Mochi Mania Reaches Donut Shops

Mochi donuts are the latest craze to hit restaurants and donut shops.

Mochi donuts are a mix between American-style donuts and Japanese mochi and originated in Hawaii. Mochi donuts are typically circular, like an American donut, but are pieced together with eight small balls that can be pulled apart and come in many different flavors.

To learn more about this food movement, The Food Institute spoke with Namiko Chen, founder and recipe developer of Just One Cookbook and an expert on Japanese cuisines, ingredients, and cooking techniques. Chen shares her insight on the popularity of mochi below.

The Food Institute: How have mochi donuts become so popular?

Namiko Chen: I’m not 100 percent sure why, but by the time mochi donuts were created and became popular in Hawaii, mochi was already a well-known dessert in the U.S. thanks to mochi ice cream. People love the unique chewy texture.

As more Asian pastry shops started offering similar pastries, people started to appreciate and like the chewy texture and unique Asian flavors like matcha and ube.

Mochi donuts are an Asian-American creation; they don’t even exist in Japan.

In Japan, we have a large donut chain called Mister Donut that has sold the very popular pon de ring donuts for a long time, well before mochi donuts were invented in the U.S. The main similarity between the two is the ring shape.

They may look similar, but they’re actually quite different. They use completely different types of flour. Pon de ring donuts are made of tapioca flour and wheat flour, while mochi donuts are made of glutinous rice flour. Their textures are also distinct. Both are chewy, but mochi donuts are more dense, whereas pon de ring are soft, airy, and bouncy. So, while it’s true that pon de ring have a somewhat “mochi-like texture,” they’re not actually made of mochi or mochi flour. I wrote about it in my recipe post for pon de ring donuts.

Are mochi donuts likely to gain popularity in 2024?

Chen: I think so. I don’t think it’ll be as popular as boba tea, but I do expect to see a store in popular malls in the future.

What sorts of restaurants are most ideal to serve mochi donuts?

Chen: I think a perfect restaurant to serve mochi donuts would also serve boba and other fun drinks, so customers can pick and choose what they want. I don’t see it as part of a restaurant’s dessert menu unless a restaurant or cafe serves a similar menu and caters to that audience.

Since mochi donuts are a finger food that are made fresh, they seem to be popular to grab on the go in a casual restaurant setting.

Which demographics like mochi donuts most?

Chen: Everyone – from young to old. However, from the people I’ve seen in line waiting to purchase, it’s mostly teens through those in their 40s.

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