But first what is mochi? We spoke to an expert for the nutrition info, plus prep tips.

By By Isadora Baum
Updated: November 07, 2017
Photo: Masahiro Makino/Getty Images

You've probably seen mochi on the dessert menu at Japanese restaurants or spotted mochi ice cream in the frozen aisle at the grocery store. But if you've never had it because, frankly, you have no idea what mochi is, you're not alone.

What is mochi, anyway?

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made with water, sometimes sugar, and a starchy, sticky short-grain rice, says Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet. Mochi is an emerging food trend, especially mochi ice cream, thanks to its unique chewy-soft texture.

Is mochi healthy?

Mochi has a few health benefits, though the nutritional qualities depend on whether you're choosing brown rice mochi (a whole grain, and always a more nutritious option) or white rice mochi (a refined grain with less fiber and antioxidants), says Moon. Brown rice is rich in manganese, an energy-boosting mineral with antioxidant and bone-strengthening properties, she says. It also contains potassium and magnesium, which are essential to nerve and muscle function. (FYI, here are some foods that give you all the nutrients you need.)

Mochi or mochi ice cream is a good option for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. And while you can't control for ingredients at a restaurant, mochi ice cream is usually served in smaller portions, so it could help with portion control, says Moon. (P.S. Here are a few more bite-size desserts perfect for the holidays.)

Here's how to eat mochi.

Mochi might sound basic on its own, but that's the beauty of it; mochi works well with both savory and sweet recipes. As for taste, "it is mildly sweet, but it's mostly a blank canvas for herbs, spices, vinegar, fruits, and vegetables," says Moon. Because there's a natural sweetness to mochi, you'll often see it in dessert dumplings, ice cream, or sweet red bean paste. You can coat it in honey, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, or other fun toppings to make a variety of colorful, not-too-sweet dessert bites, too.

But it's versatility doesn't end with dessert. "You can combine mochi with green onions, then pound into pancakes and pan-fry," Moons says. Serve with a soy-vinegar sauce.

You can also knead it into balls or cut it into cubes as a dumpling used in soups, says Moon. For instance, mochi is great in naturally sweet squash soup or savory chicken noodle soup. The texture of the mochi adds a bit of richness to the dish, too.

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