Red Bean Rice is a special occasion dish in Japan. Graduations, new babies, weddings, holidays…Red Bean Rice makes its welcomed appearance. Savory and comforting, the rice takes on a red hue from the azuki beans that symbolizes good luck and prosperity. It’s an usual dish because azuki beans are often sweetened and used in dessert recipes, but this treats them more like the beans we are used to. This has a longer prep/cook time than recipes I usually share, but most of it is hands off time, and you are rewarded with a really versatile dish that feels super special. So let’s get into it.
Gomashio for Red Bean Rice
Red Bean Rice wouldn’t be complete without the toasty, crunchy topping. Gomashio is a very simple blend of sesame seeds and salt. I like to use black sesame seeds for this because it contrasts beautifully with the red rice, but if all you have on hand are white seeds those will work too. Just don’t skip the toasting part, that is essential to unleashing their deeply nutty flavor. You can do this ahead of time. It keeps well for a couple of weeks.
Red Azuki Beans
Typically in Japanese cuisine, azuki beans are reserved for pastries and other sweet applications, even ice cream. You can find them canned in a sweet syrup with the other canned fruit in the Asian grocery store. But for savory Red Bean Rice, we start with dried beans.
They are small, mild, and nutty. They also tend to be a really hard little bean, and benefit from an overnight soaking. Otherwise they take a significantly longer time to cook. I also think that the beans never really hydrate as well if you don’t do the soak.
In a pinch, I would try a fast soak, by bringing unsealed beans to a boil, and then turning off the heat and letting them sit in the water for an hour or so. Otherwise the pressure cooker is helpful too. Combine the unsoaked beans with a couple cups of water and cook for 15 minutes in low pressure and let it naturally release pressure.
Sticky rice, also called glutinous rice, is essential for Red Bean Rice. It has a distinctive chewy texture and mildly sweet flavor. It needs to be soaked to ensure even cooking.
Cooking Red Bean Rice
Now that the sticky rice is soaked, and the azuki beans are cooked, it’s time to put them together and finish the dish! I love to use a rice cooker for this; they have automatic settings for sticky rice, but I give instructions in the notes section for preparing in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop.
And that’s it! Your Red Bean Rice is ready for your special occasion! Even if that special occasion is binge watching Ozarks. You can either garnish the rice with the gomashio topping, or put out a bowl of it and let folks do it themselves.
This Red Bean Rice has graced so many of my family’s holiday tables, I hope it becomes a regular part of your celebrations too. Please take a second to rate and leave a comment on the recipe, and tag us in your pics @funkyasiankitchen, we love hearing from you!
Red Bean Rice
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: serves 6
- Category: rice
- Cuisine: Japanese
- 15.2 oz (3 rice cooker cups) sticky rice
- 2.5 ounces dried azuki beans (about ⅓ cup)
- 4 cups water
- 3 ½ oz bag cooked and peeled chestnuts
- 3 Tablespoons black sesame seeds
- ½ Tablespoon sea salt
- Sort (checking for any small pebbles or debris) and then wash the azuki beans. Soak the beans in 3 cups of water overnight.
- Toast the sesame seeds in a skillet over medium low heat for 3-4 minutes to bring out the flavor of the sesame. Then mix with the salt. Set aside to cool until ready to eat the rice.
- Wash the rice and soak it in water for at least 1 hour. Drain the rice using a sieve.
- Drain the soaked azuki beans and put them into a pot. Pour 3 cups of fresh water over the beans and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium low, partially cover with a lid, and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour until the beans are firm but cooked through.
- Drain the beans, saving the cooking liquid separately.
- Add the drained rice and azuki beans to the rice cooker. Add the red soaking liquid to the level required for 3 cups of sticky rice/sweet rice. Add a little water if there is not enough red liquid. Turn the switch on.
- Once the rice is cooked, let it sit for 5 additional minutes. Add the chestnuts and mix gently using a spatula.
- Serve with gomashio either sprinkled over the rice or in a separate container for individuals to sprinkle.
*If you soak the beans the night before, your beans will be done in 30-45 mins. You can also cook the beans in a pressure cooker. I cook them on low pressure for 15 minutes and then let it naturally release for another 15 minutes. You can prepare the beans ahead of time so they are ready to use. They last in the fridge for several days.
*It is not necessary, although highly recommended, to soak the azuki beans. Azuki beans have very hard skins and it is difficult for them to hydrate well while cooking. If you do not soak the beans, you will need to cook the beans for about 90 mins. Check the water level and softness periodically, adding water as needed.
*You can also cook the beans in a pressure cooker. I cook them on low pressure for 15 minutes and then let it naturally release for another 15 minutes. You can prepare the beans ahead of time so they are ready to use. They last in the fridge for several days.
*If you do not have a rice cooker, you can also steam the rice. Place the rice on two layers of cheesecloth or a steamer cloth in a steamer basket insert (Make sure to rinse the cloth first). Fill the bottom pot with plenty of water and then place the steamer basket and a lid on top.
Bring the pot to boil on high heat and let the rice steam for 10 mins. Carefully lift the lid and gently flip the rice over so that the rice that was on the bottom is now on top, so you can evenly steam the rice. Cover the pot again and steam for an additional 10 mins.
Check the rice. It should be translucent, shiny, and sticky. Take a little taste if you are unsure. The rice should have a nice chewy texture. If you’re not sure, you can continue to cook the rice for a little longer.
Keywords: red bean rice, azuki beans, japanese, holiday, sides, sticky rice, rice