A nostalgic frozen treat, red bean popsicles are easily made at home with just four ingredients. Try this simple recipe and enjoy the cooling deliciousness!
What are red bean popsicles
Today’s recipe, Red Bean Popsicles, is a nostalgic and sentimental one for me. I grew up eating them on most summer days, but only recently, I started making them at home for myself and my children. I’m excited to share my tried and tested recipe with you!
Essentially, red bean popsicles (Hong Dou Bing Gun/红豆冰棍) are frozen treats made by blending cooked red beans with thickened milk and sweetening them with condensed milk (or sugar, honey). They’re appreciated for their distinct nutty, earthy, and creamy flavor which is perfectly balanced with a moderate level of sweetness.
Red bean based food has an important place in Chinese culinary traditions. Think Red Bean Soup and Red Bean Paste that’s used as a filling in many treats, such as Red Bean Buns, Tang Yuan, Mooncakes, Zongzi, etc. If you enjoy the above dishes, this red bean popsicle recipe is definitely worth trying!
Ingredients & ratios
You’ll need four ingredients to make red bean popsicles:
- Red beans, raw or canned (more information found in the next section)
- Whole milk (full-fat milk). Replace it with single cream for a richer taste, or semi-skimmed milk if you wish to reduce calorie intake.
- Cornstarch, or glutinous rice flour. It’s for thickening the milk so the popsicles taste less icy. Also, it helps to evenly distribute the bean bits (otherwise, they tend to sink to the bottom of the molds).
- Condensed milk. You could use sugar (white or brown) or honey to sweeten the popsicles but I find condensed milk to be the most flavorful choice. A mixture of evaporated milk and sugar would make a better substitute.
My recipe is for making 8 popsicles (see detailed ingredient measurements in the recipe card at the end of the post). If you wish to alter the quantity, here are the ratios to follow:
- Milk to beans: Use an equal volume of milk and cooked beans. For example, use 1½ cups of milk for 1½ cups of cooked beans.
- Starch to milk: Use 1 part of starch for 8 parts of milk. For example, use 3 tablespoons of starch for 1½ cups (=24 tablespoons) of milk.
- Condensed milk: The best way to figure out its optimal quantity is to taste the mixture often and adjust as needed.
About red beans
Red beans (Hong Dou/红豆) are also known as adzuki beans (spelling variations include azuki, aduki). They’re small, round (or slightly oblong), dark-red colored beans popular in Chinese (and East Asian) cuisine.
If available, use ready-to-eat, canned red beans as this dramatically reduces the preparation time. You can find them in Chinese/Asian stores, as well as whole food/healthy food retailers. Some mainstream supermarkets have them too.
Otherwise, use raw red beans. Soak and cook them before mixing with other ingredients.
🛎 Note: Some canned red beans sold in Chinese/Asian shops are already sweetened (labeled as Mi Hong Dou/蜜红豆). You’ll need to reduce or omit condensed milk in this case.
Here is the equipment you need for this recipe:
- A blender or food processor. If you don’t have one, use a potato masher (or a flat-bottomed jar) to crush the beans.
- Popsicle molds. Any type would work but I find the silicone ones are a better option as it seems easier to remove popsicles from them.
Step 1: Cook the beans (skip this step if using canned ones)
Soak raw red beans in plenty of water overnight. Drain and rinse well under running water.
Put the beans into a pot and add plenty of water (twice the volume of the beans). Bring it to a boil, then cover with a lid and leave to simmer over low heat for 60-90 minutes until they become soft. To speed up the process, use a stovetop pressure cooker or an Instant Pot. Cook for 25 minutes on high pressure and release the pressure naturally.
Drain off the cooking liquid and keep the cooked beans for later use.
🛎 Tip: Raw beans expand about 3 times in volume once cooked. That is to say, if you need 1½ cup of cooked beans, ½ cup of raw beans are enough. Keep leftover cooked beans for 3 days in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
Step 2: Simmer the milk
Begin with mixing cornstarch with a few spoons of milk until no more lumps can be seen. Pour the mixture and the rest of the milk into a saucepan.
Cook over medium heat. Once you see tiny bubbles appear around the rim, turn the heat down to low. Stir with a spatula constantly while the milk thickens.
When its consistency becomes similar to that of runny yogurt, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Step 3: Blend the mixture
Put cooked beans and the thickened milk into a blender/food processor. Add condensed milk (leave some out for later to adjust the taste). Run the machine at high speed to blend.
Usually, I stop blending when the beans are partially broken. So you’ll be able to taste the bits when eating the popsicles. However, please feel free to blend further to achieve a very smooth consistency (both versions exist in China but the former is more traditional).
Don’t forget to taste the mixture and add more condensed milk if it isn’t sweet enough. Bear in mind that it would taste a little less sweet once frozen. So at this stage, you may wish to make it slightly sweeter than your preferred taste.
Step 4: Fill the molds
Use a spoon or a spouted jug to pour the mixture into your popsicle molds. Remember not to fill it right up to the rim as the mixture will expand a little once frozen (If you have any leftover mixture, store it in the fridge for up to three days).
Slide in the popsicle sticks and pop the molds into the freezer. Depending on the performance of your freezer and the quantity of the popsicles, it will take 4 to 8 hours to freeze them completely.
To unmold the popsicles, hold the molds upside down and run warm water over them for 10-15 seconds. Alternatively, leave the molds on the kitchen counter for about 5-10 minutes depending on the room temperature.
Want to try homemade popsicles with other flavors? You can easily adapt this recipe using a variety of ingredients.
- Make them with mung beans. In China, mung bean popsicles (Lü Dou Bing Gun/绿豆冰棍) are just as popular as these red bean ones. Follow the same instructions to soak and cook the beans from scratch (I haven’t seen canned ones). The bean-to-milk ratio remains the same.
- Make them with fruits. This recipe also works when replacing beans with fruits, fresh or frozen. Our favorite options include mango, strawberry, kiwi fruit, blueberry, etc. You’d need less condensed milk as fruits contain natural sugar.
Other classic treats
Looking for more classic Chinese sweet treats? Try these popular recipes:
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below & if you REALLY like it, consider leaving a comment as well!
Red Bean Popsicles (红豆冰棍)
BEFORE YOU START
- Blender/food processor
- Popsicle molds
- 1½ cup whole milk - aka full-fat milk (see note 1)
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch - or glutinous rice flour
- 1½ cup cooked red beans - aka adzuki beans (see note 2)
- ½ cup condensed milk - or to taste (see note 3)
- Use a few spoons of milk to mix with cornstarch until fully integrated. Then pour the mixture, along with the remaining milk, into a saucepan.
- Heat it over medium heat until it becomes hot to touch (dip your fingertip to test). Then stir it with a spatula constantly until it thickens to a runny yogurt consistency.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour the thickened milk into a blender/food processor. Add cooked red beans and condensed milk (leave out about ¼ of the recommended volume).
- Run the machine to blend and break the beans. Stop a few times to check the consistency. You can either keep the beans in bits (as shown in my recipe images) or break them into a very smooth texture.
- Taste the mixture and add more condensed milk as needed. Keep in mind that it will taste less sweet once frozen.
- With a spoon or a spouted jug, transfer the mixture into your popsicle molds (store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days). Leave a little space to the rim as the mixture will expand slightly after freezing. Put in the sticks. Store the molds in the freezer for 4-8 hours.
- To unmold the popsicles, hold the molds upside down and run warm water over them for 10-15 seconds. Or, leave the molds on the counter for 5-10 minutes before pulling out the popsicles.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.