How to make Red Bean Paste | Anko, Tsubuan Style


When my husband and I visited Austin, I was so happy to see that, not only was there a Whole Foods; there were four (4) Whole Foods stores. Not only were there four (4) Whole Foods Stores, Austin also housed the Whole Foods Headquarters. I was, and still am, a very happy Neo-Texan. The other day, I was strolling through the Whole Foods on William Cannon, and to my absolute delight, there, in the vast containers of dried, healthy goods, were the delicious, ruby-colored, azuki beans.

Need I go on about how excited I was? Yes? Okay! I’ve been wanting to make my own red bean paste for years; in fact, I’ve wanted to make it so badly that I even tried making it with dried kidney beans. Can you say “Sweet Red Beans and Rice?” That’s exactly what it tasted like! So, if you’re desperate, don’t give in and be a princess weenie, like I did, – use the internet first.

Now, for those of you who don’t know what Red Bean Paste | Anko is, it’s a delicious, sweetened paste made of the red azuki bean and is part of traditional and modern Japanese cooking. The beans are cooked until tender, sweetened with sugar, and then cooked down to a syrupy paste of either the whole beans (Tsubuan), partially crushed beans (Tsubushian), or smooth, sieved beans (Koshian).

The Big Questions:

  • Does Anko | Red Bean Paste taste like beans? No. (unless you are a princess weenie who used kidney beans).
  • Does Anko | Red Bean Paste feel like beans? Yes. The starches from the beans make the paste thick, just as you would imagine smushed beans to feel.

(Click here to see all of the sweet treats and savory eats that use Anko!)

Why would you want to make your own? Well, a 16-ounce can costs upwards of $3.99 at your local Asian market. Buying the equivalent in dried beans only costs $1.

How to make Red Bean Paste | Anko, Tsubuan Style

Tsubuan is very easy to make, and great for people who want to try it for the first time!
(Take me straight to the recipe!)

Like with all dried beans, we must take care to soften them up! Soak the beans on your counter overnight. The longer they soak, the softer they will become when you cook them! With that said, you can use the quick method for soaking beans  – put your beans in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover, turn off the heat for an hour, and resume cooking as if you had soaked them.


My beans, for some reason, lost their color and turned a little brown. They tasted fantastic in the end, so if this happens to you, don’t fret! Rinse your beans.


Cover the beans with water, an inch above the beans.


In the Japanese culture, they love to remove the “scum” from foods when they’re cooking because this usually contains bitter flavors. This is for the first boil.


When it comes to a boil, cover and let it sit for 5 minutes before draining.


Cover the beans with just enough water to touch the surface of the beans. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer for an hour or so, using a slotted spoon to push beans back under the water as it cooks. This is a love-and-care process, so you’ll have to keep a good eye on them, being sure to add more water as needed to keep them submerged; this ensures that they will not break apart and disintegrate during the cooking process.


After about an hour or an hour and a half, check the beans for done-ness by squishing one between your fingers. It should be pretty mushy and soft enough to eat! Mm! Not yet, though! We have to make them sweet! :)


Add sugar in increments of three, stirring between each addition. Jack that heat up to high and stir constantly! Keep stirring until it reaches this consistency::


Doesn’t that look delicious! When you pull the spoon back, you want the beans to slowly come back together – that’s when it’s perfect! Remove the pan from the heat, the beans from the pot, and let the beans cool before handling! You can store them in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for about a month!

The Red Bean Paste | Anko | Tsubuan Recipe (Yay!)

Yield: 600g (1.3 lb) anko
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Notes: | = or

  • 200g | 7 oz | a little bit less than 1 cup which is 220g –  Azuki beans
  • Water
  • 200g | 7 oz | 1 cup – Granulated Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  1. Soak the beans over night.
  2. Rinse beans and place into a medium saucepan.
  3. Cover with water, an inch or two above the beans.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat.
  5. Let the beans soak for 5 minutes.
  6. Pour out the water, and cover with fresh water – just until the beans are covered.
  7. Bring to a boil on high, then turn the heat down to medium. Simmer for 1.5 hours, keeping a constant eye on them.
  8. Be sure to add water to the pot as it cooks down, and use a wooden spoon to wiggle the beans down into the water as they boil.
  9. After about an hour, begin checking the beans for done-ness. If they smoosh between your fingers very easily, they’re done cooking!
  10. Add the sugar in three separate additions, stirring well.
  11. Turn the heat to high, stirring constantly until the beans boil, condense down, and thicken.
  12. Beans are done when you slide the spoon across the pan and it takes a moment for the beans to come back together.
  13. Remove from heat and immediately remove from the pan.
  14. Allow to cool and use, store in the fridge (up to 7 days) or in the freezer (up to a month!).

If you live in Austin, TX, you can get Azuki Beans at Whole Foods stores, in the do-it-yourself bagging-bin area.


One thought on “How to make Red Bean Paste | Anko, Tsubuan Style

  1. Pingback: Japanese Dishes featuring Anko | Foodspiration by Design

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