Mitarashi Dango is an irresistible sweet rice dumpling treat from Japan that is well-loved by the Japanese. This simple snack is also enjoyed worldwide. These soft, chewy dumplings make an excellent light snack when you’re craving a sweet bite.
It is also usually served skewered on a stick, making it convenient to eat when you're out shopping. Japanese street vendors generally serve them hot, but you can also eat them cold.
If you are a fan of Demon Slayer, you might have seen this tasty snack eaten in the anime series. So, if you’ve been tempted by this delectable treat and want to know how to make mitarashi dango without dango mix you’ve come to the right place.
We have tried and experimented with many different recipes to find you the best one. Plus, we have ensured that our recipe is easy to make at home, and easily customisable.
Although some Japanese cooks make this mochi dessert with tofu, we'll also show you how to make it with no tofu. Additionally, we will also list substitutes for hard-to-get ingredients in this easy mitarashi dango recipe, so you can make this Japanese snack wherever you are in the world. Let's get started.
What is mitarashi dango?
This Japanese snack is best described as rice dumplings glazed with sweet soy sauce. There are several ways to cook these sweet rice dumplings.
Some Japanese cooks prefer to boil them, while others like to grill the dessert for an earthy, charred flavour. Whether you eat them in a restaurant or buy them from a street vendor, you will often see that they are skewered on a stick and stacked atop each other.
The skewered sweet dumplings taste soft and slightly chewy. In addition, the cooks drizzle a light sauce over the dumplings, giving the dessert a salty and savoury taste. It's a traditional Japanese sweet that is usually served at tea time or after dinner.
There are also many different ways to serve this exquisite treat. For example, some vendors may sell them cold, and others prefer to serve them hot. Furthermore, some stores also like to add a dollop of filling, such as red bean paste, also known as anko in Japanese. That's because the white-coloured dumplings are fairly mild-tasting when eaten on their own.
This dessert originated from a Kyoto tea house hundreds of years ago. Initially, tea houses made these sweet treats as an offering to the gods at shrines. Over time, street vendors started selling these delicious snacks to the shrine visitors. As a result, this chewy treat became increasingly popular and is now served almost everywhere in Japan.
Mitarashi vs Hanami Dango
Mitarashi dango is different from hanami dango because of when they are eaten, their colours and the way in which they are usually served. While the Japanese usually eat Hanami dango to celebrate the start of spring, its white counterpart is enjoyed throughout the year.
The steps to make both are similar, except you will find that at the end of a hanami dango recipe, the rice dumplings are dyed pastel pink, pale green and white. However, the mitarashi version is white and glazed with a sauce made from rice wine and plant starch. The sauce gives the yummy snack a light brown hue.
What does mitarashi dango taste like?
This mitarashi dango tastes sweet and sticky but does not have a strong flavour. Rather, it’s a subtle flavour very similar to the glutinous rice used to make it. The confectionery has a smooth outer layer, with a mochi (or springy) middle.
Mitarashi dango ingredients
Are you ready to make this tasty Japanese snack? Then, you'll need the following mitarashi dango ingredients:
For the mitarashi dango sauce
- Soy sauce
This mochi dessert uses mochiko, a type of white-coloured glutinous rice flour. It comes from a sweet short-grain rice called mochigome. If you can find this type of rice flour online or in an Asian grocery store, you can make Japanese desserts such as dango or mochi. It gives the dessert a sticky, sweet texture. Furthermore, its milky, mild taste makes it a popular thickener ingredient for other Asian foods.
Another suitable type of Japanese flour made from mochigome is shiratamako flour. Despite having a coarser grain, shiratamako gives the dumplings a softer texture. Some cooks prefer to use shiratamako as mochiko may yield dumplings that are too tender.
Unfortunately, both types of flour can be challenging to find outside of Japan. Therefore, some cooks use regular glutinous rice flour instead. There is no significant difference in taste or texture, and glutinous rice flour is much easier to find than mochiko. Therefore, we will be using glutinous rice flour in our recipe.
Tofu is optional for our mitarashi dango recipe. However, we would recommend using silken or firm tofu to blend with the flour. Both types will render your dumplings squishy and soft. However, silken tofu will be best if you prefer a more delicate bite. If you cannot find tofu, simply use water instead.
The amount of water you use will depend on the portion size you're making which we will clarify further in our recipe section.
For a sweetener, you can add an inverted sugar such as honey, corn or rice syrup. Simply put, a lump of inverted sugar is a liquid sweetener which combines table sugar (sucrose) and water. It makes the mitarashi dango sauce extra glazy and shiny.
You can also add unrefined brown sugar or coconut sugar. Any brand of brown sugar will do. The brown sugar brings additional sweetness and a tinge of caramel flavour.
Mirin is a type of sweet Japanese rice wine that you can find in most Asian supermarkets. We recommend looking for rice wine even if you cannot find mirin. The wine adds a dash of bitterness which counters the syrup. You can skip mirin, but the sauce may not taste as good.
For a non-alcoholic alternative to mirin, you can use rice wine vinegar. However, you will need to add sugar to the vinegar in a 1:2 ratio. You do this to counter the natural acidity and sourness of the vinegar.
