This Rajma recipe is a lightly spiced, creamy and a delicious Punjabi curry made with kidney beans, onions, tomatoes and spices. This is my mom’s recipe of making this famous and truly restaurant style Punjabi Rajma Masala.
Rajma is the Hindi word for kidney beans. In fact both the beans as well as this curried dish is called as Rajma. Another name for this dish is Rajma Masala – where Rajma refers to the beans and Masala means a spiced gravy.
Rajma masala is a weekend affair at home and a Sunday lunch. This particular rajma recipe made restaurant style goes very well with both steamed rice as well as naan. And when you have rajma and rice, do you need anything else?
In my home, there are no side dishes made on the day when rajma is cooked. Just the melt in the mouth rajma beans in a creamy curry with steamed rice and you have a comforting meal.
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
This rajma recipe follows the traditional and the most common method of making rajma curry. So there are no chances of anything going wrong, if you follow the recipe correctly.
In the recipe, the kidney beans are cooked first which are later added to a sautéed base of spices, onions and tomatoes. This flavorful base is cooked further to a curry or gravy consistency by adding some water and then finished off with some cream.
Adding cream makes for a truly restaurant-style rajma thats tastes so good and which you can serve with Indian flat breads like naan or paratha or roti.
My family loves rajma masala with steamed basmati rice. But even Indian flat breads and jeera rice accompany rajma masala very well.
In Punjabi homes, they often make rajma chawal on weekends where the flavorful rajma curry is served with steamed rice. The word ‘chawal’ stands for rice in Hindi.
How to make Rajma Masala
My detailed step-by-step process will help you in making the best rajma recipe ever. I have cooked the beans in a pressure cooker.
These can be easily cooked in a pan or an Instant pot. In the recipe card below, I have listed the steps of cooking the beans in a pan and Instant pot.
Soaking & cooking rajma
1. Rinse for a couple of times and then soak 1 cup rajma (kidney beans) in enough water overnight or for 8 to 9 hours.
2. Next day discard the soaked water. Drain and rinse the soaked beans for a few times in running water.
3. Again drain all the water and add the rinsed kidney beans in 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. Time of cooking will vary depending on the quality and age of rajma.
5. When the kidney beans are cooking, you can chop 1 large onion (¾ to 1 cup finely chopped onion), 2 large tomatoes (1 cup finely chopped tomatoes) and make the crushed ginger+garlic+green chili paste.
You need to crush or grind 1 inch ginger, 5 to 6 small garlic cloves or 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves & 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.
The rajma beans should be completely cooked. If they are not cooked completely, then pressure cook again adding some water if required for some minutes.
Making the masala
7. Heat 3 tablespoons 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 & 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 sauteing them, for uniform cooking and also so that they don’t get burnt. Take care not to burn them 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 or golden browned.
14. Lower 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, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, a pinch of asafoetida (hing) and ½ teaspoon garam masala powder.
20. Mix again very well.
21. Continue to sauté the whole masala base until the fat starts leaving the sides of masala on a medium-low heat.
22. Use a slotted spoon or a strainer and remove the rajma beans and add them to the masala. You can also strain the rajma first and set it aside. Set the stock (the water in which the kidney beans were cooked) also aside.
23. Stir and sauté for a minute.
Making Rajma Masala
24. Take 2 cups from the stock or a mixture of stock+water and add.
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 rajma masala thickens slightly. The rajma curry should not be watery.
28. Mash a few rajma beans with the spoon. This helps to thicken the rajma curry.
29. Continue to simmer until you get a medium consistency in the curry.
30. Do stir 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. Then add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and 2 to 3 tablespoons cream (low-fat cream). Mix very well & simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If using heavy whipping cream, then just add 1 tablespoon of it.
33. Switch off the heat.
34. Serve rajma masala restaurant-style with steamed basmati rice, jeera rice, roti or paratha or naan or saffron rice. The combination of rajma rice or rajma chawal is quite famous in North India.
You can garnish with some coriander leaves when serving.
- Why to soak kidney beans? It is important to soak the rajma (kidney beans) overnight or for 8 to 9 hours and then cook them really well. Dried beans when soaked become more easy to digest as soaking reduces the phytic acid in them. The phytates present in beans cause indigestion and flatulence. Soaking also helps the beans to cook faster.
