What’s the Difference Between Red Bean Paste and White Bean Paste?

Sweet bean paste is generally known as bean paste made from red beans (adsuki beans). But there is another sweet bean paste called shiroan which is made from white beans actually.

Here, I will introduce some differences between those 2 types of sweet bean paste.

Before that, let me start from this question: What is sweet bean paste? and What are the different types of sweet bean paste?

What Is Sweet Bean Paste (Anko)?

Anko is translated to some terms in English: sweet bean paste, red bean paste, and red bean jam.
And basically it’s made from boiled and crushed beans and sugar. Sweet bean paste is often used as ingredients for various types of sweets in Japan.

Different Types of Sweet Bean Paste

Classification by types of bean

There are many kinds of sweet bean paste depending on the type of beans. Here are some typical ones.

Sweet Red Bean Paste / Adsuki Bean Paste (Anko)

It’s made from boiled adsuki beans and sugar. The name “red bean” comes from the color of adsuki.
Japanese don’t really call it Aka-an (“aka” is Japanese term for “red”), but we normaly call it just “Anko”.

Sweet White Bean Paste (Shiro-An)

It’s made from boiled white kidney beans or white adsuki beans and sugar. Japanese people call it “Shiro-an” (“shiro” is Japanese term for “white”).

Sweet Green Pea Paste (Uguisu-An)

It’s made from boiled green peas and sugar. The color of the paste is beautiful green. It’s often used as contents of anpan (bread) and traditional Japanese sweets.
The Japanese name for this bean paste “uguisu” comes from the name of Japanese bush warbler that is greenish brown in color.

▲Green Peas

Sweet Edamame Bean Paste (Zunda-An)

▲Mochi (Rice Cake) with Zunda-An

It’s made from boiled edamame and sugar. Zunda is the name for the paste made by crushing edamame, and used for local cuisine of Yamagata and Miyagi prefecture.


Classification by Texture of Bean Paste

Sweet bean paste is made by boiling and crushing beans paste. And there are 2 types of sweet bean paste depending on how much you crush the beans.

Smooth Sweet Bean Paste (Koshi-An)


“Koshi” is Japanese term for “filter out something”, so koshi-an refers to the sweet bean paste with the skin removed well and smooth texture.

Coarse Sweet Bean Paste (Tsubu-An)

▲Rice Cake with Tubu-An

“Tsubu” is Japanese term for “grain”, and tsubu-an refers to the sweet bean paste finished with some adsuki grains left. You can enjoy the texture of the grains when eating it.

About Red Bean Paste

What Is Red Bean Paste?

It’s made from boiled adsuki beans and sugar.
Red bean paste (adsuki bean paste) is the most popular and distributed bean paste in Japan, and there are various foods made with both smooth and coarse sweet red bean paste.

Although the inside of adsuki beans is white, the bean paste never turned white in color. The color of bean paste totally depends on the color of the skin of raw materials, which means red bean paste ends up with reddish brown because of the color of adsuki beans.

How Is Red Bean Paste Used?

Used for Japanese Sweets

▲Manju (Bun Stuffed with Red Bean Paste)

▲Daifuku (Soft Rice Cake Stuffed with Red Bean Paste)

▲Strawberry Daifuku
GET THE RECIPE (You can make Strawberry Daifuku so easy with microwave!)

▲Dora-Yaki (Red Bean Paste Pancake)

▲Taiyaki (Fish‐Shaped Pancake Filled with Red Bean Paste)

▲Ohagi (Rice Ball Coated with Red Bean Paste)

▲Yokan (Bar of Sweetened and Jellied Bean Paste)

Used for Western-style Sweets

▲An-Doughnut (Doughnut Filled with Red Bean Paste)

▲Anko Pie

▲Anko Swiss Roll

Used for Bread

▲Anpan (Bread Roll Filled with Red Bean Paste)

▲Ogura Toast (Toast with Red Bean Paste)

About White Bean Paste

What Is White Bean Paste?

It’s made from boiled white kidney beans or white adsuki beans and sugar.
Unlike red bean paste, white bean paste is typically smooth one (koshi-an), not coarse paste (tsubu-an).

▲White Kidney Beans

Mostly white bean paste is made from white kidney beans which are relatively inexpensive raw material. White adsuki beans, on the other hand, are difficult to grow and expensive. That’s why sweet bean paste made from white adsuki beans are usually used not for everyday use but for luxury Japanese sweets.

▲White Adsuki Beans

Sweet bean paste made from white adsuki beans has lighter flavor (more refreshing flavor), and less gooey texture rather than the one made from white kidney beans.

How Is White Bean Paste Used?

Same Usage as Red Bean Paste

▲Anpan with White Bean Paste

▲Strawberry Daifuku with White Bean Paste

Although red bean paste is used for various kinds of food more often than white bean paste, there are some foods using white one instead of red one. The pictures above are some examples: anpan (bread roll filled with white bean paste) and strawberry daifuku (soft rice cake stuffed with white bean paste and strawberry).

Also there is sweet bun (manju) with white bean paste. For manju, white bean paste sometimes used for not only for the contents but also for the skin (bun).

▲Imagawa-Yaki (Oban-Yaki)

Imagawa-yaki (oban-yaki) is a Japanese pancake round-shaped containing red bean paste. White bean paste is also used for it. Also there is imagawa-yaki with white bean paste mixed with yuzu (citrus) jam.

White bean paste matches so well with fruits too, so it’s also used for the sweets made with fruits, for example, fruit daifuku (rice cake stuffed with sweet bean paste and seasonal fruits). The color of the fruit stands out more by using white bean paste instead of red one.

▲Mandarin Orange Daifuku

Used for Nerikiri

Nerikiri (literally, made by kneading) is a type of the traditional Japanese sweets. It’s unbaked cake made by mixing and kneading its ingredients which are white bean paste, sugar, and Japanese yam. The most important part of making nerikiri is delicate work which expresses seasonal plants or things that reminds one of a particular season. Sweet white bean paste is very crucial material because Japanese sweets craftsman starts this delicate work by kneading coloring matter in it.

Which Bean Paste Is Healthier?

Some of you might wonder which bean paste is better for your health.

In fact, the beans themselves have almost the same calories. So there wouldn’t be no difference in calories between red bean paste and white bean paste if the amount of sugar is the same.

The amount of sugar certainly affects calories, so if you want to eat lower calorie bean paste, you should make it on your own and use less sugar than the recipe.

Other than the calories, the amount of sugar (carbohydrate) and protein in beans are almost the same too.
However, white bean paste tends to contain more dietary fiber and iron rather than red bean paste.

Which Bean Paste Is More Popular in Japan?

In terms of numbers, the frequency of viewing and eating is higher for red bean paste. So it might be said that red bean paste is more popular than white bean paste.
But it depends on people’s preference as you can imagine…

Someone might say like “I love sweet bun (manju) with red bean paste, but for imagawa-yaki, using white bean paste is essential.”

Perhaps people who like red bean paste better say so just because they haven’t gotten the opportunity to taste good white bean paste since it’s not so familiar to them.

Anyway, if you have opportunity to have sweet bean paste foods, please give it a try!



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