Have you ever seen beans added to Asian desserts, like ice cream, shaved ice, or cakes?
Across Asia, these sweeter-than-average beans have earned a place in sweet desserts.
However, while adzuki beans are sweeter than pinto beans or red kidney beans, they don’t exactly taste like sugar and spice.
They taste like beans, with a slight natural sweetness that can be brought out by cooking them with sugar and other ingredients.
In this article, we’ll look at the red bean, also called the adzuki bean: the elusive and interesting flavor that can be both savory and sweet.
What Is Red Bean?
The scientific name for the red bean is Vigna angularis, and it is also popularly known as the red mung bean or the adzuki bean.
They grow on a vine that is cultivated. These delicious red beans are cultivated across Asia for their sweetness and flavor.
Each bean is about 5mm, or 1/4″ long. Although the red version is the most popular in Asia and internationally, the red mung bean also has variations that are mottled, white, black, and gray.
Red bean is tremendously popular and is the second most produced legume in Japan after soybeans.
Red bean can be eaten raw but is typically cooked and added to sweet desserts, or Boba tea.
Red bean paste is a popular ingredient in Japan and is made by cooking and mashing the adzuki beans before sweetening them with sugar.
What Is The Noticeable Flavor Of Red Bean?
Compared to red kidney beans and pinto beans, adzuki beans or red beans have a “beanier” taste, along with a subtle sweetness that might not be noticeable at first to those who are unfamiliar with the flavor.
Red bean is earthy, beanie, and nutty, with a creamy and smooth texture that melts in your mouth. When raw or unflavored, red bean is quite mild and neutral apart from the bean taste.
However, red bean easily absorbs and takes on other flavors, which is why it is ideal for both sweet desserts and savory dishes.
What Does Red Bean Look Like?
Red beans are small, about 5mm or 1/4 long, red, and oval-shaped. Most red beans have a red or white line running down the center where they are beginning to split.
Although red beans and red kidney beans are frequently confused, adzuki beans do closely resemble black beans, although they are red.
It is also worth noting that not all adzuki beans are red (there are some other varieties) and that many red beans start greenish or yellow-pink before taking on the full vibrant red coloration in the cooking process.
What Texture Does Red Bean Have?
Red bean has a soft and smooth texture, similar to black beans, with a slightly mealy feel. The outer skin is glossy and firm, and the bean flesh gets softer as it is cooked.
Types Of Red Bean
There are more than 60 different types of red beans, but you can divide them into two different categories depending on the size of their seeds.
- Erimo adzuki beans are typically 4.2mm to 4.8mm long and are more popular in desserts and treats, preferred for their slightly sweeter flavor. Erimo beans are used to make red bean paste.
- Dainagon adzuki beans are a bit larger. They are used whole in many Asian sweet soups and desserts.
Where Does Red Bean Come From?
Red beans originated in Asia and were cultivated for food as early as 3000BC. The exact site of the origin of the first red bean plants is unknown. It is speculated that the red bean was domesticated at several different sites in Asia at different times.
It has been a widespread part of Asian cuisine and culture since ancient times.
Today, Japan is the most enthusiastic nation when it comes to red beans, but red beans are grown in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, as well as in the United States, New Zealand, India, Congo, and Angola.
RELATED: can you eat green beans raw
Is Red Bean Healthy?
Adzuki beans are very healthy for most people.
Red beans have more than 29 different antioxidants, making them one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the market.
Red beans are also packed with vitamins and nutrients, including vital nutrients most people don’t get enough of, like zinc, magnesium, and iron.
Unfortunately, they also come with anti-nutrients that prevent your body from absorbing a lot of this awesome nutrition.
You can reduce the levels of antinutrients in red beans by soaking them, sprouting them, or fermenting them before eating them.
Adzuki beans are also great for your gut health, with plenty of fiber to help you maintain regularity.
This is also a reason why red beans are healthy for people with diabetes – the additional fiber helps to mitigate the impact of blood sugar spikes, which makes red beans a low glycemic index food.
Some studies even suggest that you can improve your heart health and lower the risk of heart disease by eating adzuki beans, which may lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Red beans are very healthy and make a great addition to almost anyone’s diet.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Red Beans?
It’s fairly safe to eat red beans unless you are one of the very few people with a rare adzuki bean allergy.
If you have IBS or gastrointestinal issues, you might want to avoid red beans because of potential issues with gas.
Red beans contain oligosaccharides, which take longer to break down in your stomach and can lead to acid reflux and gastrointestinal issues.
Like all beans, red beans can lead to some flatulence or even some discomfort for those who have issues with oligosaccharides, FODMAPs, and beans.
However, don’t let concern about gas keep you from enjoying red beans! This is not an issue for most people.
How Can I Store Red Bean?
Dried red beans will last for at least a year, but potentially indefinitely in the right conditions. Keep them in a cool and dry place, and rehydrate them when you are ready to eat them.
You can store cooked red beans for up to 5 days in your refrigerator.
Can you freeze Red Bean?
