Rajma Masala – Kidney Beans Curry

Rajma Masala aka Kidney Beans Curry is one of the most common and popular curries made in North India.

Kidney beans are cooked with onion, tomatoes and spices in this flavorful vegetarian curry.

Kidney beans curry served in a black bowl garnished with cilantro with a golden color ladle placed on the side of the bowl

Rajma is one of the most popular curries in north India.

In fact I always say that chole, rajma and dal makhani are like the 3 most popular north Indian main course vegetarian recipes. Whenever we would invite someone over for lunch or dinner, mom would definitely make one of these. It was inevitable.

However I was not very fond of rajma growing up, I don’t know why but I preferred it much less compared to the dals and chole and all my veggies. Sarvesh on the other hand is a huge rajma fan. It’s probably one of his favorite dishes (that’s a typical Punjabi right there)!

But my taste buds have changed over the years and now I really enjoy rajma, especially the one I make. I do not like rajma if the curry is on the thinner side.

For me a good rajma should be flavorful with the beans blending in with the spices and the curry should slightly be on the thicker side and have a melt-in-mouth texture.

What is Rajma

Rajma is kidney beans curry which is made by pressure cooking raw kidney beans which are soaked overnight.

The pressure cooked beans are then cooked with onion, tomatoes, ginger-garlic and with spices like coriander, garam masala, chili powder etc.

It’s an extremely popular curry in North India and a true Punjabi meal if often incomplete without it.

Rajma is traditionally vegan (except when you add ghee to it) and also gluten-free. It is also a protein rich curry.

Which Kidney Beans To Use

Now when you go to market, you will see variety of kidney beans.

There are lighter ones and also dark kidney beans. There are also varieties which are smaller in size.

The smaller kidney beans are used in Kashmiri Rajma, which is a different recipe and uses different spices and you can find the recipe in my cookbook.

You can use either one of the light or dark color large kidney beans to make punjabi style rajma. I prefer the darker ones.

Tips To Make a Good Rajma

So, I am going to share some of my tips that I have learned over the years to make a good rajma.

Start with raw beans: yes you can make it with canned beans but a good rajma needs to be made with raw kidney beans.

The beans need to be soaked overnight and then pressure cooked for that soft texture which is a must for rajma.

I am sure most people who grew up around Delhi, would swear by the melt-in-mouth texture of rajma chawal (rajma and rice) being served at several food stalls across the city.

And for that texture, you need to soak the beans, there are no two ways about it.

Grate the onions or finely chop them: for that smooth curry, either grate the onions or really finely chop them.

Also when you use grated onions, it takes a little longer for them to cook for the raw smell to go away, so have patience while cooking them.

Use fresh ginger-garlic paste: again it will make a difference to the final taste of the rajma.

Cook tomatoes for a longer time: do not rush this step. After you add the tomato puree, took the tomatoes in total for around 15 minutes on medium heat before adding the kidney beans to the pan.

I know that might seem like a long time but it’s important.

Simmer on low heat: so after you add the boiled kidney beans to the pan, lower the heat and let the curry simmer for 20 minutes, at the very minimum. If you have time, add an additional 10 minutes.

This simmering on low heat helps in developing the flavors and the curry tastes so much better.

Mash some of the rajma to thicken the curry: while the rajma is simmering, take a spoon (or potato masher) and mash some of the kidney beans (not all) with the back of your spoon.

This thickens the curry, gives it a texture and makes it creamier.

Touch of ghee at end: I love adding a tablespoon of ghee at the end to my rajma. It really brings the flavors together.

Sometimes, I would add fry some ginger julienne in the ghee and add to the rajma.

Tastes even better the next day: curries like rajma and chole taste even better the next day.

The beans absorb the flavors so well overnight and so the taste increases the next day.

rajma served in a copper balti and garnished with cilantro

Using Canned Beans

You can use canned beans here too.

Use around 2.5 cans (around 3.5 to 4 cups of cooked beans) for this recipe.

If using canned beans, skip the step of pressure cooking the beans. Start with making the masala, and then add the beans directly to the pan and then cook as mentioned in the recipe.

Serving Suggestions

In Delhi, rajma is always eaten with rice, popularly known as “rajma-chawal”. In fact if you ask people who are from Delhi (like my husband), half of them will say that rajma-chawal is their favorite dish.

So obviously there cannot be a better combination than plain white rice.

But you can also serve it with quinoa or brown rice.

To make a complete meal with rajma, serve it with a side of aloo gobi or aloo palak.

Making it Vegan

This recipe is all vegan except for the ghee that I added at the end.

Simply skip the ghee to keep this rajma recipe vegan.

