Beans are good for you! How many times have you heard that? Well, it's true. Beans are full of fiber, important minerals, vitamins and plant protein. When most people think about beans, they remember the classics: white beans, black beans, kidney beans and maybe garbanzos, right? Well, there are a lot more varieties than those. From time to time, we'll introduce you to a type of bean you may not be familiar with - like adzuki beans, a great little treasure. Also known as aduki or azuki beans, these tiny reddish-brown beans have a thin white ridge that runs down their side, giving them their own special style. Traditionally used in Japanese and Chinese cuisine, they are a popular food for festive occasions. Unlike most other beans, adzuki beans are often sweetened and used in desserts. But don't be fooled, they are definitely dual purpose and equally delicious in savory dishes. Nutritionally speaking, you can't go wrong with adzuki beans. They deliver plant protein, soluble fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium and folic acid. If you're watching your weight or your cholesterol, soluble fiber is a good idea. It helps keep you fuller longer and keeps cholesterol levels healthy. Not only that, but fiber is important for a healthy gut. Adzuki beans are tasty, low in fat and have a low glycemic index so they help keep your blood sugar balanced. When it comes to cooking beans, I'm in favor of overnight soaking and adzuki beans are no exception. Here's a simple cooking method: Soak a cup of beans in water overnight or for about eight hours. Discard the soaking water. Rinse the beans and fill a pot with fresh water. Add the beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes to an hour. To help them become tender and manage the potential digestive upsets that can come from eating (any) beans, try adding a strip of kombu seaweed to the beans while cooking. For more information, check out our guide to beans. Once cooked, you can keep those adzuki beans for up to five days in the refrigerator. Or you can keep them up to six months in the freezer. Now the fun part! Here are some ideas for adding cooked adzuki beans to your favorite dishes:
- Throw a handful into prepared vegetable soup before you heat it up
- Make a bean salad with diced veggies and your favorite salad dressing. Here is a Zesty Adzuki Bean Salad.
- Heat them up and spoon over hot cornbread
- Add to any favorite stew
- Stir them up with chopped, cooked winter squash such as butternut
- Make bean tacos with corn tortillas, mashed or whole adzuki beans, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and cheese
- Serve them hot with steamed brown rice, tamari, ginger, garlic and a drop or two of toasted sesame oil. Be sure to garnish with slivered scallions!
- Try them hot with quinoa, millet or any whole grain pasta. Try this recipe of Quinoa with Oyster Mushrooms and Adzuki Beans.
- Mash them up and make bean dip
- Substitute adzuki beans for other beans in your favorite recipes
- And yes, they are even great in chili!
- Here's a festive recipe for Adzuki Bean Cake