Red Bean Soup (お汁粉 - Oshiruko)
If you're unfamiliar with East Asian sweets, the idea of sweet beans can be a little hard to wrap your head around, but the nutty flavor of adzuki beans lends itself well to sweet desserts. Oshiruko is a comforting dessert soup that's made with sweet red bean paste, and it's a wintertime favorite in Japan.
Served with a soft, chewy piece of mochi, this soul-soothing soup is satisfying enough to make for a light meal or a filling snack.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- By starting with anko (instead of dried adzuki beans), this red bean soup comes together in under 5 minutes.
- Toasting the mochi creates a crisp crust on top with the nutty fragrance of rice crackers while the center gets soft and chewy.
Ingredients for Red Bean Soup
- Anko - Anko is a Japanese sweet red bean paste made by cooking adzuki beans with sugar. I have a homemade anko recipe here if you need one. I like using tsubuan for Oshiruko because the chunky texture gives the soup more substance, but it can also be made using smooth koshian.
- Sugar - Depending on the sweetness of your anko, you may need to add some sugar to the soup. My recipe for homemade anko is relatively low in sugar, so I usually add about two tables of sugar. However, if you use a store-bought anko, I recommend tasting the oshiruko before adding any sugar.
- Mochi - Mochi is a rice cake made from mochi rice (glutinous short-grain rice). There are several styles of mochi, but I recommend using mochi that has been made by pounding steamed mochi rice for this red bean soup. It should be available at Japanese supermarkets shaped into round patties or cut into rectangles, and it will be rock hard because the starches in the rice have retrograded. The rice cakes get soft and chewy when they're heated. I do not recommend using mochi made from rice flour as this softer style will not hold up well in the soup.
How to Make Red Bean Soup
If you already have anko (sweet red bean paste), making Oshiruko is as simple as heating the anko with water and sugar. If you don't have any anko, you can use my tsubuan recipe to make it in under 1 hour using a pressure cooker.
Make the soup by adding the anko, water and sugar to a pot and bringing it to a boil. Stir periodically to keep it from burning. Once the soup comes to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer to keep it warm.
While the red bean soup heats up, you'll want to heat the mochi by toasting it in a toaster oven or broiler until it's puffed up and golden brown on top. I prefer the extra texture and flavor this adds, but some people prefer to reheat mochi in the microwave, which makes the whole thing soft and gooey. If you're going to do it in the microwave oven, just wet the surface of the mochi, set it on some parchment paper, and microwave it on high until you see it puff up like a balloon.
To serve your red bean soup, divide the Oshiruko between two bowls and then top each one with a piece of mochi.
Other Japanese Sweets Recipes
Oshiruko, which can also be known as Zenzai, is a sweet red bean soup that's made by cooking anko together with water and sugar. Served with a soft and chewy piece of mochi, it's a sweet snack that's a wintertime staple in Japan.
Both Oshiruko (お汁粉) and Zenzai(ぜんざい) refer to sweet red bean soup, but which name it goes by depends on the area of Japan you live in and the texture of the soup. In Kansai (the area around Osaka), Oshiruko refers to a soup made with smooth red bean paste, while Zenzai refers to a soup made with chunky red bean paste. In Kanto (the Tokyo area), Oshriruko refers to both smooth and chunky red bean soup, and Zenzai refers to a more viscous soup with the consistency of porridge.
Oshiruko is a 4-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
o like order
shi like sheet
ru like the “ru” sound does not exist in the English language, and the best way to make it is to say the word "ruse" with the tip of your tongue at the front of your mouth.
ko like corner
As long as the sugar used to make the anko is plant-based (most white sugar is not), this red bean soup is vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
- 280 grams anko (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar (to taste)
- 2 mochi
- To make the red bean soup, add the anko, water, and sugar to a pot and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Toast the mochi in a toaster oven or broiler until it's puffy and golden brown. If you are heating the mochi in a microwave oven, get the surface of the mochi wet, and then set it on a piece of parchment paper and microwave until the mochi puffs up like a balloon.
- Serve the Oshiruko in a bowl topped with a piece of toasted mochi.