Mochi is the perfect accent to any meal. It’s commonly recognized as a dainty Japanese dessert that comes in various flavours to satiate any sweet tooth. However, it can also become a savoury snack with a few tweaks.
Traditionally, this delectable Asian sweet uses special short-grain rice called mochigome that’s soaked, steamed, and beaten into a dough. It’s reshaped into small buns and typically filled with something sweet, like red bean paste.
While the traditional version of this sticky treat might seem like a time-consuming affair, it’s well worth the investment. However, for those who cannot wait to sink their teeth into this dessert, there are some quicker, easier ways to replicate the taste sensation at home.
After a lot of research and experimentation, we discovered that it’s entirely possible to make daifuku mochi using a microwave or steamer. Read on to learn how you can do it too!
- What is mochi?
- Mochi Taste
- Daifuku vs. Mochi
- How is mochi made?
- Ingredients to make Mochi
- Make mochi without rice flour
- Daifuku with regular flour
- How to make mochi by steaming
- How to make mochi with a microwave
- Mochi from glutinous rice
- Mochi Daifuku Cooking Tips
- Daifuku Mochi Recipe (Microwave)
- Key takeaways
What is mochi?
Traditional mochi is a plain, glutinous rice cake that becomes daifuku when it’s filled with sweet red bean paste. These Japanese daifuku aren't naturally sweet but transform into dessert with the right filling. Some chefs will add fruits, matcha tea, and even ice cream inside their mochi.
The traditional Japanese mochi recipe might sound like it’s loaded with gluten, but it’s not. Despite its name, glutinous rice is actually gluten-free like all other rice.
These plain Japanese glutinous rice cakes are reminiscent of neutral-flavoured gummy snacks. The mochi dough tastes a little like marshmallows with subtle sweet and starchy undertones. While the rice bun doesn’t have much flavour on its own, the texture is what sets it apart and keeps people clamouring for more.
Of course, some experienced chefs successfully incorporate subtle flavours into the dough. Herbs work well in savoury variations, while sweeteners and matcha add a little pop to the sweet versions. However, most Asian desserts’ flavour comes from fillings, dips, and sauces.
Daifuku vs. Mochi
Daifuku will usually have a sweet filling while mochi can be plain with no filling. However, nowadays both types of glutinous rice cakes can come with some sort of filling. This is usually Anko, a sweet red bean paste.
This distinction is important because these rice cakes don’t always become desserts. Though much of the western world views them as dessert, in Japan, the popular rice cakes can easily become a savoury snack instead.
Another distinction is that mochi is usually smaller in size than daifuku. Mochi can also come in different shapes such as round balls to long and rectangular logs. On the other hand, daifuku is usually round as it will have some sort of filling inside.
How is mochi made?
Mochitsuki, the traditional method for making mochi dough, is a time-intensive process that doubles as a ritual ceremony. It takes skill, patience, and perseverance to craft the dough. Usually, a group of family members or friends work together to prepare it.
A traditional Japanese mochi recipe will begin with washing the rice and soaking it overnight. In the morning, the rice goes into a special basket over boiling water. The soft, steamed rice goes into a mortar where somebody kneads it into a hot dough. Then, the fun begins.
The pounding phase is crucial and takes at least two people working together. One person, the tsuki-te, uses a wooden mallet to pound the rice. The other person, the kaeshi-te, adds hot water and manipulates the dough so it doesn’t stick.
Mochi dough is heavy and hot to work with, but the team needs to work fast because it hardens as it cools. Plus, the pounding process can be dangerous, so it requires communication between the partners to avoid injury and churn out a smooth, consistent dough.
The final step in the process is shaping the dough. It’s dropped onto a lightly floured surface to make it easier to handle the sticky dough. It’s also the time for adding flavours, like red bean paste, herbs, and ice cream.
From glutinous rice
Most modern daifuku mochi recipes still use glutinous rice but use modern kitchen appliances to make the process easier.
A rice cooker or steamer and a stand mixer make an excellent dough in less time and with less manpower involved. Instead of two or more people, a single chef can whip up a batch of daifuku.
From glutinous rice flour using a microwave or steamer
It is also possible to use glutinous rice flour, to make a slightly different version of the treat.
Using glutinous rice flour is a modern convenience that allows you to skip over the labour-intensive pounding phase and make a batch of this Japanese sweet treat in less than an hour!