Older Recipe: I have updated this recipe to make it simpler. If you guys want to make it the same way as the older recipe shared on the blog, then along with the cumin seeds add a bay leaf, 2-3 green cardamom, 3 black cardamom and 1-inch cinnamon stick.

Use 2 teaspoons rajma masala powder and cut down the coriander powder and garam masala to 1/2 teaspoon each. Rest of the recipe will remain same.

Method

1- Soak kidney beans overnight in 4 cups water. In the morning, drain the water in which the beans were soaked and then transfer them to a pressure cooker.

Add 3.5 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and pressure cook on high heat for 1 whistle, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If using an Instant Pot, pressure cook for around 45 minutes at high pressure with natural pressure release.

2- Beans should be completely soft when done. Set aside.

3- To a pan, add 2 tablespoons oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle.

4- Then add the grated onions and mix.

step by step picture collage of making rajma

5- Cook the onions for around 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often until very light golden in color and there should be no raw smell. Compared to chopped onions (if using chopped, cook for 3-4 minutes only) the grated ones needs to be cooked for a longer time to get rid of the raw smell. Don’t rush the step else curry will have raw onion taste.

Then add ginger-garlic paste and green chili and cook for 1 minute.

6- Add the pureed tomatoes and mix. Cook for 5 minutes.

7- Then add the spices- coriander, turmeric, kashmiri red chili, garam masala and salt.

8- Mix and cook on medium-low heat for around 10 mins until oil oozes out of masala. In total we cooked the tomatoes for around 15 minutes before adding the beans (important step, don’t rush it).

step by step picture collage of making rajma

9- Add the boiled beans along with all the water in which they were boiled. I added additional 1 cup water here. Stir well and set heat to low-medium.

10- Let the curry simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. In between use a potato masher to mash some of the beans. This makes the curry creamier and thickens it.

11- Then after it has simmered for 20 to 30 minutes, add kasuri methi and cilantro. If you want you can also add bit of cream (optional, I did not add).

I also added another 1/2 cup water here as it became quite thick while simmering. You can adjust consistency to preference.

12- Finally add a tablespoon of ghee and mix. Turn off the heat. If you want you can fry some ginger julienne in ghee and then add that to the rajma too.

step by step picture collage of making rajma

Serve rajma masala hot with rice!

Kidney beans curry served in a black bowl garnished with cilantro with a golden color ladle placed on the side of the bowl and a plate of rice in the background

If you’ve tried this Rajma Masala Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in October 2014.

Rajma Masala

Kidney beans curry served in a black bowl garnished with cilantro with a golden color ladle placed on the side of the bowl
Manali
Rajma Masala- kidney beans curry with onion, tomatoes and spices! This is one of the most popular North Indian curries, best enjoyed with rice.
4.93 from 13 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 5
Calories 304 kcal

Ingredients
  

To pressure cook

  • 1.5 cups kidney beans 300 grams, raw beans, soaked in 4 cups water
  • 3.5 cups water 28 oz
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the masala

  • 2 tablespoons oil 30 ml, use oil of choice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup grated onion from 2 medium red onion, around 320 grams
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 green chili chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes pureed, around 560 grams
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1.5 teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1.5 cups water 12 oz, divided
  • 1 tablespoon kasuri methi crushed, dried fenugreek leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon ghee 15 ml

Instructions
 

  • Soak kidney beans overnight in 4 cups water. In the morning, drain the water in which the beans were soaked and then transfer them to a pressure cooker.
  • Add 3.5 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and pressure cook on high heat for 1 whistle, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If using an Instant Pot, pressure cook for around 45 minutes at high pressure with natural pressure release.
    Beans should be completely soft when done. Set aside..
  • To a pan, add 2 tablespoons oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
    Then add the grated onions and mix.
  • Cook the onions for around 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often until very light golden in color and there should be no raw smell. Compared to chopped onions, (if using chopped, cook for 3-4 minutes only) the grated ones needs to be cooked for a longer time to get rid of the raw smell. Don't rush the step else curry will have raw onion taste.
  • Then add ginger-garlic paste and green chili and cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the pureed tomatoes and mix. Cook for 5 minutes.
    Then add the spices- coriander, turmeric, kashmiri red chili, garam masala and salt.
  • Mix and cook on medium-low heat for around 10 mins until oil oozes out of masala. In total we cooked the tomatoes for around 15 minutes before adding the beans (important step, don't rush it).
  • Add the boiled beans along with all the water in which they were boiled. I added additional 1 cup water here. Stir well and set heat to low-medium.
  • Let the curry simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. In between use a potato masher to mash some of the beans. This makes the curry creamier and thickens it.
  • Then after it has simmered for 20 to 30 minutes, add kasuri methi and cilantro. If you want you can also add bit of cream (optional, around 1 tablespoon I did not add).
    I also added another 1/2 cup water here as it became quite thick while simmering. You can adjust consistency to preference.
  • Finally add a tablespoon of ghee and mix. If you want you can fry some ginger julienne in ghee and then add that to the rajma too. Turn off the heat. Serve rajma with rice and enjoy!

