Aqua Fresca for summer hydration

Hot days call for serious hydration.  Other than plain water, my new favorite solution is aqua fresca, also known as Aquas de Fruitas.  It’s an icy blend of fresh fruit and ice cubes, although the traditional recipes may use flowers, cereal grains or seeds.  My preference is fruit.

The beauty of aqua fresca is that you use raw fresh fruit, so you get all the nutritional value of the fruit: vitamin C, potassium, other vitamins and minerals.  It’s low fat, low sodium and also low calorie.  Another benefit: high water content, so it’s filling.  And low to modest calorie for the volume.

Many fruits will work well for this recipe; some not so much.  My all time favorite, and the easiest to make, is with watermelon.  The high water content means it blends up into a very smooth drink.  Some other fruits will give the drink a thicker texture.  The key is juicy ripe fresh fruit with high water content.

  • watermelon
  • very ripe honeydew or cantaloupe melon
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • very ripe juicy peaches or nectarines
  • very ripe papaya

Some fruits just won’t work well.  Here are some I won’t use, although you certainly could experiment:

  • bananas: too thick
  • apples or pears: too chunky
  • grapes or blueberries: skins will be a problem
  • plums or apricots: stringy bits
  • pineapple: same
  • blackberries: too many seeds
  • oranges or other citrus: too pulpy and stringy

Here’s a very basic recipe, which you can adjust for taste.  The goal is not some syrupy sugary sweet drink, but a light cold refreshing drink.  There’s a dash of sugar, not much.  Here’s the method to make one large glass of watermelon aqua fresca:

  1. Put 1 cup ice cubes in a blender (crushed ice is helpful, ice-maker ice is OK, not large cubes)
  2. Add 1-1/2 cups watermelon cubes, juice from 1/2 lime and 1 tsp sugar.
  3. Blend until quite smooth, according to your preference.  You can leave some icy bits for crunch.
  4. You’ll have 16+ oz of beverage with a modest 75-ish calories.  Enough for 2 people.  Very filling and refreshing.

The lime juice is key.  It gives the drink a little tart zing, plus a bit of vitamin C.  The sugar mellows it out.

In general, the ratio is 1 cup ice to 1-1/2 of fruit, but you can adjust according to your preferences.  More fruit will make it thicker.  Other good fruit combinations:

watermelon and strawberry

peach or nectarine and raspberry

If you do want an orange, tangerine or pineapple flavor, make some ice cubes with juice from those fruits and include those in the mix, substituting about 1/2 of the cubes as juice cubes.  This will make the flavor more intense.

I tried a cucumber variation, using 1/2 cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped, and added 2 TB roughly chopped fresh mint leaves.  I wasn’t thrilled with the results, but I’ll try to adjust the recipe next time.  Cucumbers may need more ice to work well, and also more sugar.  I’m looking forward to garden cucumbers for more experiments later this summer, perhaps combined with basil next time.

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