Chinese Sweet Bean Soups & Pastes (甜豆汤和沙)

Chinese cuisine has a few sweet soups and pastes usually using adzuki or mung beans. The simplest methods call for soaking the beans overnight, then boiling them in water until the beans are soft. Then the soup is sweetened with sugar. They can served hot or cold. Sometimes they are served over shaved ice with condensed milk. But the basic cooking is the same. Boil beans until they are soft and squishy.

If you cook the beans with less water or cook them down until there is barely any water left, then you have a bean paste. The beans are then further mashed. Depending on what you want to use the paste for, you can either use it as is or saute them with oil or even just mix oil into the beans. The reason is oil is added is because, when the bean paste cools it has the consistency of spackle. Oil needs to be added, in order to make the paste more appealing at room temperate or cold.


  • Cooking Methods
    • Instant Pot
    • Beans Require OVERNIGHT SOAKING
      • Rice Cooker
      • Stovetop
  • Bean Paste
    • Oil less
    • Oil
    • Bean Paste Custard Hybrid


  • 1 lb adzuki beans or mung beans
  • Rock or palm sugar – start with 1/4 cup
    • I’ve also used the Taiwan Black Sugar or Honey
    • White or Brown Sugar
    • Basically you need a sweetener, and I prefer something with a little more interesting than white sugar.
  • Optional:
    • Fresh ginger, about 1″ knob (crush with cleaver)
    • Citrus peel – 2 or 3 small mandarin orange peels (Clementine) or equivalent, fresh is preferred, but dried is fine too.
    • Korean ginger or citron (or other citrus marmalade tea) If you use this, adjust the sugar accordingly.


Rinse and pick over the beans. Seriously, I’ve found pebbles in bags of dried beans, lentils, and peas. But now I’m paranoid and always check. Humans shouldn’t eat rocks. I can’t believe I just had to say that.

Instant Pot Method:

  1. Place the Instant Pot insert in the sink.
  2. Put the beans in the insert and just cover the beans with water.
  3. Now, place your index finger in the beans remember where the water level is on your finger.
    • For soup, add more water until the water is double or triple original height. Seriously, you can’t forget where the original water level is because that is STILL the height of the beans. FYI… this is how most of us from rice eating cultures measure water for cooking rice.
    • For paste, just cover the beans. If you are afraid of burning the beans, you can add a little more water. You can always cook off the excess water.
  4. If you want to add ginger or citrus peel do so now.
  5. Place the insert back into the Instant Pot and seal it.
  6. Pressure cook using the bean setting, or 20-30minutes on high.
  7. Let the steam release naturally.
  8. Once the float valve drops down, CAREFULLY open the pot. Be careful of the steam.
  9. You should be able to mash the beans easily with a spoon.
  10. Proceed to soup or whichever paste you want to make.

Rice Cooker Method & Stovetop Method:

Soak the beans for at least 8-12 hours. The time will also depend on how warm your kitchen is. If it’s really warm, check to make sure the beans don’t sprout.

Rice Cooker Method:

  1. The next day, follow steps 1-4 of the Instant Pot Method except with the rice cooker.
  2. Place the insert back into the rice cooker. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction for cooking rice. Just cook it 2x, so the beans have a chance to soften and cook. After the first time, check and make sure you don’t need to add more water to the beans.
  3. After the 2nd cooking time you should be able to mash the beans easily with a spoon. If not cook longer.
  4. When the beans are soft enough, proceed to whichever soup or paste you want to make.

Stovetop Method:

  1. The next day, pour the beans into a heavy sauce pan.
  2. Cover the beans with water. Then add at least another inch or 2 of water to the pot.
  3. If you want to add ginger or citrus peel do so now.
  4. Bring the water to a boil. Then let simmer, stir occasionally, add water as needed so the beans don’t burn.
  5. When the beans are soft enough to mash with a spoon, proceed to whichever soup or paste you want to make.

For Soup:

  1. Remove the citrus peel and ginger at this time.
  2. Look at the consistency of the soup and determine if it is too thick or too wet.
  3. Turn on the Saute Function or cook it on the stove.
  4. If the soup is too thick add more water, if it is too wet, simmer until it’s cooked down.
  5. Once the soup is at the proper consistency (this is really personal preference), add your choice of sweetener. If this is for soup, my mother would often leave it unsweetened and let people just sweeten it to taste.
  6. Taste the soup and see if you need to add more sweetener.
  7. Turn off the Instant Pot
  8. The soup can be served hot or cold, with or without condense milk. My mother would sometimes freeze the soup in popsicle molds for a summertime treat.

For paste:

  1. Decide if you want to blend the ginger and citrus peel into the paste or remove it.
  2. Look at the consistency of the paste and determine if it’s too wet.
  3. You may use the Saute function on the Instant Pot or your stovetop to cook it down to a moldable consistency.
  4. Decide if you want a smooth paste or one that is slightly lumpy. (I prefer a more textured paste).
  5. If you want a more textured paste scoop out about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of bean mixture and set aside. Make sure there is no ginger or citrus peel in the reserved paste!!!
  6. Put remain bean mixture into a food processor or use an immersion blender and puree until smooth.
  7. You can mix the reserved beans back in at this point.
  8. If you are using that paste for zongzi or rice cake, or anything else you are NOT going to eat at room temperature or cold, you use it at this point. Otherwise we have to add oil.
  9. Start by pouring about a 1/4 cup of vegetable or other neutral tasting oil into a pan or wok and start heating up the oil. When it sizzles when you place a dollop of paste in it you can add the rest of paste and stir fry it. The paste should absorb the oil fairly quickly. You may need to add more oil. Just keep stir frying it until the paste doesn’t stick to the pan.
  10. Taste the paste and see if it needs more sugar. Add more at this time and stir until the sugar is blended in.
  11. Remove from heat and allow to cool. You can now use it for whatever recipe calls for bean paste.

Alternative non vegan paste – this more like a custard

  1. Add a 12oz can of condensed milk (check to see if it’s sweetened) into a heavy saucepan.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and mix well.
  3. Add about a quart of no oil room temperature bean paste into the milk and mix well.
  4. Scramble 4 eggs in another bowl.
  5. Pour the eggs into the saucepan while constantly stirring. Once everything is mixed together. Turn the stove on low-medium while constantly stirring the mixture. We don’t want the egg to form curds.
  6. Keep stirring and cooking until the paste thickens to the desire consistency.
  7. Taste it and see if you need to add more sugar. Add more sugar as needed.
  8. Once any additional sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  9. You can now use the bean paste for whatever recipe calls for bean paste.

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