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Smooth Red Bean Paste Recipe

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Red bean paste, 豆沙 in Chinese, is a sweetened bean paste that is often used as a filling Asian pastries, such as mooncakes, mochi, or baked breads. In Cantonese, 豆沙 is pronounced dau saa; in Mandarin, it is pronounced dou sha

Although many Asian cultures use red bean paste in their cooking, the flavor and texture of the paste can vary. For example, Japanese-style red bean paste, anko (餡子、あんこ), is generally made with azuki beans and sugar without any fat. However, Chinese-style red bean paste tends to include fat, such as lard, vegetable oil, peanut oil, etc. As a result, the bean paste is richer and more fragrant. 

In this red bean paste recipe, I’ll explain how to make a smooth Chinese-style red bean paste. If you’re looking for a chunky bean paste, see the notes in the recipe.

HOW TO MAKE SMOOTH RED BEAN PASTE

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INGREDIENTS

Azuki Beans: To make red bean paste, you’ll need azuki beans, also known as adzuki beans or 紅豆 (“red bean” in Chinese). My mom tried making the bean paste with kidney beans and she said they didn’t work well because the beans left a slimy texture.

Dark Brown Sugar: I’m using dark brown sugar to sweeten the bean paste because I like the malty flavor and the sugar deepens the color of the bean paste. Coconut sugar or plain sugar/caster sugar are suitable substitutes.

Walnut & Coconut Oil: The purpose of adding oil to the bean paste is to make the paste more fragrant and smooth. I like using a combination of La Tourangelle’s roasted walnut oil and Trader Joe’s Virgin Coconut oil. These oils impart a nutty and pleasantly fragrant aroma to the bean paste. You can substitute any of these oils with any oils or butters you like. I sometimes use peanut oil or toasted hazelnut oil in place of the walnut oil. 

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The bean paste on the left contains kansui

Kansui (Optional): My mom always adds a small amount of kansui (lye water, 鹼水) to deepen the color of the red bean paste. Notice how the bean paste on the left in the photo above, which contains kansui, looks darker than the paste on the right. Kansui also alters the taste of the paste ever so slightly. You can find kansui in Asian grocery stores. Feel free to leave it out if it’s difficult to obtain.

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Cooking azuki (adzuki) beans in Instant Pot

COOKING THE BEANS: NO-SOAK METHOD

Using the Instant Pot to cook the beans is the easiest and quickest method because you don’t need to soak the beans. Cook the beans on High Pressure for 22 minutes. Once the cooking stops, let the beans sit in the pot for another 25 minutes before releasing the residual pressure and draining the beans. Letting the beans sit in the hot water softens them further, resulting in beans that are easier to mash. I tried shortening the resting time to 15 minutes once, and I found quite a few beans were still firm at the core.

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Cooking azuki (adzuki) beans on stovetop

COOKING THE BEANS ON STOVETOP

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, soak the azuki beans overnight. Then, drain the beans and transfer them to a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with water until the water line is about 2 inches above the beans. Bring the water to boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the beans for another 30 to 45 minutes. You should be able to crush the beans easily with your fingers. Drain the beans.

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PRESS BEAN PUREE THROUGH MESH STRAINER

After draining the beans, transfer them to a food processor to blend until smooth. Because there isn’t enough liquid in the beans, they won’t mix properly in a high-speed blender.

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Hard azuki bean skins removed from the bean puree

Once you blend the beans, I recommend pressing the puree through a mesh strainer to strain out some of the tougher skins of the azuki beans. Straining isn’t absolutely necessary but highly recommended if you want a smoother paste. You can even strain the puree twice if you like but it’s not necessary.

COOK BEAN PASTE

To turn the bean puree into a thicker paste, you need to reduce the liquid by further cooking the puree in a pan. I highly recommend doing this in a nonstick pan to prevent the puree from sticking. 

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This is what happens when you cook the bean paste in a Dutch oven

I once tried cooking the paste in a Dutch oven and a layer of bean puree coated the bottom of the pot. I had to soak the pan for a long time and eventually cleaned everything with the help of Bar Keeper’s Friend (affiliate link).

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Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add the walnut oil and swirl to coat the pan with the oil. Add the pureed beans and cook it for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. If the puree is bubbling aggressively, reduce the heat slightly. Add the sugar to the pan and stir to combine with the beans.

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At this stage, the paste will be quite runny. Continue cooking and the paste for another 10 to 12 minutes. Eventually, the paste will thicken so much that you can fold the paste with a flat spatula. The consistency of the paste will almost be like soft play-doh. Reduce the heat to low.

Add the coconut oil to the pan. Use a flat spatula to fold the oil into the paste. Turn off the heat. I like adding the coconut oil at the end because I think the paste is more fragrant this way. 

Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and let cool for 20 minutes before using. The red bean paste crusts easily, so cover the bowl with a damp towel.

HOW TO STORE RED BEAN PASTE

Refrigerate any unused red bean paste for up to a week. You can also freeze the paste in a freezer bag or container and use it within a few months.

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Servings: 1.75 cups (485 to 500 grams)

Author: Lisa Lin

Smooth Red Bean Paste

Red bean paste (豆沙) is a common filling used in Asian breads and pastries. Use it in mooncakes, mochi, or as a filling in my pineapple buns! This recipe explains how to make a smooth red bean paste. See note 1 for directions on how to make a chunky red bean paste.You can easily adjust the amount of sugar used in this bean paste. If you want something less sweet, I recommend using 6 tablespoons (or 72 grams) of brown sugar. You can also add more if you like.

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time50 mins

Resting Time25 mins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (225g) azuki/adzuki beans
  • 6 cups (1.4L) water
  • 4 tablespoons roasted walnut oil, (see note 2)
  • 7 tablespoons (84g) dark brown sugar, add more if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon kansui, optional (see note 3)
  • 1 tablespoon virgin or unrefined coconut oil

Instructions

Cook the Beans (See Note 4 for Stovetop Directions)

  • Rinse and drain the beans. Transfer the beans to the bowl of an Instant Pot. Add the water, seal the Instant Pot with the lid, and cook the beans on High Pressure for 22 minutes.

  • Once the cooking stops, let the beans sit for another 25 minutes so they can soften further. Release any residual pressure by moving the pressure release to “Venting.” Drain the beans.

Press Beans

  • Transfer the cooked beans to a food processor to blend until smooth. Because there isn’t enough liquid in the beans, they won’t mix properly in a high-speed blender.

  • Once you blend the beans, I recommend pressing the puree through a mesh strainer to strain out some of the tougher skins of the azuki beans. Straining isn’t absolutely necessary but highly recommended if you want a smoother paste. You can strain the puree twice if you like.

Cook Bean Paste

  • Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Use a nonstick pan or else things can get messy (see note 5). Add the walnut oil and swirl to coat the pan with the oil. Add the pureed beans and cook it for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

  • Add the sugar to the pan and stir to combine with the beans. If you’re using kansui, add it now, too. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking and the paste for another 10 to 12 minutes. Eventually, the paste will thicken so much that you can fold up the paste with a flat spatula. The consistency of the paste will almost be like soft play-doh. Reduce the heat to low.

  • Take a pea-sized portion of the paste and let it cool for 30 seconds before tasting. Add more sugar, if desired.

  • Add the coconut oil to the pan. Use a flat spatula to fold the oil into the paste. Turn off the heat.

  • Transfer the paste to a mixing bowl and let cool for 20 minutes before using. The red bean paste crusts easily, so cover the bowl with a damp towel.

  • Refrigerate any unused red bean paste for up to a week. You can also freeze the paste in a freezer bag or container and use it within a few months.

Notes

  1. Chunky Red Bean Paste: If you want a chunky paste (i.e., a paste with bits of broken red beans), crush some or all of the cooked beans with a potato masher. Then, cook the bean paste on the pan, as directed above.
  2. Oil Substitutions: You can substitute the walnut or coconut oil with butter or any oil of your choice. Peanut or toasted hazelnut oil are good substitutions for the walnut oil.
  3. Kansui: My mom always adds a small amount of kansui (lye water, 鹼水) to deepen the color of the red bean paste. Kansui also alters the taste of the paste ever so slightly. You can find kansui in Asian grocery stores. Feel free to leave it out if it’s difficult to obtain.
  4. Cook Beans on Stovetop: Rinse the beans and soak overnight. Drain the beans and transfer to a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with water until the water line is about 2 inches above the beans. Bring the water to boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook the beans for another 30 to 45 minutes. You should be able to crush the beans easily with your fingers. Drain the beans.
  5. Cooking Paste in Nonstick Pan: If you want cleanup to be easy, I highly recommend cooking down the paste in a nonstick pan. I used a Dutch oven during one of my test batches and a hard layer of bean puree coated the bottom of the pot. Similarly, I tried reducing the puree in the Instant Pot using the Sauté function once and the puree formed a crust at the bottom of the pot. It took a lot of soaking and Bar Keeper’s Friend to clean up the pots.
  6. Doubling the Recipe: If you want to cook a larger batch of red bean paste, double the amount of beans, sugar, walnut oil, and coconut oil. 10 cups of water should be plenty for cooking the beans in the Instant Pot.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoons | Calories: 104kcal | Carbohydrates: 14.2g | Protein: 2.8g | Fat: 4.3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 4.3mg | Fiber: 1.8g | Sugar: 5.3g

Did you make this recipe?Tag @hellolisalin or leave a star rating and comment on the blog!

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