Anpan あんパン (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Buns)

Red Bean Buns

I’ve been craving bread. Sweet and impeccably soft Japanese bread in particular. Not quite sure what started this recent desire for pillowy soft buns, but with a severe lack of Japanese bakeries on the Gold Coast, I’ve been forced to get into the kitchen and bake whenever the craving strikes. I guess that’s not such a bad thing.

Anko, Red Bean Paste Dough Dough

Anpan are essentially delicious Japanese bread rolls filled with sweet, moist, melt-in-your-mouth anko (red bean paste), and honestly, they taste much better when baked at home. Nothing beats warm, fluffy, fresh-out-of-the-oven anpan! That satisfaction when you bite into one and find that gooey, sticky, sweet red bean centre… so indescribably good.

Anko, Red Bean Paste Filling the Buns Filled Buns

If you’ve never had anko before, it’s a rather dense paste made by boiling and mashing earthy red beans (also known as azuki beans). The paste is then sweetened with sugar. It is a very popular ingredient featured widely in asian desserts. For this anpan, I used tsubuan, which is a chunky version of the paste, and goes quite well with the soft bread. If you prefer a smoother paste, koshian is the way to go. Both of these can be either made at home or bought from most asian supermarkets.

Red Bean Buns Red Bean Buns Red Bean Buns

Just look at how cute the little anpan are, especially with those itty bitty sesame seeds sitting pretty on top! I’ve found that these buns make a great breakfast, accompanied by nice hot coffee or smooth hōjicha to cut through the sweetness of the anko.

Red Bean Buns Red Bean Buns

Anpan あんパン (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Buns)
soft bread buns filled with sweet red bean paste | yield: 8 small buns

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups bread flour (high protein flour)
3 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon milk powder
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons egg, beaten
100ml water, warm
2 tablespoons butter, softened

for the filling & topping:
350g anko (red bean paste/azuki bean paste)
Egg mixed with a bit of water, for egg wash
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine bread flour, sugar, milk powder and yeast. Mix well, set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine egg and warm water. Mix thoroughly, then gradually mix into dry ingredients.
  3. Knead until everything comes together and becomes less sticky (about 5 minutes), then knead the softened butter into the dough.
  4. Continue to knead the dough for another 15 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
  5. Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to proof for 1 hour, or until double in size.
  6. Punch down dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into even-sized balls and place them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Cover loosely and leave to proof for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, roll the anko into small, even balls (about the size of a golf ball).
  7. When the dough has risen, flatten each piece into rounds roughly larger than your palm. Place a ball of anko in the centre of each round, and wrap the dough around it. Make sure the buns are sealed well, then lightly roll each bun into a ball and place on baking tray seam side down.
  8. Proof for a further 40 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 170ºC. While waiting, brush the tops of each bun with egg wash and sprinkle with some sesame seeds.
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the buns are a nice golden colour.
  11. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Best eaten warm.

Red Bean Buns

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50 thoughts on “Anpan あんパン (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Buns)

  1. Wow, it’s incredible that you made these! Even my mother, who’s from Japan, never baked these for us. We always just went to the Japanese supermarket and bought them. These look so good!

    1. The red bean filling is a thick dessert paste made of boiled red beans and sweetened with sugar. It’s extremely sweet (although I suppose this depends on the type of paste you buy) and to me, kind of tastes like sweet potatoes with a hint of caramel. A lot of people think their sweet taste is more “fruit and nut like”, which is true too I suppose. Red bean paste is used in many, many, maaaany asian sweets and desserts, from steamed buns to mochi to jelly.

  2. these are so beautiful! looks exactly like the ones I love from the isetan basement bakery.

    the best thing about making your own is I you can add a disproportionately large amount of paste in the centre!

  3. I’ve just eaten them the day before yesterday and I love them so much *Q* The bakery I bought them from only sells handmade stuff so I was even more amazed by the wonderful taste ^-^
    One question though, is there something I could use instead of milk powder? It’s not sold where I live…. how about regular milk then?

    1. Hi Sarah! I haven’t tried it myself, but using regular milk should certainly be possible. A general reconstitution of milk is about 1/4 cup milk powder to 1 cup water. So for this recipe, try replacing just over a 1/4 cup of the water with milk.

      Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  4. Thanks for the recipe! My mum suddenly bought a lot of red bean paste. Was looking for a way to get rid of it so now I know! Thanks again!

  5. Do you think this recipe would work by filling the bun with ingredients other than the bean paste? The buns look so lovely, but I just don’t care for sweet paste (including marizipan, a sweet almond paste used in lots of European sweets.)

    1. Hi! Any filling should be fine. The bun itself isn’t overly sweet, so savoury fillings will work too!

    1. Any sugar should work fine, as long is it dissolves when you add the egg and water! The finer grain the better.

    1. Hi! Tsubuan is generally made with equal parts sugar and azuki (so yes, quite sweet!). A trustworthy recipe is on justonecookbook: http://bit.ly/Ug0cMU. I would suggest maybe halving the sugar for a less sweet tsubuan. Good luck!

  6. These look yummy! As a vegan I would try replacing the egg and milk powder but not sure how they’d turn out. Thanks for stopping by my blog to like my post on Thanksgiving.

  7. I just tried this recipe and wow! I must say, the bread is super duper soft. When I took it out of the oven, I had to poke a spot with a toothpick just to make sure the bread was cooked–it felt like dough! A couple of changes I did was that I ended up using half whole wheat flour and accidentally doubling the amount of water (whoops) so I compensated by putting in a few spoonfuls of vital wheat gluten and coconut flour. I skipped the last rise because I didn’t have the time. Also, after shaping them into buns, I flattened them slightly and cut the dough 6 times, and twisted each little wedge that resulted so it looked like a flower. Very pretty and tastes great!

  8. so much work, but it’s so awesome!

    angie, have you tried the anpan at isetan? I went through this stage where I had one nearly every day (as you might imagine, I didn’t fare very well in the trouser department as a result :p)

  9. I made some red bean paste so I am eager to try this! Can I substitute the bread flour with spelt flour? Is it ok if don’t use milk powder at all as I don’t take milk. Thanks! :-)

    1. You should be able to substitute some amount of the bread flour with spelt flour (maybe up to 1/4 of the total amount of flour), but it is not advisable to completely replace the bread flour with spelt flour as the gluten in spelt is more soluble than wheat gluten. This might change the texture and rising properties of the buns, making them less fluffy and soft. Of course, feel free to experiment with spelt flour and let me know what happens!

      You can omit the milk powder if you can’t have milk. :)

    1. This should be okay, although using proper butter in baked goods provides a better flavour. Be sure to use a lower intensity extra-virgin olive oil that has a very subtle flavour as olive oil is known to have a very distinct “nutty” taste that might not pair so well with the sweet red bean paste.

  10. I just love these buns when I can get them! Although I thought they were Chinese, because I got them at my favorite Chinese buffet. I always wondered what they were called and how to make them since we’ve moved away from that area and I can’t go there anymore! Thanks for posting this!

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