Animal Buns | Gina Chong
Have you guys ever had sweet red bean paste? It's possibly the most common filling in Asia - you'll find it in all types of breads, steamed buns, pastries, etc. The sound of it may seem strange - sweet red bean paste - but if you think about it, coffee is really hot bean juice, so we all have our oddities.

My Japanese mother-in-law always stocks me up on Japanese foods when we see her, including red bean paste. A lot of times it will sit there for months, but this time around I was determined to use it right away for something fun. And thus these animal buns were born.

The red bean paste can be found at any Asian store and I would also expect it to be in the Asian section of large grocery stores. But you can also sub out for any filling of your choice. Chocolate or custard would be just as delicious. Recipe below:

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Animal Buns
Makes 15

  • 2-1/2 cups bread flour + 3 Tbsp for roux
  • 1/2 cup water + 2 Tbsp
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk + extra for wash
  • sweet read bean filling
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder


In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 3 Tbsp bread flour and 1/2 cup water. Whisk continuously until it thickens. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk together 1/2 cup milk and your egg, then pour into a bread mixer. Add the roux and butter, then 2-1/2 cups bread flour, sugar and salt. Use your finger to make a small divot in the flour and pour the yeast into it so that it's not touching any wet ingredients. Set the bread mixer to the dough setting and let it run. Place your package of sweet red bean filling in the fridge so it firms up a bit.

*If you don't have a bread mixer: combine all of the ingredients, then knead either by hand or in a stand mixer with the dough hook for 10-15 minutes. Let rise in a warm, dry place for 1 hour, punch down, then let rise again for 30 minutes. 

Once the dough is ready, plop it onto a clean surface dusted with flour. Divide it into 16 even pieces and set one aside to use for animal features. Take one piece of dough and use your hands to pinch and stretch it out until it's about 1/4 inch thick. Or roll out for an even consistency. Dust a small prep bowl and place the dough inside (see photos below). Place a scoop of sweet red bean filling in the middle, and pinch closed. Place seam-down on a pan fitted with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Continue with the rest of the dough until done. 

For the animal features: roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut triangles for cat ears, roll balls for bear and pig ears. I used the back of a large pastry tip for the bear mouth, and a small pastry tip for the pig nose. Dampen the pieces with just a bit of water to attach them to your buns. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let rise for 30-60 minutes. 

Heat oven to 335F. 
Pour a bit of milk into a small bowl. Brush milk onto each bun. In a small bowl, combine 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and just slightly less than 2 Tbsp water to create a paste. Pour into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe the final details onto your buns. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool. 

Bread recipe adapted from HERE.
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  1. Those are just too cute!! Love the pics of the half eaten ones too :) I've never had sweet red bean paste but you're right about coffee-- I guess that is just "bean juice" ha!

    1. thanks Shea~ and yeah I don't look at coffee the same since realizing it is hot bean juice lol

  2. I have had sweet bean paste before, and it was surprisingly really nice! Different flavour, but really delicious. these are the cutest little buns I've ever seen.

    1. Yeah most Americans I know who have it for the first time like it. And thanks!

  3. Too cute to eat...!! Despite my Japanese roots, one thing I have not been able to like is sweet red beans!! Hehe

    1. Y'know, I go through phases. Sometimes I get sick of it because it's such a common flavor, but for the most part I love it~

  4. These are adorable! I've never tried red bean paste but honestly it doesn't sound as weird as plenty of things my family eats (like raisin pie). Haha.

  5. Those animal buns look so cute, even thought the cat seems a bit sad that someone took a bite of his face:):) I've had sweet bean paste when traveling in Asia, and I didn't like it very much in the beginning, but in recent years I've learned to love it. I even think it tastes a bit like marzipan, but I guess it's an acquired taste:)

  6. This is so stinking cute and sounds like such a unique and interesting flavor! I've got to try these for my kiddos :-)

    Heidi || Wishes & Reality

  7. These are so adorable. I love them. They would be super cute for a zoo/animal themed kiddo bday party too! So creative! XO - Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  8. Oh my goodness, these are adorable! So cute! Great post hun!

  9. Oh wow these are too cute, although I've never had red bean paste but they look delicious.


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