After Years of Tinkering, I Finally Created My Perfect Butter Mochi Recipe (It Has the Most Magical Crust)

updated Apr 12, 2021
How to Make Hawaiian Butter Mochi

This coconutty, gluten-free treat is one both kids and adults will love.

Makes20 pieces

Prep20 minutes

Cook1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Hawaiian butter mochi sits stacked on top of each other
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Butter mochi is a staple at almost any party in Hawai‘i, and it’s easy to see why. The coconut custard glutinous rice cake is perfectly chewy, slightly sticky, and just dense enough, with a hint of vanilla and salt. Even better, butter mochi evolves over the course of 24 hours, so it’s like having two treats in one. The first day, it’s got a gorgeous, golden-brown, crispy-crunchy crust; come day two, the crust transforms into a soft, almost-melty topping.

Growing up Japanese American, or hapa, in Hawai‘i, I’ve had my fair share of butter mochi. Many families pride themselves on having “the best” butter mochi recipe, and while recipes vary slightly from family to family, the base ingredients are pretty standard: a box of mochiko (glutinous or sweet rice flour), butter, coconut milk, some kind of other milk (evaporated, whole, skim, etc.), eggs, baking soda, and sugar. 

Here, I’m sharing my favorite version, which I’ve adapted from my mom’s recipe. I’ll teach you the best way to stir it, bake it, serve it, and store it, and, most importantly, how to create that delicious crust.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

The Origins of My Butter Mochi Recipe

Butter mochi’s exact origins can’t be easily traced to a specific group or person, but I’d attribute the delicious end result to the beautifully layered influences of the various ethnic groups that came to the islands during Hawai‘i’s plantation era. Its flavor profile is reminiscent of Filipino bibingka — a coconutty rice cake baked in a pan lined with banana leaves — and its super-chewy texture is similar to a custardy version of Japanese chi chi dango, or coconut flavored bite-sized mochi. 

Like most classic local Hawaiian dishes, I learned how to make butter mochi from my mom. It’s a recipe that’s great to make with kids because the steps and ingredients are simple. Although mochi’s been trending in the mainstream food world for a few years now, I believe it’s important to learn about recipes like this from a person who was born and raised in the place or culture where the dish originated. 

I’m pretty sure my mom’s go-to recipe came from a cookbook produced by my preschool’s hongwanji (Japanese Buddhist temple) for one of their yearly fundraisers. Over the years I’ve made it my own, adding a bit more salt, playing with different types of milk, and adding a dried, finely shredded coconut layer topped with a touch of flaky salt for what I like to call a “magical crust.”

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

3 Tips for the Best-Ever Butter Mochi

I’ve made my fair share of butter mochi over the years. Here are the three key steps to nailing it on your first bake.

  1. Don’t be afraid of overmixing. Mochiko is gluten-free, you don’t need to worry about developing too much gluten when mixing, so feel free to mix out all those lumps.
  2. Get rid of the air bubbles before baking. Make sure to rap your pan on the countertop as many times as you need to to get out all the air bubbles out of the butter mochi before you sprinkle on your coconut and flaky salt. For the perfectly crisp crust, you want the coconut to sit on the top. Plus, air bubbles will lead to an uneven crust, which won’t alter the flavor, but the appearance will suffer a bit.
  3. Bake to your desired texture. For a perfectly chewy yet custardy center, I recommend using a metal pan for the bake time specified in my recipe. If using a glass pan, bake for a few minutes less. If you want your mochi to be more set and firm, increase the bake time. 
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

How to Serve Butter Mochi

I prefer to let the butter mochi cool to room temperature before slicing. You can serve it warm, but it will be much harder to slice. When I’m ready to cut it, I use a plastic knife to minimize sticking, and cut four columns and five rows to make 20 pieces. If the knife starts to stick, rub it with a little unsalted butter or neutral oil.

Butter mochi isn’t served with any topping or sauces, so once it’s cooled you’re ready to dig in. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Tester’s Note

I was so excited to make this recipe because I absolutely adore butter mochi. This version is really creamy and has a great coconut flavor from the coconut milk, and it couldn’t be any easier to throw together. It’s a great gluten-free treat that children and adults love, and my favorite piece is from a corner with all the browned edges. If you can’t find mochiko flour, it is also sometimes labeled sweet or glutinous rice flour. — Christine Gallary, food editor-at-large

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell
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Here's how to make the best Hawaiian butter mochi.

How to Make Hawaiian Butter Mochi

This coconutty, gluten-free treat is one both kids and adults will love.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes

Makes 20 pieces

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter or vegetable oil, for coating the pan

  • 1 stick

    (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 1 pound

    mochiko flour (also known as sweet or glutinous rice flour)

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cups

    milk, any fat percentage

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1 (about 13.5-ounce) can

    unsweetened coconut milk

  • 1/2 cup

    unsweetened shredded coconut

  • A few pinches of flaky salt (optional)

Equipment

  • 9x13-inch baking pan

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Mixing bowls

  • Whisk

  • Wooden spoon

  • Plastic knife (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with butter or oil. Melt 1 stick unsalted butter in the microwave or on the stovetop.

  2. Prepare the dry and wet ingredients. Place 1 pound mochiko, 2 cups granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place 2 cups milk, 4 large eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

  3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and, with a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Add the melted butter and 1 can coconut milk and mix until fully incorporated and smooth.

  4. Pour into the baking pan and top with coconut. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and rap the pan on the counter a couple of times to bring any air bubbles up to the surface. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded coconut on top of the mixture, a handful at a time, being careful not to jiggle the pan too much, as you want the coconut to stay on the top. Then sprinkle on a few pinches of flaky salt, if desired.

  5. Bake the mochi for about 1 hour. Bake until the mochi is set and golden brown on top, 60 to 70 minutes.

  6. Cool before cutting and serving. Set the pan on a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Slice into rectangles, using a plastic knife to minimize sticking; I cut four columns and five rows to make twenty 2 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch pieces. If the knife seems to be sticking, rub it with a little unsalted butter or neutral oil.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Reprinted with permission from Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai’i by Alana Kysar, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Alana Kysar and Brooklyn Dombroski. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.