Sakura mochi is an iconic pink rice cake wrapped in a salted cherry blossom leaf and filled with sweet red bean paste. It’s sticky, sweet, slightly salty and typically enjoyed in the spring-time during festivals and events!
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Sudachi Recipes earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See disclaimer for more info.
What is Sakura Mochi?
Sakura mochi (桜餅) is a type of pink dumpling made with sticky, glutinous rice filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a cherry blossom leaf. It has a sweet yet slightly salted taste and is most commonly enjoyed in the spring.
The word “sakura” (桜) is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom” and mochi (餅) is a type of rice cake that can be sweet or savoury.
You will find sakura mochi stocked in supermarkets and convenience stores from March as they are associated with the Japanese festival “Hina Matsuri” (known as girl’s day / doll festival) which is held on March 3rd every year.
It is typically available throughout the cherry blossom season, so if you have a chance to visit Japan during this beautiful time, I highly recommend trying this traditional sweet!
There are actually two regional variations of sakura mochi. Kansai style originates from the Western side of Japan (Osaka/Kyoto area) and Kanto style is from the east (around Tokyo).
Kansai style is made with a special type of sweet rice flour called “domyojiko” and is sometimes known as “domyoji sakura mochi”.
On the other hand, Kanto style is often compared to a crepe and the dough is made with a combination of regular flour and glutinous rice flour which is then wrapped around the red bean filling.
I live in central Japan but from my observation, Kansai style is more popular!
Sakura Mochi Ingredients
Sakura mochi requires a few special ingredients. I’ll explain each ingredient in detail and where you can buy it or how you make it at home.
Domyojiko (道明寺粉) is a type of “flour” made from Japanese “sweet rice” called mochigome (餅米). The rice is soaked, cooked, dried and crushed in order to make easy to use granules that look a little bit like granulated sugar.
When domyojiko is mixed with water and steamed again, the result is a wonderful chewy “mochi” texture with small chunks of rice! Domyojiko is said to have originated from a temple called “Domyoji” in Osaka, hence the name.
Where to buy Domyojiko
Unfortunately, domyojiko can be very difficult to find, even in Japan! Generally it’s sold in spring and only really used to make sakura mochi. You might be able to find it in Japanese supermarkets, but general Asian supermarkets won’t stock it.
If you or someone you know lives in Japan, you can find domyojiko at the cooking store called “Tomiz” and order it online here. They also sell a “Sakura Mochi Kit” that includes everything you need to make sakura mochi at home!
However, if you can’t get these, read below for the more accessible alternative!
Mochi Rice (Domyojiko Alternative)
Domyojiko is made from a type rice called “mochigome” (餅米). Although it’s translated to “sweet rice” in English, mochigome is not actually sweet. It is sticky, chewy and used to make lots of different Japanese sweets like mochi and dango!
Mochigome is pretty easy to find in Asian supermarkets or online compared to domyojiko! You can purchase mochigome here on Amazon.
It needs some extra time and preparation, but it’s easy to make sakura mochi from scratch with mochigome.
One point I must make here though, is that this method only works with “mochigome” rice. Other types of rice will not work.
How to prepare mochigome
To make sakura mochi using mochigome, follow these steps:
- Wash the rice 3 times.
- Soak the rice for 1-8 hours.
- Pour the rice through a sieve to drain the water and let it dry for 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the rice to a cheese cloth and pound it with a rolling pin or something sturdy to break up the rice.
Microwave Method: transfer the rice to a microwavable bowl, with water, sugar and a drop of red/pink food coloring (see recipe below for quantities). Cover with plastic wrap and microwave at 600W in 2 minute intervals, stirring each time until it’s microwaved for 6 minutes in total. Stir one more time and then cover and leave to rest in the steam for 10 minutes before shaping.
Steaming Method: place the rice (in the cheese cloth) into a steamer for 30-40 minutes or until cooked all the way through (check the grains at 30 minutes – if soft all the way to the core, it’s ready). Make sure the rice isn’t touching the water. Transfer the cooked rice to a bowl and mix with sugar and a drop of pink or red food coloring.
After the rice has cooled slightly, you can shape!
Anko (Red Bean Paste)
Sakura mochi is always filled with a sweet red bean paste we call “anko”. Anko is made with adzuki beans and sugar, it’s one of the most common sweet ingredients in Japan and Asia!
There are two main types of red bean paste. A chunky type that contains whole beans and their skins called “tsubuan” and a smooth, refined type called “koshian”.
Generally, we fill sakura mochi with smooth koshian which you can buy here on Amazon.
Alternatively, if you want to use tsubuan, check out my homemade tsubuan recipe! I recommend making tsubuan the night before when you soak the rice for the best flavour.
Salted Cherry Blossom Leaf
One of the most iconic parts of sakura mochi is “sakura no ha no shiozuke” (桜の葉の塩漬け). In English, this can be translated to “cherry blossom leaf pickled in salt”.
The leaves are picked from a “double cherry blossom tree”, then blanched and pickled in a salt brine for a few days. Before using them, they should be soaked in fresh water for 1 hour to remove the excess salt, then dried with a paper towel and wrapped around the sakura mochi.
The leaves create a fragrant and mildly salty flavour on the mochi. Whether you eat the leaf or not is purely down to preference.
Again, this ingredient can be difficult to find. Try your nearest Japanese supermarket or follow these steps to make them at home.
- Pick the leaves from the double cherry blossom tree (make sure you have permission!).
