Essential ingredient for many classic Chinese dishes, homemade red bean paste only requires three simple steps. It tastes much better than commercial versions.
Red beans (红豆), also known as Adzuki beans, are widely used in Chinese cuisine (also in Japanese and Korean cuisine). They are red in colour like red kidney beans, but quite small in size (slightly bigger than mung beans).
The most popular way to prepare red beans is to cook them into a sweetened paste which is an essential ingredient for many classic Chinese dishes, such as Zongzi, Tangyuan, Mooncake, Red bean shaved ice, Red bean ice lolly, Red bean steamed buns, Jiandui, etc.
It’s not difficult to find ready-to-use red bean paste (红豆沙) in Chinese / Asian shops. However, I think the homemade version tastes much better. There are no additive, artificial colouring or flavouring and you can control the amount of sugar to suit your own taste. My culinary fan No. 2 in our Red House wouldn’t eat any shop-bought red bean paste but he can’t get enough of the homemade one.
There are two types of red bean paste: smooth or mashed. The former has a very fine, smooth consistency. It’s commonly used as a filling for Tangyuan, Mooncake for example. In this post I’m sharing the mashed version which has a more rustic look. Most of the paste is smooth, but you can still find broken beans and bean husks which make the texture more interesting. Recipes like Zongzi (Chinese sticky rice dumplings), Red bean shaved ice, Red bean steamed buns normally call for this type of paste.
It’s very easy to make mashed red bean paste. You only need a little bit time and patience. There are three simple steps to follow:
- Soak the beans before cooking. The longer you soak them, the shorter time you will need to cook then through.
- Let them simmer in water until the beans are very soft.
- Add butter (or lard, commonly used in traditional recipes) and sugar, then boil down the water. By stirring constantly, most of the beans will be mashed nicely.
If you wish to make smooth red bean paste, you need to drain the beans after step 1 and press them through a sieve. Then dry out the moisture by cooking the paste in a non-stick pan over a low heat.
How to make red bean paste (红豆沙)
- 200 g red beans, aka adzuki beans
- 700 ml water
- 30 g butter or lard
- 40 g rock sugar or 2 tablespoons regular sugar, see note 1
- Rinse red beans then soak them in water overnight.
- Pour red beans and water into a pot. Bring the water to a boil then leave to simmer for about 50 minutes (see note 2). By then beans are still in shape but can be mashed very easily with finger tips.
- Turn the heat up to high. Add butter and sugar. Stir constantly (to avoid burning) until the beans become mushy and no more liquid can be seen (but not too dry).
Thanks for your interest in this post. I will share more recipes using this delightful paste in the future.