Warabi mochi is a unique dessert made up of jelly-like chunks coated in nutty roasted soybean powder and drizzled with rich black sugar syrup. It's served cold and is one of my favourite summer treats!
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What is Warabi Mochi?
Warabi mochi (わらび餅) is a type of traditional "wagashi" (Japanese sweet) made from bracken starch. It's sometimes called "Japanese bracken cake" in English. Although it's not technically mochi (as it's not made from mochi rice flour), it gets its name from it's mochi-like jelly texture.
It's most commonly coated in a layer of roasted soy bean powder called "kinako", although other flavours also exist. For added sweetness, it's popular to pour black sugar syrup over the top, so I've included the syrup in the recipe below!
Warabi mochi is usually served chilled and is typically enjoyed in the summer months.
Warabi mochi only requires a handful of ingredients:
- Warabiko (わらび粉) also known as bracken starch (see below for substitutes)
See recipe card at the bottom of the page for quantities.
What is Warabimochi made of?
Warabi mochi gets it's name from "warabiko" (わらび粉), which is the type of starch used to make it. Warabiko comes from the underground stem (rhizome) of a type of fern tree called "bracken".
Warabiko is flavourless and the flavour of warabi mochi comes purely from the kinako (soybean powder) and sugar.
Warabi mochi vs mochi
You might be wondering what the difference is between warabi mochi and regular mochi. Well, actually, warabi mochi is not technically mochi. Mochi should made from glutinous rice flour and it tastes like rice, whereas warabi mochi is made with starch and doesn't really have any flavour.
Mochi is chewier and stickier too. If you're interested in making daifuku (mochi with a filling) check out my ichigo daifuku (strawberry mochi) recipe here!
Where to buy warabi mochi powder
Unfortunately, warabiko can be difficult to find. In Japan, you'll probably find it in the aisle with the rice flours. Even when I looked online, I couldn't find any trustworthy place to buy it outside of Japan. Fortunately, I've done some research and experiments to find a good substitute.
Bracken Starch Substitutes
These days, warabi mochi is not exclusively made with bracken starch, other kinds of starch can also be used. I wanted to see how different kinds of starch affect the taste and texture of warabi mochi, so here are my findings!
Potato Starch (Katakuriko)
Katakuriko (片栗粉) is the Japanese name for "potato starch", an extremely common ingredient in Japanese cooking. We often use it as a coating for deep fried foods like karaage and tempura, or to thicken soups and sauces. Naturally, katakuriko is a staple ingredient in Japanese kitchens and making warabimochi with potato starch is actually the most common susbstitute ingredient! (You can purchase it here on Amazon.)
As you can see from the picture above, the warabiko produced a slightly yellow looking warabimochi whereas the katakuriko is clear. In terms of texture, the warabimochi made from warabiko was very soft while the one made from katakuriko was firmer.
|Slightly yellow colour||Clear colour|
|Soft texture||Slightly firmer|
|Hard to find||Accessible|
|Maintains a good texture||Texture deteriorates quickly|
I actually preferred the texture of the potato starch version on day one, but by day two it had begun to harden. One the other hand, the one made with warabiko actually improved in texture the next day. Based on this experiment, I'd say that both ingredients are good, but the one made with katakuriko should be eaten on the day it's made for the best texture.
Katakuriko (potato starch) works well when eaten the same day.
When I was living in England, I noticed that the most accessible kind of starch you can buy in most supermarkets is corn starch (also known as cornflour). Cornstarch is sometimes used as a substitute for potato starch so I decided to try it out!
While I was heating the mixture, I found it became quite smooth and almost like a paste. It is also white in colour and quite opaque compared to warabiko and katakuriko. The texture was also less sticky.
Once cut, I tried to coat it in kinako powder. It didn't stick well so the layer of kinako was quite thin. In terms of texture while eating, it was soft and smooth like gelatine but also felt a little paste-y/powdery and didn't have the chewiness that I look for in warabimochi.
Soft and gelatine-like, do not recommend.
Tapioca starch comes from the root of the cassava plant and is used to make the boba "pearls" in tapioca drinks. Because it's a root starch like warabiko, I thought maybe they would produce similar results. Here is what I found.
