Mochi (餅, もち) is a Japanese snack made from glutinous rice. It’s gluten free and vegan. It’s especially popular as a New Year’s treat, but is eaten year-round as well. There are tons of different varieties. Common fillings include anko (red bean paste), black sesame paste, and peanut butter. Coatings range from roasted soybean powder, sesame seeds, and matcha to pickled cherry leaf. The texture is bouncy and chewy, especially when fresh.

Below you’ll find a brief history of mochi, including preparation basics, plus information about mochi-like variations that are popular outside Japan. Also included are links to buy mochi online and some recipes, in case you’d like to make it yourself.

Table of Contents


Ichigo daifuku from Food in Japan

Mochi History and Preparation

The practice of making steamed glutinous rice into a paste most likely originated in China, but it’s been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. It became especially popular to make mochi at home in Japan in the 6th century. The first recorded account of mochi being associated with New Year traditions is from the Heian period.

Mochigome (もち米) is the type of shortgrain Japanese rice used to make mochi. After soaking and steaming, it’s traditionally pounded with a wooden mallet in a mortar in a ceremony called mochitsuki (餅搗き). It’s a two person job, with one person swinging the mallet and another turning and wetting the mochi. Modern preparations are much less labor intensive and use glutinous rice flour instead.

Buy Gluten Free Mochi and Mochi Supplies

The two types of rice flours that can be used to make mochi are mochiko or shiratamako. Mochiko is doughier and shiratamako is smoother and more elastic when made into mochi, but either work well. Do not use regular rice flour, it won’t work.

You’ll find both of those rice flour options linked below, as well as some premade mochi. Some varieties contain milk or gelatin, so make sure you read the ingredients before purchase!


Sakura mochi from Savvy Tokyo

Gluten Free Mochi Recipes


Mochi Recipe Variations


Hawaiian butter mochi from Joe Lingeman via The Kitchn
  • Hawaiian butter mochi from Christie at Home

    • Mochi is baked into a cake with the addition of butter, coconut milk, and eggs. It makes for a chewy and custardy base with a crunchy crust. The recipe linked above is dairy free!
  • Lo mai chi (糯米糍)

    • This is a traditional Chinese pastry, especially popular in Hong Kong. Some recipes contain wheat, so make sure you double-check ingredients if you’re buying this at a bakery!
  • Kuih tepung gomak

    • A disc-shaped Malaysian rice flour cake with a coconut pandan center and a coating of toasted bean flour. Most versions are NOT gluten free because they contain a small amount of wheat flour. The recipe linked here is an exception.


Kue koci gula kelapa from What to Cook Today
  • Kue koci gula kelapa (kue bugis/kue mendut)

    • An Indonesian style snack made from sticky rice flour and filled with palm sugar and coconut, then steamed in a banana leaf.
  • Tangyuan (湯圓)

    • A Chinese sweet rice ball that’s filled with sesame or peanut paste and served in a hot syrupy broth. Traditionally eaten during the Lantern Festival.
  • Injeolmi (인절미)

    • Chapssal-tteok is a class of sticky rice foods made in Korea, chapssal meaning glutinous rice in particular. The recipe linked above is for injeolmi, a sweet and chewy variety that’s coated in roasted soybean flour and served in bite-sized pieces.

* Title image courtesy of Foodaciously.

- Further Reading -