My Korean grandmother would call this a culinary heresy, but here's a shortcut white bean paste (Shiro An) recipe that I make when I'm in a hurry and don't have any at home. Unlike the traditional recipe, this shortcut recipe uses canned white butter beans and a high-speed blender to create a bean pulp that's quickly squeezed through a nut-milk bag and sweetened with sugar. The result? A copycat shiro-an that has a surprisingly smooth texture and buttery mouthfeel that isn't too too far from the original or storebought. Pretty good, considering that I break a lot of Asian cooking rules to get this white bean paste on my countertop in about 20 minutes!
What is sweet white bean paste (shiro an)?
White bean paste (also called Shiro An) is a thick and smooth paste made from cooked white beans, such as butter beans or cannellini beans, that's been pureed then cooked down with sugar. The sweetened white bean paste has a mild sweet flavor with subtle earthy notes. It has a creamy and almost fudgy texture that makes white bean paste a versatile ingredient for many East Asian dessert recipes, especially for Japanese mochi and confectionaries. White bean paste is also the main ingredient used in my Korean Bean Paste Cookies recipe, as well as in my Sweet White Bean Jelly recipe.
Where can you buy sweet white bean paste?
Unfortunately, white bean paste (shiro an) is hard to find in most grocery stores in the US, and not all Asian grocery stores stock them. It is also awfully pricey to purchase (on average, about $10 per package in stores, and up to $15 online), considering that the main ingredient of shiro an is just beans and sugar.
There are many shiro an recipes out there, in Asian cooking books and online, that take you through all the steps of making an authentic white bean paste from scratch, like this one from Lisa's Lemony Kitchen and this recipe from Kitsune Golden. My favorite one is Just One Cookbook's White Bean Paste Recipe.
Unfortunately, authentic shiro an recipes take hours to make and, in my opinion, are too labor-intensive. To get that smooth silky texture of storebought white bean paste, you have to first soak the beans, remove all the skin of the beans before boiling them, then drain, push them through a fine sieve, cook them back on the stove with sugar until the hot bean pulp mixture starts to bubble and splatter all over your bare arm... I've made them two times too many to know that it's just better to spend the ten dollars or go without.
The recipe I developed came out of necessity when I was halfway through making a recipe that required white bean paste, only to check the fridge and realize I'd forgotten to restock them. It was an emergency situation that required ultra-fast thinking. And that's how this recipe was born!
Here's me hoping that I am able to help those in a similar situation and in need of a white bean paste recipe that can be prepared ASAP. Keep reading to see the step by step guide to making my emergency white bean paste recipe:
Ingredients Used to Make Shortcut Shiro An
**I've linked some of these ingredients to amazon.com to give you an idea of what they are, but you should also be able to find them in your local grocery store (usually, the natural & organic food section). They are also affiliate links, which means that I earn a commission as an Amazon Associate if you decide to purchase the items. The price will be the same for you, link or no link 🙂
- Canned Butter Beans - traditionally, the skins from the beans are removed from the beans before being mashed into a paste, but the skins in the canned beans have a softer texture, so you can just use the beans as is.
- Sugar of choice - while you can use any granulated sugar of choice, it's best to use white or light colored sugar to keep the white bean paste as light as possible.
- Corn Syrup - corn syrup is added to sweetened bean paste to both add shine and some viscosity, but it's an optional ingredient that can be left out, if desired.
Equipment and Tools
- Nut bag - for this shortcut recipe, we'll need a nut-milk bag to squeeze the water out from the bean pulp after it's been blended in a high-powered blender. While cotton nut-milk bags are great, I prefer using a nylon nut-milk bag for this recipe since I feel that it drains the water from the beans faster. I recommend using an extra large bag like below if you want to speed up the draining process further!
- Blender - You can use any high-powered blender for this recipe, but if anyone's looking to purchase a reliable, professional-grade blender, I recommend the Vitamix Blender. Mine is 12 years old, and it's still running smoothly!
Step by Step Guide
Shortcut White Bean Paste (Shiro An) Recipe
Remove, wash and rinse the butter beans from the cans
Add the washed beans to a high-speed blender (like Vitamix) with water, then blend high (setting 8) for a full 20-30 seconds
Pour the blended bean mixture (all at once, or in batches) through a finely meshed nut bag. Squeeze as much water out of the blended beans as possible.
The leftover pulp of beans should be somewhat dry and crumbly.
Once all the bean mixture has been squeezed of water, the water can be discarded
Transfer the bean "pulp" to a wide sauté pan or a wok.
Add sugar and cook over medium heat
Let the bean-sugar mixture cook and evaporate somewhat until it becomes a thick paste.
(Optional) add corn syrup at the very end to add light sheen and viscosity to the finished bean paste
For the best texture, let the beans cool completely (preferably in the fridge overnight) before using.
Here's the Red Bean Version (Shortcut Red Bean Paste Recipe)
Shortcut White Bean Paste (Shiro An) Recipe
- 2 16oz cans of butter beans , or white lima beans
- 4 cups water
- ½ to ¾ cup light colored sugar
- 1 Tbsp white corn syrup
- Remove, wash and rinse the butter beans from the cans
- Add the washed beans to a high-speed blender (like Vitaminx) with water, then blend high (setting 8) for a full 20-30 seconds
- Pour the blended bean mixture through a finely meshed nut bag
- Squeeze as much water out of the blended beans as possible. The leftover pulp of beans should be somewhat dry and crumbly.
- Transfer the bean "pulp" to a wide sauté pan or a wok.
- Add sugar and cook over medium heat
- Let the bean-sugar mixture cook and evaporate somewhat until it becomes a thick paste
- (optional) add corn syrup at the very end to add light sheen and viscosity to the finished bean paste
- For the best texture, let the beans cool completely (preferably in the fridge overnight) before using.