Delicious and easy Anko recipe (red bean paste) prepared in a pressure cooker in a few easy steps. Use it as filling in your favorite Japanese sweets and desserts!
In Japan, there are all kinds of sweets and snacks everywhere, from convenience stores to busy stations and even department stores. You can find an assortment of Japanese and Western cookies, cakes, snacks, and desserts.
Speaking of Japanese sweets, the most popular filling in them is Anko or Sweet Red Bean Paste. I would describe its popularity similar to chocolate for Western desserts.
What type of Japanese desserts have red bean paste as filling? Mochi of course! The sweet red bean paste is inside of all types of mochi as you see in Daifuku, Strawberry Mochi, Kashiwa Mochi, Sakura Mochi. Also in the flour cake batter, like in Dorayaki and Taiyaki.
Now making it is very easy, but cooking it in the traditional stove-top method requires your time and undivided attention. The amount of water in the pot has to be just right above the azuki beans while cooking, so you need to stay in the kitchen to keep an eye on it (this is a well-known “proper” method).
I’ve loved Anko all my life and I’m quite obsessed with it. But even such a fanatic myself, I’ve only made it at home on special occasions and relied on overly-sweet premade ones from Japanese grocery stores to save time.
But not anymore with my Instant Pot! So today I will show you my favorite way to make homemade Anko with the pressure cooker.
Making Anko in Pressure Cooker
So, the first step to making Anko easier is to speed up the process. Unfortunately, this will require a pressure cooker. I know, a pressure cooker is not a gadget that everyone has in the kitchen and I didn’t own one myself until last year. If you don’t own a pressure cooker, you can still make delicious homemade Anko on the stovetop (recipe here). Many of my readers really love this stovetop recipe!
Why use a Pressure Cooker then? It’s simple; 1) it cooks fast, 2) does a great job, and 3) saves you a lot of time.
What pressure cooker do I use? I’ve been using this 7-in-1 Instant Pot Multi-Functional Cooker and I shared how much I love this gadget in this post, this post, and this post. It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker/porridge maker, steamer, sauté/browning, yogurt maker, and warmer in one machine. I mostly use the pressure cooker functions and unlike old-fashion pressure cookers, there is no hissing sound and it’s not scary at all to use and operate!
Besides cooking beans, it is a total lifesaver when you want to cook meat in less than 30 minutes. Even though it’s a short time, the tender meat falls off the bones! I usually switch on before heading to kids’ activities and when we come home, the dinner is ready! I don’t even have to be in the kitchen!
3 Simple Ingredients to Make Anko
What do you need for this recipe? It’s very simple, all you need is azuki beans, sugar, and salt. You can find azuki beans in Japanese grocery stores, Asian grocery stores, health food stores, or Amazon.
The amount of sugar that goes into this recipe is a lot (but it’s usually for the filling, and the rest of the sweet is not sweet – like mochi). But I’d say it is less sweet than the store-bought Anko. Although it’s not too sweet, I would not consider it as a healthy food because of how much sugar it contains. So please adjust the amount of sugar to your liking, based on the type of sweets you’re making.
Why do we put salt? Instead of adding more sugar, a pinch of salt can actually enhance the sweetness even more without making it salty.
Chunky or Fine Red Bean Paste
If you’re familiar with Japanese sweets, red bean paste generally comes in two types of texture: chunky and fine. The chunky red bean paste is called Tsubuan (粒あん) and the red bean paste with a fine smooth texture is Koshian (こしあん).
Koshian is used more often as filling but it’s really up to your preference. Traditionally, to make the smooth silky fine texture, a cooked and sweetened azuki bean mixture is pressed into a fine mesh sieve to separate the bean skins.
To save time, I use a food processor or blender to skip the tedious process (my mom may not agree with me…). It might not be as silky and smooth, but I think it’s pretty good for the amount of time I spend in the kitchen to make Koshian.
Making Anko in a pressure cooker is super easy and simple and cuts down on cooking time. The best part though is that homemade Anko tastes SO GOOOOOD!
How to Make White Bean Paste (Shiroan)
White Bean Paste or Shiroan is commonly used as a filling for wagashi (Japanese confectionery) such as mochi and manju.