One of the best things about this neat little Japanese treat is that it’s so versatile. Not only can you make it into something sweet or savoury, but you can also alter how you serve it.
If you’re looking for an alternate take on the traditional Japanese glutinous rice cakes, try one of these variations:
If you like these recipe ideas but don’t have time for them now, save them on Pinterest and try them later!
Ingredients to make Mochi
One of the best parts about making this mochi recipe is that it requires few ingredients, and allows for some substitutions. If you’re not set on making the traditional variety, it’s possible to experiment to develop a custom creation.
Glutinous Rice Flour
The recipe’s foundation is glutinous rice flour, which provides the unique texture and subtle flavours we love. It’s made from short-grain rice kernels that were cooked, dehydrated, and milled into flour.
It’s also called sticky or sweet rice because it retains more amylopectin starch but less amylose starch. Therefore, it creates a sticky, chewy texture.
There are two types available, a coarse-grain (Shiratamako) and a fine-grain (Mochiko). Most chefs have a preferred type, so it’s worthwhile to experiment.
While you still have to cook the rice flour a bit, it’s significantly faster than using glutinous rice. Since the rice flour is raw, it must be cooked to be consumed safely. Thankfully, it takes less than half a minute to cook it in a microwave.
You can find glutinous rice flour online or at speciality grocery stores.
Adding sugar to the mixture keeps the dough softer longer. If you use glutinous rice, you can add sugar during the kneading process. When using a microwave, mix the sugar and glutinous rice flour before the water. Quality granulated sugar or cane sugar is most common, but confectioner’s sugar makes a fun experiment.
If you don’t have sugar in your pantry, pick some up at the local grocery store or order it online.
This dough is sticky and messy, making it a challenge to shape. To remedy that issue, use potato starch or cornstarch on the work surface. It doesn’t impact the taste or texture but makes the dough easier to handle.
Potato starch is the more common choice for this dish, and it’s readily available at most grocery stores. If you already have cornstarch in your pantry, don’t rush out to get potato starch, though.
To round out your list of daifuku ingredients, don’t forget the mochi filling. The most common choice is sweet red bean paste, but you can try almost anything, including strawberry slices, raspberries, and dollops of ice cream.
Make mochi without rice flour
Glutinous rice or glutinous rice flour are the only ingredients to deliver the texture and flavour we desire, but it’s not always easy or convenient to find them. Thankfully, there are some potential substitutes for when you simply have to have those little sweet treats!
- Tapioca starch is a decent choice that’s easy to find in most local groceries.
- Potato starch can do more than aid in shaping the rice cakes, it’s a potential substitute for the buns.
- Arrowroot powder is common as a thickening agent that works well as a substitute for glutinous rice flour.
- Cornstarch can suffice in a pinch, but it might not get quite as stretchy or chewy.
Note that these should be a one-to-one substitution, but the consistency will be different with all of these options. You might have to experiment with water ratios and cook times to achieve the desired consistency. See here for more glutinous rice flour substitutes.
Daifuku with regular flour
Unfortunately, regular flour doesn’t fare well for this Japanese sweet. It doesn’t develop the right consistency, so you don’t get the sticky, chewy bun that defines this Asian treat.
It’s tempting to substitute rice flour into the mochi recipe, but you’ll be disappointed by the outcome. Rice flour is a common gluten-free flour substitute for baking, but it’s processed differently and doesn’t get as stretchy or chewy as glutinous rice flour.
How to make mochi by steaming
Using a steamer is faster than the traditional method but takes more time than microwaving it. This method works best with glutinous rice flour because substitutes might not set properly with steam.
- In a bowl that can handle high heat, mix glutinous rice flour and water until it forms a soft, pliable dough.
- In the steamer, bring water to a boil before turning it down to a simmer.
- Set the dough bowl in the steam so that there is a gap between the bottom of the bowl and the water’s surface.
- Cook the dough in the steamer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes on medium to low heat.
- Remove from heat and scoop the hot dough into another pot set over medium heat.
- Gradually add the sugar, mixing thoroughly until it dissolves into the dough.
- Turn the dough onto a work surface covered with starch and drizzle more over the top.
- Cut the dough into pieces, add the filling and shape.
How to make mochi with a microwave
The microwave method takes the least amount of time to prepare. When microwaving, it’s important to cook the rice or flour first. It’s not possible to pound and knead the dough if the rice isn’t thoroughly cooked.