- Cooking rajma: While making recipe with kidney beans, they have to be cooked really well. They should melt in your mouth when you bite into them offering no resistance. This is a very crucial and the most overlooked aspect of cooking rajma. Even in restaurants, the beans have a bite in them and this not only ruins the texture in the dish but also affects your stomach.
- Quality of kidney beans: Always buy rajma beans which are new and not old. Older beans take a lot of time to cook and you don’t get the perfect texture in the rajma. I always check the packaging date while buying them and I don’t buy rajma if they are older than 6 months.
- Canned kidney beans: When using canned kidney beans, add them at the step where cooked beans are added. Add fresh water and continue to simmer for some minutes until the consistency thickens. You can use two 15 oz canned kidney beans.
- Gluten-free variation: To make this rajma recipe gluten-free, skip the asafoetida (hing).
- Vegan variation: Instead of butter use oil and skip the cream completely.
Usually Punjabi rajma masala is made with the pinkish colored and striped kidney beans. But you can use the dark red kidney beans.
1 cup of dried kidney beans yields about 3 cups cooked beans. A 15 oz can makes for 1.5 to 1.75 cups of canned beans. Thus you could easily use two 15 oz canned kidney beans in the recipe.
Depending on the quality and freshness of the beans, it can take more or less time to cook. Always avoid aged beans as they do not soften and cook well.
Soak dried kidney beans in hot water for 1 to 2 hours. Cover the bowl when soaking. Later rinse and drain and cook them.
Yes you can use this method. Sometimes due to the acidity of the tomatoes, the rajma beans depending on their freshness may not cook well. But I have tried this way of cooking many times and it works for me when using fresh kidney beans.
Yes you can skip cream.
Yes you can skip kasuri methi.
Of course, you can skip asafoetida. In the Indian cuisine, we generally add asafoetida to lentil or bean dishes as they help in digestion. But in this rajma masala recipe, asafoetida is easily skippable.
Yes you can use canned tomatoes. Use 1 cup of crushed tomatoes.
Instead of mashing the cooked beans, you can take about ¼ cup of the cooked beans and grind or blend it in a grinder or blender with some water to a fine paste. Add this paste to the curry base and simmer. The rajma masala will have a thick consistency.
First soak the kidney beans as usual for 8 to 9 hours. Drain them and rinse them with fresh water. Then in a large pot, take enough water, rajma and salt. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes or 1 hour or more time until the beans are softened.
Yes you can skip butter.
Sauté the spices, onions and tomatoes in the steel insert of the Instant Pot using the sauté button.
Add the soaked and drained kidney beans, water and deglaze. Press the pressure cooker button or the chili button and set the time to 30 minutes at high pressure. Wait for natural release.
After 17 to 20 minutes open the lid. Press cancel button and press the sauté button again. Simmer stirring often until the curry thickens. Mash some beans when simmering to thicken the gravy.
Dal (Lentils) & Legumes
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Rajma Recipe | Rajma Masala
For pressure cooking
- 1 cup rajma – 200 grams (dried kidney beans), any variety
- 3.5 to 4 cups water for pressure cooking
- enough water for soaking rajma
For ginger-garlic-chilli paste
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves – medium-sized
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 to 2 green chillies or 1 to 2 Serrano peppers
- 2 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon oil or 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¾ to 1 cup finely chopped onions or 150 grams onions or 1 large onion
- 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes or 250 grams tomatoes or 3 medium or 2 large tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper or hot paprika
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
- 1.5 to 2 cups rajma stock (the water which was used to cook the beans) or fresh water
- salt as required
- 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) – optional
- 2 to 3 tablespoons low fat cream or half and half or 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream – optional
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves – for garnish, optional
- Rinse and soak the rajma (kidney beans) in enough water overnight or for 8 to 9 hours.
- Next day, discard the water and rinse the beans again in fresh water for a couple of times.
- Drain all the water.
- In a 3 litre pressure cooker, take both the soaked rajma and water.
- Pressure cook on a medium to high flame for 15 to 20 minutes.
- When the rajma is cooking, you can chop the onions, tomatoes etc.
- Crush the ginger, garlic and green chillies in a mortar-pestle to a fine or semi-fine texture. Set aside
- When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid.
