Red bean paste is one of my favorite dessert fillings and it is widely used in Asian cuisine and Chinese desserts. Making red bean paste at home is quite easy and requires several ingredients only.
What's red bean paste
Red bean paste, also known as Anko in Japanese, is a popular ingredient used in many traditional Asian dishes. It is made from red beans (aka red beans)) that have been boiled, mashed, and sweetened with sugar and smoothed by fat. The texture of red bean paste can range from thick and smooth to slightly chunky. It has been widely used in Chinese and Japanese cuisines. Although store-bought red bean paste is super convenient, the homemade version is so amazing that I want to share with you the process.
The main ingredient - Adzuki beans
Adzuki beans or Aka red beans are small red beans that are widely used in East Asian cuisines. It is quite larger than mung beans we call it "赤红豆". It has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, with a texture similar to lentils when cooked. Adzuki beans are highly valued for their medicinal properties in Chinese traditional medicine as they are believed to help reduce inflammation, nourish the kidneys, and promote healthy digestion. So there is a famous Chinese red bean soup. Adzuki beans can be easy to found in Asian stores. In addition to the raw beans, there might be cooked red beans such as sweetened red beans (蜜红豆).
Varieties of red bean paste
Chinese red bean paste is slightly different from the Japanese version which only requires beans and sweeteners. We also add fat, either pork lard or butter. Adding oil to the red bean paste has several advantages including
- a better texture- much smoother
- enhanced flavors - the flavor of the oil can combine well with sugar and make the red bean paste taste better.
- avoid the paste from drying after being cooled and helps to keep the original texture for a longer time.
If you want a vegan version, you can use natural vegetable oil as a substitute or use coconut oil. In addition to this difference, we also have different varieties in texture.
Chunky texture (Tsubu-an) is the most convenient and easiest way of making red bean paste. The paste is thick with red beans as large chunks inside the paste. You can use this version to make red bean soup directly.
Smooth version (Koshi-an) - this one is much popular in Chinese. Traditionally, boiled red beans are stored in a bag and then wash in water to let the puree come out and remove the skins. But a quicker version is to blend in a blender until really smooth.
How to use red bean paste
Red bean paste has a sweet red bean flavor that perfectly complements other dishes such as traditional pastries, mooncakes, steamed buns, Tangyuan, mochi, and ice cream.
One of the most popular uses of red bean paste in Chinese cuisine is red bean buns, also known as red bean paste buns. These steamed buns are usually filled with red bean paste and can be served as an afternoon snack or even dessert.
In Japan, red bean paste is used in traditional desserts such as Dorayaki (a type of pancake), Yokan (a jelly-like sweet), and red bean ice cream. Following are some recipes to try at home with your homemade version of red bean paste.
Homemade red bean buns--soft and sweet buns perfect for breakfast known as Dou Sha Bao.
Snow Skin Mooncake--Non-bake Snow Skin Mooncake. For the filling of Snow Skin Moon Cake, the paste should be drier than other fillings.
Sesame balls-- I received lots of requests concerning a Chinese dessert with sesame balls on a shell and red bean paste inside.
Mini sweet red bean buns--a transformation of Chinese steamed buns
Mung bean cake stuffed with red bean paste - a popular Chinese dessert.
Zongzi--Chinese sticky rice dumpling with red bean paste.
Wash the red beans and soak the dried red beans for at least 8 hours or overnight. Longer soaking time can shorten the cooking time.
Drain and transfer the beans to an instant pot, and add water. Press beans and cook the red beans until really soft.
Transfer the beans along with the water to a blender. Blend until really smooth.
Get a non-stick pan, transfer the mixture, and add butter, sugar, and a very small pinch of salt. Continue stirring the fry the mixture until it can wrap up together.
Skip the blending process and add the beans directly to the non-stick pan. Add sugar, a very small pinch of salt, and butter (if using).
Continue stirring the fry the mixture until it can wrap up together.
Red Bean Paste
- 1 cup red beans (azuki bean)
- 3 cups water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tiny pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp. butter, lard or vegetable oil
- 1 cup red beans (azuki bean) ,azuki bean ,around 200g
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. butter or vegetable oil ,28 to 30g
- a tiny pinch of salt
- Wash the red beans and soak the dried red beans at least 8 hours or overnight. Longer soaking time can shorten the cooking time.
- Drain and add around 3 cups of water in a high pressure cooker along with the beans.
- Cook the beans for around 40 minutes or until quite soft.
- Smash the beans with a hard spatula. Add sugar and heat over slow fire to cook off extra water until form a paste texture. Stir from time to time during the process.
- Press the cooked mixture with a spatula through a fine strain to remove the skins to get the smoothest texture. Or if you prefer to keep the skin, transfer all the content to a food processor and blend to a smooth consistency.
- Transfer the paste to a pan. Add salt, sugar and butter. Use low fire to simmer the exceeded water out. Keep stirring during the process until the paste can sticky together.
How to store
- Transfer to air-tight container, wait for the paste to cool down. Store in fridge.