How to Make Red Bean Paste (红豆沙馅)

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Learn how to make red bean paste for Chinese dessert, mooncake and pastry using this easy method. {Vegan, Gluten-Free}

How to make red bean paste | Omnivore's Cookbook

The azuki bean (赤红豆, Chi Hong Dou) is one of the most important ingredients for making Chinese desserts. It is commonly used in Mainland-style hot pastries and Cantonese and Taiwanese cold desserts. There are red bean popsicles, shaved ice with red bean sauce, fried dough with red bean paste filling, red beans with coconut milk, red bean pancakes etc. To make those yummy desserts, you will need red bean paste. This sweet and gooey red bean paste is so delicious that you can even eat it by itself.

How to make red bean paste | Omnivore's Cookbook

Types of Red Bean Paste

There are mainly two types of red bean paste in Chinese cuisine – mashed and smooth. The key difference is whether it contains the bean husk or not.

The mashed red bean paste is the most common for home cooking and is the one I include in the recipe below. You only need to boil the azuki beans with sugar until very soft, then smash them to the texture you prefer. The finished paste will have a consistent thick texture that is easy to shape, and contains some whole and broken beans.

The smooth red bean paste is a bit of a hassle to make and normally can just be purchased from a Chinese or Japanese market. For smooth paste, the azuki beans are boiled and mashed without adding sugar. The mashed beans are diluted into a slurry, then strained to remove the husk. To make the texture of bean paste smooth and gooey, a substantial amount of sugar and lard (or vegetable oil) will be blended into the paste. This is the reason you find that supermarket red bean paste has a better mouthfeel than the homemade kind.

If you cannot easily find pre-made red bean paste your local Asian market, I highly recommend you to make it at home. It is much healthier this way, and you can adjust the amount of sugar to your taste, and you can select high quality azuki beans to make the paste taste great.

How to make red bean paste ingredients | Omnivore's Cookbook

How to make red bean paste | Omnivore's Cookbook

How Much Sugar?

One more word about the sugar in this recipe. If you are not sure about the sweetness, you can divide and add the sugar in two to three batches. To serve the red bean paste directly, or if the red bean paste is the main ingredient in the dessert, you should use 200 grams (7 ounces) of sugar. This way, the red bean paste will taste just right by itself. However, if you want to use the paste as a pastry filling, you should make the paste sweeter by following the recipe below, so the finished bread or cake will taste just right.

How to make red bean paste | Omnivore's Cookbook

This recipe introduces 2 ways to make the bean paste – with and without a pressure cooker. I really like using the pressure cooker to prep beans. It does not require pre-soaking the beans overnight, and it reduces the cooking time by more than two thirds. But if you don’t own a pressure cooker, no worries! You can still use a normal pot to cook this one easily.

I have created a short video below to walk you through the cooking process. If you are new to Chinese cooking, don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel. I have a collection of cooking videos that is focused on Chinese cuisine, which will help to get familiar with preparing Chinese dishes in a very short time.

How to Use Red Bean Paste

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How to Make Red Bean Paste

How to Make Red Bean Paste

5 from 1 vote
The azuki bean (赤红豆, Chi Hong Dou) is one of the most important ingredients for making Chinese desserts. It is commonly used in Mainland-style hot pastries and Cantonese and Taiwanese cold desserts. 
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 3 cups paste


  • 300 grams (10 ounces) azuki beans
  • 200 to 250 grams (7 - 9 ounces) rock sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


To Cook with pressure cooker

  • Combine red beans and 3 cups of water in pressure cooker. Lock the lid and heat over medium high heat until rated pressure has been reached. Turn to lowest heat and cook at high pressure for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the pressure release naturally.
  • Remove the lid and stir the beans several times. Add rock sugar and turn back to medium high heat. Stir the beans constantly with a spatula and boil until the mixture has thickened. When you draw a line in the mixture with a spatula and can see the bottom of the pot for 1 or 2 seconds, the beans are finished. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. The red bean “soup” is, at this point, still a thick liquid and not quite as thick as a paste. It will thicken quickly after cooking down, and transform into a paste after it has been chilled.
  • The paste will last about a week in an airtight container in the fridge, or about a month in the freezer.

To Cook without pressure cooker

  • Rinse azuki beans and pre-soak them in room temperature water overnight.
  • Discard the soaking water. Combine beans and 4 cups water in a large pot. Bring the water to a boil, then turn to lowest heat. Simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, until beans are soft and can be easily mashed with a spatula. Throughout the simmering, check the water level and make sure the water still covers the beans, so they won’t be burnt on the bottom. Add water in small amounts, if necessary. Stir beans gently (without mashing them), occasionally during simmering.
  • Follow steps 2 and 3 above to complete the paste.


