Mochi is a traditional Japanese dessert that is universally beloved. But how long does mochi last before it goes bad? In this article we answer this question and discuss other important food safety tips regarding mochi.
What is mochi?
Mochi are Japanese pounded rice cakes. They are a popular Japanese treat with a chewy and soft texture. It is typically stuffed with a sweet filling like red bean paste or ice cream. You can also eat plain mochi or mochi fried in a pan with a splash of soy sauce.
Mochi originates in Japan. While the origin of mochi is unclear, it can be traced back thousands of years. It is made by pounding steamed short-grain white rice using a wooden mortar and mallet.
Traditionally, mochi was made as an offering to Shinto deities. But it was also commonly served as festivals and other celebrations. Nowadays, mochi is a common food in Japanese cuisine and enjoyed all year round.
How it’s made
Traditional mochi is made by physically pounding steamed short-grain white rice. This requires the labor of two, with one person turning and wetting the pounded rice, with the other person pounding the rice with a large wooden mallet.
While this traditional method is still used today, the mochi you can get at the Asian market is typically made with more modern methods. This involves combining mochiko flour (glutinous rice flour) and water. This method is not only easier, but much safer!
There are different types of mochi that you can find at your local Asian market or Japanese restaurant or store. Here are a few varieties to look out for:
- Butter Mochi: Hawaiian dessert with chewy texture, made from glutinous rice flour, sugar, butter, and often coconut milk.
- Daifuku Mochi: Japanese sweet, a small round mochi filled with sweet fillings like red bean paste, often dusted with cornstarch or kinako.
- Sakura Mochi: Japanese springtime mochi with pink-colored mochi wrapped around sweet red bean paste, sometimes containing a salted cherry blossom leaf.
- Kinako Mochi: Mochi coated in or sprinkled with kinako, a roasted soybean flour, offering a nutty flavor and texture.
These dessert mochi are delicious and not too sweet. Another popular variety is mochi ice cream. This is the most popular version I’ve found in the United States.
Where to buy
You should be able to find mochi at your local Asian grocery store. I’ve found a few varieties, typically with fillings like red bean paste, jelly, whipped cream and ice cream.
It’s also possible to find mochi on the dessert menu of your favorite Japanese restaurant. Even some regular grocery stores carry mochi ice cream in the freezer section.
How long does mochi last?
It depends. Fresh mochi that is made at home only lasts a couple days, about 1-2 days at room temperature and up to a week refrigerated.
Store-bought mochi on the other hand should last about a week if it’s refrigerated. Frozen mochi can last a long time, up to three months in the freezer.
Overall, the shelf life of mochi is pretty short, but can be extended by refrigerating or freezing your mochi balls. That being said, fresh mochi always tastes the best.
How to properly store mochi
The best way to store your mochi is in an airtight container, wrapped in plastic wrap or in a plastic bag that is sealable. Whatever way you store your mochi, make sure it is sealed properly so no air can escape or enter.
As mentioned earlier, you can refrigerate or freeze your mochi to extend its shelf life. The best way to store mochi to be frozen is in a sealable freezer bag. Make sure to press out excess air in the bag before transferring it to the freezer.
How to tell your mochi is bad
There are a few signs of spoilage to look out for. First, examine the appearance of the mochi. Are there dark or discolored spots? Condensation on the surface? Fuzzy patches?
Then feel the surface of the mochi. Is it slimy? Fuzzy? Rough? The surface of the mochi should be smooth and coated in a light dusting of flour.
Next, smell the mochi. It should smell fresh and slightly sweet and starchy. If it has a distinct sour smell, musty smell or vinegary smell, it’s time to toss it. Any strong smell is a bad sign.
How to make homemade mochi
Fresh homemade mochi sounds intimidating, but it actually isn’t too difficult to make. All you need is mochiko flour (glutinous rice flour), cold water, sugar and cornstarch.
First, combine ¾ cup mochiko flour with ¼ cup of sugar. Whisk the two ingredients together until well combined. Then add ¾ cup of cold water slowly, whisking constantly.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for an additional minute. Stir once more and microwave for another 30 seconds.
Transfer the rice dough to a cornstarch covered surface. Coat the rice dough in cornstarch and use your hands to separate the mochi into sections and shape into mochi balls.
Once shaped into a ball, roll in the cornstarch to coat fully and set aside. Repeat with all the dough. Then enjoy!
This recipe is adapted from justonecookbook.com.
Where to buy mochiko flour
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat expired mochi?
The best buy dates on packages are more like suggestions than requirements. That means you can eat something past the expiration date, but only after examining the food product for signs of spoilage.
In terms of mochi, examine the outside of the mochi for signs of condensation, black or discolored spots, foul odor, vinegary smell, slimy texture or rough texture. All of these are clear signs that your mochi needs to be thrown out.
Overall, the expiration date on the mochi package is a good rule of thumb. It typically indicates when the company suspects the product will go bad. To stay on the safe side, it may be a good idea to toss it. But, if the mochi looks pristine, smells good and has a powdery texture, you can eat it.
What does mochi taste like?
Mochi tastes like sweet pounded rice cake. Of course that’s because it is sweet pounded rice cake! Imagine the fluffiest white rice you’ve ever tasted with a hint of sweetness.
But the most interesting thing about mochi is the unique texture. The texture of mochi is unlike anything because it’s soft and bouncy, but also very pliable and squishy.
You can pull mochi apart and it will stretch like cheese. It also may stick to your teeth and can take a lot of effort to chew thoroughly.
Is mochi always ice cream?
No! While mochi ice cream is a very popular form of mochi, especially here in the United States, it’s not the only kind of mochi.
In fact, there are so many different varieties of mochi. Plain mochi is great and is best fried on a pan with some soy sauce (trust me) if you enjoy savory flavors.
You can also get mochi stuffed with a sweet red bean paste (my personal favorite) or stuffed with whipped cream, fruit or black sesame.
Butter mochi is a popular form of mochi in Hawaii that is more similar to cake. It’s squishy and bouncy like mochi but baked in a pan like cake. The golden brown edges are my favorite.
Is mochi healthy for you?
While mochi can be part of a healthy diet, mochi itself isn’t very nutrient dense. It’s mostly carbohydrates from sugar and starch sources.
There is nothing wrong with carbohydrates, but it’s best to focus on carbohydrate sources that are rich in fiber and micronutrients like B vitamins and iron.
To sum it up, while mochi isn’t a good source of nutrients, it won’t cause any health issues when consumed in moderation alongside nutrient dense foods.
Can you eat mochi if you are lactose intolerant?
Yes, regular mochi is safe for those with lactose intolerance since it only contains rice flour, sugar and cornstarch. Mochi ice cream, on the other hand, is not safe for those with lactose intolerance.
Most mochi fillings other than ice cream are safe for those with lactose intolerance. So don’t be afraid to indulge in red bean paste and fruit filled mochi.
That being said, always check the labels before consuming any mochi. There may be some “surprise” ingredients in some mochi variations.
Can mochi cause constipation?
If you only consume mochi for a few days then, yes, of course it can cause constipation. But in general, a piece or two of mochi won’t cause any digestive problems for healthy folks.
Make sure you are drinking enough water and drinking an appropriate amount of fiber daily to ensure you have regular and comfortable bowel movements.
If you are doing this and still experiencing constipation, speak to your primary care physician to see if you have a digestive issue going on such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.
Overall, mochi shouldn’t be causing constipation if consumed in moderation for healthy adults. If you notice you are having digestive issues when you consume mochi, try reducing your portion and then speak to your doctor to see if there is an underlying issue.