Red bean paste (*anko*) is a paste made from cooked and sweetened adzuki beans. Adzuki beans—also known as azuki beans or red mung beans—are a small Chinese bean with the same deep-maroon hue as kidney beans. The popular sweet paste is the star ingredient in many Chinese and Japanese sweets. You can find prepared red bean paste and canned or raw adzuki beans in most Asian grocery stores.\nGenerally, the preparation of red bean paste falls into two different textural categories:\n\n- __Chunky__: In Japan, cooks leave the beans whole after the cooking process then combine them with sugar to make a chunky preparation known as *tsuban*. (*Tsubushian* also refers to a chunky consistency, but one in which the beans are a bit more mashed after cooking, while *ogura-an* refers to a blend of both chunky and smooth.)\n- __Smooth__: Known as *koshian* in Japan, red bean paste with a smooth consistency is traditionally achieved by pressing the cooked beans through a sieve and discarding the skins. In a home kitchen, cooks typically leave the skins on and purée the cooked beans using a food processor.\nChinese recipes for red bean paste tend to include a fat, like butter, lard, vegetable oil, or even coconut oil to enhance the smoothness of the final paste, while Japanese recipes rely only on sugar and water. You can use red bean paste in a variety of preparations:\n\n1. __As a seasoning__. Red bean paste is often the primary sweet element in otherwise mild presentations. For example, the Japanese dish *anko dango* features a layer of *tsuban*-style bean paste served atop a skewer of plain, chewy-soft dumplings. In *daifuku mochi*, smooth red bean paste is stuffed inside an outer layer of stretchy [mochi](https://www.masterclass.com/articles/mochi-recipe) dough.\n2. __As an ice cream topping__. The cool creaminess of ice cream is a natural textural fit for the smooth, slightly gritty red bean paste, which you can swirl into ice cream or serve as a garnish or accompaniment. Loose, *tsuban*-style red beans are also a popular topping in Hawaiian shave ice. \n3. __As a pastry filling__. In Japan, many sweet street food snacks feature anko sandwiched between soft pastry layers, like *dorayaki*, which features two small pancakes, and *taiyaki*, a sealed waffle-esque confection in the shape of a fish. Chinese mooncakes feature red bean paste in a lotus seed pastry, and red bean buns, like sesame balls, are a popular dim sum item.\n4. __In rice dumplings and buns__. *Zongzi*, glutinous rice dumplings or “sticky rice dumplings,” often feature red bean paste, as do soft, pillowy steamed buns, known as *dou sha bao*.\n\nMaking red bean paste is a simple four-step process:\n\n1. __Prep__. Rinse 1 cup of adzuki beans, and discard any damaged ones. Transfer to a large pot, filling it with as many cups of water as it takes to submerge the beans a few inches. \n2. __Cook for at least an hour__. Bring the beans to a boil over medium-high heat; drain the beans and refill the pot with water as before. (This step helps eliminate the bitter taste in the outer layer of the bean.) Bring to a boil for a second time, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for 1 hour, or until the beans are soft between your fingers, adding additional water as needed to keep the beans covered. \n3. __Drain and season__. Drain the cooked beans, and return them to the pot. Add 1 cup of sugar (adjust the amount of sugar to preference) and a pinch of kosher salt, and stir to combine over low heat until the sugar dissolves. \n4. __Mash or blend__. If you prefer a thicker consistency, you can stop here or use a fork to continue mashing until the paste achieves the texture of your preference. For a smooth consistency, transfer beans to a food processor and purée. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.\n\nBecome a better chef with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Niki Nakayama, Gabriela Cámara, Chef Thomas Keller, Yotam Ottolenghi, Dominique Ansel, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.\nRed bean paste is an easy-to-make pantry staple for lovers of Asian sweets.