When many people think of common Japanese ingredients, their minds automatically go to the beloved and versatile soybean. However, just as delicious as soybeans are adzuki beans, the second most commonly used legume in Japanese cookery.
Small, dry, and russet-colored, the adzuki, which translates from Japanese to “small bean”, originated in China and has cemented itself as a mainstay in many Asian cuisines. They’re soft, but not mushy, and their slightly sweet, almost nutty flavor profile makes them extremely adaptable — they are often made into a dessert-like paste called anko, but can also be used in a melange of savory recipes. Learn more about adzuki beans and how to use them in your cooking below.
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Adzuki beans, like many other beans, are a rich source of dietary fiber; they pack in eight grams of fiber per every half-cup serving. A single cup of adzuki beans contains 17.3 grams of protein and less than two grams of fat. According to health experts, meeting your daily fiber requirements may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Adzuki beans are high in iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, and a half-cup serving of adzuki beans will supply you with 12 percent of your daily iron requirement. Additionally, adzuki beans are high-antioxidant and contain bioflavonoids, which help the body maximize the benefits of consumed vitamin C, making them anti-inflammatory.
If you’re someone who follows a macrobiotic diet, then you might know that adzuki beans, along with lentils and chickpeas, are a staple legume. In fact, adzukis are considered among the most warming, or “yang”, of all macrobiotic beans.
Buying and Storing Adzuki
Generally, you should be able to find adzuki beans at your local supermarket. The beans are small, and reddish-brown in color, with a small white ridge running down their side — imagine your average kidney bean, only half the size. You can either buy a can of ready-to-eat adzuki beans or buy them in their dried state and make them yourself. If you can’t find adzuki beans in a standard supermarket, you will likely find it among the beans at the nearest Asian grocery store.
Like many other beans, store your dry adzuki beans in a cool, dry environment inside an airtight container. Cooked adzuki beans should keep for up to five days in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
How to Prepare Adzuki
Generally speaking, about one cup of dried adzuki beans will yield about three cups of cooked beans.
If you’re someone who wants to maximize the digestibility of your food, then soaking your dry adzuki beans overnight before preparing them is highly recommended — otherwise, soaking them for at least six hours should suffice.
Next, discard the soaking water and rinse off your beans. Toss them in a pot of boiling water, then reduce the heat and simmer your beans for 45 minutes to one hour, until they’re tender. In order to really help manage potential digestive upsets that come from consuming beans, you could also add a strip of kombu seaweed to your beans while they’re boiling. Now you’re ready to use your adzuki!
How to Use Adzuki
Adzuki beans are unique in that they lend themselves well into both sweet and savory dishes.
Adzuki beans have a natural sweetness, and are widely used in sweet Asia confections; in fact, if you’ve ever had something stuffed with sweet red bean paste, it means you’re eating a paste made from adzuki! Often, you’ll find adzuki in pastries, desserts, and cakes, but they also made fillings inside of dumplings, buns, and mooncakes. This recipe for Dou Sha Bao: Chinese Red Bean Paste Buns, pictured above, is a sweet staple of many traditional Chinese desserts and pastries. One of the top desserts in China is Red Bean Paste Buns.
These Adzuki Fudge Brownies With Goji Berries are both vegan and flourless, and this Naturally Sweet Red Bean Daifuku is traditional and satisfying. Daifuku, also known as mochi in the United States, is one of the most popular wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) that consist of a soft, chewy outer layer made from sweet rice flour with anko, which is the term for sweet red bean paste.
Due to their nutty undertones, adzuki, much like other pulses, can also successfully be used in savory dishes. Whether you’re tossing them in a salad, using them to bulk up a soup, or incorporating them into a large batch of chili, they can make satiating and satisfying additions to your meal.
You can use adzuki as a binder, such as in these Adzuki Bean and Walnut Mini Burgers. For those of you who are craving warmth and comfort in the autumn and winter months, there isn’t anything more seasonal and cozy than this Pumpkin and Adzuki Bean Masala Curry.
Remember, you never have to cook a bad batch of beans again if you print out The Ultimate Guide for Cooking Perfect Beans and stick it in your kitchen for reference!
We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: MRS. SUCHARUT CHOUNYOO/Shutterstock