Sweet Rice Punch (Sikhye 식혜)

sikhye (식혜 Korean sweet rice punch)-c

sikhye (식혜 Korean sweet rice punch)

During New Year’s, as part of tradition, our family visited many elderly relatives to pay our respects (세배 saebae). I didn’t particularly enjoy every visit (kind of boring to sit thru adults conversation.. 😉 ) but what I always looked forward to was eating the traditional Korean snacks and drinks that was served at each home.

Back then (late 60’s, early 70’s), in almost every home, Korean moms made at least one of two (if not both) drinks at home for the New Year holiday : Sikhye (or Shikhye 식혜) or Soojeongkwa (수정과). And along with these drinks, sweets like yakwa and hankwa was offered. I LOVED the sweet taste of sikhye, especially the soft, melt in your mouth rice that came floating in the drink. As for Soojeongkwa – I never found it yummy. Because I never liked the hot spicy taste of cinnamon and ginger together. There is usually so much of both, I felt my mouth was on fire!!!

Anyway, sadly, like many things these days, it is hard to find real home made shikhye anymore. If you ever tasted the canned sikhye/shikhye that is available in most Korean markets worldwide – I am so sorry… that is really NOT anything close to what the real one tastes like. The canned sikhye is nothing but sugar water. The real sikhye flavors are just not there…sad, sad..

I will show you how you make it the traditional way (well, semi-traditional :) since we do use the modern gadget called the “rice cooker”).  BTW, the milled malt barley used here is the same malt used to make beer and bread. However, when a non-Korean malt barley is used, for some reason, it does not always produce the same effect. Perhaps it’s milled differently or not enough of the needed ingredients are in there.

Servings: 10 cups          Cooking Time: 6~7 hrs           Difficulty: Mod (Difficult if you want rice to float when served)


  • 2 1/2 cup yeotkireum (엿기름) or milled malt barley
  • 10 cup water
  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 3/4 ~ 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • pine nuts/dried jujubes/citron syrup/mint leaves (optional)


  1. Soak the crushed milled malt barley (yeotkireum 엿기름) in 10 C of warm water for 1 hour. While soaking, massage the malt barley with your hand 2-3 times so that all the good stuff gets loose from the husk.
    malted barley in water for sikhye

    malted barley in water for sikhye

    *In the summer, be careful not to use too warm a water because it can actually spoil during the soaking process.

    malt soaked in warm water for 1 hr for sikhye

    malt soaked in warm water for 1 hr for sikhye

    * The little green sprigs are the sprouts from the barley.

  2. Strain malt barley water, making sure you squeeze out all the good stuff by hand in the strainer before throwing it away.

    strained malt barley

    strained malt barley

  3. Rest the strained malt water for 2~3 hrs and you will see white sediments accumulate at the bottom of the bowl.*For a clearer sikhye, let it rest 4~5 hrs.
  4. In the mean time, cook 1 cup of rice.  When cooking rice, use less water to produce a drier rice. The rice granules should easily separate when cooked and not stick together. The old traditional way is to steam the rice which produces the driest rice for sure but that’s a bit too much trouble..People also use leftover rice instead and it does an OK job – the result is just not as pretty.* And when the malt water looks something like below, you are ready to start the next step!

    malt barley liquid for sikhye

    malt barley liquid for sikhye

  5.  Add the top liquid part of the malt barley water to the rice cooker with the cooked rice already in it. Leave the white sediments in the bowl as much as possible.* You do not need to pour all the liquid into the rice cooker. It just needs to fully cover your rice. Keep any remaining liquid in the bowl and let it rest until the step 7.
  6. Keep the rice + malt barley liquid mixture warm ( use the ‘keep warm’ option) in the rice cooker for around 5 hrs or more until about 4~5 rice granules rise to the top like so –
    rice floating in rice cooker (sikhye)

    rice floating in rice cooker (sikhye)

    This means the amylase in the malt has been activated in the warm temperature and has transformed the starch in the rice into maltose making the rice lighter and therefore floating to the top.

    *If you don’t have a rice cooker, keep it at 120~140 ℉ (50 ~60 ℃) in a double boiler.