Notes

  1. Skip the ghee in the end to make the recipe vegan.
  2. This recipe uses Kashmiri red chili powder which gives the curry a nice color without imparting much heat. 
  3. Older Recipe: I have updated this recipe to make it simpler. If you guys want to make it the same way as the older recipe shared on the blog, then along with the cumin seeds add a bay leaf, 2-3 green cardamom, 3 black cardamom and 1-inch cinnamon stick.
    Use 2 teaspoons rajma masala powder and cut down the coriander powder and garam masala to 1/2 teaspoon each. Rest of the recipe will remain same.

Nutrition

Calories: 304kcalCarbohydrates: 42gProtein: 14gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 881mgPotassium: 1067mgFiber: 11gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1032IUVitamin C: 22mgCalcium: 79mgIron: 5mg
Keyword rajma
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

75 thoughts on “Rajma Masala – Kidney Beans Curry

  1. Yum, this looks so good! My family is from the Mumbai area, so I rarely get to eat rajma. But we went to Delhi one year and in the suite we stayed at, they prepared it for us and it was SO good! It was so nice to get a taste of authentic north Indian food.

    But yeah, I also remember it being thick and good. I will definitely try this recipe when I’m craving it!!

    1. Thanks Karishma! Yeah I can imagine…it’s not that popular in Mumbai & even down south! But Delhi people just love Rajma, so I grew up eating it often 🙂

  2. Thanks for adding step by step pictures. I am horrible at making curries and for some reason I keep trying again and again because I love them. Rajma masala sounds interesting. Both my boys love kidney beans so I might have to give this a try. Fingers crossed that I can make this work 🙂 Is it very spicy? My boys are 1 and 3 and don’t handle heat very well.

    1. Thanks Vanessa! making curries is easy, you only need patience…slow cooking for a longer time enhances the flavor of any curry…that will be my no.1 tip to u! I’m sure you can ace it with little practice! Regarding this recipe…yes it’s little spicy…not very because I am also not fond of very spicy food but it might be a bit too much for kids…you can cut down on all the spices…add half of all the spices that are mentioned and it should be fine 🙂

  3. You are a posting machine, I can’t keep up! I have never tried kidney bean curry but now I shall have to. Thank you for another wonderful recipe Manali!

    1. I have used store bought rajma masala here, (I am assuming you are talking about the rajma masala powder here). I will try to post a recipe for homemade rajma masala!

  4. Hi Manali. I’m looking for a Punjabi Rajma recipe. I have your cookbook and tried the rajma recipe in it and loved it! But because it wasn’t Punjabi flavors, so my hubby wasn’t a fan. But I loved it! Is this one a Punjabi style rajma recipe? I thought I had seen one on the blog a few months back and can’t find that one now.

  5. 5 stars
    You’ve captured the Dilliwalon ki Pasand taste and you’ve written the recipe and instructions so very well! The critical steps (10 minutes to thoroughly cook the tomato mix!) are clearly explained. The garnish at the end is not something I had tried before and it’s beautiful. Thank you and I’ll definitely be trying more of your recipes.

  6. 5 stars
    Hey Manali, i tried this n it came out really well. First time i enjoyed eating rajma. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe is so easy and nice to follow. And the best part is the end result is delicious. I love the way you have explained each step, I followed it to the T and got my desired result – which generally does not happen in most recipes.

  8. Manali, I love all your recipes. Do you have the Rajma recipe for the Instant Pot? Also the ingredients for making my own Rajma
    Masala?
    Your instructions are easy to follow and the flavors are perfect. Thank you so very much!

      1. I received your book yesterday but the Rajma recipe is for Kashmiri Rajma. Have been to the Indian grocery closest to me but they do not carry the Rajma Masala spice mixture. Please can you post how to make my own blend? Your recipes have been spot on for ghar ka khana, so I really want to now make Punjabi Rajma with peeli chawal.
        Thank you and love some of the recipes in the book.

        1. Hi Suzanne, yes I have had better luck with small kidney beans in my Instant Pot and so I opted for a Kashmiri Rajma recipe in the book. Do give it a try, its good 🙂 and thanks for purchasing my book, hope you enjoy the recipes. I promise to post the rajma masala blend soon!

