This Rajma recipe is a lightly spiced, creamy and delicious Punjabi style curry made with protein rich kidney beans, aromatics like onions, ginger, garlic, fragrant spices and tangy tomatoes. My Mom’s recipe for restaurant-style Punjabi Rajma Masala is a staple in our home, and after you try it I’ll bet it becomes one at yours, too. I also share a homestyle one pot Rajma Masala (which many of our readers had requested) that will remind you about the comforting and satisfying Rajma Curry (or Rajma Chawal) made in Punjabi homes.
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What is Rajma
Rajma is the Hindi word for kidney beans. However, this delicious vegetarian curry is so popular that the recipe has become synonymous with the bean. Both the beans themselves and this dish that features them are known as Rajma.
Another name for this yummy and satisfying dish is Rajma Masala, which translates to “red kidney beans in spiced gravy.” Whatever you call it, you’re sure to love these melt-in-your-mouth rajma beans and the creamy spiced gravy that accompanies them.
Let me tell you that are many varieties of kidney beans available in the Indian market. From the deep dark maroon red rajma to the lovely to look at streaked colored bean, the small white colored kidney beans and the unique black rajma. The size of these beans also varies from small to medium to large.
To make these recipes you can choose any variety of rajma that is available to you. But make sure to cook them perfectly as the cooking time will vary with the variety and kind of bean you use. And also remember to presoak them before you begin cooking.
I usually make rajma recipe with the Chitra Rajma variety as you will see in the step-by-step photo guide below. These are cream or light pink colored beans with speckles or streaks of maroon color drawn on them.
In Hindi, the word ‘Chitra’ means a drawing or a picture and hence this name. These are also called Speckled Kidney Beans and have a nice soft melt-in-the-mouth texture once cooked.
Restaurant Style Rajma Recipe
This rajma recipe follows the traditional (and the most common method) of making rajma curry. So long as you follow the recipe, there’s no chance anything will go wrong with this simple and delectable dish.
In this easy rajma recipe, the kidney beans are cooked first and are later added to a sautéed base of spices, onions and tomatoes. I prefer working with dried rajma beans because they are both cheaper than canned and give me the opportunity to cook and season them to my liking.
Moreover I always prefer and recommend to use fresh ingredients for a healthy living. That said, you can also make this recipe using canned beans as a time saver!
The aromatic and flavorful masala base is cooked down to a beautiful gravy consistency by adding some water, and then is finished off with some cream. Adding cream makes for a truly restaurant-style rajma that is decadent enough for company.
Rajma masala is usually a weekend affair that is perfect for a Sunday lunch at home. When I make this filling recipe I stay true to the Punjabi style and don’t bother with any other side dishes.
When you have rajma (red beans) and rice, do you really need anything else? Aside from some naan to soak up all the extra gravy, nothing!
In fact, serving beans with rice creates a full protein, which can sometimes be difficult to achieve as a vegan. So not only is rajma served with rice, tasty and inexpensive, it is also quite healthy and wholesome! So now that you know about this traditional Punjabi dish of rajma recipe, let’s get to cooking it, shall we?
How to Make Rajma Recipe
My detailed step-by-step process will help you in making the best rajma recipe ever. While I have cooked the beans in a pressure cooker, they can also be easily cooked in a pan or an Instant pot. In the recipe card below, I have listed the steps of cooking the beans using all three methods.
Soak and Cook Beans
1. Sort dried beans and discard any misshapen or discolored beans. Rinse a couple of times, and then soak 1 cup rajma (kidney beans) in enough water to cover them.
Soaking should ideally last for 8 to 9 hours, so I usually soak them the night before I cook.
2. Once the beans are well soaked, discard the soaking water. Drain and rinse the soaked beans a few times to remove any leftover grit, if any.
3. Add the rinsed and drained kidney beans to a 3 litre pressure cooker.
4. Add 3.5 to 4 cups of water and stir. Pressure cook the rajma for 18 to 20 whistles (or for about 15 to 20 minutes).
The cook time of your beans will vary depending on their quality and age.
5. While the kidney beans are cooking, prep the following:
- chop 1 large onion (¾ to 1 cup finely chopped onion)
- 2 large tomatoes (1 cup finely chopped tomatoes)
- make the crushed ginger+garlic+green chili paste
For the paste, you need to crush or grind 1 inch ginger, 5 to 6 small garlic cloves (or 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves), and 1 to 2 green chilies to a paste in a mortar-pestle or a small grinder.
6. When the pressure settles down on its own in the cooker, open the lid. Check if the rajma is cooked or not by eating or pressing a bean with your fingers.
The cooked beans should not have a bite to them and softened. The rajma beans should be completely cooked.
If they are not cooked completely, then pressure cook again (adding some water if required) for a few more minutes.
Make Masala Base
7. Heat either 3 tablespoons of butter (or 2 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon oil), in another pot or pan or kadai. Keep the heat to low or medium-low.
8. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds first and let them crackle and get browned.
9. Then add the finely chopped onions.
10. Stir and begin to sauté them on medium-low to medium heat.
11. Keep on stirring the onions while sautéing them. This will ensure both uniform cooking and also that they don’t get burnt.
Take care not to burn the onions, as this will impart bitter tones to the rajma curry.
12. Light browning of the onions is also fine.
13. Sauté the onions till they are caramelized and golden brown.
14. Lower the heat and add the crushed ginger-garlic-chilli paste.
15. Stir and sauté for 5 to 10 seconds on a low heat or until the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
16. Add the finely chopped tomatoes.
17. Mix very well.
18. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the tomatoes become soft on a medium-low to medium heat.
19. Add all the spice powders one by one:
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne pepper or paprika)
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
- ½ teaspoon garam masala powder.
Note: If you are gluten free, be sure to source certified gluten free asafoetida, as many commercial brands process the spice with wheat.
20. Mix again very well.
21. Continue to sauté the whole masala base until the fat starts leaving the sides of the masala on a medium-low heat. The onion tomato masala will thicken, become glossy and start clumping around itself.
22. Use a slotted spoon or a strainer, remove the rajma beans from their cooking liquid and add them to the masala.
23. Stir and sauté for a minute.
Make Rajma Masala
24. Add 2 cups of the fresh water to the pan. If you like then you can also add the cooked rajma stock instead of fresh water.
25. Add salt as required.
26. Stir the whole rajma curry mixture.
27. On a low to medium-low heat, simmer without a lid for 10 to 12 minutes or more until the curry thickens slightly. The rajma curry should not be watery.
28. Mash a few rajma beans with the back of your spoon. This helps to thicken the rajma gravy.
29. Continue to simmer until you get a medium consistency in the curry.
30. Continue stirring at intervals when the rajma masala is simmering.
31. The Punjabi rajma masala has to thicken and the curry has to be of the right consistency, which is neither too thick nor thin.
32. Once the consistency is right, add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and 2 to 3 tablespoons light cream.
If using heavy whipping cream, then just add 1 tablespoon of it. Mix very well and simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Adding cream is optional and you can easily skip it. Addition of cream gives some richness to the gravy making it taste restaurant style and balances the tang from the tomatoes.
33. Turn off the heat.
34. Serve your completed rajma masala with steamed basmati rice, jeera rice, saffron rice, Roti, paratha or naan. The combination of rajma and rice or rajma chawal is quite famous in North India.
You can garnish with some coriander leaves for some fresh flavor and color when serving.