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Homemade Red Bean Paste {Hong Dou Sha}

by Shirley
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homemade red bean paste

Homemade Red Bean Paste {Hong Dou Sha 红豆沙} comes from three simple ingredients – whole adzuki beans {Chi Dou 赤豆}, organic virgin coconut oil, and sugar. For sugar, I use a combination of cane sugar and turbinado sugar. They are easy to make, super healthy, and delicious.

With this at hand, you can make all kinds of pastry snacks featuring red bean paste, such as Red Bean Mochi Soup {Hong Dou Xiao Yuan Zi 红豆小圆子}, Qing Tuan {Green Sweet Rice Flour Dumplings}, Steamed Red Bean Buns {Dou Sha Bao}, Tang Yuan {Red Bean Sweet Rice Flour Dumplings}, and Mooncake.

food featuring red bean paste {Hong Dou Sha 红豆沙}
Food Featuring Red Bean Paste {Hong Dou Sha 红豆沙}

Red bean paste is a popular and well-liked ingredient for snacks & pastries in China, especially in the Yangtze River Delta area, home to Huai Yang Cuisine. Born and growing up in Suzhou, the heart of the Yangtze River Delta, I surely developed a deep appreciation for it.

Keep reading to learn adzuki bean fun facts and how to make healthy & tasty red bean paste like a pro every time!

Adzuki beans {Chi Dou 赤豆} fun facts

We call a variety of beans “red beans” because of their bright red color. Adzuki beans are the classic ones, also known as Chi Dou {赤小豆} in Chinese. “Chi” means “red”, “Dou” literally translates as beans.

Adzuki beans come in various sizes, either the size of black beans or mung beans. By the way, smaller adzuki beans are more common in China, called Chi Xiao Dou {赤小豆} in Chinese, or red little beans.

Adzuki beans are incredibly healthy & nutritious, doing a wonderful job nourishing and detoxing our bodies at the same time. For instance, they are rich in fiber, protein, and manganese. Adzuki beans are attributed to many health benefits such as improved digestion, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine {TCM} is a huge fan of them.

Adzuki Beans {Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆}
Adzuki Beans {Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆}

Adzuki beans have a pleasant warming, mild nutty taste. This, along with the fact that they have a bright red appealing color and contain superfood nutrients, makes them one of the popular ingredients for Chinese Eight Treasure Porridge.

How to cook adzuki beans?

Rinse the dried adzuki beans well and soak in more than twice the amount of water overnight to let them fully hydrate. They double their sizes after good hydration.

Adzuki Beans {Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆} - dry state
Adzuki Beans {Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆} – dry state
Adzuki Beans {Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆} - fully hydrated state after being soaked over night
Adzuki Beans {Chi Xiao Dou 赤小豆} – fully hydrated state after being soaked overnight

People either boil & simmer or steam to cook the hydrated adzuki beans. I usually use the former for easier cooking and more energy-efficient cooking.

Use either a cast-iron stockpot or a quality stockpot such as a Tri-ply stainless pot that retains heat well. Add water and the hydrated adzuki beans, bring them to a boil, and then simmer for about 50 minutes to 1 hour. The longer you soak the beans, the less time is required to cook the red beans.

You can surely use a slow cooker. If you do, I recommend you bring it to a boil via stovetop cooking prior to pouring it into the slow cooker and then simmering.

How much water should I use for boiling & simmering adzuki beans?

To preserve the taste & flavor of the adzuki beans, use a minimum amount of water but enough to cook the red beans sufficiently.

This is one of the key reasons people prefer the steaming method, as adzuki beans’ flavor won’t get watered down during the steaming process. However, if I use just the right amount of water, I shall be able to accomplish this using the boiling & simmering method.

After soaking & hydrating the adzuki beans, add the hydrated beans to the cast-iron stockpot, along with water.

hydrated adzuki beans in water

Bring it to a boil, mix well and then simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

homemade red bean paste ingredient

How to make Red Bean Paste?

Homemade Red Bean Paste Optional Step 1 – Puree the cooked adzuki beans

If you prefer a super smooth red bean paste, then do this optional step to puree the cooked adzuki beans. Use a coarse stainless steel strainer to remove the skins of the beans.

