How to Make Anpan (Red Bean Buns) From Scratch-Japanese Taste

How to Make Anpan (Red Bean Buns) From Scratch

by Ayako Kidokoro

Bread Breakfast Snack Freezer-friendly

Anpan is a Japanese style of bread filled with sweet red bean paste. It was invented in 1874 by Yasubei Kimura who was a Samurai.

It’s a classic! In fact, Anpan is the most traditional sweet bread in Japan. It is a perfect mix of western and Japanese culture and taste. The texture of anpan is a fluffy but chewy Japanese bread and is slightly sweet. The red bean paste, or anko, is also quite sweet, but not like western desserts.

As Japan became more westernized during the Meiji period, the Samurai were no longer needed. This led Kimura to open up a bakery called “Kimuraya” in Tokyo. However, only hops yeast was available for making bread at this time, but it didn’t fit the taste of the Japanese palette. Kimura wanted to try something new, something more familiar to Japanese people.

Kimura came up with the idea of making bread that tastes like the Japanese sweet, Manju (a steamed sweet bun), but using Sakadane (Rice yeast), which is used to make sake instead of hops yeast.

He started selling Anpan in his bakery as a snack. As he was quite good at marketing, he decided to present his anpan to Emperor Meiji as a nutritious food. Kimura stressed that anpan contains Vitamin B1, which would help people not to contract the beriberi disease, a widespread disease in Japan during that time. Thanks to Kimura’s effort, Anpan became popular nationwide.

It is best to use Sakadane for making anpan because it gives it the traditional flavor. However, it takes at least 5 days to make the Sakadane yeast, so we will introduce an anpan recipe using a water roux instead. Not only is water roux easier to make, but it also gives anpan a similar texture as if using sakadane. It contains a nice amount of water and helps to give anpan the chewy texture that it’s known for.

Depending on your tastes, you can use either smooth Anko or chunky Anko for the anpan filling. Many bakeries in Japan also make seasonal Anpan with different types of bean paste, such as Sakura-An (Cherry blossom Anko) for spring and Sweet-potato paste for fall.

Because Azuki beans are rich in nutrients, such as fiber, protein, iron, and manganese, it is a perfect snack for the afternoon. It goes very well eating it with Green tea, but it tastes surprisingly good also with coffee.

Anpan is such a simple bread, but it has had such a big impact on Japanese history. Follow along with this recipe to recreate the delicious yet nostalgic anpan.


Prep time: 40 mins

Cook time: 10 mins

Total time: 50 mins

Total servings: 9

Difficulty: Medium

  • 40g Bread Flour (for the water roux)
  • 40g Hot Water (for the water roux)
  • 160g Bread Flour (for the bread dough)
  • 3g Instant Dry Yeast (for the bread dough)
  • 15g Cane Sugar (for the bread dough)
  • 20g Egg (for the bread dough)
  • 50g Milk (for the bread dough)
  • 2g Salt (for the bread dough)
  • 270g Azuki Paste (for the filling)
  • 20g Egg (for egg wash)
  • 1-2 tsp Water or Milk (for egg wash)
  • 1g Sugar (for eggwash)
  • 1g Salt (for eggwash)
  • 1 Tbsp Black Sesame (for decoration)

Expert's Tip

How to Make Anpan (Red Bean Buns) From Scratch

If you feel like trying an easier version of Anpan before baking the real thing, try using this Azuki Red Bean Pasteon toast. You'll be able to recreate a similar taste of anpan if you put this paste on your toast. You can also use this Azuki Red Bean Paste to make other Japanese desserts like Matcha Shaved Ice with Red Beans, or Anmitsu.  


1) Ingredients for the Water Roux

Add bread flour and hot water to a bowl and mix well using a spatula. Cover it with plastic wrap and make sure it sticks to the surface of the water roux to avoid it from drying up. If making this recipe in the summer, keep the water roux in the refrigerator. In winter, leave it in a cool room for 12 hours.

2) Ingredients for Making the Bread

Gather the ingredients for the main dough, including the water roux (see picture 1), and for the filling and decoration (see picture 2).

Tip: We are using both milk and water to give the anpan a nice brown color.

3) Preparing the Bread Dough

In a large bowl, combine half of the bread flour, instant dry yeast, and cane sugar. Add the egg on the opposite side of the yeast. Pour milk and water over the yeast. (see picture 1) 

Mix thoroughly with a spatula until the dough is smooth. (see picture 2) 

Add the rest of the bread flour and salt. Then continue mixing the dough. When the dough is no longer powdery, transfer it onto a clean work surface. In order to blend the Water Roux evenly into the dough, tear it into small pieces and combine it with the main dough. (see picture 3) 

Use the palms of your hands to knead the dough (see picture 4) When the dough is silky and smooth, stretch the dough and see if the gluten has developed enough. You’ll know that the dough is ready if it doesn’t tear apart when you stretch it (see picture 5)

*If you are using a kneading machine or stand mixer:

Add the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and egg to the machine. Then turn on the machine and start kneading. Add the milk in a slow and steady steam. Knead until the dough becomes stretchy. 

4) Resting the Dough

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place, such as inside your oven or microwave with the heat turned off, for 25-35 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.

5) Splitting Up the Dough

After the primary fermentation, dust your index finger with flour and place it in the center of the dough.

If the imprint from your finger doesn’t bounce back, the dough is ready. Punch the dough to release the gas.

Remove the dough from the bowl and dust a clean work surface with bread flour. Put the dough onto the work surface.

Measure the weight of the dough and cut it into 9 equal pieces with a dough scraper. (They should be 40-45g each). Knead each piece nicely and shape it into a round shape until the surface becomes smooth.

Finally, cover the rounds with plastic wrap and let them rest for 15 minutes at room temperature.

6) Shaping the Anpan and then Resting Them Again

While the dough is resting, work on preparing the filling. Take 9 portions of Azuki Paste, 30g each, and form them into rounds.

Once the dough has finished resting, flatten each portion using a rolling pin. Make sure each piece is thick in the middle and thinner around the edge. They should also be about 12 cm round. Dust bread flour on the work surface if the dough is too sticky.

Place the red bean paste filling into the center of the dough, and seal it well.

Press gently from the top of the dough and flatten the surface.

Tip: It is important to close the bottom tightly; otherwise, the filling will pop out during baking.

Place the dough on the baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap. Put the dough in a warm place for 20-25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (428°F) while the anpan are resting.

7) Decorating the Anpan

Mix egg, water or milk, salt, and sugar together to make an egg wash to give the anpan a golden-brown color. For a nice and even egg wash, brush over a thin layer, then add a second thin layer when the first layer has slightly dried.

Decorate the anpan with some black sesame seeds. It is easy to use a rolling pin by wetting the end of it with water and then dipping it into a bowl of black sesame seeds and stamping them onto the bun.

8) Baking the Anpan

Bake the anpan at 220°C (425°F) for 10 minutes.

Tip: The color of the anpan bottom should be light brown. If the bread bottom is still white, bake them for another 1-2 minutes.

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