  7. Now, based on what you want, choose one of the following:
    1. IF (you want the rice to float when servedTHEN strain rice from liquid and rinse under running cold water and drain. Store in the fridge. Also be sure to use 1 cup sugar in step 8 to make the rice float.
    2. IF (all you care about is the taste) THEN leave the rice in the liquid
  8. Pour the liquid (and the rice, if you chose option 7.2) into a large pot and any remaining liquid from step 5, again making sure white sediments are not added.  Add sugar. Use 1 cup sugar if you like sweet desserts and also if you want the rice to float. Otherwise, start with 3/4 cup.
  9. Boil on medium heat for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam while it’s boiling.Taste the sweetness and adjust sugar to taste. Also remember that the drink will taste less sweet when served cold.

And now you have a fabulous sweet, flavorful Korean rice dessert drink for parties and guests. Kids will also love this drink!

Cool and store this wonderfully sweet and delicious sikhye or shikhye in the fridge.


  • Add couple pieces of sliced ginger to step 9 for additional flavor.

Serving suggestions

  • For the floating rice effect, add the separately stored rice to the drink right before serving. The rice will only float for couple minutes so time it right. If the malt drink is not sweet enough, the rice may not float. Add a tsp of sugar to the cup and mix right before adding the rice. That should do the trick but I do have to warn you, this part is really tricky. It doesn’t always work.. 😉
  • Traditionally, pine nuts, dried jujube sliced thinly are used as garnish.
  • You can also use little bit of yuzu syrup (유자차 yuja cha) to add a citrus finish before serving.
  • My recent favorite find – serve with some mint leaves and it adds a whole new level of freshness!
    Korean Sweet Rice Punch with mint (sikhye/shikhye 식혜)

    Korean Sweet Rice Punch with mint (sikhye/shikhye 식혜)

    Extra Stuff

  • Due to the amylase content of shikhye, it acts much like your saliva and helps with digestion. That’s why it is served as dessert after a full meal. So don’t forget to drink it when you feel like you are just too full!!
  • Through generations it has been known that shikhye has an effect on nursing mothers – it drys up breast milk. So, don’t drink shikhye if you are pregnant or nursing just as a precaution.
  • You can also use malt barley powder instead of the rough milled malt barley I used here. The good thing about this is that you don’t have to strain. But traditionally the rough milled malt is used and I think it has more flavor than the powder.

    malt barley for sikhye

    rought milled malt barley for sikhye


  1. soy says

    Instead of using the store bought barley malt, can I sprout (germinate) the barley and use it to make this drink. To make malted barley, you sprout the barley and then dry it. I was thinking of using freshly sprouted barley before the process of drying to make this drink, don’t know if this works. Can I substitute regular rice with sweet rice? Would that make the drink sweeter since sweet rice is sweeter?

    • says

      Yes, you can certainly sprout your own barley and dry it and then use it to make the drink. Sure you can use sweet rice instead of regular rice. Some people prefer sweet rice and say it tastes better. I don’t think it will actually make it sweeter though because what makes shikhye sweet is actually the germinate part and then mostly the sugar you add. :) Hope this helps!! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Ms Wong says

    Hi. I have some questions on making the sihkye. I am from Malaysia and could not find any malt flour / malt barley from the Korean shops. Can I use the barley flour (from the organic shop) as subsititute ? Do I have t mix with any other flours into the barley flour ?

    • says

      Hi! Malted barley flour is flour made from barley that was sprouted. It is not the same as just simple barley flour.We say flour because it is ground but please know that it is not a regular flour. You need the germination of the barely (malt) for it to produce the specific flavor of sikhye. If it helps, Malted barley is also used to make beer so maybe you can find it that way. And no, you don’t have to mix it with any other flour – malted barley is all you need. Hope that was helpful and thank you for asking!! Good luck!

  3. says

    hi there! I had came from a korean restaurant that served a cold drink after our meal. It was delicious. the owner said it was sikhye. I’m trying to find the recipe for it. It had a taste sort of similiar to pumpkin spice. Does this sikhye recipe taste a bit like that?

    • JinJoo says

      Hi! I think you must have tasted a pumpkin sikhye. Pumpkin sikhye is a recent trend..My sikhye recipe is the original version which does not have any pumpkin in it. But if you liked the pumpkin flavor, you can certainly add some cooked pumpkin to an already fermented sikhye and then blend it once more before the final cooking process. Use the orange pumpkin used for pumpkin pie. Or you can also probably use a canned pumpkin. Hope this helps. Thanks for asking!


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