- Check if the rajma beans are cooked or not by taking a bite or pressing a few beans.
- If the beans are cooked well set aside or drain the beans. Reserve the stock (water) in which the beans were cooked.
- If the rajma are not cooked completely, then pressure cook again adding some water if required for some minutes.
- Heat oil + butter in another pot or pan on a low heat. Add cumin first and let them crackle & get browned.
- Then add onions and sauté them till they caramelized or golden browned on a medium-low to medium heat.
- Take care not to burn them as this will give bitter tones in the curry.
- Light browning the onions is also alright.
- Keep on stirring the onions while sauteing them, for uniform cooking and also so that they don't get burnt.
- Lower the heat and add the crushed ginger-garlic-chili paste. Stir and sauté for 5 to 10 seconds on a low flame until the raw aroma of the ginger and garlic goes away.
- Add the tomatoes. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes on medium-low to medium heat until the tomatoes become soft.
- Add all the spice powders one by one – turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder, asafoetida (hing) and garam masala powder.
- On a medium-low heat or medium heat stirring often sauté the whole masala mixture until the fat starts leaving the sides of the masala base.
- Using a slotted spoon or a strainer remove the beans and add them to the masala.
- You can also strain the cooked rajma first and set it aside as mentioned above. Set the stock also aside.
- Stir and sauté for a minute.
Making rajma masala
- Take 1.5 to 2 cups from the stock and add to the rajma.
- Add salt and stir the whole curry mixture.
- On a low heat to medium-low heat simmer without a lid for 10 to 12 minutes or more time until the curry thickens slightly. It should not be watery.
- Mash a few rajma beans with the spoon. This helps to thicken the curry.
- When the rajma masala has thickened and comes to the right consistency which is neither too thick nor thin, then add the kasuri methi and cream.
- Stir & simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Switch off the heat.
- Serve rajma masala with steamed basmati rice, jeera rice or naan or roti or paratha. You can garnish with some coriander leaves when serving.
- Soaking kidney beans: Dried beans when soaked become more easy to digest as soaking reduces the phytic acid in them. The phytates present in beans cause indigestion and flatulence. Soaking also helps the beans to cook faster.
- Texture of cooked beans: The rajma beans should be cooked very well and have a melt in the mouth texture. They should not be al dente or just about cooked.
- Quality of kidney beans: Use fresh beans within their shelf-life as older beans take a long time to cook.
- Using canned kidney beans: When replacing with canned kidney beans, add them at the step in the recipe where cooked beans are added. Add fresh water and continue to simmer for some minutes until the consistency thickens. You can add two 15 oz canned kidney beans.
- Gluten-free variation: Omit asafoetida (hing) for a gluten-free recipe.
- Vegan variation: Instead of butter use oil and skip the cream completely.
- Spicing: Spices in the rajma curry can be adjusted as per your taste.
- Cooking beans in a pot or pan: Soak the beans as usual for 8 to 9 hours. Drain them and rinse them with fresh water. In a large pot, add enough water, soaked beans and salt. Cook covered for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or more if required until the beans are softened.
- Note that the approximate nutrition info is for 1 serving of rajma without rice or roti or naan.
- Kidney beans: Dark red kidney beans can be used.
- Ingredients that can be skipped: Asafoetida, dried fenugreek leaves, butter and cream can be skipped completely.
- Canned tomatoes: You can add canned tomatoes instead of fresh. Add 1 cup of crushed tomatoes.
Making Rajma in Instant Pot
- Sauté the spices, onions and tomatoes in the steel insert of the Instant Pot using the sauté button.
- Add the soaked and drained kidney beans, water and deglaze.
- Press the pressure cooker button or the chili button and set the time to 30 minutes at high pressure.
- Wait for natural release. After 17 to 20 minutes open the lid.
- Press cancel button and press the sauté button again.
- Simmer for some minutes stirring often until the curry thickens. Mash some beans when simmering to thicken the gravy.
- Add the cream and dried fenugreek leaves. Mix and serve garnished with some coriander leaves.
Nutrition Info Approximate values
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This recipe post from the archives (October 2013) has been republished and updated on 23 September 2020 with a video and plenty of my expert tips with FAQs.