Learn how to make smooth and shiny sweet red bean paste (dou sha) or known as Anko in Japan that you can use as filling for many Asian pastries, Chinese mooncakes, bread, baked buns, steamed buns, or just eat by spoonfuls if you wish. Instant pot-friendly. Vegan and gluten-free.
What is sweet red bean paste?
Sweet red bean paste, also known as “anko” in Japan, “hongdou sha” in China, is a cherished and versatile ingredient that has been a staple in Asian cuisine for centuries. This delectable paste is made from red beans, typically adzuki beans, and sugar, resulting in a rich, sweet, and slightly nutty flavor. Sweet red bean paste has a long and storied history in Asian cuisine, dating back over a thousand years. Its origins can be traced to ancient China, where it was first used as a sweetener. Over time, it spread to other parts of Asia, including Japan and Korea, where it was adapted and incorporated into local culinary traditions.
How to use sweet red bean paste
In Chinese cuisine, sweet red bean paste is a key ingredient in many classic dishes, such as tangyuan (sweet rice balls) and dou sha bao (red bean paste steamed buns). It is also used as a filling for traditional mooncakes, a popular treat during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In Japan, anko is used in a wide array of traditional sweets, such as dorayaki (pancake sandwiches), taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries), and anmitsu (a dessert with agar jelly cubes and fruit). Anko comes in two main varieties: tsubuan, which contains whole beans, and koshian, which is a smoother paste.
INGREDIENTS FOR SWEET RED BEAN PASTE
1. SMALL RED BEANS (AZUKI BEANS)
Small red beans or azuki beans are available at Asian grocery store in dried form.
Regular white sugar is used in this recipe. The level of sweetness can be adjusted to your liking.
3. COOKING OIL
The cooking oil is added to create that shine and smoothness to the paste to make it suitable to roll into balls which you can use for filling later
Adding a small pinch of salt really elevates the final taste of the sweet red bean paste. We love it!
Instant Pot Sweet Red Bean Paste (Hong Dou Sha)
- 200 gr red beans / azuki beans (not kidney beans)
- 3 cups Water for cooking the beans
- 85 gr sugar more or less to your preference
- ¼ tsp salt
If making red bean paste for mooncakes or other pastries:
- 120 gr cooking oil see notes
- Soak the bean for at least 8 hours. I soaked mine overnight and then discard the water
- Prepare a big pot and add water, about 2-inches above the beans. Boil the beans until they are soft or cracked open in most cases, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. You may need to top off with some water along the way. Proceed to "Blending the paste"
Instant Pot method:
- Place the beans in the insert of the instant pot. Add water about 1 inch above the beans. Cover the lid. Turn the steam release handle to seal. Press pressure cooker and set timer to 45 minutes if you did not soak the beans. If you soak the beans, set the timer to 20 minutes
- When the timer is up, wait for 10 minutes and then release pressure. Discard the water. The beans can be easily mashed with your fingers when you squeeze it. Proceed to "Blending the paste"
Blending the paste:
- Drain off the water and pour the beans into a food processor or a blender or use an immersion blender. It may be hard to blend it with a blender without enough liquid, so you can add a bit to get it going if necessary. Try not to add too much because the more you add, the longer you have to cook off the water later
- Alternatively, if you don't have a blender or a food processor, you can also mash the cooked beans through a strainer to make them smooth and paste-like consistency. It's a lot of work, but it's doable. You can also use a potato masher, which will make the job a bit easier for you
Cooking the paste:
- Spread the paste on a non-stick skillet with a rubber spatula or wooden spatula and add the sugar, and salt. The paste will seem a bit "runny" at first when the sugar melts, but continue to cook it on medium-high heat until the color darkens and the paste is thickened again and most of the water has cooked off and the paste can hold its shape but still moist and spreadable. This is perfect consistency if you are going to use the paste as filling in bread, steamed buns, or other dessert, etc
- If you plan to make the red bean paste for mooncakes, you want to add oil. Add the oil and continue to stir over medium-low heat using a spatula until the oil are absorbed by the beans, leave the side of the pot and shiny and smooth. The consistency for this paste should be firmer and can hold its shape. It can take about 40-45 minutes of total cooking time
- Let it cool off before filling if you are using it
- You can portion them out into 2-3 servings in a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. You may also freeze them and they can keep for 3 months. Just thaw in the refrigerator when ready to use them. No recooking required
HOW TO MAKE SWEET RED BEAN PASTE FROM SCRATCH
1. SOAK THE BEANS FOR AT LEAST 6-8 HOURS
2. COOK THE BEANS
If cooking on the stove: Boil the beans for 45 minutes or until the beans can be easily mashed
If cooking with pressure cooker: If the beans are soaked, pressure cook the beans on high pressure with some water for 20 minutes. If the beans are not soaked, pressure cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.
Drain off the water and pour the beans into a food processor or use an immersion blender. It may be hard to blend it with a blender without enough liquid, so I suggest using a food processor if possible. If it’s really hard to blend, you can press the cooked beans through a strainer to make them smooth
4. COOK AGAIN
Spread the paste on a non-stick skillet with a rubber spatula or wooden spatula and add the sugar, and salt. The paste will seem a bit “runny” at first when the sugar melts, but continue to cook it on medium-high heat until the color darkens and the paste is thickened again and most of the water has cooked off and the paste can hold its shape. The paste will be smooth and shiny and leave the side of the pot. This is perfect consistency if you are going to use the paste as filling in pastries, steamed buns, etc
5. If you plan to make the red bean paste for mooncakes, you want to add oil. Add the oil and continue to stir over medium-low heat using a spatula until the oil are absorbed by the beans, leave the side of the pot and shiny and smooth
6. LET IT COOL DOWN
Let the sweet red bean paste cool down completely before storing. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can freeze them for longer storage.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR MAKING DOU SHA
1. Dou sha came out so runny
It is important to drain off water after cooking the red beans and cook off the water. Too much moisture will make it soft and not suitable as filling for bread, steamed buns and pastry as this will affect the overall result
2. Does it have to be smooth or chunky?
It can be both. It really depends on your preference. If you like a chunkier texture (you can still see some beans), then don’t process it in a food processor and just manually mash it
3. Can I pressure cook red beans?
You certainly can. In fact, I love to pressure cook beans because I don’t have to presoak the beans. See recipe for more detailed instructions
DID YOU MAKE THIS HOMEMADE SWEET RED BEAN PASTE RECIPE?
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