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Japanese Anpan recipe

Nothing says Japan like sushi, anime, Mt Fuji and... anpan, Japan's unique twist on the humble donut.

Anpan is a tasty bun filled with sweet red bean paste that was first invented in 1875 by a man called Yasubei Kimura, who lost his job as a samurai and started a bakery. In 1874, he moved to Ginza in Tokyo and renamed the bakery Kimuraya, which is still a Ginza institution.

Yasubei thought it was time for Japanese culture to become more westernised, but wanted to make a bread that was more appealing to Japanese tastebuds, not like the salty western-style bread. Yasubei sratched his head and came up with a Japanese-style bread recipe - raising the dough with the traditional sakadane liquid yeast. He then filled the bread with a bean paste and sold anpan as snacks. 

Yasubei's anpan sold like, well, hotcakes, but it wasn't until Yasubei was asked to make anpan for the Emperor at the time that it really crazy! The Emperor was soon addicted to anpan and asked Yasubei to present him with it everyday. Anpan has become so iconic and popular in Japan that it even has a cartoon character named after it: Anpanman!, a superhero whose head is made of anpan bread... only in Japan!

It's eaten as a snack and is often served with sesame seed or poppy seed toppings or berry jams and is delicious with tea or coffee.

Anpan Recipe (makes 8-10)


Anko paste 

  •     1 cup azuki (aka adzuki, aduki) beans
  •     100g caster sugar (adjust to taste)
  •     4 cups water (enough to cover the beans)


  •     500g plain white flour
  •     300g milk
  •     60g caster sugar
  •     1/2 tsp salt
  •     60g butter (or 80 to 100g vegetable oil)
  •     1 tsp instant or active yeast


Anko Paste:

  • Rinse the beans thoroughly. Cover with water in a saucepan and bring up to a simmer.
  • Cover with a lid and continue to cook at a gentle simmer until the beans are very tender (about 1hour). If needed, add more water during cooking.
  • When beans are cooked, strain and retain some of the cooking fluid.
  • Mash and pass the strained beans through a sieve.
  • Add sugar, to taste, to the sieved/mashed beans.
  • Return the mixture to a saucepan on a medium-low heat and continue to cook until the mixture colour darkens to a deep red/burgundy (about 15 minutes). Add some of the strained bean liquor if the mixture becomes too dry.
  • Leave the paste to cool (it will clump into a smooth ball). It's ready to use!


  • Mix the dry ingredients and add milk.
  • If you're using active yeast whisk it into warm milk to which a teaspoon of sugar has been added.
  • Knead until you have a smooth dough and let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Mix/knead in butter/oil gradually until the dough is smooth once again.
  •  Leave the dough rest until doubled in size (about 2 hours).
  •  Divide the dough into 8 portions and roughly shape each into a ball and let the dough balls rest for 10 minutes.
  •  Flatten and stretch each ball into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter.
  •  Place a 1 1/2 inch ball of anko paste in the centre and bring the dough edges over to envelop the anko and squeeze to seal.
  •  Lightly press and roll the ball, seal side down.
  •  Leave the buns to rest on a lined baking sheet until doubled in size again. 
  •  Heat the oven to approx 180C. Bake for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
  • Allow buns to cool. Enjoy with a cup of Japanese green tea!


Have you ever tried anpan? Tell us what you think in the comments section below. Or head to twitter and Facebook to share stories about your favourite Japanese treat.

If you'd like to go and taste the real deal for yourself, why not take a look through all our trips to Japan. There's bound to be something that stands out!