Learn how to make agua fresca, a simple, refreshing, non-alcoholic blended drink of fruit, lime, and water. They're great for Cinco de Mayo and warm summertime fun!
Agua frescas, or "fresh waters" in Spanish, are light, refreshing, blended beverages that are typically popular in Mexico, Central America, and the United States. They're a hydrating, non-alcoholic drink that are typically made from blending fruit, grains, flowers, or seeds with sugar and lime juice. Agua frescas may make a fantastic way to stay cool and hydrated all summer long, but did you know agua frescas actually offer some fabulous health benefits, too?
Unlike juice, agua fresca blends the whole fruit with water and the beverage is enjoyed as is. No filtering or straining required means agua fresca retains all the fiber found in the fruit you use, which (depending on the type of fruit) can translate to a lower overall glycemic index of the beverage and a lesser impact on your blood sugar levels.
Agua fresca is also incredibly hydrating, not just from the water, but from the water content found in various fruits (and even vegetables, like cucumber), as well.
You also have some health benefits to your agua fresca with the specific types of fruit, seeds, grains, herbs, and more that you choose to use. It will vary based on the type of fruit you use, but many fruits contain Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folate, potassium, and various antioxidants and phytochemicals. Of course, if you have any medical conditions that require you to be cautious in your consumption of certain vitamins and nutrients, be sure to choose your fruits to meet your needs!
Now many agua fresca recipes include a bit of sugar in the recipe. If you choose to add a little sugar, that is totally up to you. A little goes a long way in a fruit-based beverage like agua fresca. However, I wanted to try make agua fresca without sugar, so I tested a couple variations.
I initially tried substituting a soaked medjool date in my agua fresca recipes to add some natural sweetness from dates, a fresh fruit. This is definitely a viable possibility if you're wanting a sweeter beverage but prefer to stick with fruit-based sweeteners. Note, though, that agua frescas made with dates aren't as pretty (they're a little less vibrant and slightly "murky"), and the consistency becomes a touch thicker.
I also tested agua fresca made with coconut water. Coconut water is very hydrating. It's 94% water, a source of electrolytes, and offers a subtle sweetness from its naturally occurring sugars (6 grams per 1 cup) that is also easy to digest. If you find you want your agua fresca a little sweeter and you don't want to add sugar or dates, try adding coconut water. My whole family and I really enjoyed the coconut water agua fresca variations. Coconut water agua frescas are incredibly refreshing, particularly with fruit flavors that lend well to a subtle coconut flavor!
At the end of the day, though? Simplicity wins. (I mean, of course, right? Y'all know I love real food, real simple!) Choosing beautifully fresh and ripe fruits pairs the best with water, lime, and sometimes some other fresh flavor add-ins (like herbs and ginger), no sugar required! Feel free to get creative, but check out some of my favorite agua fresca recipes for inspiration:
There's something so soothing and spa-like about pairing cucumbers with mint in this Cucumber Mint Agua Fresca! Be sure to peel your cucumber for a prettier color. Also? Coconut water works fantasically in this agua fresca recipe!
Keep it simple with this mango agua fresca! Lime and mango are a match made in heaven, and no sugar is required with a fresh mango bursting with sweetness! Pro tip: you can thaw frozen mango, too (they're frozen at the peak of freshness and taste amazing).
Strawberries are a great lower glycemic index choice, as they're full of fiber and natural sweetness. Pair with a bit of fresh ginger for a little zing that will keep each sip of this Strawberry Ginger Agua Fresca bright and refreshing!
Cantaloupe is beautifully sweet on its own, and its flavors pair well with the herby sweetness of basil in this light and simple Cantaloupe Basil Agua Fresca!
This seems a little untraditional, but I'm not sure why! One sip of this Grape Agua Fresca beauty will have you realizing grapes were made for agua frescas!
And of course, one of the more common fruits used in agua frescas: watermelon! Full of hydration and sweetness, a watermelon agua fresca is the perfect refresher on a hot summer day.
Agua frescas are fun beverages that can certainly be a part of a healthy diet! They also are a great, non-alcoholic festive beverage for family-friendly Cinco de Mayo celebrations, bridal showers, baby showers, and summertime picnics. If you make any of these agua fresca recipes, or if create your own, let me know what you think! Leave a comment (and rate the recipe!) below, and share a picture to social media (tag @nutritiontofit and #nutritiontofit).
How to Make Agua Fresca
- 1 cup fruit watermelon, strawberries, and cantaloupe work well
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lime juice juice from ½ a lime
- Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend on high for 60 seconds, or until all ingredients are fully pureed.