What Is Mochi Ice Cream and How Do You Make It?
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Mochi ice cream is a cool, chewy Japanese treat. It's easy to make at home, too.
You can find mochi ice cream at Japanese restaurants and in the frozen dessert aisle of most grocery stores, often in a range of flavors like strawberry, green tea, chocolate, mango and vanilla. You can also make it at home! It takes only a handful of ingredients to whip up mochi ice cream. Just make sure you have room in your freezer!
What Is Mochi Ice Cream?
Mochi ice cream is a popular Japanese dessert made from a sweet pounded rice dough wrapped around ice cream. Its texture is similar to the chew of boba and gives a fun spin to homemade ice cream. We love enjoying mochi after a filling meal, like this chicken yakisoba recipe.
Where Is Mochi From?
Mochi is a dessert hailing from Japan. Often enjoyed during the Japanese New Year as a celebration food, families used to gather for a mochitsuki, the event of pounding mochi in a mortar with large wooden mallets. These days, households may instead use a mochi machine—similar to a bread machine—that kneads the steamed glutinous rice for you.
The good news is when you make this recipe, you can skip both of these laborious steps and head straight for the microwave! The magic of mochiko flour (glutinous rice flour) and heat allows you to get a similar texture without all the work.
What Is Mochi Ice Cream Made Of?
When people in the U.S. think of mochi, they tend to think of mochi ice cream, the round balls of sticky rice dough with ice cream in the middle. But “mochi” is only the glutinous rice cake on the outside. Traditionally, mochi is made with steamed glutinous rice pounded with water and sugar until it becomes a paste-like dough.
It’s important to use shiratamako or mochiko sweet rice flour in order to get the sticky results. Another critical ingredient is potato or corn starch to prevent the dough from sticking. You don’t eat the starch since you dust it off, but it’s an essential ingredient in making mochi.
What Does Mochi Ice Cream Taste Like?
Mochi ice cream has a soft chew and tastes a bit milky from the rice. Plain mochi can be enjoyed savory, grilled, steamed or sweet. Perhaps you’ve seen it as a frozen yogurt topping made into tiny squares that look like marshmallows or filled with sweet red bean paste. Wrapped around ice cream, it’s a refreshingly cool and chewy dessert.
You can also add ingredients like matcha powder, dried strawberry powder, cocoa powder or vanilla extract to flavor and color the dough.
Where Can I Buy Mochi Ice Cream?
To compare what you make to the store-bought version, look for mochi ice cream at Japanese supermarkets like Uwajimaya, Nijiya or Mitsuwa as well as in many Korean or Chinese supermarkets in the frozen dessert aisle.
Mochi ice cream is usually sold in boxes of about six balls and and you can choose from flavors like matcha green tea, strawberry, chocolate, mango, black sesame, vanilla, coffee and plum wine. Supermarkets like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Safeway also carry mochi ice cream. Look for brands like Mikawaya, My/Mo, Maeda-en and Bubbies.
How to Make Mochi Ice Cream
Tools You’ll Need
- Small ice cream scoop or cookie dough scoop
- Plastic wrap
- Baking sheet or cupcake tin
- Large bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Rolling pin
- Sifter (optional)
- Pastry brush (optional)
- 3/4 cup mochiko flour
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 pint ice cream (we suggest green tea, strawberry, chocolate, mango or vanilla)
- Corn or potato starch
Step 1: Freeze small balls of ice cream
Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop eight balls of ice cream and place each one on a small piece of plastic wrap. Give the plastic wrap a twist to seal the ice cream and place it on a baking sheet or in the cup of a cupcake tin, then place in the freezer. Allow ice cream to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare the mochi
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine mochiko flour and white sugar. Add in the water and stir to combine. It should be the texture of crepe batter or icing.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 60 seconds. Carefully remove the plastic wrap and stir the batter with a rubber spatula to pull the cooked edges into the center to distribute the heat. Place the plastic wrap back on top to seal and microwave for 30 seconds. Give the dough another stir. It should be more set this time: uniform in texture and slightly translucent.
Step 2: Roll out the mochi dough
Using the sifter, liberally dust a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap with potato or corn starch. With the rubber spatula, scoop out the dough and add more potato or corn starch to the top. Dust your rolling pin lightly with the starch and gently roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch-thick square or rectangle.
Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes until cool. If you let it chill longer than 30 minutes, be sure to cover the dough with a layer of plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
Step 4: Cut the dough
Use a knife to cut the dough into eight equal pieces. You can also use a 4-inch cookie cutter to cut rings out of the dough. Use a pastry brush or pat carefully with your fingers to remove excess potato or corn starch from each piece.
Step 5: Wrap ice cream with mochi
Prepare eight small squares of plastic wrap on the counter for the final freeze. Take a single ball of ice cream from the freezer, remove the plastic wrap and place the ball in the center of a mochi piece. Quickly wrap the dough around the ball by pulling the sides up, giving the dough a pinch to seal off edges. Twist close using the help of plastic wrap.
Immediately place in the freezer on your baking sheet or cupcake tin. Repeat until you’ve gone through all the ice cream and dough.
Step 6: Freeze the mochi ice cream
Freeze mochi for at least 2 hours until frozen solid. Unwrap a mochi ice cream ball and let it sit a few minutes at room temperature so the dough can soften before serving. Take a bite and enjoy!
Tips for Making Mochi Ice Cream
The freezer is your friend. I highly suggest you work close to your freezer and only work on one mochi ball at a time. Once you finish wrapping one, immediately transfer to the freezer. Here are more tips to keep in mind when making mochi ice cream:
- It’s going to be very tricky to make mochi without the help of potato or corn starch and plastic wrap. By liberally dusting corn or potato starch on your work surface, you’ll prevent the mochi dough from sticking as you roll it out. Be sure to also dust your rolling pin to prevent sticking. Use plastic wrap when placing the dough in the fridge to chill, as it’ll dry out and tear the longer it sits.
- Be delicate when rolling out the dough. Gently smooth it into a square or rectangle to make it easy to fold the dough over ice cream.
- It’s hard to resist, but let your ice cream and mochi fully set and chill before moving to the next step.
- Don’t be stressed if the dough gets sticky. Just dust on a bit more corn starch and pinch it back together if a hole forms. It’s pretty forgiving!
Recipe Variations for Mochi Ice Cream
Add extra flavor
You can add almost any flavor to the mochi dough to give it your own spin. Try adding a few drops of peppermint extract to the dough and wrapping it around mint chocolate chip ice cream. You could also add almond extract to the dough and wrap around rocky road ice cream, or add cocoa powder and wrap around cookie dough ice cream. You could even do mango ice cream and add a pinch of cayenne powder to the dough for a chili mango bite!
Use homemade ice cream
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can make your own ice cream! Be sure to fully chill and churn your ice cream to make it easier to work with. Often, homemade ice cream is softer than store-bought, so it might get a bit messy.