Sweet Red Bean Paste (Anko) is a versatile ingredient that is used to make many Japanese sweets. It is made from just azuki beans, sugar and a pinch of salt. The process of making it is very simple.
You can make many traditional Japanese sweets with Anko but for now you can have it on your toast or with ice cream. See the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card!
Put azuki beans into a saucepan, fill it with water to 3-4cm / 1¼-1½" above the azuki beans and bring it to a boil.
Cook for 15 minutes, turn the heat off and leave for 30 minutes with a lid on. Drain using a sieve.
Return the azuki beans to the saucepan, fill the pan with water to just cover the beans. Bring it to a boil.
Cook for 15-20 minutes until the beans are cooked through (note 3). If the beans surface above the water level, add some water to keep the beans just below the water level (note 4). Remove the scum as it surfaces.
Turn the heat off and leave for 30 minutes with the lid on. Drain using a sieve with a bowl beneath it so that the liquid can be collected in the bowl.
Gently tilt the bowl of liquid and drain the liquid slowly. At the bottom of the bowl, you will see a thick layer of the azuki bean powder diluted in the liquid. Transfer this to the pan.
Heat the pan with azuki beans over medium heat. The beans should become watery as it starts boiling.
Cook for about 10 minutes. During this time gently mix the beans occasionally by moving the spatula from one edge to the other edge and draw a wide straight line.
Check the consistency of the paste: Draw a line at the bottom of the pan with the spatula. If you can see the bottom of the pan and the beans start closing the line after hesitating momentarily, it is the right consistency (note 5).
Transfer the bean paste to a tray. Cover it with cling wrap removing air pockets as much as possible (note 6). When cooled down, store in the fridge up to 4 days or freeze it in a zip lock bag up to 2 months.
1. Azuki beans are small red beans with a colour similar to red kidney beans. Azuki is sometimes spelt ‘adzuki’. You can buy them at Japanese/Asian grocery stores. Please visit my post Rice with Azuki Beans (Osekihan) for more details about azuki.
2. The amount of sugar can be anywhere between 160g / 5.6oz and 250g / 8.8oz for 200g / 7oz of azuki beans, i.e. 80-125% of the weight of azuki, depending on how sweet you want it to be.
I have never used 250g / 8.8oz sugar as I felt it was excessive, but if you have a very sweet tooth it might work best for you. My azuki bean paste is already very sweet in my view, but as you probably know by now I don’t have a sweet tooth.
3. Check if the beans are cooked by picking up a dark-coloured bean and squashing it with your thumb and index finger. If you can squash it easily and the centre of the bean is not tough, it is done.
4. You may need to do this several times. There is a reason why you need to keep the water level just above the beans instead of cooking them in deep boiling water. If the water level is high, the beans will be jumping a lot while cooking and they will make the beans break into pieces. You want to keep the shape of the beans as much as possible.
5. You might think that it is too watery but you will be surprised how quickly it hardens when removed from the heat.
6. For the same reason as note 5, the bean paste needs to be covered with cling wrap straight away.
7. Anko keeps only few days in the fridge. If you reheat it every day you can extend the the time for few more days.
The best way to keep Anko for longer period is to freeze it (up to 2 months). To defrost, either microwave or leave it in the fridge or on the workbench. Alternatively, you can put the frozen Anko in a sauce pan with a small amount of water and heat it up.
8. The total calorie of the Anko made in this recipe is 938. But the nutrition tables below is for 30g / 1.1oz of Anko, which is the average amount of Anko used in each Japanese sweet.
serving: 30g calories: 47kcal fat: 0g (0%) saturated fat: 0g (0%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 0g monounsaturated fat: 0g cholesterol: 0mg (0%) sodium: 42mg (2%) potassium: 23mg (1%) carbohydrates: 12g (4%) dietary fibre: 0.4g (2%) sugar: 10g protein: 0.5g vitamin a: 0% vitamin c: 0% calcium: 0.3% iron: 0.7%