Doubanjiang | Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste

Doubanjiang is the soul of Sichuan cuisine. Its deep, earthy, spicy and salty flavour is a secret weapon for many a Sichuan housewife, and is an essential ingredient in Sichuan cooking.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Doubanjian, Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste
Doubanjian, Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste

There are many bean pastes and chilli bean pastes in China, but what differentiates the doubanjiang, or douban, as it’s also called, is the use of broad beans (fava beans), instead of soy beans.  The beans are initially left to ferment in large terracota crockpots for a few months before red chillies, salt and some wheat flour are added. The whole mix is then left to mature for anything from 1-8 years, getting a stir on a daily basis!

The longer the doubanjiang is left to ferment, the deeper the flavour and the colour, edging towards a reddish brown. The chillies and the beans also break down in that time.

Mapo Tofu, a fiery Sichuan Recipe, with a Vegetarian Alternative
Mapo Tofu (or Mapo Dofu) recipe. This Sichuan classic is a dish of melt in the mouth silken tofu, covered in a fiery red, earthy, slightly tongue numbing chilli sauce, made with Doubanjiang, the Sichuan chilli bean paste.
Get the Recipe!
Mapo Tofu, a traditional Sichuan recipe
Vegan Mapo Tofu
Vegan Mapo Tofu is a delicious Sichuan dish of soft, silken tofu and shiitake in a gloriously rich, spicy and slightly tingly sauce.
Get the Recipe!
Vegan Mapo Tofu on white rice, in a bowl

How to use Doubanjiang

I absolutely adore this hot bean paste paste, and have to stop myself from using it indiscriminately in everything I cook! It turns a boring dish into something more.

  • It is the ingredient in Mapo Tofu (above) and twice fried pork.
  • Sometimes, a quick lunch sees me adding a touch of doubanjiang to an egg (boiled, scrambled, sunny side up), and having that with some rice and a salad.
  • Or I lighten it with some lime juice and drizzle it over salad.
  • It will transform all your stirfries, whether they are noodles, vegetables or a mix of everything.
Doubanjian, Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste
This is my favourite brand

Where to buy Doubanjiang?

That’s easy. If you have access to a Chinese grocer or supermarket, chances are, they’ll stock it. My local one is pretty small, but they still have doubanjiang on their shelves at all times.

Failing that, ya know Amazon will stock it, dontcha? And there are many Chinese online food shops these days, that you will most certainly be able to get it online.

This is my affiliate link for one of the brands I use, on Amazon.

You may come across a chilli bean paste called Toban Djan, made by the folks at Lee Kum Kee. This has broad beans and soybeans in it and a whole lot of other unnecessary ingredients (LKK loves additives!).

This hot bean paste leans more towards the Cantonese style of cooking, and, at a push, can be used as a substitute for doubanjiang, if you can’t get the real thing. And if you don’t mind the additives.

Substitute for Doubanjiang

Toban Djang, as mentioned above.

A regular Chinese hot bean paste or dark miso with chilli make an adequate substitute, if you really, really cannot get the real thing. But as mentioned above, you should be able to get it online pretty easily, in the UK as well as in the US. The big bad Amazon sells it!

4 thoughts on “Doubanjiang | Sichuan Chilli Bean Paste”

  1. IS it possible to buy the fermented broad bean paste with no (or reduced) Chili?

    I love the fermented flavor, but the chili is too much for me in the product bought on Amazon.

    1. HI Karl, if yo can’t handle the chilli, then yes, absolutely, get the one without, if you can find it. If not, dark miso paste is a fairly good substitute, the darker the stronger the flavour.

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