Yes! You don’t need any liquid or special procedures to freeze red beans. Drain them carefully and add them to a sealed plastic bag and put them in the freezer.
You can expect your red beans to keep for up to 6 months without any loss of flavor or texture.
Can You Grow Red Bean?
Yes, it’s fairly easy to grow red beans, and if you’re a fan of the flavor with a green thumb, you can cultivate your own in your backyard, in similar conditions to soybeans.
Red beans grow annually on a vine and require temperatures between 15 C and 30 C to thrive. They are not frost-hardy and will decrease in yield substantially if they get too cold.
However, if you live in the right climate and have the patience and care to follow through on this project, you can grow and harvest your red beans at home.
Red Beans Vs. Red Kidney Beans
Although these two popular beans share a color, they are very different and have almost nothing else in common.
Red kidney beans are large beans named after their shape, resembling a kidney. They have a very mild and bland taste, with a firm, meaty texture, and are hearty and filling in a chili.
Red adzuki beans are much smaller, less than half the size of a kidney bean. They have a stronger bean taste, and a creamier, smoother flesh. They are more suitable for sweet dishes.
Red Bean Nutritional Information
|Per 100g serving of red bean (adzuki bean), according to Healthline.com|
|Folate||30% of the Daily Value (DV)|
|Manganese||29% of the DV|
|Phosphorus||17% of the DV|
|Potassium||15% of the DV|
|Copper||15% of the DV|
|Magnesium||13% of the DV|
|Zinc||12% of the DV|
|Iron||11% of the DV|
|Thiamin||8% of the DV|
|Vitamin B6||5% of the DV|
|Riboflavin||4% of the DV|
|Niacin||4% of the DV|
|Pantothenic acid||4% of the DV|
|Selenium||2% of the DV|
Quick Table: Red Bean Recipes
|Authentic Japanese Red Bean Soup Recipe With Mochi (Oshiruko) / Zenzai||416||1 hour 5 minutes|
|Adzuki beans With Kabocha Squash||268.6||75 minutes|
|Japanese Matcha Macarons With Adzuki Bean Filling||130||1 hour 45 minutes|
You haven’t tried red beans until you’ve had them in this authentic Japanese soup, which is both sweet and savory and will warm your heart and your hands on a winter morning.
The sweetness of the red beans in this dish is balanced with savory flavors, and the essence of the flavor of red beans shines.
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
The combination of cooked adzuki beans and kabocha squash is a classic, and once you taste them together, you will understand it for yourself.
The flavor of red bean has been compared to yams or sweet potatoes, and the slightly bitter squash brings out the sweetness in the beans while also drawing out that earthy, sweet potato flavor.
This is a relatively simple dish that has a world of flavor in it and is one of my favorite ways to enjoy adzuki beans.
Total Preparation Time: 75 minutes
You definitely wouldn’t call this an authentic Japanese recipe, but it brings together some interesting and iconic Japanese flavors into a classic western sweet.
Although there are dozens or hundreds of Asian recipes that call for adzuki beans, I still find them to be an acquired taste in desserts.
Unless they are candied with lots of sugar, they do taste like beans, and it can be off putting for westerners who are not used to it.
This macaroni recipe uses a sweet filling made of red beans, along with matcha, for a dessert that is both western and distinctly Japanese.
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Red Beans Taste Good?
Red beans taste great if you are a fan – but not everyone is. These beans have a beanie, nutty, mild flavor that easily complements and absorbs the flavors around it. Red beans are a key ingredient in some great dishes around the world.
However, they are a bit of an acquired taste. They have a strong bean flavor, and if you’re not expecting that in a sweet dish like ice cream, it can be off-putting.
When you’ve had your fair share of red bean confectioneries you’ll acquire the taste for yourself, and then you’ll understand what the hype is about.
What Do Red Bean Desserts Taste Like?
The most common red bean desserts are shaved ice and ice cream containing red beans. Most of these desserts are made using coconut milk or sweetened condensed milk.
These are strong flavors that tend to overpower the flavor of red beans. Although you will recognize the beans when you bite into them and chew them, desserts made with red beans taste more like coconut milk or condensed milk, along with whatever other flavorings they contain, then they taste like beans.
Do Red Beans Taste Like Kidney Beans?
These beans are frequently confused, but they taste very different. Red kidney beans have a mild and neutral taste without much of a beanie flavor, and a firm and meaty texture.
Red beans have a beanier flavor and a natural sweetness that lends itself to sweets and treats.
Are Red Beans Always Sweet?
No, red beans aren’t necessarily sweet, and you can find dishes in both Asia and Latin America where they are featured alongside savory flavors, without any added sugar or sweetness.
These beans have a bit of natural sweetness, but they are basically beans nonetheless, and they work very well in savory dishes as well as sweet ones.
Are Red Beans Healthier Than White Beans?
The health differences between red beans and white beans are not that significant, but white beans have a couple of advantages.
They have almost 17% more protein, and almost 20% more dietary fiber, as well as similar or larger amounts of important nutrients.
They are both great options for a healthy diet, but white beans are slightly more nutrient-rich than adzuki beans
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