  9. Hi,
    The recipe doesn’t say how much turmeric should be added, can you please update it?
    Also, i would like to thank you for some of your recipes, these ones turned out to be very good and now i make them often:
    Punjabi chhole
    Gobhi corn
    Cabbage and prasth
    Aloo bhujia
    Palak paneer
    Palak tofu
    Kadai paneer

    Gobhi pulao and Mexican rice are. the only ones that didn’t turn out well and I don’t know why 🙁 But I will try them again at some point. Now whenever I want to make something I first check on your website to see if you have a recipe for it and if not, then I go elsewhere.

    1. Hi Upasana, glad to know that you have tried so many recipes successfully! This recipe doesn’t have turmeric, if you want to use, add 1/4 teaspoon of it. And yes do try the mexican rice again, hard to say what went wrong

  10. Hi Manali,

    Want to try this recipe, but don’t have a conventional pressure-cooker, only an Instant Pot. Can you tell me approximately how many minutes I should pressure-cook the kidney beans in an Instant Pot (after overnight soaking), with NP release? Thanks.

    Sridhar

    1. 40 minutes on Bean/Chili mode with NPR. Although I have never had a good experience with kidney beans in IP, somehow they never come to that melt-in-mouth Rajma level consistency or maybe it’s just me because I grew up eating that melt in mouth consistency rajma chawal in Delhi and so IP never reaches that with kidney beans somehow. But give it a try! might work for you!

        1. Hi Manali,

          Instant Pot in Bean/Chili mode for 40 minutes with NPR works (when you soak the kidney beans overnight)!

          Thanks.
          Sridhar

  11. 5 stars
    Hi Manali..I had my first taste of rajma when I visited Delhi…ever since I’m hooked on this delicious dish an I make it once every wk…thk u for sharing ur beautiful recipes

  12. 5 stars
    Well I am still cooking it and in the last step(waiting 20 minutes), but the aroma itself is making me so hungry. Bookmarked. This recipe will surely become a regular now.

  13. Hi Manali, did you change the recipe? I made it a few days ago starting with a sauté of bay leaves black and green cardamom and I don’t see those steps.

    Can you reshare?

    1. I did change it to make it simpler, basic recipe is same only the whole spices and rajma masala powder is missing. I have added a note, please have a look.

    1. Hi Laura, if you could please check the notes. The recipe is same, I have only excluded whole spices n replaced rajma masala powder with regular spices. Please see the notes.

  14. Hi, can you please share the previous recipe as is. I used to rely on it 100% everytime i made rajma masala. Really surprised to see it changed, sad rather.

    1. Can you please read the notes. I have made a note of the older recipe, it’s the same recipe I have just removed the whole spices and used everyday spices in place of rajma powder to make it simpler. Rest the recipe is exactly same. Please read the note, I have given the instruction if you want to make it like before

  15. Hi,
    I did this recipe a few weeks ago and I remember the beans were cooked with tea bags. Is that right, or my memory is failing me? It was delicious !!!
    Thanks!

  16. 5 stars
    I made this folllowing your directions. I am blessed to have lots of the spices because I love Indian curries. This is one of the best dishes I have ever eater

  17. 4 stars
    Manali, I agree that the beans must be cooked to very soft in order to provide the most taste and that you must cook the tomatoes entirely on their own because if you cook them with the beans, the acid from the tomatoes will not allow the beans to soften enough. This incidentally is true for most any bean when you start from dried form, and also for potatoes.

    But I’m not sure you really need a pressure cooker, because I find that if you allow sufficient time for cooking (boiling) they will get soft. Especially if you soak them over night first.

    Anyway, thank you very much for this recipe, and I like your attention to details.

    1. Hello Sam, I am an Indian and this is a north Indian recipe which I grew up eating. You will not find any home in North India making rajma without a pressure cooker. You may not use it and that’s fine but I have only shared an authentic Indian recipe, just like it’s made in Indian homes and that’s never without a pressure cooker. 🙂

  18. Thank you for all your lovely recipes! My hubbie is Punjabi, I’m Swedish, and I’ve now tried four if your dishes, he absolutely adores them! It’s so much fun, and delicious recipes you’ve made! I’m sure my sister in laws will be impressed 😉

    One question, how do you pure your tomatoes? Or do you use pure cans from the store?
    Thanks!! 🙏🏼🙏🏼

    1. You need to soak the beans overnight. Then cook it in a pot on stove-top until they are really soft, this might take an hour (or more) on stove-top. Rest follow the steps as it is

      1. 5 stars
        Thanks for the advice. I actually soaked it for about 24 hours then cooked for 45 minutes in instant pot with natural pressure release. I can’t compare to the traditional Indian version but for me, it was perfect.

        I’m an American with no connection to India, learning how to cook Indian food. The recipes on your site are easy to follow and delicious. Thanks!!

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