How to Make Homemade Mochi for the Lunar New Year

February 20, 2015

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: You don't have to take a trip to the fro-yo store to enjoy fluffy, chewy mochi. Celebrate the Lunar New Year by making a batch at home with help from Cynthia of Two Red Bowls

Shop the Story

Is there any food happier and cuter than mochi? A gentler incarnation of a marshmallow, it is subtly sweet and powdery pastel, with a hint of coconut and a pillowy-soft chew. 

Mochi is traditionally eaten around the Lunar New Year (in fact, the Chinese version, nian gao, literally translates as “year cake”), and that means it’s currently mochi high season. There’s no better time to learn how to make mochi yourself.

Traditionally, making mochi actually sounds pretty labor-intensive. It’s made, more or less, by taking gigantic mallets to a pile of cooked sweet rice and pounding the crap out of it until it forms the chewy, tender consistency that we know and love. So violent for such a cute dessert!

We're not going that route. Instead, armed with some flour made from that same sweet rice, you can make your own mochi with a recipe that’s practically foolproof and not nearly as much of a workout.  


Makes about 2 cups of small pieces

1 cup sweet rice (mochiko) flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
3/4 cup coconut milk, or about half of a 13 1/2-ounce can
Sweet potato starch or regular cornstarch, for dusting 

Preheat oven to 275° F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish or line it with parchment paper. (For thicker mochi, use a 9 x 9-inch glass dish and bake for longer, about 90 minutes.)


In a large bowl, whisk together the mochiko, sugar, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water and coconut milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until the mixture is smooth and no lumps remain. Unlike most baking, you don’t need to worry about overmixing the ingredients, since mochi is dense and chewy to begin with. 


Pour the mixture into your lined baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 60 minutes. The mochi is done when it's soft and gelatinous but holds its shape when touched. It's important to cover the mochi because leaving it uncovered will result in a drier, cakier texture.

Let cool completely or overnight. Dust a surface with your starch (or simply use more mochiko flour) and turn the mochi onto the surface. Sprinkle starch over the mochi.  

Wrap a knife in plastic wrap to prevent sticking, then cut the mochi into small pieces, dust again with starch or flour, and serve!

This is only a basic mochi recipe, waiting to be dressed up however you like. Add about a teaspoon of matcha powder to the dry ingredients to make green tea mochi, or a flavored extract to the wet ingredients to flavor it to your liking.

I’ve often seen the plain version colored with a few drops of red food coloring, too, to turn it a dainty pink. Finally, you can use it to wrap around fillings, like red bean paste or ice cream. Go to town -- and happy Lunar New Year!

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Cynthia of Two Red Bowls

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Amy Xu
    Amy Xu
  • Lucy
  • Nancy Seto
    Nancy Seto
  • Emma Galloway | My Darling Lemon Thyme
    Emma Galloway | My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • molly yeh
    molly yeh


Amy X. February 8, 2014
Is the temperature correct at 275? I attempted to make this recipe today (in a 9x13 pan) and at the hour mark, my dish was still rapidly bubbling. Even at two hours, it was still bubbling and far from "holding it's shape." I finally just scrapped it and figured I'd try again. When I looked up a few other recipes, they all listed higher temperatures of 350 or 375 with the same cook time (60 minutes). So I just wanted to make sure....
Author Comment
Cynthia C. February 8, 2014
Hi Amy, I'm so sorry that this didn't turn out for you!! :( Yes, 275 was what worked for me -- I use a lower temperature for a longer period of time so that it steams more gently and the edges don't become dry and tough. If I recall correctly, the recipes I came across that call for baking at 350 for an hour do so because the volume is twice what is called for here (1 lb of mochiko flour, versus 1 cup here). If you decide to give it a try again, maybe try decreasing the fluid this time around to 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup coconut milk? Also, coconut milk with a higher fat content will result in less gooey mochi.

Again, I'm SO sorry to hear that this didn't work :( I know there's no worse feeling than having to dump ingredients and I hate knowing that that happened to you. Hope that this (or another recipe) works better for you next time.
mintato April 5, 2014
The same thing that happened to Amy happened to me. I ended up adjusting temperatures and baked the bottom into a hardened layer. The colour of the top layer remained milky, so I got at least half the batch. The texture is much too soft though. I was suspicious of the initial viscosity of the batter and I suggest other readers may want to lower the content of the liquid or use an intuitive baker's eye to prevent the frustration (+crazy clean up) that may occur.
Lucy February 2, 2014
Do you have to use coconut milk or can you sub other milks or even just water (as long as you flavour it enough!)? I understand in some things the fats in coconut milk are essential, but this doesn't seem one of them. . . ?
Author Comment
Cynthia C. February 2, 2014
Hmm, my feeling is that you're right, and another milk (ideally another fairly rich milk) would be just fine. Maybe with coconut extract if you still want the coconut flavor. The recipes to make mochi for wrapping around filling actually only use water, as far as I've seen (though the taste is decidedly lacking -- I just tried it yesterday). Maybe play around with it in half-batches and see what you like? I don't know if a different liquid would make it runnier if there's less fat. Let me know what you find! :)
Nancy S. February 2, 2014
Fantastic feature post, Cynthia! Your photos are gorgeous and the mochi looks perfect. Happy New Year, lady!
Emma G. January 31, 2014
These sound amazing Cynthia!
molly Y. January 31, 2014
i love this! i want a big bowl of these little guys and i want to top it with red bean paste.
[email protected] January 31, 2014
These look delicious and I just love the photographs!
savorthis January 31, 2014
Just in time for our feast tonight! How fun!