Can you make mochi with regular flour, or without using rice or rice flour?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Still no, but there are scientific reasons why. Today, I’ll break down what mochi actually is, and why it can’t be made without actual rice flour.
So what the heck is mochi, anyway?
If you’ve never eaten proper mochi before, you may have heard it being described as “rice cake”. Although that is technically correct, it is WAY more than just “a cake made of rice”.
Mochi refers to a type of food made traditionally with pounded glutinous rice. Note the word glutinous. This is extremely important and we’ll get to that in a minute. Not only that, it’s extremely delicious as well! If you want to make proper mochi, check out our mochi recipe!
Look at that stretch. That’s the most important part of mochi: the texture. Mochi has a stretchy, bouncy, chewy texture that is unlike regular rice. The texture is kind of similar to a taffy, and in fact, when you see mochi being stretched by hand, it will in fact look a lot like taffy.
You may commonly have seen this being served as a confectionary, filled with red bean paste or coated in a thick, sweet syrup. However, in Japan, mochi is often enjoyed as a savory food as well! I like my mochi savory, rather than sweet, and particularly enjoy it in hot pots or in miso soup.
What happens if you try to make mochi with regular flour, and not using rice or rice flour?
So let’s say you wanted to make mochi without using any kind of rice or rice flour. Instead, you’ve got some wheat flour and will try to make mochi with that. Most recipes that use rice flour to make mochi will call for you to boil the rice flour with water.
If you were to simply substitute the wheat flour for water, you’ll quickly end up with a thick flour paste. While it may look like you would be able to work it like mochi, you’ll realize that the paste has a kind of doughy feeling to it, compared to the stretchy taffy-like texture that real mochi has.
So is it only possible to make proper stretchy mochi with rice or rice flour?
Yes, that’s right, but there’s a caveat with this as well: it must be made with glutinous rice / glutinous rice flour. You may find glutinous rice being sold as “sweet rice” or “sticky rice”. As for glutinous rice flour, you may also see it being sold as “sweet rice flour” or “mochiko”, which is the brand name of a specific kind of glutinous rice flour.
The important thing is to not get this confused for regular rice flour. Regular rice flour is great for making gluten-free versions of your favorite baked goods, rice noodles, or for frying, but it is not suitable for making mochi.
To make it crystal clear, here’s the texture you get when making mochi with proper glutinous rice:
And here’s the texture you get when making mochi using regular rice flour or rice:
So now that you can visually see the difference between the two, let me explain to you the reason why.
Why is real mochi stretchy, but mochi made with regular rice or regular rice flour stiff?
It all comes down the the starch makeup. All rice are primarily made up of two types of starches: amylose and amylopectin. These two types of starches largely dictate the texture of the rice. Long grain rice, wild rice, or any other firm rice is high in the starch amylose. Amylose is the starch that gives these rice a firmer texture.
Short grain rice like Japanese rice has more amylopectin than those rice I mentioned above. Amylopectin influences that stickier, softer, chewier texture that those rice have. Now what if you crank that amylopectin way up? You essentially get glutinous rice.
If you’ve ever had glutinous rice before, you’ll realize that it truly lives up to its nickname, “sticky rice”. It’s very sticky and chewy and has a completely different texture than long grain rice. If you take glutinous rice and pound it into a paste, it still retains that sticky, chewy texture, but also becomes extremely stretchy as well.
It’s because of the high concentration of amylopectin that mochi made with glutinous rice can achieve that real stretchy, chewy, taffy-like texture!
So what can I do if I don’t want to make mochi using rice flour or rice?
If you’d like to make mochi with regular flour,
To be honest, there’s no other good substitute to get that the texture of real mochi using flour or by avoiding glutinous rice flour and glutinous rice. However, if the texture is not that important to you, there is an old Japanese dessert called suiton (water dumpling). This is made by mixing flour and water together and gently simmering it in water.
It’s similar to the flour dumplings for a chicken and dumplings recipe. You can eat this in a savory dish like miso soup, or you can coat it traditional sweet mochi toppings like molasses and toasted soybean powder. Again, I have to warn you that this will not result in the chewy, stretchy texture of real mochi.
This was actually made during a period of time in Japan where rice prices were quite expensive and flour prices were very low. Poor families who couldn’t afford to buy rice to make mochi would instead make this as a sort of “poor man’s” mochi. It’s not very common to find it in Japan today, but some older folk still have a soft spot in their heart for this simple mochi-substitute dessert.
The Proper Way To Make Mochi
In order to properly make mochi, you have to use glutinous rice, whether that’s in flour form or in actual rice form. We made delicious red bean mochi that has that wonderful stretchy, chewy texture that you can read more about here.
Can I make mochi with flour or without using rice flour or rice? – Summary
- Mochi is made of pounded glutinous rice and has a unique stretchy, chewy texture
- It cannot be replicated by flour, regular rice, or regular rice flour
- The starch, amylopectin, is responsible for the unique texture of real mochi
- You can make the “poor man’s” version of mochi by simmering flour dough in water
Make sure you check out some of my sweet treat recipes! I know you’ll absolutely love them!
- How to make mochi without rice flour
- Fruit mochi – Delicious Japanese mochi filled with fresh fruit!
- Dalgona Green Tea