Rajma masala or red kidney bean curry is comforting, delicious and one of the most popular curries from north India.
Here cooked kidney beans or rajma is simmered in a flavorful tomato based gravy and served hot with rice (chawal). Rajma chawal is a favorite combo that is very popular in north India. Vegan and gluten free recipe.
What Is Rajma?
Rajma means kidney beans in India. It is also synonymous to Punjabi rajma masala where cooked kidney beans are simmered in a flavorful gravy made of onions, ginger garlic, tomatoes.
Traditionally the whole rajma masala recipe is made with butter or ghee, but here I have used oil as I did not have butter and ghee handy.
Also unlike few Indian curries this Punjabi rajma recipe does not have cream or cashew paste. The creamy taste comes from rajma itself here.
So it is important to cook the kidney beans very well for this rajma recipe. It should be thoroughly cooked without a bite.
Rajma masala is one among many lentil and legume curry recipes from India. For most of the vegetarians and vegans, lentils and legumes are the source of protein.
At our home we love this rajma masala recipe a lot. Perfectly cooked melt in mouth curry with piping hot rice, comfort food at its best 🙂
I have had my share of best rajma recipe as well as the ones that tasted meh. The best rajma chawal I had was from Delhi, a non descriptive small eatery showed me the taste of authentic rajma masala.
Over the years, I have perfected this recipe to make best homemade rajma masala. The base recipe was from a dated magazine.
You may call this restaurant style rajma recipe but truly this homemade kidney bean curry is so much better than restaurants and takeouts.
I have used instant pot for this recipe, however the recipe is same if you make in a pot on stove top too. Just you have to cook the rajma beforehand. Detailed instructions in recipe card.
This Punjabi Rajma Masala Is
Comforting and satiating
Easy straight forward recipe
Vegan and gluten free
delicious, flavorful and creamy
Rich source of plant based protein.
Wholesome meal for kids.
Is Rajma Good For Health?
Of course, red kidney bean is one of healthiest legumes out there.
They are fat free, rich in fiber, folate and protein.
It is very filling and satiating too. I make many rajma recipe like this rajma masala, kidney bean salad, rajama chaat etc.
Which Rajma Is Suitable For This Recipe?
There are many varieties of red kidney bean available in market. Small and large ones, light and dark colored ones etc.
For this rajma masala recipe use light or dark colored large kidney beans. The smaller ones are Kashmiri rajama or Chitra rajma and we use it in a different recipe.
On this note you can make this Punjabi rajma recipe with both canned and dried red kidney beans. Read on for detailed instructions.
How Long To Soak Rajma Before Cooking?
For any legume curry like chole, rajma recipe or dal makhani it is best to soak the dry legumes for at least 6 hours.
I usually soak the legumes overnight if I am making the this rajma recipe for lunch. As a rule of thumb soak dry legumes anywhere between 8-12 hours for perfectly cooked healthy legumes.
Soaking the legumes helps you absorb the nutrients better and it is light on tummy too.
If you have forgot to soak rajma or if you make it in a short notice you can folow this step but I don’t recommend it often.
So to cook rajma masala instantly, dry roast the dry kidney bean for 4-5 minutes in a heavy pan.
Add the roasted beans to warm water and soak for 2 to 3 hours. After 3 hours drain and proceed with the rajma recipe.
Notes On Cooking Rajma Masala
Use fresh red kidney beans– As a rule of thumb for any legume curry, make sure choose fresh ones. Aged legumes take forever to cook and does not have that flavor or creamy texture
It helps to buy from a trusted source or check the package and buy.
It is best to use raw beans– While canned beans are definitely convenient, for creamy and smooth legume curries start with raw legumes.
Rajma masala is popular for its melt in mouth texture and for that texture soaked and drained raw kidney bean is what you need to use.
Soaked, drained and cooked beans are fresher, mash up easily in a curry and lends a creamy texture. If you are using canned red kidney beans, I have given instructions on how to make as good as soaked ones. Please check.
Cooking rajma– It is very important to cook rajma or kidney bean thoroughly in this recipe. We do not want legumes cooked with a bite. It will totally affect the texture of the curry as well as not good for health, it may cause digestive problems.
