Azuki Bunny Buns

Soft, fluffy, sweet, and classically Asian. There’s no other way to describe red bean buns. Where Americans have chocolate chip cookies, the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have their red bean buns. Whether it’s someone’s birthday or time for an afternoon snack, in Asian food culture red bean buns are always a welcome treat.

Maybe it’s the American in me, but I don’t find red bean buns nearly as appealing as chocolate chip cookies. After all, they’re made with–of all things–beans! Everything changed this past week when I did some tweaking on my recipe for savory steamed buns. Inspired by spring, I sought out to make an Easter bunny-themed variation, with the perfect mild sweetness and tender texture. The results are some seriously yummy buns that can easily steal the spotlight from those chocolate chip cookies.

Azuki buns are so popular that you’ll often find them ready-made in the freezer or fridge section in Asian markets. The tell-tale sign of a mediocre (or bad) azuki bun is that it’s chokingly dry and dense. And a good one? Tender and slightly chewy with just the right amount of filling. 
I based this recipe on the dough used for my Steamed BBQ Pork Buns and Chinese Fold-Over Buns, with a few changes. Instead of using Hong Kong flour, which is harder to find, I use regular all-purpose flour here. I also swap out the powdered sugar for superfine sugar, which creates a chewier, slightly heavier dough that steams up with a perfectly thin skin and smooth surface.

Decorated with a pair of bunny ears and a nubby nose made from soft candies, the humble buns are instantly transformed into wagashi-like Easter treats. You can also just scatter some sesame seeds in the center of each rounded bun before steaming. The buns will look elegant and easy, ideal for no-nonsense adults who aren’t in to adorably chubby bunnies. Enjoy these with Japanese green teas like a pale jade gyokuo, a toasty genmaicha, or a delicate sencha like Palais des Thés Tawaramine Shincha. Any tea that’s light, grassy, and fresh on the palette is ideal with the classic Asian flavor and look of these buns. Some may say that these Azuki Bunny Buns are too cute to eat, but as you can see I clearly don’t agree!Azuki Bunny Buns

Makes 10 buns.


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp SAF instant yeast

1 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp non-fat dry milk powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

6 Tbsp lukewarm water + 1-2 tsp water more (if needed)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp sweetened smooth red bean paste (koshian)

black sesame seeds, for bunny eyes

soft, pink chewy candies, for bunny ears and noses (I used Hi-Chews)

non-stick spray or oil, for coating proofing bowl


stand mixer with dough hook attachment

large bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

chef’s knife

Tbsp measure

large bamboo steamer

wok with slightly larger diameter than steamer OR a stockpot with exactly the same diameter as the steamer

parchment paper, cut into 2 1/2″ squares

small cupcake liners (optional)

Japanese bento grass (optional)


1.)  Place all dry dough ingredients into the bowl of a large stand mixer. Start the mixer on low, then gradually add the water and oil. About 3 minutes in, the shaggy dough should come together to form a ball. If it does not, add 1-2 tsp of water until the dough comes together. Let the dough continue to mix on low for 10 minutes, until you get a soft and supple ball of dough.

2.)  Lightly spray a large bowl with non-stick spray, coating the top surface of the dough with some of the same oil. Place the dough ball in the large bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a draft free place to rise until almost doubled in volume.

3.)  After the first rise, take the dough out onto a work surface. Give the dough a few light kneadings, then portion it out into 10 equal pieces using a chef’s knife. Shape each dough piece into a ball, then flatten each ball into a disk about 3 1/2″ in diameter and fill it with 1 Tbsp of red bean paste. Gather the edges of the flattened dough disk, pinching them together to seal. Flip the filled dough ball over, then roll it into a slightly oval circle. Place this shaped bun on a small square of parchment paper.