By the way, this stainless steel colander is a very handy tool, I use it to easily make homemade pureed tomatoes for delicious food like Luo Song Tang {罗宋汤 Shanghai-style Borscht Soup}, Red or Sweet and Sour Pork {Gu Lao Rou 古老肉}。

I usually skip this step as I enjoy the nutrients from the whole beans, am completely fine with the taste & texture it is, and definitely prefer the easier way LOL.

Homemade Red Bean Paste Step 2 – Turn mashed adzuki beans into a sweet paste

Add cooked adzuki beans to a hard-anodized fry pan, and use a potato masher to mash the cooked beans. If you have pureed the cooked beans, then just add them to the frying pan.

Turn the heat to medium, and add coconut oil, cane sugar, and turbinado sugar to the pan. Fold the coconut oil and sugar into the adzuki beans and till it starts to bubble. Then continue to fold and mix for another 15 minutes or so, or till the whole thing turns into a smooth paste.

ground cooked adzuki beans with coconut oil and sugar

All done! You are ready to make super tasty and healthy red bean pastries and snacks!

Cooked red bean paste is good in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. They are also freeze-friendly.

homemade red bean paste

Homemade Red Bean Paste Recipe {Hong Dou Sha 红豆沙}

Yield: 5 cups of red bean paste
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Homemade red bean paste using simple whole ingredients, adzuki beans, organic coconut oil, cane sugar and turbinado sugar is so yummy and easy to make. With these at hand, you can make all kinds of red bean paste featured pastry and snacks.


  • 2 cups (~450 g) of dried adzuki beans, also known as Chi Dou {赤豆} in Chinese
  • 6 cups of water, for cooking adzuki beans
  • 140 g organic coconut oil, or avocado oil, see notes
  • 50 gr cane sugar, organic
  • 50 g turbinado sugar, also known as "sugar in the raw"


Cook Adzuki Beans:

  • Rinse dried adzuki beans well and soak them in a large bowl with plenty of water overnight. They double the size once they are fully hydrated.
  • Add the hydrated adzuki beans into a cast-iron stockpot, along with 6 cups of water.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil, about 10 minutes.
  • Turn the heat to simmer, stir and mix well using a long wooden spatula, making sure the wooden spatula touches the bottom of the pot to ensure no adzuki beans are sticking to the bottom.
  • Simmer for 45 min to 1 hour.
  • Turn off the heat and immediately remove the cooked adzuki beans from the pot using a stainless skimmer. If you leave the beans in the pot, they will continue to cook and may become mushy.

Homemade Red Bean Paste:

  • If you like a wholesome red bean paste, add the cooked red beans directly to a hard-anodized non-stick fry pan and use a potato masher to mash it into a paste.
  • If you prefer a smoother taste, then use a grinder to grind the cooked adzuki beans first, and then use a flour sifter to puree and remove the bean skins.
  • Add coconut oil, cane sugar, and "sugar in the raw" into the frying pan.
  • Turn the heat to medium, mix and stir using a slotted turner via a folding motion for about 5-7 minutes or till they are bubbling.
  • Continue to fold and mix for another 10-15 minutes, or till the whole thing turns into a smooth paste.
  • All done. Wait for the red bean paste to cool and then store in an air-tight jar or container in the refrigerator and use it within 2 weeks. You can also store it in the freezer in a freezer-friendly ziplock bag for up to 3 months.


  • This recipe makes about 5 cups of red bean paste.
  • Save the juice left in the cast iron pot after cooking the beans, if any are left, they make great red bean tea.
  • Organic virgin coconut oil, a superfood, has a unique aroma and taste and many people are big fans, me included. If you are not, you can use avocado oil instead. Avocado oil is also a superfood oil with an extremely neutral almost tasteless flavor, which makes it versatile for all kinds of cooking and baking.
  • You can either use a food & meat grinder with the finest setting or a potato masher to turn the cooked adzuki bean into a mash.
  • If you prefer a super smooth red bean paste, you shall use a fine setting when grinding/mashing. After that, use a fine stainless strainer to puree.
  • Coconut oil is in a solid state unless the surrounding temperature is well above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I, therefore, use a kitchen scale to measure coconut oil in grams for easier and more practical measurement.

Nutrition Information
Yield 16 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 159Total Fat 9gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 0mgSodium 7mgCarbohydrates 17gFiber 3gSugar 6gProtein 3g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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