Whether you call them adzuki beans, red mung beans, or even vigna angularis, the Latin taxonomic name, you’re talking about a variety of beans that’s been around for thousands of years.
Domesticated roughly 5,000 years ago somewhere in eastern Asia, the adzuki bean has since been bred to a larger size, but with fewer beans in each pod.
Today, the adzuki bean is especially prevalent in China. But it is grown across the world, in more than 30 countries and in at least 60 varieties. Its versatility in the kitchen makes it a staple in curry, soup, vegetarian stew, and even gluten-free ice cream.
Read on to learn about how to eat and grow the adzuki bean.
Cooking With the Adzuki Bean
One reason the adzuki bean has found its way into a variety of dishes is its symphony of flavors. It combines a nutty and a sweet taste, in a way that neither is overwhelming. In many Asian countries, the adzuki bean is featured in pastries, cakes, or dumplings.
And while they can be used as side dishes in curried form or as a stuffing for other vegetables, as a couple of the recipes at diys.com illustrate, adzuki beans are dinnertime stars in their own right.
As just one dinnertime idea, check out this Gourmandelle.com recipe for an adzuki bean veggie burger. And if you’d like to get your youngsters to explore the adzuki bean, you might try the ice cream recipe at icecreamnation.org.
Along a similarly adventurous line, you might want to try making tea from your adzuki beans. It’s as simple as roasting the beans and then boiling them in water to create this unusual beverage.
If you try adzuki bean tea and discover you’d like more, or different, flavors, you can add fruit peels, honey, or sugar to the mix in whatever ways you like.
Who knows? You may be just an orange peel away from creating your new favorite beverage, all thanks to the adzuki bean.
General Rules for Cooking With Them
A general guide to cooking with adzuki beans includes being careful with the canned versions. Many canned adzuki beans are sweetened far beyond the bean’s natural sweetness. A 3.5-ounce serving of sweetened adzuki bean paste, for example, can contain as much as 35 grams of sugar.
As far as dry adzuki beans are concerned, it’s not necessary, as it is with many other beans, to soak them for a lengthy period of time. In fact, it’s not necessary to soak adzuki beans at all, although it will take longer to cook beans that haven’t been soaked.
Not soaking adzuki beans before cooking will help them keep their color, shape, and aroma. But before cooking dry adzuki beans, make sure you’ve removed any debris, then rinse and place them in a pot with enough cold water to cover them by at least 3 inches.
From there, season the water with salt, bring it to a boil, and then reduce it to simmer for at least an hour.
A Faster Way to Cook Them
For a faster way to cook adzuki beans, you can try preparing them in a pressure cooker. As noted earlier, you don’t necessarily have to soak the beans, but doing so will reduce the cooking time. Also, soaking the beans can get rid of components responsible for digestive upset.
Whether you’ve soaked your adzuki beans or not, you should place them in a colander and rinse them several times under running water.
Once you’ve put your adzuki beans in the pressure cooker, add 2 cups of cool water, then cover the cooker and place it on the high-pressure setting.
Soaked beans should be ready in less than 10 minutes, while beans that haven’t been soaked will take roughly twice as long to be ready.
As a final note, you should know that leftover adzuki beans need not be thrown out right away. Placed in airtight containers, your leftover adzuki beans will last for five days in the refrigerator and for an amazing six months in the freezer.
Health Benefits of the Adzuki Bean
If you’re looking for a healthy addition to your diet, you can’t do much better than the adzuki bean. It’s loaded with antioxidants, which may help prevent damage to your body’s cells.
Because adzuki beans are high in fiber, they’re likely to be more filling, meaning that you’ll naturally eat less, helping with weight loss.
Other good nutritional news about the adzuki bean includes the fact that it’s gluten-free and loaded with a broad range of important nutrients.
For people who follow a macrobiotic diet, focused on the consumption of lots of legumes — the fancy name for foods in the pea family — adzuki beans are a fundamental nutrition source.
In fact, fans of Eastern culture-based macrobiotics say adzuki beans are the most “yang” of all beans. In layman’s terms, that means that adzuki beans represent active and positive forces that impart strength to the people who eat them.
As a side note on the adzuki bean’s health benefits, traditional Chinese medicine notes this legume’s healing properties. More concretely, traditional Chinese medicine holds that adzuki beans are supportive of the body’s kidney, bladder, and reproductive functions.
No Matter Your Age, These Beans Are Good for You
Here’s a look at what a 3.5-ounce serving of boiled adzuki beans, on its own, packs into a package of fewer than 130 calories. But first, it’s important to know what adzuki beans don’t bring to the table.
That 3.5-ounce serving contains no fat or cholesterol, but it does include more than 7 grams of both protein and dietary fiber, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and multiple milligrams of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.
A single serving of boiled adzuki beans will get you to more than 10 percent of the recommended daily intake of magnesium, which may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
And no matter your age, just one serving of adzuki beans will also provide a high percentage of the recommended daily intake of phosphorous. For youngsters, phosphorous helps strengthen bones, while in older adults, it can help with brain function.
Growing Adzuki Beans in Your Home Garden
There’s good news about growing adzuki beans in your home garden if you’d like to have their great flavor and many health benefits right outside your door. Adzuki beans will grow almost anywhere in the United States, with the exception of its farthest northern areas.
According to experts, it’s easy to grow adzuki beans from seed, as long as you wait until after the last expected frost in your area and the soil temperature is above 60 degrees. If you live in a tropical climate, plant adzuki beans only when the temperature is below 90 degrees.
Adzuki beans grow best in full sun, with the soil around them kept evenly moist. Be careful, though, to keep the plant’s foliage dry.
If you want to enjoy your adzuki beans fresh with a meal, they’ll be ready for harvest in about 60 days. If, on the other hand, you’d like dried adzuki beans for your kitchen, you’ll have to wait an additional month or two.
Dealing With Diseases
The adzuki bean is susceptible to white mold, bacterial stem rot, and other diseases common among cultivated beans. To avoid those issues, rotating the planting of adzuki beans with other crops will help.
Also, irrigating your adzuki beans by guiding water into furrows rather than using spray irrigation will help control diseases.
Beyond those options, there are fungicides that can reduce the severity of white mold in adzuki beans, but they don’t provide complete control of the disease.
With regard to bacterial stem rot, no effective treatment is available, but taking steps including regular weeding of the garden, removal of contaminated plants, and cleaning tools and equipment after use can help control it.
Dealing With Pests
In terms of pests, adzuki beans can be adversely affected by the adzuki pod worm, the Japanese butterbur borer, and the cutworm.
Information on controlling those pests is not readily available. But if you decide to grow adzuki beans, a good resource for addressing problematic issues in your home garden is your state’s Cooperative Extension Service.
Information on contacting your closest Extension Service office is available through the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Where to Find Them
Seeds for Planting
Adzuki bean seeds are available online from True Leaf Market, one of our favorite online retailers for seeds. If you’re interested in finding starter plants for sale, you might want to check your local garden supply store or farmer’s market.
Beans for Eating
If you’d rather focus on eating, rather than growing, these beans, dried adzuki beans that are ready for cooking can be found in grocery stores that carry Asian products. But if you can’t find them locally, you can order them from Amazon.
Give the Adzuki Bean a Try in Your Garden or Kitchen
We hope that this post has given you a comprehensive introduction to the versatile and nutrient-dense adzuki bean, and has provided some guidance on growing your own plants. For more on beans visit our Bean Plants page for other bean-related blog posts and guides.