Mung bean cake is a popular Chinese treat made with lightly sweetened mung bean paste. Make this yellow moong dal recipe for a beautiful and refreshing summer dessert!
When you want to make an impressive looking dessert without exerting much effort, these beautiful little cakes are the perfect solution!
There are many different ways to make them, and yes, some recipes for moong dal cake are much more difficult and time consuming than others. Fortunately, this particular recipe isn’t difficult to make, and it doesn't take very long, either!
Mung bean cake
The majority of Americans have never heard of this dessert, which is unfortunate because it's pretty amazing. The green bean cake is made with either whole or split mung beans, two pulses in the legume family that boast some impressive health benefits.
In fact, both green (whole) and yellow (split) mung beans (also known as moong dal) are rich in antioxidants. Two of them specifically may help protect our bodies from heat stress, heat stroke, and high blood pressure! (source)
So, it may not be a surprise to know that during summer months in China, mung bean soup is a favorite lunch and mung bean cake is one of the most popular Chinese dessert recipes.
When you want a refreshing summer treat, turn away from trendy drinks like bubble tea. Those boba drinks are packed with sugar, so they don’t hydrate your body. A better option is a tall glass of water with one of these adorable little mung bean cakes.
How to Cook Split Mung Beans
The first step in making the cakes is to cook the split mung beans. This can be done on a stove top or even a slow cooker if you prefer, but to save time, I make them in an Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker). This helpful post shows four ways to cook split mung beans.
Should you soak mung beans before cooking?
Unlike when you cook chickpeas and other large dried legumes, you do not need to soak mung beans. The moong dal are small enough that soaking isn't necessary, but if you'd like to soak them, you certainly can.
The next step is to create a smooth paste from the cooked moong dal. Mung bean paste can also be used to make other desserts. For example, it's often the filling in Chinese mooncakes.
Making Mung Bean Paste
- Smash the beans. This step is pretty straightforward; the process is similar when you mash eggplant for mutabal or when you make mashed potatoes.
Just transfer the beans to a mixing bowl and smash them down. The back of a spatula works great, or a potato masher will also work.
- Incorporate butter, oil, and salt.
The butter doesn't need to be room temperature but it does help it to melt faster. If you want to make a vegan mung bean cake, feel free to substitute with plant-based butter.
- Incorporate the sugar.
The sugar can be substituted as well, especially if you want a low calorie dessert. Monk fruit sugar is a great substitute for refined white sugar because it measures cup-for-cup.
- Push through a strainer to create mung bean paste.
Coloring and Forming Mung Bean Cake
As for coloring, my experience is that using food coloring drops makes the dough wet and tacky. For the best results, I suggest using an organic food powder. I like this brand: organic powdered food coloring
For the green color, you could use traditional green matcha powder, which adds flavor as well as color.
Molding the Cakes
Check out the equipment section below for information on the cake molds I recommend. They are easy to use and I really like that there are two mold sizes and several designs included in the package.
Temperature of the Dough
Some of the other recipes for mung bean cake on the Web suggest working with warm dough. I found that warm dough tends to stick to the molds.
So instead, I recommend chilling the dough balls in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before pressing the dough into the cake molds. Feel free to experiment and use the method that works best for you.
Ingredient and Equipment Notes
- Alternate Names
Split mung beans are also sold under an alternate name, moong dal. I use organic split mung beans. Although they are similar in shape and color, split mung beans and yellow lentils are not the same thing.
- Food Color: powder vs. liquid
In my experience, dry food powder coloring works better than liquid or gel food coloring. Plus, the powder is all-natural, non-GMO, and is available in several vibrant colors. I like this brand: organic powdered food coloring.
- Cake Molds
The set of cake molds I recommend comes with 2 different mold sizes and several different patterns in the box, which is great. I use the smaller size for the mung bean cake.
Mung Bean Cake
- Rinse the split mung beans under cool running water to remove any dirt or grit. Optionally, you may soak them in 3 cups water for 8 hours, but due to their small size, soaking mung beans isn't necessary. 1 cup dried split beans will yield 3 cups after soaking.
- Whether soaked or unsoaked, add the mung beans to the Instant Pot with 1 ½ cups water. Cover and seal the lid and pressure cook using the Beans setting. Allow for a Natural Pressure release.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir and smash the cooked beans, then add salt, oil and butter. Turn on the Saute setting and use the rubber spatula to stir ingredients together until a smooth paste forms and oil is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
- If adding color, divide the dough into equal sized portions. Mix thoroughly to the desired color preferred. I used about 5 grams dry food powder color for each portion.
- Optionally, for a smoother consistency, use a silicone spatula to press each batch of dough, one at a time, through a fine mesh sieve. Scrape any remaining dough on the underside of the sieve into a bowl.
- Using a food scoop or kitchen scale, portion dough into balls weighing 50 grams (scant 4 tablespoons) each. Press each dough ball into a moon cake mold (See Note 3) using any design you prefer. Place each dessert on tray lined with silpat or square of parchment paper (See Note 4).
- Serve immediately at room temperature. If storing, the cakes will keep 1 week covered in the refrigerator.
- Split mung beans are sometimes sold under the name moong dal. The two are identical. I use organic split yellow mung beans.
- I find that dry food powder works better than liquid or gel food coloring. Feel free to experiment yourself. I really like this organic food powder coloring.
- The cake mold set I use includes 2 different sizes and several different patterns, which is great. I use the smaller set for bean cakes.
- Some of the other recipes for mung bean cake on the Web suggest working with warm dough. I found that warm dough tends to stick to the molds. So instead, I recommend chilling the dough balls in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before pressing the dough into the cake molds. Feel free to experiment and use the method that works best for you.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.