4.)  Attach the eyes of the bunnies with the slightly wetted tip of a toothpick. Place the bun into the bamboo steamer. Shape a total of 10 buns, placing them at least 1″ apart in the steamer. Cover the steamer and let the buns rise for about 15 minutes, until just slightly puffy. Meanwhile, boil some water in a wok or stockpot so that the water is at least 2″ deep in the pot. 5.)  Steam the buns for 12 minutes over water at a full boil. After the buns have finished steaming, let them cool before decorating them with soft, pink candies (I used Strawberry Hi-Chews, but you could use any soft pink candy). Cut a candy crosswise, in 1/4″ thick pieces. Shape the pieces (see below) into elongated bunny ears. Use the center pink part of the candies to make tiny balls to make the bunny noses. Attach the candies to the surface of the cooled, steamed buns using light dabs of water. Decorate these buns just before serving as the attached candies get soft and sticky after being adhered to the buns. Place the buns on cupcake liners decorated with bento grass for a festive Easter finish.

Green Tea Macarons with Red Bean Buttercream

Ah yes…yet another French macaron recipe this week!  Today it’s Green Tea French Macarons with a rich Red Bean Buttercream.  Traditional Asian flavors like grassy matcha green tea and smooth azuki red bean paste join with classic French technique here to make for one very unique and delicious macaron!

The inspiration for these macarons comes from my love of Chinese and Japanese rice cakes called mochi, which very commonly pair green tea with sweet red beans.  This is a flavor combination that has stood the test of time in the Asian dessert realm, and with this recipe I’m hoping to take these ingredients to the next level of sophistication.

I’ve seen other recipes use pure red bean paste as a filling for similarly flavored macarons, but if you’ve ever tasted red bean paste before you probably know that it is rather dense, heavy, and a bit cloying.  Since we are making this filling to pair with delicate, airy French macaron shells that are already sweet, I thought that lightening the paste into a buttercream might make for a more harmonious marriage of flavors and textures.

A hot cup of Taiwanese oolong or Japanese sencha will make this tea break complete!

I’m taking these pictures from my parent’s house today, so I’m lucky enough to use a dish from my mom’s cherished Chinese China set.  Purchased circa 1980, the set holds special meaning for me, as valuable and timeless as a piece of Wedgwood or Royal Doulton.

The better quality matcha powder you use here, the more brilliantly green your macarons will be.  If you like a more pronounced green tea taste, add up to a tablespoon more when making the macaron shells.  Be very careful not to overcook the shells as this will cause their color to become dull and brownish.

Red bean paste is found in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean markets on shelves (not refrigerated) in a standard tin can or even in sealed bags.  Make sure to look for the red beans that are already processed into a smooth paste, not the red beans still left whole (think of creamed corn vs. whole kernel corn).  Both of these varieties of red beans are available, but the paste is what we want here.  If all else fails and it’s unclear from the writing, just look at the picture on the label.  For Japanese brands, go for the azuki beans called koshian.

If you are anticipating warm weather or want a stiffer filling, add up to ¼ cup of cornstarch to the buttercream.  I only mention this because just last week in Los Angeles it hit 92 degrees in mid-November.  As a baker you never want to invest time, effort, and money into making macarons only to have the weather ruin your beautiful creations.  If you think that you need to, mix in the cornstarch to the filling one tablespoon at a time until you reach a desired piping consistency.

I am using the Italian Meringue Method for my macarons here, but feel free to use the French Meringue Method if that works out better for you.

Green Tea Macarons with Red Bean Buttercream

Makes about 35 sandwiched 1.5″ macarons.  Recipe is easily halved using a hand-held mixer instead of a stand mixer.


{Green Tea Macaron Shells}

{Red Bean Buttercream}

1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

6 Tbsp smooth red bean paste

1 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup cornstarch (optional)


1.)  Make macaron shells.  Feel free to add another tablespoon of green tea matcha powder if you like a stronger green tea flavor.

2.)  Make Red Bean Buttercream Filling.  In a large bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar together to a fluffy consistency.  Mix in red bean paste and vanilla extract.  If using cornstarch, gradually add one tablespoon at a time until a desired consistency is achieved.

3.)  Pair macaron shells together based on size and shape, then fill one cookie of each pair with a dollop of buttercream using a 1/2 inch pastry tip and pastry bag.  Sandwich top and bottom cookies together to create a finished macaron and enjoy!

And for the passionate and inspired French macaron makers out there, please check out my other posts on macaron baking tips, macaron towers, and macaron pops!