The paste has a milder bean taste, so it makes a great alternative to red bean paste!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Pressure Cooker Anko (Red Bean Paste)
For 300 g Azuki Beans
- 1 ½ cup azuki beans
- 5 cups water (The ratio of azuki beans to water is 1:4; 300 g beans:1200 g water)
- 1 ¼ cup sugar (Read Notes below to use the proper amount; should be around 1 ¼ cup to 1 ½ cup)
- ⅛ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
For 250 g Azuki Beans
- azuki beans
- 4 cups water (4 cups + 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp to be precise; the ratio of azuki beans to water is 1:4)
- 1 cup sugar (Read Notes below to use the proper amount; should be around 1 cup to 1 ¼ cup)
- ⅛ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Put the 300 g (1 ½ cup) azuki beans in a strainer and place it inside a large bowl. Rinse the azuki beans in running water until water is clear. Discard any pieces that are floating. Drain water.
- Transfer the beans to the Instant Pot and add 1200 ml (5 cups) of water to your pressure cooker.
- Cover and lock the lid of your pressure cooker. If you’re using an Instant Pot, turn it on and press the “Bean/Chili” button. Press the “minus” button to decrease the cooking time from the default 35-minute cooking time to 25 minutes.
- Before you walk away, make sure the steam release handle points at “sealing” and not “venting”.
- If you’re using a stove-top pressure cooker, cook on high heat until high pressure is reached. Then reduce the heat to low to maintain the pressure for about 20 minutes.
- When it’s done cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to “Keep Warm” mode. Let the pressure slowly release by itself for 15-20 minutes. If you are using a stove-top pressure cooker, remove the pot from the heat, and let the pressure release naturally. Before opening the lid, turn the steam release handle to vent and release any leftover pressure.
- Scoop the foam on the surface and discard (if you prefer the more refined taste). Pick one bean and mash it with your fingers. If it is mashed easily, it's done.
- Then drain the azuki beans through a fine sieve. If you're making Oshiruko (Zenzai) or red bean soup, don't drain and continue the next step with the cooking liquid remaining in the pot.
- Put the azuki beans back in the Instant Pot and add the sugar. Press the “Saute” button and select "Low" option.
- Let the sugar dissolved completely, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Choose the following options: 1) Fine texture, 2) coarse texture, and 3) red bean soup.
1) Koshian (fine red bean paste)
- Continue cooking until you can draw a line in the azuki bean mixture with the wooden spatula and see the bottom of the pot for 1 second (see Notes below). Then turn off the Instant Pot and take out the inner bowl from the Instant Pot and let the mixture cool for 5-10 minutes*. The mixture will thicken more as it cools down. *Important: If you put hot liquid in the food processor or blender, as it purees, the liquid may start coming out the edges of the food processor or the built-up steam can actually blow the lid off the blender. To prevent this from happening, it’s best to let the liquid cool for a few minutes before pureeing, fill the food processor or blender up only halfway, work in batches and hold a towel over the lid when pureeing.
- Transfer the warm azuki beans into the food processor or blender. I use a 14 cup food processor so the mixture will all fit at once; otherwise, blend in 2-3 smaller batches. If you prefer the “proper” method, use a very fine mesh strainer and press the mixture with the wooden spoon. The azuki bean skins will be separated and you will get more refined koshian.
- Run the food processor or blender until the mixture becomes smooth texture. If it’s too soft, don’t worry. It will dehydrate and become even more thicken till the paste is completely cooled.
- Transfer to an airtight container. When it’s cooled and thickened more, it’s ready to use. If you don’t use it right away, cover and store in the fridge for 1 week and in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- I recommend dividing into 100 grams of anko paste in individual plastic wraps and put them in a big freezer bag for storage.
2) Tsubuan (chunky red bean paste)
- Continue cooking until you draw a line in the azuki bean mixture with the wooden spatula and see the bottom of the pot for 2 second. Then turn off the Instant Pot and transfer the mixture to a baking sheet (or flat rimmed plate) to let it cool.
- When it’s cooled and thickened more, it’s ready to use. If you don’t use it right away, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for 1 week and in the freezer for up to a month. I also recommend diving into 100 grams of anko paste in each plastic wrap and put it in a big freezer bag.