- Wash the leaves and trim the stems.
- Fill one bowl with ice cold water and one with boiling water.
- Drop the leaves into the boiling water for a few seconds and then immediately transfer them into the ice water. (The boiled water will kill bacteria and remove any leftover dirt / pesticides, the ice water stops the leaves from “cooking” and becoming wilted.)
- In a jug, mix 40g of salt with 100ml lukewarm water. Mix until the salt is dissolved.
- Stack the leaves and place them in ziplock bag.
- Pour the salt brine over the leaves and seal the ziplock bag. Place it in the fridge under a weight for 1-2 days.
- Use within one year. Soak in fresh clean water for 1 hour before using.
Pickled Cherry Blossom Flowers
Sakura no hana no shiozuke (桜の花の塩漬け) or “pickled cherry blossom flowers” are mainly for decoration!
They’re not essential for making sakura mochi, but if you can get them, they can also be used for seasoning rice or flavouring/decorating other kinds of desserts.
We generally soak them for 30 minutes to remove the excess salt and soften the petals. You can purchase them here on Amazon.
Tips and Tricks
Whether you make sakura mochi with domyojiko or mochigome, you cannot avoid the fact that it’s pretty sticky! This can make it difficult to shape nicely so I have a few tips to share with you!
Shape the anko first
It’s easier to shape the sakura mochi beautifully if you roll the anko into balls in advance. Then you can simply wrap the mochi “dough” around it.
Use baking paper
One of my favourite tips for shaping sakura mochi is using greaseproof baking paper.
Simply take a portion of the mochi dough and roll it with wet hands, then place it between two squares of baking paper and roll it out using a rolling pin.
You can then peel off one sheet of the baking paper, place the anko in the middle and wrap it with ease! It’s seriously easy and mess free!
Alternatively you can use plastic wrap sprinkled with a little water.
Wet your tools and hands
To stop the mochi from sticking to everything, wet your spatula/spoons and hands with cold water. This technique is also used for making sushi or onigiri too, water stops rice from sticking to things.
Sakura mochi is best eaten the same day as the rice tends to go hard when exposed to the air. If you want to eat it the next day then wrap them individually in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge in an airtight container or zip lock bag.
If you want to keep them longer than that, you can store them in the freezer. Again, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container.
Kansai Style Sakura Mochi (Cherry Blossom Rice Cakes)
- 150 g glutinous rice (mochigome) OR 150g domyojiko
- 6 salted cherry blossom leaves
- 6 salted cherry blossom flowers optional
- 175 ml water
- 1 ½ tbsp white sugar
- 1-2 drops of pink food coloring or half the amount of red food coloring
- 120 g smooth red bean paste (koshian/anko)
- Place 150 g glutinous rice in a sieve over a bowl. Fill the bowl with water, swish the rice around and then drain 3 times to clean. Fill the bowl one more time and leave the rice to soak for 1-8 hours.
- Soak 6 salted cherry blossom leaves in a bowl of cold water for 1 hour before starting.
- If using, soak 6 salted cherry blossom flowers in a separate bowl 30 minutes before you start.
- Drain the water and let the rice dry for 5-10 minutes. If using a steamer, start heating your water.
- Place it inside a damp cheesecloth.
- Wrap the cheesecloth around the rice and pound it lightly with a rolling pin to break it up. Don't make it too fine.
Mochigome recipe (microwave method)
- Transfer the broken rice to a microwavable bowl and add 175 ml water, 1 ½ tbsp white sugar and 1-2 drops of pink food coloring. Whisk.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave at 600W for 2 minutes. Mix with a rice paddle or silicone spatula and repeat two more times. (3 times, 6 mins in total. See note)
- Mix once more, then cover loosely to let the excess steam escape. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to touch.
Mochigome recipe (steam method)
- Wrap the broken rice in the cheesecloth and tie it with butcher's string. Transfer it to the steaming basket, place the lid on and steam over a medium heat for 30-40 minutes or until soft. (Test the softness by squashing a grain between your thumb and forefinger.)
- Transfer the cooked rice to a bowl and add 1 ½ tbsp white sugar and 1-2 drops of pink food coloring.
- Mix thoroughly with a rice paddle or silicone spatula.
- Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to touch.
Domyojiko (microwave method)
- Pour 150g of domyojiko into a microwavable bowl with 175 ml water, 1 ½ tbsp white sugar and 1-2 drops of pink food coloring.
- Mix thoroughly and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave at 600W for 2 minutes. Mix and repeat two more times. (3 times, 6 mins in total.)
- Mix once more, then allow to rest for 10 minutes loosely covered. (This allows the excess steam out without letting the dough dry out too much.)
Shaping sakura mochi
- While the mochi dough is resting in the steam, roll 120 g smooth red bean paste into one ball for each sakura mochi (approx 20g / ¾oz each).
- Gently dry the sakura leaves by patting them with a paper towel.
- Once the mochi is cool enough to touch, wet a rice paddle and divide it into 6 portions.
- Wet your hands with cold water and roll each portion into a ball.
- Press the ball of mochi flat in your palm. Alternatively, place the ball of mochi between two squares of parchment paper and flatten with a rolling pin.
- Place the ball of anko in the centre.
- Wet your fingers and then pinch the edges of the mochi around the ball of anko to close it up.
- Wet your hands and roll the sakura mochi in your palm to finish shaping. Wrap with a salted sakura leaf and decorate with salted sakura flower.