Mochi VS Daifuku VS Dango: Differences Explained

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  October 22, 2022

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All three of these desserts are made with rice dough, but they each have their own unique flavor and texture.

Mochi is the glutinous rice dough, pounded into shape, known for the mochi balls with sweet fillings or ice cream in the US, but those are actually daifuku. Daifuku is mochi filled with sweets. Dango is also a ball-shaped treat but made from rice flour dough instead of pounded mochi.

That’s a lot to process so let’s look at that more closely.

Mochi vs daifuku vs dango

What is mochi?

Mochi is the most common type of Japanese rice cake and most think it’s the balls served with red bean paste or ice cream if you’re in the US.

While those are technically called daifuku, mochi on its own refers to the sticky rice cake used as a base for these balls.

To make mochi, glutinous rice is pounded into a sticky paste and then formed into the desired shape – often a ball.

What is mochi (1)

What is daifuku?

Daifuku are mochi balls filled with sweet ingredients. The most popular daifuku filling is anko, which is a sweet red bean paste.

However, you can also find daifuku filled with things like chocolate, custard, or fruit.

Daifuku filled mochi rice balls

What is dango?

Dango are similar to mochi balls in that they are small and round, but they are made from a different kind of dough.

Dango is made from rice flour instead of glutinous rice, so it has a slightly different texture. It’s also often served on a skewer with three or four dango balls.

Dango with honey glaze

Why the confusion?

Because all three are so similar, it’s easy to make this mistake. On top of that, daifuku is made with mochi and often referred to as mochi because of the outer mochi layer.

Anyone would get confused when hearing these different terms used for the same thing.

Then, two companies came out with mochi ice cream to add to the confusion.

Mikawaya company developed a way to envelop ice cream with mochi in the 1980s which debuted in Hawaii in 1994. That was mochi dough filled with something sweet so it’s technically ice cream daifuku.

The first ice cream product like this was created in 1981 in Korea and called Yukimi Daifuku. A more accurate name you would think, but it was made with rice flour instead of mochi dough, so that was more of a Yukimi Dango.

Conclusion

With so many different flavors and textures to choose from, you’ll be sure to find a version of these desserts that you love.

Whether you’re in the mood for something soft and chewy like Mochi, something sweet and sticky like Daifuku, or something simple yet satisfying like Dango, there’s definitely something for everyone when it comes to these Japanese rice cakes.

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Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.