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Many of the treats I remember my mom making came from a well-used Hawaiian church cookbook, a gift from her family in Oahu. Our family favorite was butter mochi, a popular Hawaiian dessert made from mochiko (also known as sweet rice flour or glutinous rice flour), eggs, sugar, butter and coconut milk. Imagine the chewy texture of mochi combined with the rich flavor of coconut milk and topped with a crisp, caramelized crust. So good! And bonus: butter mochi is very easy to make. The recipe I’m sharing here is based on my mom’s, with a couple small tweaks (*cough* brown butter *cough*) for extra flavor.
Mochiko: the key ingredient
Butter mochi is a fairly flexible recipe — I’ve seen versions with varying amounts of butter and sugar; some use different types of milk or include shredded coconut and other add-ins. But the one non-negotiable ingredient is mochiko (sweet rice flour, or glutinous rice flour), which is milled from long grain glutinous rice. Mochiko is a naturally gluten-free flour that is responsible for butter mochi’s signature chewy texture. I recommend Koda Farms brand as that’s the flour I used to test this recipe (and what my mom always uses as well) — it’s available at Asian/International supermarkets and online. Do NOT substitute mochiko with regular rice flour or any other flour.
Pro-tip: pan-fried butter mochi
Once butter mochi has cooled, it’s perfectly enjoyable straight from the pan. However, my absolute favorite way to eat butter mochi is to pan fry it, which crisps and caramelizes the crust even further and warms the center through — the textural contrast is perfection. Just heat a lightly oiled non-stick pan over medium-low heat and fry each side until golden (about 1-2 minutes). Cool for a minute before devouring, and thank me later.
- Mochiko has a tendency to clump when added to the liquid ingredients, so I like to sift it in. Don’t be afraid to work out any flour lumps with a spatula or else you might end up with “flour bombs” in the finished butter mochi.
- For clean slices, let the butter mochi cool completely in the pan before removing and cutting. I like to let butter mochi cool and set overnight for the best texture.
Brown butter mochi squares (gluten-free)
Makes one 8×8 pan (16 2-inch squares)
- 57g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
- One can (400ml) full-fat coconut milk
- 200g (1 c) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal — use half the amount for table salt)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs (cold is fine)
- 225g (1 1/2 c) mochiko (sweet rice flour — I like Koda Farms brand)
- Preheat oven and prepare the pan: Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line an 8×8 metal baking pan with foil, dull side up. Leave a couple inches overhang on two sides for easy removal. Lightly grease the foil.
- Brown the butter: Place the cubed butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium-high. Stir frequently with a heatproof spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as needed. The butter will crackle, foam, turn clear gold, then finally start browning. It’s done when the crackling subsides and you smell toasted nuts. This process takes about 10 minutes total, but the butter can go from browned to burnt in a flash—so keep an eye on it. Pour the butter and all the toasty bits into a glass measuring cup or medium bowl. Whisk in the coconut milk.
- Mix the batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer or a whisk), combine the sugar, vanilla, salt, baking powder and eggs. Whisk on low to combine, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is thickened and pale, about 2-3 minutes (a little longer if by hand). Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually stream in the butter-coconut milk mixture. Mix until smooth and combined, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sift in the mochiko and mix on low until the batter is smooth. Use a flexible spatula to fold from the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure the batter is well-mixed and no pockets of flour remain. If there are any flour lumps, use the spatula to press them out.
- Bake: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan (it will be on the thin side) and bake until the top is golden brown and feels dry and springy to the touch, about 55-65 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan (preferably overnight). Use a sharp knife to cut into squares; wipe the blade clean with a warm towel between slices. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.