Red Bean Mooncakes

Recipe by Clarice Lam

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Mooncake Festival, is a keystone Chinese holiday that occurs when the moon is at its fullest (and brightest). A hallmark of this celebration is the making and eating of mooncakes, which are often given as gifts to express love and best wishes. Mooncakes consist of tender pastry dough that gets wrapped around a filling and then pressed into a special mold to create a beautifully embossed design that signifies longevity and prosperity. This baked version, filled with sweetened red bean paste (and often salted egg yolks to represent the full moon), is among the most popular type of mooncake.

45 mins
15 to 20 mins
1 hr 50 mins
six 2" to 2 1/2" mooncakes
Red Bean Mooncakes - select to zoom
Red Bean Mooncakes - select to zoom
Red Bean Mooncakes - select to zoom


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  1. To make the lye water substitute: In a small pot, combine the water and baking soda. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer for 7 to 8 minutes while the mixture reduces. You should have about 2 tablespoons (27g) of lye water after simmering. Set aside to cool.  

  2. To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment, combine the honey, 1/2 teaspoon lye water substitute (discard the remainder), oil, flour, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until it comes together to make a smooth, homogenous dough, about 1 to 2 minutes. 

  3. Wrap the dough in plastic or your favorite reusable wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill. Meanwhile, place the red bean paste into a bowl, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

  4. Lightly oil your work surface and place a piece of plastic wrap on top. (The oil will help the plastic wrap stay in place.) The dough is sticky and it's much easier to work with on plastic. Oiling your hands will also make handling the sticky dough easier.

  5. Divide the chilled dough into 6 equal portions (about 78g to 80g each) and roll each portion into a ball. Divide the red bean paste into 6 equal portions (about 56g to 60g each) and roll each portion into a ball. 

  6. Lightly dust the plastic with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball of dough into a disk about 1/4" thick (about 4 1/2" to 5") and place the ball of red bean paste in the center. Wrap the dough around the paste, pinching it together to seal. Gently roll the packet so that it is once again a neat, uniform ball. 

  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment and dust the inside of a 100g to 150g mooncake mold with flour. Place a dough ball into the mold, place down onto the baking sheet to flatten the ball flush against the bottom of the mold, then press down on the plunger, gently at first to avoid squashing the cake, and then a couple more times to imprint the design. Unmold the mooncake onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with the other portions, flouring the mold between each use, and leaving at least 2" of space in between each mooncake. 

  8. Place the baking sheet with the shaped mooncakes in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to help the mooncakes retain their shape and design while baking. 

  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. 

  10. To make the egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, milk, and salt. 

  11. Remove the tray of mooncakes from the freezer and use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat them with egg wash. After you have coated all 6 mooncakes, repeat with a second layer of egg wash. 

  12. Bake the mooncakes for 15 to 20 minutes, until they're firm and set with golden brown bottoms. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet. To serve, cut into quarters and serve at room temperature with Chinese tea, if desired. 

  13. Storage information: Mooncakes can be stored in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days at room temperature; for up to 1 week in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before serving); or up to 3 months in the freezer (thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bring to room temperature before serving). 

Tips from our Bakers

  • Look for smooth red bean paste, also called koshi-an, at Asian markets. If you find your bean paste is too loose to form into balls that hold their shape, briefly freeze the scoops until they’re firm enough to handle. 

  • Traditionally lye water is used in mooncake recipes to ensure a golden brown exterior and a fluffy interior crumb. We prefer using a concentrated baking soda solution to replicate the results without using lye. If you do not want to make a lye water substitute, you can find lye water at many Asian supermarkets. 

  • Mooncake molds can be found online, and yield will depend on size and shape. A 100g to 150g capacity mold will yield 6 mooncakes.