If you love Chinese baked goods, and enjoy making them at home as much as I do, then it’s a must to master a basic red bean paste recipe (红豆馅, hong dou xian). Sweet red beans, AKA adzuki beans, are *the* preferred pastry filling in Asian sweets.
In fact, come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who claims to not like sweet red bean filling. That said, you can also adapt this recipe to make sweet mung bean paste (绿豆馅, lu dou xian) and sweet white bean paste (白芸豆馅, baiyun dou xian).
A 2-Step Recipe
Making this type of sweet paste requires two steps: cooking, then thickening. With the help of your Instant Pot, the cooking process can be much faster! That also means no pre-soaking of the beans required!
Nothing worse than having a craving for sweet red bean buns and then having to wait until the next day to enjoy them because you haven’t soaked your beans.
All in all, after several months with our Instant Pot, I can’t say enough good things (not a sponsored post!). It is pretty much silent and cooks food quickly to tender perfection. I’ve avoided pressure cookers all my life because of the terrifying high-pitched shrieking during the cooking process. Now we’re pretty much hooked, and we definitely have a lot more Instant Pot recipes in the works!
But, if you don’t have an Instant Pot, no problem! You’ll have to remember to soak the beans overnight to shorten the cooking time, and use more water to ensure it doesn’t evaporate. Check out our Red Bean Bread recipe for detailed cooking instructions using a regular pot. Just remember that when it’s done cooking, the consistency should be thick, but not dry or burned.
Important Do’s and Don’ts
When making this red bean paste, there are some important do’s and don’ts to remember:
- When thickening the puree into a paste, you must use a thick-bottomed pan or non-stick pan to avoid burning and crusting. Also, stir continuously, especially in the beginning because there is less oil, and the mixture sticks easily.
- As an option, red bean paste pairs well with floral aromatics like dried tangerine peel, dried osmanthus flower and dried rose flowers. Add them in the cooking process to mellow out the flavors if you like.
- Red bean paste takes a lot of vegetable oil. Do not use lard or shortening. Please don’t reduce the oil, or the filling will come out crumbly. That said, you can increase the oil by another 20% to make it even smoother.
- Store-bought sweet red bean pastes (i.e., sold in a can or a pouch) are sickly sweet to me. This is another reason to put this red bean paste recipe under your belt. But do note that 190 grams of rock sugar is the bare minimum. You should adjust it to your own taste during the thickening process––feel free to add more sugar if you like.
- When handling the red bean paste (e.g. to roll into little balls for bread fillings), oil your hands first to reduce messiness.
Red Bean Paste Recipe Instructions
Rinse the adzuki beans, drain them, and add to your Instant Pot along with 3½ cups of water and 5 grams of dried orange peel, if using. Close the lid and set your Instant Pot on the Bean/Chili setting for 25 minutes. Once the cooking time has elapsed, leave it untouched for another 10 minutes. Remember, before you open the lid, carefully release the vent to let out the steam, and protect your hand with an oven mitt.
Carefully transfer the cooked beans and liquid to a food processor to puree. If you have a smaller food processor, puree it in multiple batches as needed.
In a thick-bottomed pan or nonstick pan, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Add the adzuki bean puree and the sugar.
if you don’t already have one, think about getting a handy digital kitchen scale for measurement accuracy!
Cook down until you have a thick paste. This process takes about 30-40 minutes, and you should only use medium/medium low heat. Remember to stir from the bottom every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and/or burning.
During the cooking process, you can adjust the sugar to taste, and add the remaining oil in three portions every 10 minutes, ensuring the oil is well absorbed before adding more.
The filling is done once it can hold its shape and a rubber spatula comes out clean.
Let the filling cool until it’s only warm to the touch. If you pre-make the filling, store it in a clean, air-tight container after it has cooled completely. The shelf life in the refrigerator should be at least a week. I rolled my red bean paste into individual balls to make mooncakes. Look out for my red bean mooncake recipe soon!