How to make Mitarashi dango without tofu
You can also make our mitarashi dango recipe with no tofu. The steps will remain the same. However, you will be replacing tofu with water.
The water should be around 90% of the flour weight. For example, if you use 100g of flour, you need about 90 ml of water.
Add water gradually and watch out for the consistency of the dough. Your final dough should be firm, like how it feels when you touch your ear lobe. Although your skewered sweet dumplings might turn out slightly firmer and less chewy than if you use tofu, they will still taste good.
If you are ready to learn how to make mitarashi dango, there are a few points that you must consider. Before you start, we hope you can learn from our cooking mistakes.
We've provided cooking tips from our experiments to help you make the perfect Japanese dessert.
Why is my dango dough sticky?
Your dough is probably sticky because you've added too much water. Aim for a firm, soft consistency that's not too thin. One tip is to touch the softest part of your earlobe. Remember that soft and smooth feeling, and test if your dough feels the same.
Another way is to add more flour to the dough so there is less moisture. Sometimes, it could be due to the temperature and humidity of your room. With the addition of more flour, the dough becomes less sticky.
Why does it taste bland?
You might be wondering why your rice dumplings taste so bland. The taste of plain dango is very subtle. It has a hint of sweetness but does not taste overwhelmingly strong.
If you find it too bland, add more sugar or grill the dumplings longer. Adding more sugar will make the dessert slightly sweeter, and lightly grilling it with a blowtorch or a frying pan will give it a toasty taste.
You can also use a frying pan to lightly fry the dessert's surface. We recommend this step if you prefer a more robust flavour for your desserts! Another way is to switch up the toppings. For example, some cooks add some red bean paste to the dumplings.
Why is my mitarashi dango sauce not thick?
If you've not added starch to your list of mitarashi dango ingredients, that's probably why the sauce is not thick. However, if you did, your sauce might not be thick enough because of the type of starch you used.
Ultimately, starch is used to thicken the sauce. Potato starch is best as it forms a nice translucent gel when it cools. On the other hand, If you use cornstarch, your sauce may turn out gummier and thinner. You could also heat the sauce (with starch added) and add more water. The moisture will evaporate, thickening the sauce as it cools.
How do I store the rice dumplings?
If you want to make these Japanese skewered rice dumplings and store them instead of eating them immediately, the tip is to add sugar to the flour before you begin mixing the dough. This step will keep the texture tender and 'mochi' for longer.
The sugar amount should be about 20% of the flour weight. Please note that you should only skip the sugar if you plan to eat the dumplings immediately, or the final product might be too sweet.
If it's the sauce you want to make ahead of time, remember to remove it from the heat once it boils. If not, more moisture will evaporate, and your sauce can become a thick slurry which does not look appetising.
To store leftover mochi dumplings, just keep them in the refrigerator or freeze them. You can keep them relatively fresh for up to three days in the fridge. If you keep it in the freezer, keep it for no more than 5 days. Then, when you feel hungry just reheat it in a microwave. However, we highly recommend that you eat them fresh. This is because the mochi dessert hardens once it cools down - compromising its iconic texture.
Mitarashi Dango Recipe (with or without tofu)
- 125 g (½ cup) glutinous rice flour
- 113 ml room temperature water
- ½ teaspoon salt
Mitarashi dango sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tbsps water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice syrup
- 2 tsps mirin
- 1 teaspoon potato starch
- Boil a pot of water over medium heat to prepare for boiling the dough balls. Mix the rice flour and water. Ensure that you add the water gradually and stir to fully combine. Touch your dough. It should feel soft and smooth.
- Divide the dough into small equal balls. Drop the dough balls into the pot of boiling water. Once the mitarashi dango floats, strain and transfer it to a bowl of cold water. Leave it there until you’re ready to serve the dumplings.
- Mix the potato starch and water in a bowl. To make the sauce, heat the brown sugar, rice syrup, mirin and soy sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Then mix in the starch mixture to thicken the sauce. Once the sauce is thick, remove it from the heat and set it aside.
- Use a stick to poke through the dough balls. Dribble the sauce over them. Now, you can enjoy your skewered sweet dumplings!
- You can find alternatives to mirin wine, if it’s not available in your local grocery store. See ‘Ingredients’ above for our recommendations.
- For those who prefer a stronger taste, try the tips we suggest above in ‘Cooking tips’ to add flavour to your rice dumplings.
- Note this mitarashi kushi dango recipe does not include skewers in its ingredient list. Japanese skewer sticks, known as kushi, are long brown sticks usually used for finger foods. But you can also serve Japanese dumplings without a skewer if you want!
- If you are able to purchase silken tofu, replace the water portion with 150 grams of tofu for every 125 g (or ½ cup) of glutinous rice flour. Add it to the flour when you mix the dough.
- Lastly, if you need to store your mochi dessert, you can keep them in the refrigerator for up to three days. Please see ‘Cooking tips’ above for more information.
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.
If you've enjoyed this mitarashi kushi dango recipe, learn how to make mochi next. Need more inspiration to start your culinary journey? If so, follow us on our Instagram @honestfoodtalks for more mouthwatering recipes.