Adzuki beans are one of the most versatile and nutritious legumes in Asia. If you need them for a recipe yet can’t find them in your local stores, then there are several substitutes that you can try!
What are the best substitutes for adzuki beans? Adzuki beans can be substituted with mung beans, black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, fava beans, cannellini beans, and other similar legumes that share more or less the same flavor, texture, and nutrition.
Read below to learn more about adzuki beans, their characteristics, and the best substitutes for them in a range of recipes.
What Are Adzuki Beans?
Adzuki beans are a commonly consumed legume in Japan and other surrounding regions.
Known for their mild and slightly nutty flavor, adzuki (or azuki) beans have multiple culinary uses and provide a very satisfying mouthfeel.
They are considered to be quite nutritious and can provide a good proportion of plant protein and other vital micro and macronutrients.
Although adzuki beans are also called red beans, they should not be confused with their distant cousin, red kidney beans!
They are widely consumed in curries and stews — and can even be enjoyed as adzuki bean meatballs too!
The reason why these beans aren’t well known in North America is that they are mostly cultivated in East Asia.
Japan happens to be one of the biggest consumers of this type of legume, along with other countries like Korea, China, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Characteristics Of Adzuki Beans
Before we dive into the substitutes for adzuki beans, let’s first take a look at their characteristics.
Adzuki beans are a popular option in a lot of Asian recipes because of their ability to take on the flavor of other savory ingredients.
Like other legumes, these beans provide a mild flavor, which most characterize as slightly nutty and earthy with subtle sweet undertones.
Adzuki beans are slightly more porous than some other types of legumes, which means that they can take up more moisture — this gives them a distinct flavor when paired with rich ingredients.
They are usually salted and seasoned, but you can also consume them on their own or in simple salads too.
Shape And Size
Adzuki beans are shaped like small pellets and have a smooth, oval shape.
These beans are relatively smaller and can appear more compact than other legumes. They also have a distinct whitish slit in the middle — just like mung beans.
As is common with legumes, these beans can also increase in size as they cook but they usually won’t get bigger than 6-7 millimeters in diameter.
This is where adzuki beans earn their favorable reputation! These beans have a smooth, soft texture when cooked and can provide a pleasant and mealy mouthfeel.
Although they aren’t as grainy as other types of legumes, adzuki beans provide a very hearty bite and are commonly used to add volume and texture to other recipes.
Uses And Versatility
Adzuki beans are perhaps one of the most versatile types of legumes in East Asia. They are consumed in several ways and can be combined with just about any savory ingredient.
While they are usually used whole in many recipes, adzuki beans can also be mashed — they can also be shaped into vegetarian meatballs.
These legumes can also be used as a vegan alternative to traditional meat-based sauces. You can even pair them with pasta dishes too!
Why Substitute Adzuki Beans?
One of the main reasons why people don’t use adzuki beans is that they are difficult to source.
They are hardly available in canned form — and even if you do find canned adzuki beans, they won’t taste as great as the fresh variety!
Another reason why one would want to substitute these beans is that they can be a bit heavy on the digestive system, especially if you aren’t accustomed to eating legumes.
Adzuki beans contain certain enzymes that remain in the legumes even after they have been fully cooked.
While these enzymes can’t make you sick with moderate use, consuming large enough quantities can result in mild diarrhea, cramping, and gas.
Of course, a rather innocuous reason for substituting adzuki beans may also be that you have run out of your stock at home and want a quick and close substitute!
Best Substitutes for Adzuki Beans
Here are our top picks for some great adzuki bean alternatives that you can easily use in most recipes.
1. Mung Beans
We have mentioned mung beans in this guide a few times — and for good reason!
These beans are an excellent substitute for adzuki beans due to their similar texture, size, and flavor.
While mung beans don’t have the same vibrant red color, these green legumes can make up for their appearance with the help of their sweet, nutty, and earthy flavor.
Mung beans have a similarly soft and mushy texture and can be used in the same way as adzuki beans in virtually any recipe. We recommend going with one cup of mung beans for every cup of adzuki beans in any recipe.
2. Red Kidney Beans
Red kidney beans share the same color, but are larger and heartier than adzuki beans.
The reason why they make such a great substitute is that they taste almost the same and can add more mass and volume than adzuki beans.
While they have a slightly grainier mouthfeel, they are just as nutritious and can be mashed to make several delicious recipes too! You can use ¾-1 cup of cooked red kidney beans for every cup of adzuki beans.
3. Black Beans
Black beans have a distinct creamy and soft texture with a mild, earthy flavor.
They can be used in any recipe — and since black beans are just as porous, they can take on the flavor of any savory ingredient, just like red beans.
They may look different than adzuki beans but are quite delicious and just as mealy! Try using equal portions of black beans for every cup of adzuki beans.
4. Pinto Beans
Pinto beans are arguably the better-looking legume when compared with adzuki beans and can deliver the same mouthfeel and hearty texture!
They are slightly larger and have a very pleasant, red-streaked pattern that can add presentation points to any dish.
They might not have the same subtle sweetness found in adzuki beans, but they are an excellent last-minute option when replacing red beans in virtually any recipe. Use a cup of pinto beans for every cup of adzuki beans for the best results.
5. Butter Beans
Butter beans are shaped like black-eyed peas, but they don’t have the iconic, black-eyed spot in the center.
As the name suggests, butter beans are very soft and mushy — they can be an excellent substitute when making any type of bean paste.
Butter beans have a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and can be cooked in the same way as adzuki beans. Go with one cup of butter beans for every cup of adzuki beans for any recipe.
6. Cannellini Beans
Cannellini beans are a great middle-ground option between butter beans and adzuki beans.
These beans offer almost the same texture and mouthfeel as adzuki beans. They look more like small peanuts but are one of the best substitutes for red beans.
Cannellini beans don’t have the same sweetness as adzuki beans, but they have an accentuated earthy and nutty flavor that can complement any savory ingredient. You can use cannellini beans in the same proportion as adzuki beans.
7. Cranberry Beans
If you are looking for aesthetically pleasing legumes, then you have to try cranberry beans!
These beans have pink-reddish patches and share the same sweet and earthy flavor notes as adzuki beans.
They also provide a similar mouthfeel and a subtly grainy texture when mashed. We recommend going with equal proportions when substituting for adzuki beans.
8. Fava Beans
Fava beans may require some processing, but they become an easy substitute for adzuki beans once they are blanched and peeled.
These beans share the same texture and flavor as adzuki beans, but have a pale green color.
They can be used in the same way as adzuki beans and can even replace other legumes on this list! Go with one cup of fava beans for every cup of adzuki beans for the best experience.
9. Split Yellow Mung Beans
These are one of the tastiest and most readily available beans on the market.
Split yellow mung beans have a distinct sweet and nutty flavor with a smooth and subtly grainy texture.
They can be used in several ways — and can even be fried and seasoned to make a delicious split mung bean snack. Go with a 1:1 ratio when substituting adzuki beans in any recipe!
Now that you know the right substitutes for adzuki beans, here are some related questions we thought you might have.
What is the most nutritious adzuki bean substitute?
Kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans are some of the most nutritious legumes. These beans offer more or less the same flavor and texture as adzuki beans and are packed with micro and macronutrients.
Are chestnuts a good substitute for adzuki beans?
Yes! Chestnuts are commonly paired with adzuki beans and offer a sweet and nutty flavor. They can also replace adzuki beans in several Japanese recipes!