Mastering Kushi Dango: A Guide to Crafting Japan’s Beloved Treat

Imagine strolling through the bustling streets of a Japanese festival, where the sweet, smoky scent of grilled treats fills the air. Among these, kushi dango stands out—a simple yet delightful skewered mochi that has captured the hearts of many. This traditional Japanese sweet, made from rice flour and often coated with a glossy, sweet soy sauce glaze, offers a chewy texture and a flavor that bridges the perfect balance between sweet and savory.

Kushi dango’s charm isn’t just in its taste but also in its cultural significance. Often enjoyed during cherry blossom viewings and festive celebrations, it connects you to the seasonal joys of Japan. Whether you’re a seasoned lover of Japanese cuisine or a curious newcomer, making kushi dango at home can bring a piece of this festive spirit right into your kitchen.

Ready to embark on a culinary journey? Let’s dive into the world of kushi dango and discover how you can recreate this beloved snack with ease.


Embrace the flavors of Japanese festivals by gathering these simple ingredients to make your own kushi dango at home.

For Dango

  • 1 cup glutinous rice flour (shiratamako)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water (for cornstarch slurry)

Equipment Needed

To ensure your venture into making kushi dango at home is seamless and enjoyable, you’ll need a few key pieces of equipment. Here’s what to gather before you start:

  • Mixing Bowl: Select a medium-sized bowl to mix your dango dough. This will ensure that the ingredients are well-incorporated.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Precision is crucial in achieving the perfect texture for your dango. Use these to measure out your ingredients accurately.
  • Wooden Spoon or Silicone Spatula: For stirring and combining the glutinous rice flour, sugar, and water into a smooth dough.
  • Pot for Boiling: A medium pot will be necessary for boiling the dango. Ensure it’s large enough to accommodate all your dumplings without overcrowding.
  • Slotted Spoon: This will help you easily remove the dango from boiling water once they’re cooked.
  • Grill or Broiler: To achieve the slightly charred exterior that is characteristic of kushi dango, use a grill or a broiler in your oven.
  • Basting Brush: This will be used to apply the savory soy sauce-based sauce onto your skewered dango.
  • Bamboo Skewers: Since kushi means skewer in Japanese, you’ll need several bamboo skewers for threading your dango dough into dumplings and cooking them.

Make sure all these items are clean and readily available before you begin cooking. This will help streamline the process, allowing you to focus on the art of making these delightful skewered treats.


Now that you have all your ingredients and equipment ready, let’s dive into the preparation process for making your delicious kushi dango. This step is crucial to ensure your cooking goes smoothly and results in a delightful treat.

Measuring Ingredients

Start by measuring out all the ingredients precisely to avoid any hiccups during the cooking process. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Measure 1 cup of glutinous rice flour (shiratamako) into the mixing bowl.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar to the glutinous rice flour.
  3. Slowly pour in about 3/4 cup of warm water, adjusting as needed to achieve the right dough consistency. The dough should be firm but pliable.
  4. For the sauce, measure 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of mirin, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a separate bowl or cup. Stir well to combine.

Having precise measurements ensures each batch of dango is consistent in both taste and texture.

Setting Up Cooking Stations

Prepare your cooking stations efficiently to make the process as fun and hassle-free as possible:

  1. Have the mixing bowl on your countertop and a wooden spoon or silicone spatula at hand for mixing the dough.
  2. Set up the boiling station with a pot filled halfway with water on the stove. Keep it over medium heat.
  3. Near the stove, arrange a plate lined with a kitchen towel for the cooked dango to drain and cool slightly.
  4. Set your grill or broiler up for later use, ensuring it’s clean and ready. Place your bamboo skewers, basting brush, and prepared sauce nearby.
  5. Designate a space to skewer and baste the dango once they are boiled and slightly cooled.

Organizing your stations this way keeps everything within easy reach and helps avoid any confusion during the cooking stages. Remember to keep your workspace tidy to maintain a pleasant cooking environment.

Making the Dango

Now that you’ve prepared your workspace and measured out all the ingredients, let’s dive into crafting your very own kushi dango!

Mixing the Dough

Start by sifting 200 grams of glutinous rice flour into a large bowl to ensure there are no lumps. Next, incorporate 50 grams of sugar to sweeten your dough. Gradually add 160 milliliters of warm water to the dry ingredients, mixing consistently with a wooden spoon. You want to achieve a smooth, pliable dough that’s soft to the touch but not sticky. If the mixture feels dry, add a bit more water, one teaspoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

Shaping the Dango

Once the dough reaches an even consistency, dust your hands lightly with potato starch to prevent sticking. Pinch off pieces of dough, and roll them into small, bite-sized balls about 2 centimeters in diameter. Continuously dust your hands if the dough begins to stick, ensuring each ball is smooth and round. Prepare a tray lined with parchment paper to place your shaped dango upon, which helps in preventing them from sticking together or to any surface.

