How to Make Red Bean Soup

How to Make Red Bean Soup

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Makes: 1 Pot | Prep Time: 3 Hours | Cook Time: 2 Hours
Adapted From: The Hong Kong Cookery

Red bean soup is a common Chinese dessert soup (or tong sui) made from red adzuki beans and brightened with the tangy citrus of orange zest or dried tangerine peel. It’s both humble and elegant — you’re equally likely to be served red bean soup as the complimentary dessert at your neighborhood Cantonese restaurant as you are to receive it as the closing act of a lavish banquet.

I remember eating red bean soup frequently after restaurant meals as a child. It’s only in recent years that I learned how easy it is to make at home. It’s literally a handful of ingredients, plus an afternoon of slow simmering. That’s it.

You’ll want to visit a Chinatown market to get all the ingredients for red bean soup. Substitutions just won’t work and the shopkeepers will be able to steer you toward the highest quality choices. The effort is worth it, though, when you’re rewarded with a delicious soup that blows away what you get at the restaurant.

Like most Chinese desserts, red bean soup isn’t overpoweringly sweet. Rather, it has a subtle, pleasing sweetness that’s perfect for rounding off a big Chinese meal.

Here’s how to make red bean soup, step-by-step. The detailed tutorial with pictures is at the bottom of the page.

Can you share any expert tips from your experience making red bean soup? Want to ask a question before you try making it yourself? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Red Bean Soup Recipe

Makes: 1 Pot | Prep Time: 3 Hours | Cook Time: 2 Hours


1 1/2 cups red adzuki beans
1/2 cup Chinese rock sugar
6 cups water
2 tablespoons tapioca pearls
1/4 teaspoon orange zest (optional)



Start by gathering your ingredients. It’s a short list! Just red adzuki beans, Chinese rock sugar, tapioca pearls and an orange (if you like).


Soak the red beans in cold water for 3 hours.


Discard the soaking water, then put the beans in a medium pot and cover with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.


After 1 hour, the beans should start to “look and feel right,” that is, they should be breaking down, but still somewhat firm. At this stage, the soup looks done, but you’ll notice it doesn’t taste right — there’s no sweetness to the beans themselves.


Remove 1 cup of soup and blend with a hand blender, then return the blended soup to the main pot.


Add the rock sugar and orange zest, then stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the tapioca pearls and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the tapioca pearls are translucent.


During the last phase of simmering, add up to 1 cup of additional water to achieve your desired consistency. Serve immediately.

Learn more about Red Bean Soup from these Experts

Watch wantanmien make Red Bean Soup that’s perfect for a dim sum meal (VIDEO)
The Wacky Wongs make Red Bean Soup at home
Kitchen Monki makes a variation of Red Bean Soup with a little more of this, a little less of that

HT: Photo by Baking Library.

8 Responses

  1. Sonia

    I cook the beans with brown sugar and the last half hour I add sticky rice very nice way too.

  2. Odelia

    I like the soup clear like the 1st picture on top but I used longan & rock sugar.

    • Dim Sum Central

      Hi Allyria, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have experience with using beans that have soaked that long. The internet tells me that they’re probably fine as long as they don’t smell sour or fermented, but I would probably use fresh beans all the same. ~Wes

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