Red Bean Soup

When Polly came over, I decided to make a simple Red Bean Soup to share. The Read Bean Soup is a thick sweet soup made by boiling the red azuki beans until they are all softened and mushy. It is generally served as a sweet dessert after dinner.

Chinese like this dish because the vibrant color of red signifies happiness and luck. For this reason, it is always present at special celebrations such as weddings, birthdays and most of all in Chinese New Year.


Cooking this is simple and takes about two hours of boiling. For best result, I soak it at least four hours or preferably overnight. The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1 cup of dried red azuki beans
  • 1 slab of brown sugar (or use 1/2 cup of granulated sugar)
  • 1 piece of dried tangerine skin (for a tangy flavour)
  • A handful of sagi seeds (for chewy texture)

I did not include lotus seed because I do not have it on hand. I suggest that you add a quarter cup of dried lotus seed (soaked for 12 hours) to the ingredients. The lotus seed will create a dramatic contrast in colour and texture.


Here are the close-up look of ingredients that I used to make about six bowls of red bean soup. To cook, throw all the ingredients into a pot of 8-10 cups of water, depending on how thick you want the soup to be. You can start with the minimum cups of water and add more towards the end of the cooking. Remember, boiling takes 2 hours.

Oh yeah, add in the rinsed sago about 15 minutes from the end of the boiling. You don’t want to overcook the sago because it will break up and make the soup all starchy and overly thick.


The soup may be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled. Care to try it at home? I dig this but the rest of the family don’t care much for it.

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  1. Kirk

    The Missus loves this! I enjoy it too, since I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But I gotta have mine cold, there’s something about a “hot” dessert……

  2. sally

    There’s also another good dessert soup with small chunks of taro root, sweetened condensed milk and tapioca which is also great!

  3. shirley

    Mmm, I love this cold with a little bit of whole milk stirred in!

  4. Suanne

    Hi Kirk: Now that you mention it — and it did not even occur to me before that “hot” dessert is strange in western meals. That is enlightening.

    Hi Sally: I am trying to visualize how that dessert looks like. Sounds delicious. Was that bubur-cacar (a Malaysian Dessert) you’re referring to?

    Hi Shirley: Never tried while milk but did try using coconut milk. They do make it somewhat richer. Yummy!

  5. sally

    It may be…it’s a dessert soup restaurants have if they do not have red bean soup.

  6. Tra

    I like that dessert soup. I’m not sure if its malayasian though. I wanna learn how to make it- i think it also has green mung bean in it? I’m not sure.

  7. Johnny Lee

    I had followed of your method of making the red beans soup according to your instruction on this recipe, but I till could not make the beans as soft like mushy. Even I soaked in overnight or in hot water, the beans still turned out the crunchy type texture. Not as really softt as you can find those sold at roadside stalls. Please explain further. Thank you.

  8. R

    I am married to a Chinese man (from Singapore), and he got me to try this red bean dessert soup once at a Chinese restaurant. I thought that sweetened bean soup for dessert was strange, but to my surprise, it was really good. So we bought the ingredients and I have made it time and time again. Instead of using the orange peel, I once tried adding coconut milk powder while cooking it. It makes it richer-tasting. I also add the small tapioca, which helps thicken the soup. I put a drop of vanilla extract too. Yummmm!!

  9. vasanth

    guys this Friday i have cooking competition of red bean .. can u tech me..pls

  10. R

    Hi Vasanth,

    Rinse the beans in a colander, then soak the beans for 24 hours in a large pot that you will boil the beans in. If there is any scum on the surface of the water after soaking, skim that off, but don’t drain that water. Add more water to cover the beans at least one inch.

    Bring beans to a boil over high heat, then lower heat low-medium and lightly boil for 30 min. Add brown or white sugar. Start with 1 cup first. (I usually use half cup white and half cup brown because the brown sugar adds more flavor.) Now add about half cup small tapioca (not instant tapioca). Add about 1/4 cup coconut milk powder or canned coconut milk, then a splash of vanilla extract if you like.

    Keep cooking on low-medium heat for another 1.5 hours, stirring at least every 10 minutes to loosen up the tapioca and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Make sure the water level is covering the beans, because as the tapioca cooks, it thickens the liquid.

    I find that when the tapioca is transparent, the soup is usually done, but sometimes the beans may still be hard. In that case, keep cooking and trying a bean to see if it is soft. At this time, you can add more sugar and coconut milk powder or coconut milk to suit your taste.

    Enjoy warm or cool.

    I hope you win the competition!

  11. bel

    once the soup is done, will the tapioca get mashed up when left for a few hours?

    1. Suanne

      Hi bel, I’m not sure if the tapioca will get mushy after left for a few hours as it does not last that long in my house hold. If that is a concern, keep the tapioca pearl separate and add in only when you are ready to serve.

    2. C.Herb

      The tapioca won’t get mashed up/mushy – but if you keep boil it for a too long it will dissolve and you will have a thicker “soup”

      (my parents love to make a HUGE pot and have it cold with evaporated milk ^^)

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