Red Bean Paste (Anko)

How can beans be a dessert? How could they be sweet? These are the questions my friend Daniella asked me when I tried to convince her she needed to try something with red bean paste. Daniella is of Puerto Rican descent and moved around between Spain, Miami, and Southern California, where she developed in a love for Asian food. But when I tried to convince her to try red bean desserts, she immediately associated red beans with Puerto Rican beans.

Puerto Rican beans are also red but unlike Adzuki beans, they’re usually prepared stewed with spices and vegetables to go with rice…not quite a dessert (but still delicious!). I promised her that red bean paste from Adzuki beans is nothing like Puerto Rican red beans. I told her to think of it like a third bean flavor to chocolate and vanilla because those are both beans too!

Living in the suburbs, I have a tough time finding Asian food and red bean paste is not a mainstream grocery item, so I decided to take a stab at it recently. It’s perfect to make red bean ice cream, mochi, shaved ice, pastries, and more. If you haven’t checked out our red bean ice cream recipe post, here’s your chance!


1 cup of red/adzuki/haricot rouge beans

salt (I used kosher)

2/3 cup of sugar


First, measure out a cup of beans into a bowl the night before you plan on cooking. I chose to use a cup of red beans because I knew I wanted to make a fairly large yield to experiment with and because I live in a house of 6. If you’re making it for just yourself and another, you will have a lot left over.

1 cup of red beans

Next, soak the beans in water overnight. This will soften the beans and making boiling them down much easier. When you first add the water, there will be air bubbles that force the beans to float. I like to poke them so they all become submerged.

Beans soaking in water overnight

The next day, take your beans and begin to boil them with around 5 or 6 cups of water. I used 5 cups of water myself, but I have a very powerful stove and had to add extra water later.

After 20 minutes of boiling, add your sugar into the pot and stir.

After 30 minutes, remove a bean to test. Smush the bean between your fingers. If the bean is soft and mashes easily, you can begin to mash your beans while they’re cooking in the pot. If the beans are too firm, continue to cook down for more time. It may take up to 50 minutes until they are ready to be mashed.

When mashing your beans be sure to reduce your stove to low heat. If they’re really soft you can use a rubber spatula. Using the rubber spatula is much easier in a smaller pot than a medium size one that I used. I found that I was leaving too many beans uncrushed so I used a large fork. Be careful not to burn yourself over the boiling pot and stove. Even after working in a restaurant kitchen, I often discover the hard way that my hands aren’t as heat resistant as I thought.

Red beans boiling down

When mashing down the beans, you must decided how viscous you want your bean paste to be. I aimed for a dryer bean paste but I found that after 35 minutes, I needed to add more water to adjust the paste.

After mashing the beans down, add a pinch of salt and fold in. When you’ve achieved the desired consistency, remove from heat and let cool until it can be removed from the pot.

Mashed Red Bean Paste

My bean paste resembled refried beans but was drier, which is what I was aiming for! When removed from heat, the paste will solidify more.

Cold red bean paste in container

Once your red bean paste is cooled, you can now add it to another recipe!

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