Japanese Language Blog

Let’s cook Zenzai! Japanese Red Bean Soup Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Culture

Have you heard of a Japanese red bean soup called, Zenzai(ぜんざい)?  This is one of my favorite dishes to eat during the winter.  It is a sweet tasty red bean soup with Mochi(rice cake、もち). It is pretty simple to make this.  If you like red beans, you gotta try it!

The red beans we use for this dish is called “Azuki beans( あずき、小豆 )”. This bean is also known as adzuki or aduki in English.  You can find them at most Asian grocery stores.

So, here is the recipe I normally use.

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • Azuki Beans(あずき、小豆)-200g
  • Sugar(さとう、砂糖)- 200g (adjust the amount to your liking)
  • Water(みず、水)- 10 cups
  • Salt(しお、塩)-1/2 tsp
  • Mochi(もち、餅) 4 pieces


1. Wash Azuki beans well.

2. Pour 5 cups of water into a large pot and add washed red beans. Bring to boil with high heat. Let it boil for a few minutes. Drain and wash the beans with water.

3. Pour another 5 cups of water into the pot and add drained beans. Bring to boil with high heat. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer until the beans are soft. (about 2 hours)

4. Once the beans are soft, add sugar and salt and cook it for another 10 minutes.

5. Pour cooked beans into a bowl and add baked rice cake and enjoy!

If you would like, you can skip cooking the beans by buying a can of prepared red beans from one of the Asian grocery stores.  The following video will show you the quicker way of cooking Zenzai.

Instead of using Mochi, you can also make your own Shiratama(しらたま、白玉) using rice flower. Take a look at the following video. You can be creative in making the shape of Shiratama.

Lastly, I would like to share with you this Japanese recipe site, called CookPad. I use the Japanese version of this site on a regular basis. This is one of my favorite sites I go to for any dish.  They now have English site as well.  Take a look, you will be amazed as to how much Japanese recipes you can find here.


If you search for zenzai recipes, you will get this:


Enjoy cooking Zenzai and hope this tasty red bean soup with Mochi will keep you warm during this winter!

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About the Author: keiko

Born and raised in Japan. She currently lives in U.S. with her husband and two kids.


  1. Mary Date:

    My mother made this 1-3x a year. I never asked her how to make it, and I regrets it . But this recipe is the closet I can remember. how she did it. She used the package beans, can ed beans a d paste .lastly she added the dumplings. Solo good I’ll let you k ow how it comes out

    • keiko:

      @Mary Date Hi Mary,

      Thanks for sharing! Yes, that’s true, Zenzai is not just for New Years, but also you can eat any time of the year. Adding dumplings sounds really good. I have to try it with dumplings one day. 🙂 Please let me know how it came out.