So how to know if rajma is cooked properly? try smashing one or two bean with your fingers, if it turns mushy immedietly it is cooked perfectly.
Tips To Make Flavorful Rajma Recipe
On spices used- This curry does not call for a long list of spice powders. All you need are quality garam masala powder, coriander powder, ground turmeric and red chilli powder.
I have used homemade coriander powder to make this Punjabi rajma recipe which makes more flavorful masala. If it is not available use good quality store bought coriander powder.
There is a special spice blend called rajma masala powder in the stores but I have never used it.
Ginger garlic – As we are not using any whole spices in this recipe, the flavor totally relies on coriander powder, garam masala powder and ginger garlic paste
I always use and suggest freshly minced ones in my curry recipes. The flavor is so much better than store bought ginger garlic paste for this rajma recipe.
To make a smooth gravy– make sure to chop the onions and tomatoes very finely and for a smoother gravy. I use a food processor and it chops the onions super fine. You can also grate the onions but do not puree them.
Next tomatoes can be very finely chopped or pureed. Onions and tomatoes form the base of the gray, so do not alter the quantity to get the right taste.
For a super flavorful and smooth rajma recipe make sure to cook the tomato base thoroughly. Usually for the given recipe it takes anywhere around 12-15 minutes for the tomato base to cook properly. I prefer to cook the base in medium low heat for 15 minutes here.
Slow cooking is the key for perfect texture– After the gravy is done and adding rajma, mix well and simmer or slow cook for 15-40 minutes depending on the time availability. Cook time plays a huge role in this rajma recipe.
If you are making this in instant pot as I did, after pressure cooking is done , simmer the curry again in saute mode for 12-15 minutes.
How Do You Thicken Rajma Gravy?
A well made Punjabi rajma recipe is thick and smooth. As we are not adding any cashew paste or cream like many north Indian food, the gravy may turn out a bit thin. To thicken the gravy here are few tips used in authentic methods.
Simmer the curry in low flame after adding kidney beans. This is a very important step. Slow cooking for at least 15 minutes make the curry thick.
While the curry is simmering mash the rajma here and there with the back of ladle to make the curry homologous.
I don’t like to add blended cooked kidney beans t the curry because, instead of making the curry it makes it pasty. Mashing is what lends it a wonderful texture.
If you want are making for special occasions you can 1/4 cup cream or cashew paste for rich smooth thick rajma masala curry.
How To Make One Pot Rajma Recipe?
The recipe shared here is one pot rajma in instant pot. You can use the same recipe to make rajma masala in pressure cooker.
To make rajma in pressure cooker follow the steps exactly as mentioned in recipe card or step by step instruction. Just a pressure cooker base instead of instant pot.
heat oil, saute cumin, onions, ginger garlic and add tomato puree. Mix well and add coriander powder, garam masala powder, turmeric powder and mix well. Cook till oil separates from the tomato puree.
Add soaked and drained kidney beans.After adding the drained kidney beans, mix and add water as mentioned. Pressure cook for 25-40 minutes in medium flame, ignore the whistles. Time depends on the quality of the rajma.
If your rajma is old, it takes more time to cook.
Once done and pressure settles down, open the cooker and check the consistency. Add around 3/4 cup water and simmer the curry for 15-20 minutes.
For traditional method of making rajma recipe check recipe card. I have included detailed instructions there. You will need cooked rajma for this method.
How To Make Rajma With Canned Beans?
If you want use canned kidney beans in this rajma recipe you will need around 2.5 cups worth of canned cooked rajma.
Drain the water thoroughly from the canned beans and rinse well. While the masala is cooking, add 1 .5 cups water to the canned beans and cook in medium flame for 12-15 minutes. This step will make canned beans softer.
Once the masala is ready, drain the cooked rajma and add to the curry.
The best way to serve curry rajma masala is with chawal, that is steamed basamti rice.
We love this masala rajma curry with hot rice, some ghee , raw onions and a mixed veg raita. Easy, delicious an wholesome.
You can also serve this curry roti. I also use the leftover curry which by the tastes wonderful, for making sandwich like channa sandwich.
To make rajma, pick, rinse and soak 1 cup dry rajma or red kidney beans in 4 cup water for 8-12 hours.
