Gluten-free and vegan, these thick and fudgy neri yokan bars studded with chestnuts are easy-to-make Asian treats that are made with sweetened red bean paste and agar-agar powder.
Here’s one of my favorite Asian confectionaries I grew up eating as a child. Slick and shiny, Neri yokan (also called by many names, such as Red Bean Jelly or Red Bean Cake outside Japan) is a jelly-like treat that’s made using sweetened bean paste and agar agar, a plant-based alternative to gelatin that’s frequently used in Asian cuisines. While these luxurious desserts are sold in confectioneries and bakehouses all across East Asia, it’s actually pretty easy to make at home and only takes about 30 minutes to make from scratch.
What I love the best about neri yokan is its texture. It’s fun, not so much like jelly or jello, but thick, dense with a firm bite and fudgy mouthfeel. It melts in your mouth. And with the extra creaminess from the cooked chestnuts, neri yokan is just glorious. You’ll love the stuff!
Ingredients Used to Make This
**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 🙂
- Sweetened Red Bean Paste (a.k.a. Koshi An): I eat this stuff by spoonfuls! It’s a versatile ingredient that goes inside my sweet rice mochi recipe as well my tofu mochi recipe, but it’s also used as fillings inside sweet breads, pancakes, cookies and more. You can find Sweetened Red Bean paste in most Asian grocery stores, and online (Amazon). There are Fine and Coarse kinds (I used coarse).
- Sweetened White Bean Paste (a.k.a. Shiro An) – the white bean version of the sweetened red bean paste.
- Agar Agar Powder – a gelatinous substance that’s derived from seasweeds and commonly used in Asian cuisines. It’s also becoming more popular as a plant-based alternative to gelatin. Agar Agar is sold in the form of flakes, powders, bars or strands, but I used the powder form as I think it gives me the most consistent results.
- Corn Syrup or Honey – Maple syrup and agave syrup works, but they don’t produce the thick, fudgy mouthfeel of neri-yokan as the ones made with corn syrup or honey.
- Chestnuts (optional) – these can be bought online, pre roasted, shelled and ready to eat. You can find them on Amazon, like below:
How to Make Neri Yokan
Neri Yokan with Chestnuts
Stir agar powder in water and let sit for at least 5 minutes at room temperature.
After 5 minutes, heat the water-agar mixture on medium-high heat, until it becomes thick and bubbly.
Stir in the white sugar and corn syrup and boil for another minute.
Lower the heat to low-medium, then add in the bean paste.
Heat the mixture over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
Pour the mixture into a clean pyrex glass or silcone molds.
Drop or stir in cooked chestnuts
Set aside and let cool for about 2-3 hours until the middle is set.
Cut into bite sized blocks. Enjoy!
Recipe Variations and Optional Add Ins:
- You don’t have to keep this plain. Add some nuts, dried fruits or flavoring/extracts to keep this yokan interesting.
- You can also pour the yokan mixture into silicone molds.
White Bean Yokan
Here’s my recipe for a white bean version of Yokan
How to Store
- You can store these yokan covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours. For longer storage, you can place them in a plastic ziploc bag or airtight container to store in the fridge for up to 7 days, or freeze up to 4 weeks.
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Neri Yokan with Chestnuts
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tsp agar powder
- 1 T white sugar
- 2 T corn syrup
- 250 g fine red bean paste ( 1/2 package of this brand)
- 9 cooked chestnuts
- Stir agar powder in water and let sit for at least 5 minutes at room temperature.
- Heat the water-agar mixture on medium-high heat, until it becomes thick and bubbly.
- Stir in the white sugar and corn syrup and boil for another minute.
- Lower the heat to low-medium, then add in the bean paste.
- Heat the mixture over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Pour the mixture into a clean pyrex glass or silcone molds.
- (optional) Stir in cooked chestnuts
- Set aside and let cool for about 2-3 hours until the middle is set.