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
- better texture- a much smoother texture
- 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.
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.
I have been searching all over for this recipe. So glad i found your site. Thank you!
Can you use already cooked beans from a can?
If the beans are cooked soft enough, they should be ok.
How long do you cook the beans if you don't have a pressure cooker, so just using a pot on the stove?
Also do you use the same amount of water for stovetop cooking?
I recommend you cook the beans for 20 minutes after boiling and then turn off the fire and wait until cool down for 30 minutes and then re-start the fire and cook the beans for another 1 hour until completely soft.
You may need slightly more water. I will recommend 4-5 times. But you can add boiling water during the process whenever you feel the water is not enough.
Hi Elaine, sorry I keep adding more questions! I noticed your mung bean paste recipe uses a rice cooker, can you make the red bean paste in a rice cooker too?
Hi can I use tinned aduki beans instead of dried? What difference in soaking them will it make?
Yes, Bonny! Canned aduki beans should work fine too. However, please read the labels firstly and see whether there is extra salt or sugar added. There is no need to soak the canned beans since most of them are already cooked soft.
I was introduced to red beans at a Japanese restaurant that I’d visit with my dad. For dessert, they’d serve a scoop of red bean ice cream. We’d never thought of using beans in something sweet, but the waitress said to just trust her, it’s delicious, and it was. I have also had it in buns from the Asian market, and am so excited to be able to make these treats at home!
You must try it. Homemade red bean paste is so good, 100 times better than store bought paste.
I have a funny but yummy short story for you!!! I wanted to try this recipe out and I put on a pot of small red beans on and without thinking I put my bacon and ham hocks in and turn the cooker on and went to work. I realized this after I came home and was so bummed! But dinner was good and I took the leftover beans and went to work as nothing happened (minus the sugar I totally left it out)...to my surprise IT WAS AWESOME!!! This gave it a whole it a whole new taste! and instead of a sweet snack it gave me an opportunity to use left over beans for an alternative snack! so win-win!!
wow, that's really funny!
Sometimes I cook mung beans with ribs. It is a great savory soup. I will try your version, using red beans and protein.
If I use 200g of dried beans how much quantity of paste I will have?
It should be around 680g.
I recently watched a movie titled SWEET BEAN where they made sweet bean paste from scratch. In the movie they mashed the cooked beans and then added something that looked like clear jello. Maybe a cooked cornstarch paste? What could that product be? This was mixed into the bean paste. Thanks.
Is there a link where I can find the video? I am not sure whether it is cornstarch paste.
The nutritional analysis for this recipe makes no sense at all, with things like "Calories from fat, 4" followed by "Saturated fat, 15 g. (75% of Daily Value). The sodium content is similarly nonsensical--how does a "tiny pinch of salt" translate to "396 mg" of sodium (17% of Daily Value). There is something seriously wrong with the values that are listed here.
First time I have ever tried this. I mistakenly tossed the entire bag into the pressure cooker after soaking and before reading the ingredient list. So I ended up making double the batch. 🙂
My wife, from China, told me it would take me three days to get it right. She didn't realize i was using the Instant Pot. Cooked for 25 minutes, beans came out so soft the skins were falling off.
I tried the strainer method and compared to using a food processor. The food processor much faster but grainy. Strainer took me about 25 minutes to do the 2 dry cups of beans (after soaking and baking closer to 4 cups). I used the back of an ice-cream scoop we have which has a nice rounded edge to it, I think it better than a spoon. Best to do a half cup at a time and empty top of strainer of skins by scooping out, then carefully scrap off the bottom of strainer before starting the next half cup. I even strained the 1/2 cup I put in the food processor. Smooth.
I didn't want to use the all sugar but decided since first time, why not. The taste is spot on compared to local Chinese bakery. I didn't understand cooking off the water part until I put it on the heat. It turned to soup the moment it heated up. (I would include a photo of what it looked right after adding the sugar and butter in your description.) Cooking off the excess water took me nearly 30 minutes, but the texture was gold when done.
Can't want for part two, my first time steaming a bun.
What a naughty experience! For cooking off the water part, it is ok to keep the water if you want to use it as a filling for buns. But if you want to use it as filling for other pastry or mooncakes, water will spoil the texture of the skin. That's why I suggest cooking the water off. Wish you good luck with the steamed buns.