June 2, 2014

Grandma's Red Bean Paste 紅豆沙

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Red Bean Paste 紅豆沙 is a real favorite Chinese sweet pastry and dumpling filling.  I love this stuff!  And my grandma's homemade red bean paste was soooo lusciously good!  (Chinese chocolate!) And it sure got me hooked on this stuff for the rest of my life.  

I sometimes will get urges (out of nowhere) to go out and find something with red bean paste in it so that I can stuff my face.  Nom, nom, nom!  But sometimes I get a bit sad and nostalgic here in Hong Kong cuz, to be honest, it's hard to find good red bean paste pastries and dumplings here.  I think the reason for that is that red bean paste is not a favorite in this southern region, lotus paste and black sesame paste being more preferred.  

(See our posts on Black Sesame Walnut Mooncakes Recipe 黑芝麻核桃月餅 and Homemade Lotus Seed Paste 白蓮蓉 for our yummy recipes for black sesame paste and lotus seed paste.)  

However, we solved that problem by making Grandma's red bean paste ourselves now.  It's not hard, just takes a bit of time and then you can enjoy the deliciousness of homemade red bean paste for filling all your buns, pastries, dumplings, or just for sneaking secret unctuous midnight spoonfuls. (OMG, my first Nigella reference!)

Okay, here we go, easy peasy!

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First Soak, Soak, Soak, Soak.

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Second Simmer, Simmer, Simmer, Simmer (til soft.)

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Third Mash, Mash, Mash, Mash (til mushy.)  Then get yourself a cheesecloth bag , scoop red beans in and squeeze out al the water that you can.  I use an old rice bag inherited from my grandma.

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Last is Stir Fry, Fry, Fry, Fry til unctuous.

And that's it.  Except I forgot to take a photo of step 4 which should be Puree, Puree, Puree (til smooth).  Pretty easy, really, but you will need to put in a bit of time and a bit of elbow grease in the end with all the blending and frying of the red beans.  You will want to stir fry the red bean paste in oil until very smooth, glossy and with texture like a firm but lusciously soft sticky paste.  *Add a bit more sugar than you'll think you will need as the sweetness of the filling will balance the blandness of the pastry,  dumplings, etc.

We made this batch of red bean paste for our Red Bean Paste Zong Zi recipe for the Dragon Boat Festival and still have a bit of red bean paste left over.  While we've been debating what delicious food to make with that bit of leftover my little girl and I have been sneaking spoonfuls of it here and there and, oops! I think it's almost all ate up!  Yummilicious!  Hope you enjoy my grandma's recipe for Red Bean Paste as much as my little girl and I do.  And Happy Duanwu Festival!
Grandma's Red Bean Paste Recipe  紅豆沙
 Makes approx 1kg (Prep time: 30 mins  Cook time: 1 hour)


  • cheesecloth bag
  • 2 1/2 cup red beans, also known as adzuki beans, 500g
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups oil, 100g-162g
  • 4 tbsp lard or butter (optional), 50g
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar, 300g


Soak red beans over night in cool water.  Alternatively throw in boiling water.  When water reboils turn heat off and cover.  Let sit in covered pot for 1/2 hour.

Discard soaking water.  Cover beans with fresh water, 1" over the top of beans.  When water boils lower heat to simmer.  If you soaked the beans overnight let beans cook for 2 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to top up with boiling water to prevent burning.  If you boil soaked the beans already, simmer for 45 minutes, again checking water level occasionally.

Beans are ready when you can mush a bean easily with your fingers.  Strain beans to discard water, mashing the beans in the strainer to get rid of as much water as possible.  Put into a blender and puree or put in a bowl and use a stick blender to puree the beans.  Scoop the red beans into your cheesecloth bag and squeeze out as much water as you can.

In a large frying pan at medium high heat, add half the oil, then the squeezed red bean paste.  Use spatula to stir fry the paste.  As the red bean paste absorbs the oil, add remaining 1/4 cup oil and incorporate.  Add more oil as necessary to make a smooth paste or add lard if using.  (Lard is traditionally used for red bean paste and makes the paste much tastier and more fragrant.).  Add the sugar and incorporate.  

Lower heat and keep stir frying, scrapping the bottom of the pan to prevent any burning for another 10 minutes or so until the paste darkens to an almost black red color and keeps its form when you drop a bit of it back into pan.  Taste and adjust sugar if necessary.  (Should be quite sweet*)  Red Bean paste should be dark black red, smooth, creamy, glossy, sticky.

Pour into non-reactive bowl to cool.  Store in refrigerator for a week.  Or you can freeze it for later use.

Tip:  Use this delicious sweet paste to make Red Bean Paste Zong Zi for Dragon Boat Festival.



  1. Can i still blend the red bean paste after the frying part? Realise its too chuncky and not fragrance.

    1. Yes, you can blend it just be careful cuz the paste will be hot! ~ellen

  2. Do you have a recipe to make Red Bean Cookies? Using this as the filling.

  3. Hi Sharon - Try making our Homemade Mochi stuffed with red bean or for something even more cookie-ish, try our Chinese Rice Flour Cookies (switch filling from date to red bean) or our Green Mung Bean Cakes, deliciously stuffed with, yup, red beans! ~ellen