The colour is whiter than warabiko, but in terms of texture, it's extremely close. Soft with a slighy chewy texture. Both on day one and day two, I couldn't feel any difference between warabimochi made with warabiko and tapioca starch. I highly recommend this substitute!
Soft and chewy, closest like-ness to warabi mochi made with warabiko. (Best substitute!)
Warabi mochi is often drizzled with a thick black sugar syrup we call kuromitsu. Kuromitsu is rich and used in many Japanese drinks and desserts. It's made of a simple mixture of the following ingredients:
- Muscovado sugar
- Caster sugar
You simply heat it until it's slightly thickened, it only takes a few minutes to make!
In case you want to substitute for a different kind of syrup, the following can also be used:
- Maple syrup
- Golden syrup
How to make Warabi Mochi
Warabi mochi is extremely quick and easy to make, here are some of the most important steps to follow.
Pour the mixture through a sieve
While I personally like to try and use a few utensils as possible to save on washing up, I recommend mixing the ingredients in a bowl first and then pouring the mixture through a sieve into a saucepan. I know it's tempting to mix it straight in the pan... but this ensures there are no lumps of starch or sugar, meaning smooth and flawless warabi mochi!
By mixing your ingredients in a bowl first and then pouring through a sieve into the saucepan, your warabi mochi is guaranteed to be smooth and lump free!
Heat on low
By using a low or medium-low heat, you will be able to control the thickness of your warabi mochi with ease. Once the mixture begins to thicken, you won't believe how quick it will form a jelly-like ball. There will also be some sticky remains on the bottom of the pan which tend to catch if the heat is too high, so keep it low!
For more control, better texture and less chance of burning, keep the temperature of your stove on low or medium-low.
Line a sealable container with plastic wrap
Once the warabi mochi is cooked, you will need to transfer it to the fridge to cool down. I recommend using a wide airtight container such as a lunchbox, and then lining it with plastic wrap to make it easier to handle the warabi mochi later. Placing a lid on top will help prevent it from drying out.
It's okay to leave warabimochi out of the fridge because it doesn't contain perishable ingredients, however it's best served chilled so I recommend putting it in the fridge for 30 mins to 1 hour before eating.
A small sprinkle of water will prevent the warabi mochi from sticking. You can spray a small amount of water on the plastic wrap and your cooking utensils to make life easier.
Where to buy kinako powder
Warabi mochi gets all it's flavour from sugar and a coating of roasted soybean powder called "Kinako" (黄粉) which means "yellow flour" in Japanese.
The powder is made by roasting soybeans, removing the skins and then grinding them into a fine powder. If you can buy soybeans you can try making it yourself from scratch!
I like to mix the kinako with some sugar and a pinch of salt, it really enhances the flavour of kinako!
You can find kinako in Japanese supermarkets or buy it on Amazon here.
Because warabi mochi is made simply with a mixture of starch, sugar and water, it's easy to customise it with different powders and flavourings! Here are a few examples of other flavours of warabi mochi:
- Matcha (coated with green tea powder)
- Chocolate (coated with cocoa powder)
- Mocha (coffee flavoured warabi mochi drizzled with condensed milk)
- Fruits warabi (made with fruit juices)
Warabi mochi can be stored in an airtight container for 1-2 days. It's okay to keep it out of the fridge, but I recommend keeping it in a cool dark place and refrigerating 30 mins - 1 hour before eating so that it's nicely chilled.
If you make warabimochi with warabiko or tapioca starch then the texture stays soft, even after refrigeration. Warabimochi made with potato starch will dry out and become a bit hard in the fridge.
Make sure to store warabi mochi without the kinako coating. If it is stored with the kinako touching the surface, the powder will become wet, soggy and fall off.
Kinako powder should be stored in a separate container away from moisture. (It doesn't need to be refrigerated.)
Lastly, do not freeze!
For best results, coat the warabi mochi in kinako just before serving. Store leftover warabi mochi and kinako powder separately.
Tradionally, warabi mochi is made from bracken starch which comes from the underground roots of a type of fern tree. These days it's common to make it from potato starch or tapioca starch.
Technically warabi mochi doesn't really have a "taste". The taste comes from the kinako powder (which is nutty) and sugar. It can also be made with different flavours like matcha or chocolate.
It can be called "Bracken Cake" in English.