Asian Recipes/ Dessert/ Drinks/ Recipes/ Vietnamese

Chè Ba Màu – Vietnamese Three Colour Dessert

18/08/2020

This Vietnamese three colour dessert is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds! Known as Chè Ba Màu, we love its colourful layers of sweet beans, jelly and coconut. It’s perfect alongside a piping hot bowl of pho or crispy spring rolls!

Two tall glasses of Vietnamese 3 Colour Dessert.

Why We Love This

This is such a satisfying treat, best enjoyed as a drink while slurping down phở noodles or crispy fried spring rolls, or as a tasty dessert after your meal.

There’s so much texture and flavour going on with the sugar-infused kidney beans meeting crushed sweetened mung beans, and the slight chewy pandan hit from the jelly. Crushed ice finishes things off with it’s own distinctive crunch for one refreshingly sweet Vietnamese dessert!

A glass of Che Ba Mau showing all the coloured layers.

What is Chè Ba Màu? 

Whether it goes by the name of Chè Ba Màu, Vietnamese Three Colour Dessert or Three Colour Bean Drink, this sweet dessert is a household staple in Vietnam and a popular drink served in restaurants or by street vendors alike.

This eye-catching dessert is most known for its three bright layers of colour – green agar agar jelly, yellow mung beans and red kidney beans – topped with a silky white coconut milk sauce. It’s usually served in a tall glass with a spoon and a straw.

There is some waiting time involved when making this recipe at home (for the jelly to set and for the mung beans to simmer and soften). But the best part is that once each stage is prepared, you can pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

What You’ll Need

While there are a few layers going on in this Vietnamese dessert, they are made up of pretty simple ingredients. Apart from the beans, you’ll need sugar, coconut milk and cornstarch. Here’s what else you need:

  • Agar Agar Powder -This is similar to gelatine, except it’s extracted from seaweed, which makes this the perfect alternative for vegan jelly. Look for it in Asian grocers or online. You can substitute with regular jelly/jello powder or powdered gelatine if required – just follow the cooking directions on the packet to make.
  • Mung Beans – Also known as moong, this handy bean can be used in savoury and sweet dishes alike. For this recipe we use split mung beans from our local Asian grocer that already have their skins removed.
  • Kidney Beans – We use canned kidney beans (no salt added) to save time, but you can use dried kidney beans instead – if so, you’ll need to soak them overnight. You can also use anko or sweet red bean paste instead for this step.
All the ingredients laid out for Che Ba Mau.

How to make:

The Green Layer (Agar Agar Jelly with Pandan Flavouring)

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the cold water, agar agar powder and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the pandan flavouring. Mix well until bright green. Pour into a shallow dish or container, set aside to cool on your bench for 10 minutes then pop into the fridge for 2 hours.
  2. After 2 hours have passed, turn out the jelly onto a plate and slice into strips or cubes, whichever you prefer.

The Yellow Layer (Sweetened Mung Beans)

  1. Add mung beans and water into a medium saucepan, then bring to a boil on high heat. It will get a light white foam on top – this is totally okay. Once boiling, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Keep boiling, stirring occasionally. Cook until soft and water is absorbed (around 20-30 minutes). When the water starts to evaporate, lower heat and keep stirring so it doesn’t boil over or stick.
    If required, add more water if the beans are not as soft as you’d like them (add 80ml / 1/3 cup at a time). Stir a lot at this stage and keep an eye as the liquid evaporates. Cool for 10 minutes then pop into the fridge.

The Red Layer (Sweetened Kidney Beans)

  1. Add in the beans, sugar and water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook until all the water has evaporated (around 10 minutes), stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. You want the beans to take on the sweetness from the sugar while still keeping their shape. Listen – when they start squeaking, they’re done!

The White Layer (Coconut Sauce)

  1. Add the coconut milk, cornstarch, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and continue to stir for a few more minutes as the sauce starts to thicken. Then remove from heat and allow to cool down. Pop it into the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your dessert!

Serve!

Add red beans, mung bean paste, jelly, crushed ice and coconut milk sauce to a high glass, use a spoon to mix all of the above and enjoy!

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Look for pure agar agar powder with no colour or sugar added. Sometimes it can be hard to tell from looking at the packet, so check the ingredients listed on the back. If you see sugar or artificial colours listed, put it back and try a different brand if possible. Don’t do what we did or you may end up with bright orange vanilla flavour!
  • The coconut sauce may form a a skin if it sits for a while. Scoop this off with a spoon before serving.
  • After you’ve prepared each layer, you can pop it in the fridge until everything else is done and you’re ready to enjoy your Vietnamese rainbow dessert! This is optional of course – only the jelly layer is required to set in the fridge!
  • You can add cashews for extra texture and flavour.