Boiling the Dango

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Gently drop the dango balls into the boiling water. Make sure not to overcrowd the pot; boil them in batches if necessary. The dango are cooked through when they float to the surface of the water; this typically takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the dango from the boiling water once they float. Immediately plunge the cooked dango into an ice-cold water bath, which halts the cooking process and helps maintain their chewy texture. Allow the dango to sit in the cold water for a few minutes until they are completely cooled. Afterward, drain the dango and pat them dry with a kitchen towel to remove excess moisture.

Preparing the Mitarashi Sauce

Now that your dango balls are cooling, it’s time to create the delicious mitarashi sauce that adds a sweet and umami-rich glaze to your skewered treats.

Mixing Ingredients for the Sauce

Start by gathering all the necessary ingredients for your mitarashi sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of mirin
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons of water

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water thoroughly to create a slurry. This will help thicken your sauce later, ensuring it clings beautifully to the dango. In another bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Stir these together until the sugar is completely dissolved. Now, blend the soy mixture with your cornstarch slurry. Ensure it’s well combined to avoid lumps in your sauce.

Cooking the Sauce

Transfer the mixed sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. Place the pan over medium-low heat. Allow the sauce to come to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. This constant movement is crucial to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan and to ensure it thickens evenly.

Keep cooking the sauce until it thickens slightly, which should take about 3 to 5 minutes. When the sauce coats the back of your spoon, it’s done. Remove it from the heat immediately to prevent over-thickening.

Your mitarashi sauce is now ready to be generously brushed or drizzled over your chilled dango. Enjoy the perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors that this sauce adds to your homemade kushi dango.

Assembling the Kushi Dango

Now that your dango dough is perfectly cooked and cooled, it’s time to assemble these delightful skewers for a festive treat.

Skewering the Dango

Start by setting out your bamboo skewers. If they’re new, soak them in water for about 30 minutes to prevent burning during grilling. Gently thread three to four dango balls onto each skewer, ensuring they are evenly spaced but firmly attached. Be careful not to push too hard, as the dango are delicate and can break.

Glazing with Sauce

Once you’ve skewered the dango, heat your previously prepared mitarashi sauce. Bring it to a slight simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick or burn. Dip each skewer into the warm sauce, coating the dango thoroughly to ensure each bite is infused with its savory sweetness. Allow the excess sauce to drip off, then lay the skewers on a plate.

Serving Suggestions

After carefully crafting your kushi dango and coating them with the delicious mitarashi sauce, it’s time to serve them in a way that compliments their traditional charm and delightful flavors. Here are some authentic and creative ways to enhance your kushi dango serving experience.

Traditional Japanese Presentation

Embrace the full cultural experience by serving your kushi dango on small, elegant plates typically used in Japanese dining. Opt for ceramic or wooden plates that reflect the artisanal nature of this dish. Place three to five skewers per plate, arranged neatly, to allow each individual dango to be fully appreciated. Pairing with a cup of matcha tea can elevate this traditional snack to a serene tea-time affair. The subtle bitterness of the matcha beautifully contrasts the sweet glaze of the dango.

Festive Serving Ideas

If you’re serving kushi dango during a festival or a party, consider creating a dango bar where guests can customize their skewers. Offer a variety of sauces aside from mitarashi, such as sweetened condensed milk, kinako (roasted soy flour), or even a matcha sauce for diversity. Provide small bowls of crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, or coconut flakes for additional toppings. This interactive setup not only entertains guests but also allows them to tailor their treats to their taste preferences.

For a Modern Twist

To add a contemporary twist to your kushi dango, try drizzling them with some chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of sea salt after glazing them with the mitarashi sauce. The fusion of savory, sweet, and slightly salty flavors will surprise and delight your taste buds. Serve these on a sleek, minimalist-style platter to emphasize the modern elements of your dish.

Each of these serving suggestions aims to enhance the flavors and presentation of your homemade kushi dango, making the eating experience as enjoyable as the cooking process. Choose the style that best fits the occasion or mix elements from each suggestion to create your unique serving tradition.


Exploring the art of making kushi dango at home can be a delightful journey into Japanese culinary traditions. Whether you stick to the classic mitarashi sauce or experiment with contemporary toppings your homemade dango is sure to impress. Remember the joy is as much in the preparation as it is in the tasting. So gather your ingredients set up your dango bar and enjoy creating and sharing these delicious treats with friends and family. Happy cooking!

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