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This Chè Đậu Đen recipe is a very common Vietnamese black bean dessert. It can be enjoyed hot during cooler weather or served over crushed ice as a refreshing drink in warmer months.
“Chè” in Vietnamese refers to all soupy, pudding-like desserts. This particular Chè recipe is made with “Đậu Đen” or black bean. It is a very common Vietnamese dessert that is typically served over crushed ice during Summer. But I also like to enjoy it hot, during Winter.
Vietnamese food tends to be divided into two groups: “hot” and “cool”. The “cool” food group is supposed to be good for your health. If I ever complain about a zit, my mom would tell me to eat something “cool” to get rid of it. Black bean is part of this “cool” food group!
Beans, lentils, peas, and other legumes (also referred to by the catch-all phrase, “Pulses”) provide an excellent source of protein and are environmentally friendly. They are a powerful superfood with a critical role in sustainable food production. With this Vietnamese black bean dessert, you can enjoy your sweets, while still taking advantage of the nutritional benefits.
How to Make Chè Đậu Đen (Vietnamese Sweet Black Bean Soup)
Making this Vietnamese black bean dessert is super simple with the help of a pressure cooker. But if you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t worry, it can be made on the stove top as well, though it will take longer to cook the beans until tender.
- Wash the dry beans and discard beans that float or look wrinkly.
- Add 3 cups of water to the beans and let it soak overnight.
- After soaking, the beans should double in size.
- Drain and discard the soaking water.
Cooking the beans with a pressure cooker
The quickest way to cook the beans is to use a pressure cooker. You will add the beans and about 3 cups of water to the pressure cooker and cook at high pressure for just 45 minutes. There is no need to watch or stir.
Make sure to operate your pressure cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, seal it properly and set the timer. Mine took about 15 minutes to get up to pressure and start cooking. Afterward, allow the pressure to release naturally before opening the pot, mine took about half an hour.
Cooking the beans on the stove top
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no problem, you can still enjoy this Vietnamese black bean dessert by cooking it on the stove top until the beans are tender. It will take approximately 3 hours.
- Add the beans to a tall pot along with 4 cups of water, more if your pot can hold it. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and keep the beans at a simmer, with the lid ajar.
- Stir the pot occasionally and make sure to keep the liquid level above the surface of the bean.
- Add more water as needed since the water will evaporate during the cooking process. You will need at least 8 cups of water or more.
After the beans are cooked and tender, you will drain the cooked beans, but this time saving the bean juice for later. If you were using a pressure cooker and your cooker has a “Sauté” mode, you can use it for the next steps. Or you can simply use another pot and the stove top.
- Add the cooked and drained beans back in the pot with sugar and salt.
- Use the “Sauté” mode on your pressure cooker or cook the beans on the stove top over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Close the lid and let the mixture soak for 1 – 2 hours.
- Add between 2 – 2.5 cups of saved bean juice back into the pot. Supplement with water if you don’t have enough.
- Use the “Sauté” mode on your pressure cooker again or simply bring the mixture to a boil on the stove top over medium heat.
At this point, the base for your Vietnamese black bean dessert is done. If you want to serve it cold, simply let the soup cool and refrigerate overnight. If you want to serve it hot, you can choose to thicken it with a little bit of tapioca flour.
How to serve Chè Đậu Đen
Serving it hot
Have you ever gone to a Chinese restaurant to enjoy a family style meal and get a hot bowl of something sweet at the end of your meal? This is quite similar to that. You would serve the hot soup thickened with a bit of tapioca flour in a small cup or bowl, drizzled with some coconut milk for an additional layer of flavor.
Serving it cold
Cold “Chè” is actually more common, and is also a popular street food in Vietnam. You would layer it over a cup of crushed ice, add coconut milk and a variety of jelly and pearls for toppings, and serve it up as a refreshing drink to combat the hot and humid Summer days.
There are quite a variety of toppings you can add to this black bean dessert. Some you can make at home, and most you can purchase at an Asian market.
- Tapioca pearls, also called “boba” (or “bubble” in bubble tea). You can purchase bags of dried tapioca pearls and boil them prior to serving at home. They also come in different sizes, which can be fun for the added texture. They can be added to either the hot or cold version.
- Grass jelly is a black jelly, typically unsweetened. You can purchase this in a can at any Vietnamese supermarket and most Asian grocery stores. It is best served with the cold version but can be added to the hot version as well.
- Almond jelly is jelly with almond flavor, this one is typically sweetened. Again, it can be found in a can at Asian markets, or you can make it at home. Best with the cold dessert but again can be added to the hot dessert as well.
- Rice balls, you can make small rice balls from sweet rice flour or purchase a dry version (larger in size) at the Japanese grocery store. They will need to be boiled until softened. I prefer these in the hot black bean dessert.
I’m sure some of you might find it unusual to have beans as dessert, but imagine my surprise to find beans in savory dishes when I first moved to the States. I hope to introduce a little bit of my Vietnamese culture with you through this dish. And if you are already a fan of bean desserts, make sure to try this Anpan recipe.
If you make this recipe or would like to see more Vietnamese recipes, please let me know! Leave a comment, send me a photo, rate it and don’t forget to tag me @wildwildwhisk on Instagram. I’d love to see what’s cooking up in your kitchen. Cheers!
Chè Đậu Đen (Vietnamese Sweet Black Bean Soup)
- Pressure Cooker
- 1 cup dry black beans (200 g)
- 6 - 11 cup water (for soaking and cooking)
- ¾ cup light brown sugar (132 g)
- ⅛ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup canned coconut milk
For hot bean soup:
- 1 tablespoon tapioca flour
- Wash the dry beans and soak them overnight in 2 - 3 cups of water.
- Drain the beans and discard the liquid, they should have doubled in size. Add beans to a pressure cooker along with 3 cups of clean water and cook at pressure for 45 mins.
- Once the beans are cooked and the pressure is released, drain the bean again, but this time, save the bean juice.
- Add the beans back to the pressure cooker and use the “Sauté” mode for this step, or use another pot on the stove top. Add sugar and salt to the beans and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn off the heat and close the lid, allow the beans to soak in the sugar syrup for 1 - 2 hours.
- Add about 2 - 2.5 cup of the saved bean juice back into the pot, and bring to a boil.
- If you want to serve right away as a hot dessert, dissolve the tapioca flour in a tablespoon of additional bean juice (or water) and pour it in the pot. Continue stirring until the soup thickens. Spoon about ½ cup of beans into a small bowl and drizzle 1 tablespoon of canned coconut milk on top. Mix and enjoy.
- To serve the bean as a cold dessert, you don’t need to add the tapioca flour. Allow the bean to cool completely. Add crushed ice to a serving glass, spoon ½ cup of beans over the ice, add 1 tablespoon of canned coconut milk, and other toppings like grass jelly, almond jelly, or tapioca balls (boba). Mix and enjoy.
- If not using a pressure cooker, simmer the beans in a tall pot with the lid cracked open, on the stove top over low heat until tender, about 3 hours. You will need to add about 8+ cups of water during the cooking process since the water will continue to evaporate.
- If you don’t have enough bean juice after cooking (roughly 2 - 2.5 cup) you can supplement with water.