Rinse the soaked beans thoroughly multiple times in cold water. By now the beans should have doubled in size.
Place the inner pot in your instant pot and switch it on.
Press saute button and once it displays hot, add 2 tablespoons oil.
Add cumin seeds and fry for few seconds.
Next add 1 cup finely chopped onions and saute for a minute.
Now add minced ginger garlic, slit green chili and sate well. You can add ginger and garlic paste if fresh ones are not available.
Now pour the tomato puree and mix.
Add garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric powder and red chilli powder.
Mix well and saute for 3-4 minutes well.
Now let the tomatoes cook thoroughly. This takes between 12-15 minutes. Once they are well cooked oil will ooze from the sides.
Once the tomatoes are well cooked, add 1/2 cup water to de glaze. Mix well.
Now add drained kidney beans and mix well.
Add 2.5 cups water and salt to taste.
close the instant pot. Cancel saute mode.
Set the pressure valve to seal and press the pressure cooker mode. Set time to 35 minutes.
Once done, release pressure manually. Simmer for 15-20 minutes in saute mode. You can add 1/2 cup to 1 cup water if the curry is very thick.
Add chopped coriander leaves and kasuri methi. Mix well.
Serve rajma with rice for rajma chawal or roti.
Rajma Masala- Kidney Bean Curry
1 CUP = 250 ml
- 1 cup dried red kidney beans / rajma (large) around 2.5 cups cooked or vanned kidney beans
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 cup very finely chopped onions from 2 large onions
- 2.5 cups tomato puree from 4 large tomatoes
- 2 green chilies slit
- 1 inch ginger peeled and minced
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1.5 teaspoons garam masala powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric turmeric powder
- salt to taste
- 2.5 cups water plus 1/2 cup more if needed
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves
- 2 teaspoons crushed kasuri methi
- Pick, rinse and soak 1 cup dry rajma or red kidney beans in 4 cup water for 8-12 hours. Rinse the soaked beans thoroughly multiple times in cold water. By now the beans should have doubled in size.
- Place the inner pot in your instant pot and switch it on. Press saute button and once it displays hot, add 2 tablespoons oil. Add cumin seeds and fry for few seconds.
- Next add 1 cup finely chopped onions and saute for a minute.
- Now add minced ginger garlic, slit green chili and sate well. You can add ginger and garlic paste if fresh ones are not available.
- Now pour the tomato puree and mix.
- Add garam masala, coriander powder, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Mix well and saute for 3-4 minutes well.
- Now let the tomatoes cook thoroughly. This takes between 12-15 minutes. Once they are well cooked oil will ooze from the sides.
- Once the tomatoes are well cooked, add 1/2 cup water to de glaze. Mix well.
- Now add drained kidney beans and mix well. Add 2.5 cups water and salt to taste
- Close the instant pot. Cancel saute mode.
- Set the pressure valve to seal and press the pressure cooker mode. Set time to 35 minutes.
- Once done, release pressure manually. Simmer for 15-20 minutes in saute mode. You can add 1/2 cup to 1 cup water if the curry is very thick.
- Add chopped coriander leaves and kasuri methi. Mix well. Serve rajma with rice for rajma chawal or roti.
Stove Top Instructions
- Cook soaked and drained kidney bean until completely soft. If you press a bean it should not have bite. It takes 20-25 minutes in pressure cooker and 40-50 minutes in a pan. Drain excess water and set the cooked bean aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan for masala
- Add cumin seeds to hot oil and saute for few seconds
- Next add finely chopped onions, ginger and garlic, slit green chilies. Saute for a minute
- Add tomato puree, followed by spice powders. Saute well and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the drained cooke beans and mix well.
- Add around 1 to 1.5 cups water and salt to taste.
- Mix wel and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Add kasuri methi, coriander leaves and miz well. Serve hot.
- You can add 2 teaspoons ghee just before serving for enhanced flavor. If you want to keep the curry vegan, skip ghee though.
- Instead of garam masala powder you can whole spices too. Add 1 bay leaf, 2 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom, 2 cloves, 1/2 inch cinnamon and 1 star anise.
- The recipe can be doubled or tripled.
- To make restaurant style rajma masala, add some cream and fried ginger julienne just before serving.