How To Make Anko From Scratch (Sweet Red Bean Paste)-Japanese Taste

How To Make Anko From Scratch (Sweet Red Bean Paste)

by Ayako Kidokoro

Bean Dessert Freezer-Friendly Japanese Sweets Make Ahead Pressure Cooker Traditional Food

Anko is a Japanese sweet red bean paste, commonly used as a topping or filling in Japanese confectionery. You've likely encountered it in Mochi (Daifuku), Bread (Anpan), or Dorayaki, and it can also be enjoyed on its own as a dessert.

Resembling boiled kidney beans in appearance due to its dark red color, Anko is made from smaller Azuki beans and boasts a sweet and nutty taste. Its thick texture makes it ideal for use as a filling.

The term 'Anko' translates to 'filling,' and when we use the word, it generally refers to Azuki red bean paste. This beloved ingredient has a rich history, believed to have originated from China around the 7th century. Initially enjoyed as a savory ingredient with salt, it transitioned to a sweet delicacy during the Edo period (1603-1868) with the widespread production and distribution of sugar in Japan.

Contrary to the perception that Anko might be challenging to make, it's surprisingly simple! All you need are Azuki beans, sugar, water, and a touch of salt. The salt is a key element, enhancing the sweetness. Personally, I prefer using cane sugar for its subtle caramel flavor.

There are two main types of Anko: Tsubuan (chunky texture) and Koshian (smooth texture). This recipe focuses on Tsubuan, but if you prefer a smoother texture, you can use a food processor to make it into smooth Koshian after following this recipe.

While a pressure cooker can expedite the cooking process, don't worry if you don't have one – I'll guide you through both using a pressure cooker and using a normal pot.

Our Anko contains less sugar compared to store-bought versions, so it's best consumed within three days. If you're looking for a way to use your homemade anko paste, definitely check out our Zenzai recipe.

Store it in a lidded container in the fridge. Freezing is an option too; tightly wrap it in plastic wrap, and it will keep for up to two months. I recommend dividing it into small portions for convenient use as a topping. Enjoy using your homemade Anko however you see fit!


Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 1hr 25mins

Total time: 1hr 30mins

Total servings: 5

Difficulty: Easy

  • 250 g Azuki Beans
  • 250 g Cane Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Water

Expert's Tip

How To Make Anko From Scratch (Sweet Red Bean Paste)

If you don’t have time to make Anko Red Bean Paste, there are always options! You can use this tsubuan chunky anko as it is—you don't even need scissors to open the bag. It's already sweetened, making it convenient for direct use in Japanese sweets or as a topping. If you prefer smooth red bean paste, this product also comes in a koshian anko version.


1) Gathering the Ingredients

Gather the ingredients together.

2) Washing the Azuki Beans

Wash Azuki beans as you would wash rice, ensuring to discard any broken beans. Then, fill a pot with plenty of water and heat it over high heat.

3) Boiling the Beans

When the water starts boiling, let it simmer over high heat for 7 minutes, and then drain the hot water.

4) Cooking the Beans With A Pressure Cooker (Option 1)

Place the beans into a pressure cooker and add 3-4 times the amount of water. Heat with the lid on until the pressure valve rises, then reduce the heat and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Finally, turn off the heat and wait for the pressure to drop.

5) Cooking the Beans in a Pot (Option 2)

Place the beans in a pot and add 4-5 times the amount of water. Bring it to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium heat.

6) Allowing the Beans to Soften

Always ensure that the beans are covered with enough water. If necessary, add more water until the beans soften, approximately for 1 hour. While heating the beans, make sure to skim the foam from the top of the cooking liquid.

7) Adding Sugar & Salt

Check the beans to see if they are soft enough. Ideally, they should be soft enough to be crushed with fingers. If they are still hard, cook a bit more. Once they are soft enough, add sugar and salt.

Tip: It is crucial to add sugar when the beans are soft enough. They won’t get softer even if you cook more after adding sugar.

8) Thickening the Anko Paste

Simmer until the water content is reduced. Enjoy your homemade Anko!

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