Kuromame: sweet black beans


“Osechi ryori” is an assortment of foods prepared before year’s end and eaten for three days of the new year. The foods that make up osechi can be prepared in advance and then sit out in a cool area for a few days without spoiling. Traditionally women cooked and cleaned for weeks before the holiday. Perhaps this frantic preparation began as a way for housewives (and their families) to survive the first several days of the New Year, when stores throughout Japan were closed. Or perhaps it’s because if woman cut herself while cooking in the first days of the year, it would mean bad luck all year. The foods are often arranged beautifully in compartmentalized lacquer boxes, stacked in layers. Today, most women don’t have the time to prepare osechi at home so department stores and restaurants do a booming business selling boxes of the tradition foods. (See my post about lucky foods eaten during the holiday.)

Black soybeans, called kurimame 黒豆, are larger and rounder than their more common yellow cousins. They are cooked with sugar and eaten during the first days of the year for health in order to work hard for the whole year. This is the first osechi that I’ve ever made. Ms. Shimbo has a very easy and tasty recipe on her blog—it is said that the beans will keep their dark purple-black color when they are cooked with iron. Ms. Shimbo has a special iron ball to use for cooking the beans, but I used a couple of iron nails and the results were satisfactory.


10 thoughts on “Kuromame: sweet black beans

    • Hi Janet,

      They were surprisingly good!
      I noticed the Korean store on the corner has large bags of black soybeans for sale. It seems Koreans like them too?

      Happy New Year to you too!

  1. Hello Tess,

    Thanks for your helpful suggestion on the forum of wordpress.com!

    Kuromame is one of my favourites in Japanese foods, which is really sweet! I think it’s from China, but now we Japanese eats for daily foods especially as one of healthy foods as well as New Year’s foods called “Osechi(御節)” hoping for our health in a year. It’s healthy, but really sweet, isn’t it?

    • Hi Yukio,

      Yes, it is a very sweet recipe, but I liked it very much. I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth, but the taste and mouth-feel / texture is lovely. They are also very pretty.

      Sorry my help in the forum was not happier news, but I’m sure your new blog will be beautiful. When I was young I wanted to be an architect or designer. It was not meant to be; I have a different life and it is fine.

  2. Last month I stayed with my friend Higuchi-san’s family in a small town in Japan. His mother farms Kuromame for selling to the local cooperative. I had them for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks (roasted and sugared, I called it “pop-beans”); and yet, that wasn’t not enough!

    When I left, he gave me boiled and pop-bean varieties which I will soon finish. Hopefully I can find those in Canada.

    • Sukumar Roy,

      How interesting! Were the beans you ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner always sweet? Or were there savory dishes? I don’t find any recipes online except for this dish.

      The Korean store was selling large bags of these black soybeans, and they were cheaper than the Japanese beans I bought, but some of the skins were broken. Anyway, I’m curious about other recipes.

      Are the “pop-beans” anything like this recipe?
      I’ve not tried it, but it looks intriguing.

      I’ve not looked much at Japanese snacks, but I’ll take a look next time I’m shopping—hope you find some in Canada!

  3. Thanks for the description. I didn’t know the cultural reference until I stumbled upon your post. Always just bought it in the can. Good over hot rice. Mahalo

    • Aha! You’re right, I’ll bet they are good on rice.
      Funny how you get an idea in your mind and forget to look at other possibilities.
      Kind of like how good Passover charoset is, and we always say we’ll have it again soon, but somehow we never do!

  4. Pingback: Forbidden Black Rice « Live2EatEat2Live Blog

  5. Pingback: Christmas Lima beans | 100 word minimum

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