Red (or Green) Bean Soup

This warming winter “soup” is really a dessert or snack item, and it is traditionally served for the Lantern Festival, the last day of the lunar New Year celebration, which just passed. You can sometimes find it (or another sweet soup) served gratis at the end of a restaurant meal. You can increase or decrease the sugar content to your taste and you can use adzuki or mung beans – the adzuki give a nicer color. You can buy dried red or mung beans in Asian markets or even in many conventional markets with sizeable Asian sections. In a pinch, you can even use dark red kidney beans and puree part of the mixture, keeping some beans whole. Rock sugar is available in Asian markets and is rock candy without added flavor/color.


  • 1/2 lb dried small red beans (adzuki work nicely) or mung beans
  • 6 c water
  • 1/4 lb brown sugar or rock sugar method:

do ahead:

  1. Sort and rinse the beans well – they tend to have lots of little pebbles and a fair amount of grit mixed in with them.
  2. If you have time, you can soak the beans 12-24 h in cool water at room temperature – this will speed up the cooking process, but as it is fine if some beans split and fall apart to thicken the soup, this step is not as important as it would be if you wanted to keep the beans’ skins from splitting.
  3. Place the beans in a pot, add the water, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally for approximately an hour. The beans should be very tender and the liquid thickened slightly. If necessary, add more water, 1/4-1/2 cup and cook until the desired tenderness is achieved..
  5. Add the sugar, and continue to simmer, stirring, until it completely dissolves.
  6. Serve hot or warm at the end of a meal or for a nourishing snack.


  • Barley is a nice addition to the beans – the really fat grains make for a nice presentation. Sort, rinse, and cook along with the beans.
  • Other additions include dried fruit such as raisins or cut up apricots – presoak in warm water for 1/2 h, then add for the last 10 m of cooking time.

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