Lightly crispy on the outside and dense and chewy on the inside, mochi doughnuts are what happens when American-style doughnuts meet the Japanese treat mochi, a sticky confection made from glutinous rice flour. They’re only just beginning to gain a foothold in the Boston area, but they’re old news to other parts of the country.
Bakeries in Hawaii have been popularizing mochi doughnuts for a while now, leading to the spread of the doughnuts around the West Coast and beyond. Some versions draw inspiration from pon de ring doughnuts — shaped like eight small spheres attached in a ring — from the Japanese branch of the decades-old international chain Mister Donut. (Mister Donut, incidentally, has roots in Massachusetts and a family connection to hometown doughnut chain Dunkin’ — and in 1990, Dunkin’s parent company acquired Mister Donut, with most United States Mister Donut locations converting to Dunkin’ locations. These days, Mister Donut is big in Asia but only exists in a few other parts of the world.)
Mister Donut’s pon de ring doughnuts aren’t actually mochi doughnuts; they’re made from tapioca and wheat flours. But the distinctive shape also works well for a mochi base, so many of the mochi doughnuts popping up around the United States follow that style. Others are shaped like a traditional American doughnut, a simple ring.
In fall 2021, two mochi doughnut shops debuted in Allston, the first permanent storefronts in the area to focus almost exclusively on the treats. They’re not Boston’s first taste of mochi doughnuts, though; a local cafe has been selling them since 2017, and a pop-up has been making appearances around the area for about a year now. But with the new Allston arrivals essentially doubling Boston’s mochi doughnut bounty, they’ll probably be available just about everywhere pretty soon.
Here’s the rundown on where to find mochi doughnuts around Boston — so far.
1480 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, Boston; 305 Newbury St., Back Bay, Boston
Coco Leaf is best known for chè, a Vietnamese dessert or pudding that can be made with a wide range of beans, jellies, fruits, and other ingredients. But the cafe has also been selling mochi doughnuts since 2017; they’re currently available at both locations in matcha, Oreo, raspberry, pandan, and Fruity Pebbles.
Keep an eye out: A third Coco Leaf is in the works.
Neighborhood Donut Society
This pop-up first appeared around fall 2020, starting with some pickup opportunities in southeastern Massachusetts. In recent months, Neighborhood Donut Society has been popping up closer to — and within — Boston, appearing at places like Colleen’s in Medford and Tokava in Jamaica Plain. Past flavors have included pandan coconut with white chocolate; black sesame sugared; pumpkin chai; five-spice chocolate with torched Fluff; and more.
Founder Anna-Li Claiborne is a hospitality scene veteran, having worked both back-of-house and front-of-house positions over the past 25-plus years. “Like many people, [the pandemic] seemed like the time for change, change in career, change in life,” Claiborne tells Eater. Helping out at a friend’s bakery and boba shop “ignited [her] interest” in making mochi doughnuts.
It’s been a family affair, starting with non-stop recipe testing with her daughters and creating a recipe her (American-style) doughnut-loving husband would eat. Her daughters created an Instagram account; “I 100% was not ready,” says Claiborne, but friends started placing orders. Claiborne’s daughters continue to run social media, and her husband helps on pop-up days. “I don’t know where this is going to end up, for this was all a fun family project,” says Claiborne, “but what I do know is there is a demand for mochi doughnuts in Boston. If the right opportunity comes along we will hopefully have a brick and mortar by fall 2022.”
1 Brighton Ave., Allston, Boston
Pon de Joy arrived in early October 2021 within Boston’s Super 88 food court. It’s a sibling to Allston restaurant Kimchipapi Kitchen, where founder Joon Son has been selling Korean corn dogs, fried chicken, poke bowls, and more since 2018. (Pon de Joy shares space at Super 88 with sibling spot Kimchipapi Korndogs, serving corn dogs, of course.)
Pon de Joy is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a constantly changing menu; watch Instagram for flavor updates, and stay tuned for delivery, coming soon. Past flavors have included matcha, coffee candy, orange cream, lemon poppyseed, blueberry pie, and more. As the name of the shop alludes to, Pon de Joy’s doughnuts are inspired by the pon de ring style.
154 Harvard Ave., Allston, Boston
Just days after Pon de Joy’s debut, Mochinut also opened in Allston, within a location of Korea-based bubble tea chain Gong Cha. Mochinut — which shapes its doughnuts in the pon de ring style — is part of a large chain with other locations around the United States (but no other ones in New England yet) as well as in Thailand and South Korea. Doughnut flavors include ube, yuzu, taro, churro, peanut butter, and more. Mochinut also sells Korean corn dogs, wrapped in coatings like crispy ramen or potato.
Mochinut Allston is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. This location doesn’t yet have online ordering, but some other locations do, so stay tuned for any updates.
50 Foster St., Door 15A, Worcester
A bit beyond Boston, this Worcester doughnut shop serves American-style doughnuts and doughnut holes as well as pon de ring-style mochi doughnuts Thursday through Sunday at Worcester’s DCU Center. Under the moniker Mochy by Glazy, the mochi doughnut selection typically includes two or three flavors per month; past flavors have included purple cow (blackberry glaze with white chocolate pearls), peaches and cream, matcha Oreo, ube, and more. Online ordering is available.