Red Bean Paste for Mooncake
If you'd like to use red bean paste for mooncake and certain Chinese pastries, you will need to use the recipe (make 400 g paste) below because the oil-less version won't work. 
  • 100 g dried azuki beans (dried red beanss)
  • 50 g vegetable oil
  • 80 g rock sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 15 g maltose
  1. Method 1 Use Instant Pot: Add the beans to an instant pot (or a pressure cooker) with 1.5 cups water and cook with high pressure for 25 minutes, with a natural release.
  2. Method 2 Use stovetop: Soak the beans overnight, drain and add to a tall pot. Cover with water by at least an inch (2.5 cm). Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 1 hour, until the beans are soft and easy to mash . Keep an eye on the water level as you may need to add more during the simmering.
  3. Puree the beans and cooking liquid in a food processor or high powered blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
  4. Add 1/3 of the oil and the bean puree to a pan over medium heat. Cook until the oil is incorporated into the puree. Once the oil is absorbed add the rock sugar and stir until dissolved.
  5. Cook and stir until the paste begins to dry out, then add the remaining oil in two batches, stir to let it absorb fully each time.
  6. Add the maltose. stir and cook until it melts and fully absorbed. 
  7. Continue cooking until the mixture is pulling away from the pan and comes together as one piece, 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Once done, transfer to a bowl and let it cool completely before using.



Serving: 42g, Calories: 147kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 5.6g, Fat: 0.3g, Sodium: 26mg, Potassium: 340mg, Fiber: 3.8g, Sugar: 17.2g, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 2mg, Iron: 9mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Meggan | Culinary Hill says:

    It’s recipes like these (among many others) that make your blog so unique and valuable! You post these amazing, interesting recipes that I never knew I needed to know about. You’ve opened up my cooking ability to a whole new chapter of ideas! Awesome recipe, great tutorial!

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks Meggan! Really glad to hear this! Actually, sometimes I was afraid to post recipes like this one, because they are so unfamiliar to international readers. It’s really a big relief to me, that I know at least someone likes it 🙂

  2. Jenny says:

    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to know! Off to look at more of your recipes and follow your blog =)

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Jenny, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Really glad my recipe is helpful 🙂
      Have a great day ahead!

  3. Kacey @ The Cookie Writer says:

    I am so excited to try this recipe! I finally came across some adzuki (azuki) beans and plan to make red bean ice cream 🙂

  4. Ruby says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for your recipe, it’s easy to follow and very helpful. I wanted to make red bean paste at home and this makes it very easy.

    • Maggie says:

      I’m glad to hear you find this helpful Ruby! Happy cooking and hope the red bean paste turns out great 🙂

  5. Ully says:

    Thank you for the recipe. Can’t wait to try it! Do you use fresh beans or the dried ones?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Ully, I used dried beans in this recipe. Happy cooking and hope it turns out great 🙂

  6. jasonD says:

    Very insightful. Will it be okay if no sugar is added?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Jason, it’s ok without adding sugar, but I think you need to add some spices to season the bean paste, depend on how you will use them.

      • jasonD says:

        Sorry, I’m still learning, but what do mean by seasoning?
        And what spices do you suggest?

      • Maggie says:

        Hi Jason, sorry I didn’t explain very clear earlier.
        I always add sugar into the red bean paste, because I use it to make Chinese style dessert or buns. Even I serve the red bean paste by itself, I will add some sugar (about 2/3 or 1/2 of the amount that is called in the recipe), so it will be delicious but not too sweet. When you asked the first question, I assumed you want to use it in cooking other cuisine and already have some ideas in mind. However, if you never cooked this before and don’t want to consume too much sugar, I suggest you to add a small amount of sugar during cooking and taste it. Then you could adjust the flavor by adding more sugar. If you don’t add any sugar at all, it will just taste like beans.

      • JasonD says:

        Thanks for the tip. I have made this twice before reading your recipe and always end up having dry crumbling paste that doesn’t hold together because I always drain the “soup” completely after the beans are soft. could this be my mistake? Do the beans naturally keep absorbing moisture?

      • Maggie says:

        I don’t think draining the soup is a good idea. I never dry it. After the beans are softened, you could boil with medium or medium high heat without cover, to thicken the paste. Just be careful, you should look closely and stir the paste constantly when the it starts to thicken. When the paste is still runny, but starts to stick to the bottom and can coat a spoon (you could see how’s the texture looks like in the video in this post), you should stop cooking. The paste will form and become very thick when it’s cooled down. It should hold together no matter you add sugar or not.

