookies for you to enjoy.

That’s not such a bad thing, is it?

Meanwhile, little learning ones probably don’t need to know that you were feasting on a quadruple-stuffed, deep fried, sprinkle-crusted Oreo or two yourself while waiting at the bus stop. You were just doing your parental duty in keeping them out of those little hands. Right?

Lunchbox Horchata Cookies

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. white sugar, granulated
3 large eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. long-grain rice, cooked
1 c. almonds, slivered, blanched
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. canela, ground (ground cinnamon may be substituted)
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar for finishing (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place rice in a heavy-bottomed dry skillet over a medium flame and toast for 4-5 minutes or until the grains have begun to turn a light golden brown. Remove from heat and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Place the sesame seeds and almond slivers in the same pan and toast for 3-4 minutes, tossing frequently. Remove toasted nuts and seeds from heat and place into the bowl of the food processor with the rice. Process together for just 15 seconds – you’re looking to form a chunky, homogeneous meal and this should take just 15-20 seconds of processing. Set the finished meal aside to finish cooling.

Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and continue to paddle. Slowly add in the flour, salt and baking soda, mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl just until you have a homogeneous dough. Fold in the horchata meal.

I recommend using a self-ejecting two-tablespoon scoop to portion this dough out. These cookies will spread quite a bit while baking – using a two-tablespoon scoop ensures that your cookies will be uniform and not over-sized. The self-ejecting part just makes your life easier. Scoop the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 6 cookies to a sheet, again because they will spread a bit while baking. Bake for just 14-15 minutes. Finished cookies will be spread and pale on top and just starting to turn golden at the edges. Remove to a cooling rack.

Once the cookies have cooled slightly, use a fine meshed sieve to dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar. Store in a covered container for up to 1 week.

YIELD:  approximately 24-26 cookies


  1. 16

    Theresa Nicholson says

    Wow, these are amazeballs delicious! I made them (double batch) and cooked my rice in almond milk for added flavor. They turned out great!!! Thanks for the recipe. ;)

  2. 14

    samantha zhang says

    hi! i have a question– you say 1 cup of rice–cooked… so is that 1 cup of cooked rice, or is that 1 cup of non cooked rice, then cooked? because it expands right? haha. sorry if my question is dumb!

    • Meagan says

      Not a dumb question at all, Samantha! In this recipe I mean for you to use one cup of cooked rice, so you’ll be measuring out one cup AFTER the rice has been cooked. And with regard to your question about making the dough in advance, I absolutely think you could. Just be sure to seal the dough tightly and note that you may need to add just a few minutes to the baking time. I hope this helps! Let me know how they turn out!

  3. 12

    Connie says

    So is the rice actually boiled ahead of time (cooked) or do you mean the
    browning process you describe?
    Thanks for the clarification!

    • Meagan says

      The rice is actually twice-cooked for these cookies: you’ll boil it ahead of time and then once you’ve cooked the grains you’ll dry toast them in a pan. The result is soft, slightly crispy grains of rice that have a little bit of a nutty taste and are easy to process into the meal that’s then incorporated into the cookie. It sounds weird I know, but the texture of the finished cookie is totally worth it. I hope this helps!

  4. 10


    What an original idea! I’ve been wondering how I could incorporate the flavor of Horchata into a cupcake and your cookie recipe has inspired me to give it a try.

    • Meagan says

      Cupcakes are a great idea! Throw the meal in the batter, frost with a cinnamon or vanilla buttercream, and top with a sprinkling of more meal.

  5. 4


    These look like a fantastic lunchbox treat! You toast cooked or uncooked rice? The ingredients say cooked, but it seems like uncooked would be easier to toast and grind.

    Did you come up with this recipe? I’m impressed. I never would have thought to turn hochata into cookies and I’m so glad you did! :)

    • Meagan says

      Cooked! Traditional horchata is made with rice flour, but I like the texture that whole grains of rice lend so I often make my horchata with whole rice. That said, I opted for cooked rice here because, even if you grind it really fine, I don’t think that pieces of uncooked rice would be good for tiny people’s growing teeth.

      I did write this recipe – unless otherwise noted, all of my recipes are originals that I write myself.

    • Meagan says

      I eat a lot of it. Just kidding. We are lucky to have an extremely rich Mexican culinary culture here in southern Arizona so I have opportunities to learn at almost every corner, market, and local farm. I talk to a lot of people, do a lot of research, and experiment constantly. And I really do eat a lot of Mexican and Tex-Mex food – occupational hazard.

  6. 2


    Trapper Keepers, Sweet Valley Twins books and Sticker Books!!! This was my childhood add in Lisa Frank Stickers, Judy Blume books……and of course these cookies and I am in Heaven!

  7. 1


    Me thinks I’ll make these..especially as my 7 yr old just looked at the screen and went “Whoa, what ARE theyyyyy” Maybe I’ll give her a quarter or a half and secretly store the rest for my lunch box, Muhahahahaha!

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