Ingredient About 9 oz. About 250g
navy beans or butter beans 1 can (about 9 oz. drained) 1 can (about 250g drained)
sugar ½ cup 100g

Shiroan, or sweetened white bean paste, is one of the fundamental components of Japanese confections. In contrast to red-bean anko, shiroan has a more mild, neutral flavor. Because of its relative lack of character, it is often used as a base, mixed with other flavorings—for example matcha or preserved cherry blossoms. This version is quick and easy to make with beans that are readily available just about everywhere.


  1. Pour the beans into a strainer and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Let sit in the strainer for 15 to 30 minutes to drain thoroughly.


  1. Process beans to paste.
    Put the drained beans into a food processor and process briefly. Add sugar and process until the texture is a smooth paste.

  2. Cook down.
    Transfer paste to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thick. The shiroan is done when a spoon scraped through it leaves the bottom of the pan exposed; the beans should not run off the spoon like liquid. Keep in mind it will thicken further when it cools. See the notes for an alternative microwave method.

  3. Cool.
    Let the paste cool before working with it.


  • Shiroan can be made with both butter beans (also sometimes sold as white lima beans) or navy beans. If you use butter beans, the flavor will be stronger and richer, but more bean-like; with navy beans, the flavor is cleaner and more mild. Which kind is preferable will depend on your taste and what you’re making with it. Also note that they are sometimes sold seasoned; you of course want unseasoned.
  • The amount of beans you get out of a can after you drain them will vary depending on the company and size of the can; adjust the amount of sugar proportionately.
  • The amount of sugar can be adjusted up or down, depending on how sweet you like it and what you’ll be using it for.
  • You can also use a microwave instead of the stovetop when making shiroan. In step 2, put the paste in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a dry paper towel. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes at a time; stir and check consistency, repeating until it has thickened to the point the beans do not run off the spoon like liquid. Be careful not to overdo it; it will thicken further when it cools. When it is thick enough, stir thoroughly, cover the bowl with a cloth, and let cool. If you microwave it too long and it ends up too dry, you can stir in a little water to get it back to the right consistency.