This Japanese Ice Cream Is Taking Over. Here’s What You Need to Know.

These little eye-catching balls of sweetness are popping up all over grocery stores in the U.S. But what is mochi ice cream?

If you’ve been to a Whole Foods Market in the past few months, you may have done a double take as you passed by a long freezer bin filled with brightly colored mystery balls. On that second look, you may have noticed the name “mochi.” And maybe after you left the store, you started noticing those orbs of cuteness popping up EVERYWHERE: Instagram, Facebook, your favorite magazines and even in a few other grocery stores. Mochi ice cream has been exploding in popularity across the U.S. this year, but what in the world is it?

Where did mochi come from?

While mochi ice cream may be a new trend to us, mochi itself can be traced as far back as the year 794 A.D. Mochi is a Japanese sticky rice dough. (Not sure what sticky rice is? Check out our guide.) It’s eaten year-round but is extra popular around the New Year because it’s a symbol of good fortune. And leave it to the Japanese to transform an ancient food into something totally trendy (and completely adorable): They pounded down that sweet mochi dough into sheets, wrapped it around balls of ice cream and turned it into one of the most Instagrammable desserts of the year.

How does it taste?

So what can you expect to eat when you inevitably cave into the mochi trend? It’s a little chewy, a little squishy, cool, creamy and so addictive. The little balls come in many ice cream flavors you already love—like strawberry, chocolate and vanilla—but if you’re feeling adventurous, go for green tea, black sesame, passion fruit or mango. Whole Foods offers all these flavors in their self-serve mochi bars (you can scoop them up individually or by the dozen), but if you just want a grab-and-go box, you can find options like My/Mo at most grocers. They offer up classics like chocolate and strawberry in addition to fun flavors like mint chip and cookies n’ cream—plus they come in dairy-free options, too!

Where can I get some?

If you don’t live near a Whole Foods, fear not: mochi ice cream is creeping into freezer sections everywhere. You can stock up on 18-packs at Costco (just one of the many secret perks it offers members), and soon enough it may show up in the freezer aisle at your local grocer. Just keep an eye out for their distinctive shape and fun colors—but get ready: Take one bite and you’ll never look at ice cream the same way.

Are you an ice cream purist? Find out our favorite brand of chocolate ice cream. And if you’re into the fun-colored hand-held ice cream thing, these Candy-Craze Ice Cream Sandwiches might help you ease into the mochi trend (just don’t share them with your dog). If you’re making homemade ice cream, make sure you have these ice cream products and tools on hand.

Next up: Learn about more must-try Japanese desserts.

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Rachel Seis
As senior editor for Taste of Home magazine, Rachel has her hand in everything you see from cover to cover, from writing and editing articles to taste-testing recipes to ensuring every issue is packed with fun and fabulous content. She'll roll up her sleeves to try any new recipe in the kitchen—from spicy Thai dishes (her favorite!) to classic Southern comfort food (OK...also her favorite). When she's not busy thinking of her next meal, Rachel can be found practicing yoga, going for a run, exploring National Parks and traveling to new-to-her cities across the country.