FAQs

Is Che Ba Mau vegan?

Yes, when made with agar agar powder this is a 100% vegan dessert.

Do I have to use agar agar powder?

No, you can substitute with regular jelly/jello or gelatine powder if required. Note that this means the recipe will no longer be vegan.

Do I have to soak the mung beans or kidney beans?

You can avoid soaking the kidney beans by using canned kidney beans, and by cooking the mung beans for longer with more water.

How long do the ingredients last once prepared?

All layers should last about a week when stored in the fridge. Then you can pull them out and assemble into your gorgeous three colour dessert whenever you are ready!

Variations & Substitutes

  • Kidney Beans – Can use pre-made anko or sweet red bean paste instead for this step.
  • Cornstarch – Can be substituted with tapioca flour.
  • Coconut Milk – You can skip the cooking step and simply add sugar to the coconut milk. However, cooking the milk with cornstarch or tapioca flour will result in a lusciously thick, smooth and creamy sauce.
  • Crushed Ice – You can use a blender, ice shaver or snow cone maker to crush your ice. In a pinch, you can do what we did, which was to pop the ice cubes in a thin plastic bag and crush them on the ground or with a mallet.
All the prepared layers for Che Ba Mau.

Want more Vietnamese sweet treats? These are some of our favourites:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

A closeup shot of the layers in Che Ba Mau.

Chè Ba Màu – Vietnamese 3 Colour Dessert

This Vietnamese three colour dessert is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds! Known as Chè Ba Màu, we love its colourful layers of sweet beans, jelly and coconut. It's perfect alongside a piping hot bowl of pho or crispy spring rolls!
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Setting / Cooling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 574kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Equipment

Ingredients

Green Layer:

  • 3.5 g agar agar 1/2 tbsp / 1/2 packet
  • 500 ml water 2 cups
  • 80 g sugar 1/3 cup
  • 1 tsp pandan flavouring

Yellow Layer:

  • 90 g mung beans 1/2 cup (dried, hulled and split)
  • 60 g sugar 1/4 cup
  • 500 ml water 2 cups

Red Layer:

  • 400 g red beans 16oz / approx 2 cups (rinsed thoroughly)
  • 60 g sugar 1/4 cup
  • 80 ml water 1/3 cup

White Layer:

Instructions

The Green Layer (Agar Agar Jelly with Pandan Flavouring)

  • In a medium saucepan, add the cold water, agar agar powder and sugar. Bring to a boil and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the pandan flavouring. Mix well until bright green. Pour into a shallow dish or container, set aside to cool on your bench for 10 minutes then pop into the fridge for 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours have passed, turn out the jelly onto a plate and slice into strips or cubes, whichever you prefer.

The Yellow Layer (Sweetened Mung Beans)

  • Add mung beans and water into a medium saucepan, then bring to a boil on high heat. It will get a light white foam on top – this is totally okay. Once boiling, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Keep boiling, stirring occasionally. Cook until soft and water is absorbed (around 20-30 minutes). When the water starts to evaporate, lower heat and keep stirring so it doesn’t boil over or stick.
  • If required, add more water if the beans are not as soft as you’d like them (add 80ml / 1/3 cup at a time). Stir a lot at this stage and keep an eye as the liquid evaporates. Cool for 10 minutes then pop into the fridge.

The Red Layer (Sweetened Kidney Beans)

  • Add in the beans, sugar and water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook until all the water has evaporated (around 10 minutes), stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. You want the beans to take on the sweetness from the sugar while still keeping their shape. Listen – when they start squeaking, they’re done!

The White Layer (Coconut Sauce)

  • Add the coconut milk, cornstarch, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and continue to stir for a few more minutes as the sauce starts to thicken. Then remove from heat and allow to cool down. Pop it into the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your dessert!

Serve!

  • Add red beans, mung bean paste, jelly, crushed ice and coconut milk sauce to a high glass, use a spoon to mix all of the above and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Tips to get this recipe just right:
  • Kidney Beans – Can use pre-made sweet red bean paste instead for this step.
  • Cornstarch – Can be substituted with tapioca flour.
  • Agar Agar Powder – Look for pure agar agar powder with no colour or sugar added. Sometimes it can be hard to tell from looking at the packet, so check the ingredients listed on the back. If you see sugar or artificial colours listed, put it back and try a different brand if possible. You can substitute with regular jelly/jello powder or powdered gelatine if required – just follow the cooking directions on the packet to make.

Nutrition

Calories: 574kcal | Carbohydrates: 106g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 318mg | Potassium: 814mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 68g | Vitamin A: 26IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 6mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Chè Ba Màu - Vietnamese Three Colour Dessert

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