      • Lynn D says:

        Thank you
        nice clear readable fun.Wanted to make red bean paste also.
        Also when on SCD to heal digestion, no sugar was allowed, so in the habit of not buying sugar. Used honey or fruit. Maybe cherries would be good or persimmons. Wonder what people did before sugar at stores? Or could make it savory with garlic, seasoned with herbs like hummus or ….
        Sorry , my brain is coming up with possibilities.

      • Maggie says:

        Hi Lynn, I haven’t cooked this with other things than sugar, but I think it’s worth trying. I think honey will work out. Not sure about savory flavor. I ate sweet red bean paste growing up, so I can’t really imagine how it will taste when you season it with herbs. But you’re right, it should work if you season it like hummus, theoretically. Thanks for sharing these fun ideas 🙂

  7. JasonD says:

    Thanks for the tip again.

  8. jasonD says:

    does this work with mung beans too?

  9. Shilar says:

    Hi Maggie
    I want to make Bread Bun with red bean paste filling. I want to sell this also. My Bun is make with preservative. But red bean paste is without preservative. So I want to know, how long can this red bean paste good (not damage) ? Can preservative be added in this red bean paste ? If can, which amount of preservative add in this paste ? Thank u.

  10. Iben Brøgger says:


    I really love your recipes and how you explain directions so simply.
    Just wondered, do you have to soak the beans for so long?

  11. Leta says:

    Hi Maggie.

    Love your recipes, thank you for taking the time to have a blog as good recipes are hard to find online measured in grams when I’m from the UK! I want to make moon cake and was wondering if this red bean paste would be suitable for the filling?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Leta, it depends on the type of mooncake you’re making. If you’re making Cantonese mooncakes, the type that requires you to rest them for a few days before serving, then this is not the right recipe. Cantonese mooncake requires lard (or type of fat) in the filling, so the oil will seep out after resting and makes the dough shiny and tender. I have a post here that explains the process: However if your recipe does not require this process, then you can use this recipe as filling directly.

  12. Aish says:

    Hi Maggie, tq for your lovely recipes, would love to know how to make the thicken red beans finer and smoother for buns and mooncake fillings as well as for mochis also, thank you..

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Aish, one thing you can try: once you finish mashing the cooked beans, place them on a fine mesh strainer and press them through with the back of a spoon. It will separate the shells and make the paste finer.

  13. Ashley says:

    I am making a match a cake with this paste in the middle and this recipe is so helpful; thank you so much!! I love “weird” dishes or anything exotic that sounds yummy. Don’t ever hesitate to post things like this! I’m currently on the summer for one hour stage and so excited!!!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Ashley, I’m glad to hear you like this recipe! Sweet beans might sound weird but they are so tasty aren’t they? Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll try to develop more recipes like this 🙂

      • Karen says:

        Hi I know this is weird to ask but have you try making any sweet bean paste with other beans such as pinto beans?

      • Maggie says:

        Hi Karen, I’ve never tried and now thinking about it, I wonder why not! In China most sweet bean pastes are made with red beans and mung beans. I’ve seen black sweet beans in Japan. I think you totally can try with pinto or kidney beans but the result will have a slightly different flavor profile.

  14. Leanne says:

    Did I miss something? I see salt in the ingredients list…but no mention of it during the steps to make red bean paste. When should it be added?

  15. rosemary barrett says:

    so excited to find this, looking forward to making it when we get home to australia

  16. Stephanie Flores says:

    Hey, can you make the bean paste without maltose? And how long can it last?

    • Maggie says:

      Yes totally. You can use my original recipe without the maltose and the result will be great.
      The maltose method is designed for mooncake, which usually requires a smoother texture.
      The red bean pastes stay well in the fridge for a few days (up to a week if you add more sugar). If you don’t want to use them immediately, you can freeze them in small portions and that will keep them fresh for 2 to 3 months.

  17. Doreen Scully says:

    Thank you very much, this is the most amazing red bean paste recipe

  18. Venessa says:

    Hi there! I am hoping to make the recipe as a sweet pastry filling. I was looking at the second recipe that says it makes 400g of filling but the ingredients section only asks for 100g of beans compared to 300g in the recipe above. Is this correct? Or should it be more?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      Hi Venessa, the recipe in the note is correct. It requires 100 g dried beans and it will yield 400 g filling (the beans will soak up a lot of water and become heavier once you cook them).
      The 300 g above is an old red bean paste recipe. I’m afraid I don’t have a precise measurement right now for how much paste it yields but it does generate a lot of the filling.

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