What Are Mochi?
Mochi are Japanese rice cakes made from glutinous rice, also known as polished sticky rice. Mochi have a chewy texture and can be sweet or savory—savory mochi are typically served with soy sauce. Mochi can also be filled or unfilled. Mochi with a filling are known as daifuku; popular fillings for these mochi dumplings include matcha green tea, anko (red bean paste), black sesame paste, and peanut butter. Mochi recipes sometimes incorporate other types of flour, such as kinako (roasted soybean flour), in the dough mixture.
Mochi is considered a celebratory food, served in the Japanese New Year soup ozoni and in kagami mochi (mirror cakes). During sakura (cherry blossom) season, anko-filled mochi are wrapped in cherry leaves. Around the world, regions with many Japanese immigrants have their own takes on mochi. Mochi ice cream—ice cream balls wrapped in mochi—were invented in Los Angeles during the 1990s. In Hawaii, butter mochi is a baked treat made with sweet rice flour and coconut milk.
How Are Mochi Made?
Traditional mochi-making starts with steaming mochitsuki, a Japanese variety of glutinous rice, and then pounding the cooked sticky rice into a smooth dough using a mortar and wooden mallet. Today, many types of mochi available year-round from Japanese grocery stores are made with glutinous rice flour instead of steamed rice (and are alternatively known as dango).
Sweet Japanese Mochi Recipe
Prep Time20 min
Total Time25 min
Cook Time5 min
- 1 cup sweet rice flour
- ⅓ cup sugar
- Potato starch, for dusting
- In a medium bowl, whisk sweet rice flour with 1⅓ cup water to form a smooth batter.
- Set a fine-mesh strainer over a microwave-safe bowl, and pour the rice flour mixture through the strainer, using the whisk or a rubber spatula or spoon to help push the mixture through the strainer.
- Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk to incorporate.
- Microwave the mixture on full power for 3 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to thoroughly mix.
- Return to the microwave and cook on full power for 2 more minutes.
- Remove the bowl and stir again. The dough should be smooth and shiny.
- Line a baking sheet or another work surface with parchment paper and generously dust with potato starch.
- Scrape the still-warm mochi dough onto the potato starch, and use a potato starch-dusted knife to cut the mochi into desired size.
- To make mochi balls, use your hands to gently shape the dough into rounds, being careful not to tear at the dough.
- Serve warm or chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Wrap excess rice dough in plastic wrap and use within 2 days.
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