- Blend the rice flour and sugar in a microwave-safe mixing bowl, then add water to form the dough.
- Cover the bowl and microwave the mix for 3 minutes, stopping to stir the mixture every minute.
- Check the dough for colour. If it’s not transparent, microwave in 15 to 30 seconds increments, stirring in between, until it turns transparent.
- Roll out the dough on a starch-covered surface and cut it into shapes or create small balls and flatten them into discs.
- Place a spoonful of filling into each shape, then cover it with more dough or pinch it closed to seal the opening.
Mochi from glutinous rice
Traditional recipes use glutinous rice to make mochi dough. Whether the rice is boiled, steamed, or microwaved, it must be cooked enough to create the desired sticky texture needed for success.
- Rinse the glutinous rice and soak it for at least 15 minutes.
- Cook the glutinous rice on the stovetop or use a rice cooker, steamer, or instant pot.
- Knead the cooked glutinous rice for about three minutes with a dough hook on a professional stand mixer. Scrape the sides with a rubber spatula as needed.
- Change the dough hook to a flat beater to “pound” the dough for up to two minutes, breaking at 30-second intervals to scrape the sides.
- When the dough is smooth with no obvious rice granules turn out onto a starched workspace. Dust the top with more starch to prevent sticking.
- Roll, mould and fill the daifuku dough as desired.
Mochi Daifuku Cooking Tips
Before you dive in, these quick tips might make your life, and the experience, a lot easier.
- Try washing your hands with cold water or liberally dust them with starch before handling the dough to reduce sticking.
- Use cooking utensils, like rubber spatulas, to handle the dough as much as possible.
- Be careful not to pull at the dough pieces because it exposes sticky surfaces and makes your job tougher.
- Extracts and food colouring can add variety and aesthetic appeal to your daifuku. Start with a drop or two to avoid going too bold.
- Cookie cutters are excellent for shaping the dough, and you can even experiment with unique shapes.
- Set your filling in the refrigerator to chill while preparing the dough so that it’s easier to drop on, spread, and stick to the warm dough.
- A cookie sheet with a slight lip works well for the kneading and shaping steps because it contains the mess.
- Brush away excess starch before filling the treats because it makes closing the bun too challenging.
Daifuku Mochi Recipe (Microwave)
- 150 g glutinous rice flour
- 75 g white sugar
- 270 ml hot water
- 75-150 g cornstarch or potato starch
- 250 g red bean paste (anko) or any other sweet filling of choice
- Mix the glutinous rice flour with sugar in a medium, microwavable baking bowl. Then add the water until it is well combined.
- Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and cook it for one minute on high heat.
- Remove the mixture from the microwave, use a wet rubber spatula to stir it. Then, recover and cook the mixture for another minute.
- Remove the mixture and stir again, checking for colour and consistency. It should be almost transparent and resemble dough. If not, microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between.
- Spread the starch across the working surface and drop the dough on it, then dust it with more starch to make handling easier. Roll it out with a rolling pin and refrigerate for 12 minutes.
- Remove the dough and cut it into nine-centimetre circles. Fill each circle and pinch the opposite sides together until each daifuku mochi is completely sealed.
- Cookie cutters make it easy to create circles, but you can use cups, mugs, or bowls to get the size you desire. You can also play with alternate shapes and sizes.
- Anko is the most common filling used in a daifuku mochi recipe. Check out our easy home recipe on how to make sweet red bean paste.
- Red bean paste might be the most common filling, but other ingredients work well with it. Consider adding matcha, chocolate, or fruit.
- Using glutinous rice flour instead of glutinous rice only slightly alters the taste and texture, but significantly lessens prep and cooking time.
- The recipe for glutinous rice flour doesn’t require boiling and draining, but might involve more mixing to get the desired consistency.
- Serve the mochi treats immediately or store them in an airtight container for up to two days.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
Recipes By Tin on Youtube has an excellent guide on how to make mochi using a microwave at home. We highly recommend you check out her video recipe!
This Japanese treat is versatile and easy to customise for any setting. Altering your base between glutinous rice, glutinous rice flour, or set starches like tapioca or potato can all yield a fabulous dessert. Plus, you can sweeten them up with your favourite fruits, pastes, or ice cream!
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