Kuro mame, A Japanese delicacy for New Year’s

on January 1, 2010

This Kuro mame (black beans) recipe comes from a program the Buddhist Church of Oakland (BCO) held 12 years ago, highlighting food for the Oshogatsu (New Year’s) celebration. New Year’s is an important time in Japanese culture. Many of the foods served on this occasion are symbolic and come from the Buddhist tradition. Mame translates to “beans,” but also means “health.” When the black beans are combined with chestnuts (kuri, symbolizing success) and kelp (kombu, symbolizing joy), the dish symbolizes good health.

Every New Year’s Eve, BCO holds a service at 8 p.m., where their gong is hit 108 times. Members of their Women’s Association prepare traditional Japanese New Year dishes like Toshi Koshi Soba (buckwheat noodles) and Kuro mame for those who attend the service.

Buddhist Church of Oakland’s Black Beans Kuro Mame Recipe


  • 7 oz. Black Beans – large (preferably use beans from Hokkaido, Japan)
  • 1/3 tsp. Baking Soda
  • ¾ cup Sugar (or less, to your taste)
  • 1-2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 4 cups Water


  1. Boil water in large pot. Bring to boiling point and then turn stove off.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except beans. Stir well until dissolved.
  3. Add beans.
  4. Soak for 4-5 hours or overnight. It is important that beans are covered in liquid. Otherwise, they will harden. Add water if necessary.
  5. In large pot, cook at high heat. Remove scum as you cook and bring to the boiling point. Make certain surface is clear of scum.
  6. Add ½ cup water (sashi-mizu) and cook again to boiling point. Add another
    ½ cup water.

  7. Reduce heat to low and cook slowly for 7-8 hours with otoshibuta (a small lid that fits inside the pan) and place in the pan. It is important to keep the pan covered. This will keep the beans from wrinkling. Do not stir. At the beginning of this last stage, the water level in the pot should be over the beans. If not, add water (cooking in a crock pot might be an easier way to do this).
  8. Cool beans in pan. To ensure they are completely cooled, leave them overnight. When the beans are completely cooled, you may open the lid.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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