How To Make Zenzai (Red Bean Soup) With Toasted Mochi

2 weeks ago 12

How To Make Zenzai (Red Bean Soup)

Autumn Bean Dessert Easy Fall Freezer-Friendly Make Ahead Mochi Only 3 Ingredients Traditional Food Under 30 Minutes Vegan Vegetarian

Zenzai is a traditional Japanese sweet soup made with sweet azuki beans, typically topped with mochi rice cakes or Shiratama dango (glutinous rice flour dumplings).

It may look like a soup, but it's a sweet dessert soup. Being primarily made from Anko, sweet red bean paste, it carries a delightful sweetness. The combination of Anko and mochi creates a delicious harmony.

Two theories surround its name. First, it might be derived from the Buddhist term 'Zenzai,' meaning 'wonderful' in Sanskrit. The second theory suggests a connection to 'Jinzai-mochi,' a rice cake served at the Shinto rituals of Izumo Shrine in Shimane Prefecture, evolving into 'Zenzai' over time.

Zenzai and Oshiruko are essentially the same dishes, but regional differences exist from Kansai (around Kyoto and Osaka) to Kanto (around Tokyo). Both use Anko, but the name may vary based on the type of bean (chunky or smooth) or the amount of soup.

Making Zenzai is simple; you only need three ingredients! If you have prepared Anko, just add water and cook. Enjoy it hot or cold, but it's a winter favorite in Japan, often paired with Mochi.

It's common to serve Zenzai with something salty, like Shio Kombu. Store Zenzai in a lidded container in the fridge for up to three days. For excess, freeze it for 1-2 months, thaw in the fridge, and reheat in a pan before enjoying.

Indulge in this winter dessert and warm up yourself!


Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 20 mins

Total servings: 2

Difficulty: Easy

  • 300 g Anko (sweet red bean paste)
  • 200 ml Water
  • 2 pieces of Dried Mochi (Kirimochi)

Expert's Tip

Kikuya Uji Matcha Zenzai Instant Sweet Red Bean Soup 180g

Standard Zenzai is delicious, but if you're a matcha lover, why not try Matcha Zenzai? The combination of the sweetness of Azuki red beans and the refreshing bitterness of matcha can't go wrong. Uji matcha, one of the best kinds, is used to make it even more special.


zenzai ingredients

1) Gathering the Ingredients

Gather the ingredients together.

2) Combining Anko And Water in a Saucepan

Combine anko and water in a saucepan, and heat over medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

Tip: We used our homemade anko for this recipe. We recommend using it as it is not as sweet as conventional anko. However, if you're in a pinch, prepackaged anko paste will do just the trick.

3) Preparing the Mochi

Place the mochi in the oven and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 15 minutes without preheating. Flip it over halfway through baking.

Tip: If you have a toaster oven, it's common to bake mochi using it, as demonstrated in our ozoni recipe. You can also bake mochi in a frying pan.

finished homemade zenzai

4) Enjoying Your Homemade Zenzai

Add the zenzai into a bowl and top with the toasted mochi to complete the dish. We recommend serving it with a side of shio kombu. Enjoy! 

About the author

Ayako is a recipe writer based in Frankfurt, Germany. Though she is originally from Japan, she has lived across five countries both in America and Europe. She loves writing dessert-related recipes and sharing them with Japanese Taste readers, but she also loves educating people about Japanese tradition, culture, and language. She loves exploring and making new recipes from scratch, but other than food, she also loves doing yoga to help her stay in shape and relax.

View articles by Ayako Kidokoro

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