Tsubuan is a type of chunky paste made from red adzuki beans. With a little time and patience, you can easily make your own tsubuan at home from scratch. It's perfect for making Japanese sweet treats. Whether you're filling dumplings, flavouring desserts or simply spreading it on toast, tsubuan is a delicious addition to all kinds of recipes!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Sudachi Recipes is part of the amazon associates programme and earns a small percentage from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. See disclaimer for more info.
Red bean paste is made from a small type of bean called adzuki (小豆). Adzuki beans are also known as azuki beans, aduki beans or simply "red beans" in English.
It is said that adzuki beans originated from the Himalayas and eventually spread to China, Korea, Japan and all over Asia.
Adzuki beans are extremely popular in Asian desserts and are the second most commonly used bean in Japan, only second to soybeans. You can buy them dried (like these on Amazon) or boiled and canned.
Red Bean Paste
Adzuki beans need to be simmered to soften them. Making a paste is as simple as mixing the cooked beans with sugar and a pinch of salt, it's easy to crush them down into a paste that we call "anko" (餡子).
Anko is a red bean paste used in all kinds of desserts. There are two main kinds of anko, we call them "tsubuan" (粒あん) and "koshian" (こしあん). Let me tell you about the differences!
Tsubuan (粒あん) is a simple red bean paste with a thick and chunky texture. As you can simply soften the beans through simmering and then crush them with the skins on, it's easy to make at home!
Tsubuan can be used for dishes such as:
- Dorayaki (red bean pancake)
- Taiyaki (pastry in the shape of a fish with red bean filling)
- Daifuku (mochi filled with red bean)
- Anmitsu (jelly dessert)
- Red bean ice cream
- Ohagi (rice wrapped with tsubuan)
- Ogura toast (toast topped with tsubuan and butter / cream)
Koshian (こしあん) uses the exact same ingredients as tsubuan, but the texture is extremely smooth and refined. The process takes more work because the skins need to be removed and the texture needs to be completely smooth, this can be achieved with a cheesecloth.
I'll be posting a koshian recipe in the future. For now, you can purchase it here on Amazon.
Koshian is often used to make:
- Ichigo Daifuku (strawberry wrapped with koshian and mochi)
- Mizu yokan (red bean jelly)
- Manju (Sweet Japanese dumplings)
- Sakura mochi (cherry blossom rice dumpling filled with koshian)
Although making tsubuan is very straight forward, it takes time. I also have a few extra tips to make your homemade tsubuan especially delicious!
Washing the beans
For the best taste, you should wash the adzuki beans before cooking, this will remove any astringency. I place the beans in a bowl and fill it with cold water, swill it around with my hand and drain. I repeat this 3 times.
While many recipes recommend soaking the beans, I like to speed things up, especially because this recipe already takes quite a long time.
Instead of soaking them, I "pre-boil" them. By bringing them to a boil, the beans plump up slightly and the water becomes like a tea that you can drink! (It's supposed to be good for you!) I usually drain the beans and save the red bean water in a jug in the fridge.
Return the beans to the pan with fresh water, bring to a boil and then allow to bubble on a medium/medium-low heat for about 60-75 minutes. Make sure to check the water from time to time, the beans should always be fully submerged and not exposed to the air. Top up the water every 15 minutes or so.
Keep the beans submerged
You will need to check the beans from time to time to make sure the water hasn't evaporated too much. They should always be submerged so make sure to top up the water when necessary. If they become exposed, they won't cook evenly so be careful!
Check the softness
After cooking the beans for about 1 hour, take out one of the larger beans, run it under cold water (to prevent burning yourself) and squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger.
If it's squashed easily then you can turn off the heat, if it's still a bit firm then you will need to cook for longer. Repeat this check every 10-15 minutes until they're soft enough.
Making the paste
After fully cooking the adzuki beans, they need to be drained and then sweetened. I like to mix them in a container with light brown sugar, cover the container with a lid or damp tea towel and leave it for 5-6 hours. (You can also store it in the fridge overnight if you like.)
This is an optional step but it allows the beans to absorb the flavour of the sugar deeply and makes a huge difference to the quality and richness of the bean paste. I've tried skipping this step and the difference in taste is very noticeable!
After 5 hours have passed, scrape the contents of the bowl into a pan and mix with a rice paddle over a low heat. Mix and gently crush the beans until it forms a paste. Add a pinch of salt, mix again and remove from the heat.
You can cool the tsubuan quickly by spreading it onto a baking sheet covered in a damp tea towel. (The damp towel will stop it from drying out.)
Keep your homemade red bean paste in airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
If you can't use it up in 3 days then it's safer to freeze your tsubuan. Divide it into easy-to-use portions, wrap with plastic wrap and store in the freezer. Tsubuan can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Defrost before use. (You can defrost in the microwave.)Print