Fermented/preserved black soybeans are called douchi (豆豉, dòuchǐ), but we just like to call them umami bombs, since they pack so much flavor in such a little bean. They are a fixture of Cantonese cuisine, but also beloved in Sichuan, where they are made in a different style and result in a different texture and taste.

The earliest physical evidence of douchi was found in a sealed tomb from 165 B.C.E near present-day Changsha, Hunan Province, which borders Chongqing/Old Sichuan. Renowned historian Sima Qian’s 2000-year colossus of early Chinese history 史記 (Shǐjì) also mentions that in the year 173 B.C.E, the exiled Prince of Huainan, inventor of tofu, was even provided douchi in his necessary provisions. For millennia, Chinese people have enjoyed douchi as a staple in life, exile, and in afterlife.

In the West, you may know douchi from Chinese dishes with “black bean” sauces. Those dishes are often made with Cantonese-style douchi, but we invite you to try black soybeans the way they are made in Sichuan—fermented in big crocks with liquor and spices, both of which are there merely to complement the soybeans, not as tastes of their own. The resulting beans are soft and plump, almost a paste, and they do not need to be rehydrated. In fact, they should not even be rinsed before use, no matter what the recipe says (since most recipes in English are written with dry Cantonese beans in mind).

Pixian Douban Co.’s Juan Cheng Douchi

These are made by our partner Sichuan Pixian Douban Co., which is famous for its fermented broad bean paste (doubanjiang) but has also applied its fermentation expertise to Sichuan-style preserved soybeans. Although it has a large modern factory, the company still makes all its douchi the traditional way—in sealed earthen crocks that sit outside and absorb and react to the changing seasons. 

Whereas Cantonese douchi are small, dry beans, preserved only in salt (and sometimes ginger), Sichuan douchi are fermented in water with salt, wheat, liquor and spices. After a year, the beans end up plump and moist, surrounded by a bit of paste. Unlike the more-familiar Cantonese black soybeans, they should not be rinsed before use to clean or rehydrate, as they don’t need it and you don’t want to rinse away all that flavor.

Juan Cheng Douchi Preserved Black Soybeans

While similar in taste to other douchi (tasting purely of intense black soybean, not the spice or liquor they are aged in), Juan Cheng douchi are a bit more mild and less salty. Fermented black soybeans are a must-have for twice-cooked pork, hotpot and dry pot, and can be added to a stir-fry for an added zing. We also love them in homemade chili crisp. Do not rinse off the flavorful paste before use.



More Douchi Recipes

Cooking and Storage Tips

Store douchi in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources, preferably in an airtight container or sealed bag. Refrigerate for longterm storage. If stored correctly, and not cross-contaminated, fermented products do not really expire. Let your eyes and nose be the judge of its shelf life.

Sichuan douchi do not require rinsing before use. Repeat: Do Not Rinse. Add to stir-fries and braises whenever you want an extra zing of concentrated umami, without changing the whole profile of the dish (as the addition of a sauce would). Use sparingly, as they are salty, or roughly chop to better disperse the flavor.

Starting Your Sichuan Cooking Journey? Get the Complete Sichuan Pantry Collection

Complete Sichuan pantry collection

Stock your shelves with a premium version of every specialty ingredient needed to cook classic Sichuan food, plus nine recipe cards for the most-loved dishes of Chengdu and Chongqing. The core of the collection is the ingredients for creating ma and la, the defining tastes of Sichuan food. ‘Ma’ refers to the tingly, citrusy taste of Sichuan peppercorn. ‘La’ refers to the heat of chili pepper.

This kit further includes the highest quality Pixian doubanjiang (chili bean paste) on the market, handcrafted and aged for three years, plus Sichuan’s other two umami powerhouses: douchi (fermented black soybeans) and tianmianjiang (fermented sweet wheat paste). Other must-haves are Sichuan’s oldest and most esteemed brands of soy sauce and vinegar: Zhongba light soy sauce is naturally brewed for 360 days, and handcrafted Baoning vinegar is aged for 3 years. Like Pixian douban, they are China Time-Honored Brands, in business for centuries, and we are their exclusive U.S. representatives. 

We round out this collection with our own organic, stone-ground sesame paste and Yibin suimiyacai, a fermented mustard pickle used in many classic dishes.

All How to Cook With Douchi (Fermented Soybeans)