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This Rajma Masala (or Indian Kidney Bean Curry) is thick and creamy: simmered in a rich tomato sauce with onions, garlic, and ginger. It’s easy to make, healthy, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, but so satisfying that it will please everyone at your dinner table!
Rajma masala was one of my favorite dishes growing up. Made with red kidney beans, tomatoes, and a blend of warm spices like ginger, garlic, cumin, and garam masala – it’s comforting, delicious, and the perfect one-pot meal. It’s a healthy vegetarian Indian recipe!
Whether you are looking for an easy family-friendly dinner recipe or vegetarian comfort food, this Punjabi rajma masala recipe has everything you are looking for. The spices are easily adapted to fit your family’s palate (see my notes below) and the hearty and warmly seasoned chili will never fail to warm you up from the inside out.
🙋♀️ What Is Rajma?
If you’re new to Indian food, think of Rajma as an Indian spiced kidney bean curry or chili. In fact, Rajma in English means kidney bean! Usually served with rice (chawal) or naan, you may also hear this dish called Rajma Chawal.
Coming from Northern India, this Rajma (also known as rajmah, red bean gravy, rāzmā, or lal lobia), has Punjabi origins. It is typically made with raw kidney beans which are soaked and then cooked in an onion-tomato gravy – but to save time I used canned kidney beans in this recipe.
There are so many spice combinations you can use to make Rajma – that recipes can really vary. Some combination of dry mango, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, cardamom, pepper, etc. is typical. I used garam masala in my version of this Punjabi Rajma recipe because it has many of these spices already combined to make this recipe even easier!
Traditionally Rajma has butter, cream, and more added to it – but you don’t need those ingredients to keep this recipe tasting great! My Rajma curry recipe is much healthier than the traditional version, without sacrificing any of the flavor.
✔️ What Are The Different Kinds of Rajma?
There are 3 different types of Rajma (kidney beans). You can substitute any of them in this masala rajma recipe, though the recipe is written to use Jammu Rajma (red kidney beans) since they are the most accessible here in the United States.
- Chitra Rajma: Are tan-colored kidney beans with maroon-colored speckles. These beans are commonly harvested in the Himalayans.
- Jammu Rajma: Or, the common red kidney bean. They are smaller in size, though still rich in iron. They are very popular within Northern India and Nepal.
- Red Rajma: Usually larger than Jammu Rajma, these beans are a dark red color and absorb the flavors of the dish they are in very well.
👩🍳 Why You’ll Love This Rajma Masala Recipe
- Savory & comforting
- Hearty & satisfying
- Adaptable to your taste preferences
- Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free
- Family friendly
- Easy-to-make & quick
- Best rajma recipe ever!
This recipe for Punjabi Rajma is made with basic ingredients that are easily found at any grocery store! Here’s what you need:
- Red Kidney Beans: we will be using canned beans for ease, but I also share directions for using dried beans below.
- Red Onion & Green Bell Peppers: An easy way to add depth of flavor, and the bell peppers contribute a sweet and earthy element to this Indian chili.
- Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes, beef steak tomatoes, or any other type of slicing tomatoes are great for this Rajma with canned beans.
- Garlic & Fresh Ginger: Simmering transforms garlic, a usually pungent spice, into one that provides buttery and lightly sweet notes to the dish. Ginger adds a natural sweetness and a touch of zip to these curried red beans.
- Indian Spices: Namely, cumin seeds, garam masala powder, salt, and freshly ground black pepper create our Rajma masala seasoning powder blend. You can also add a dash of coriander powder for additional flavor.
- Olive Oil: For sauteeing and adding a touch of richness and healthy fats.
- Lemon Juice: Brightens up the flavors of the red bean gravy.
- Cilantro: I love the fresh flavor of cilantro, but if this green herb tastes like soap to you, it can be omitted from the recipe.
🍲 Ingredient Substitutions
- Beans: Though Rajma (or kidney beans) are the best for this Indian kidney bean curry, other types of beans can substitute in a pinch. Navy beans or cannellini beans would be best, though the texture of the curry won’t be as thick and creamy.
- Tomatoes: If you don’t have fresh tomatoes on hand, a can of diced tomatoes can replace them. I don’t recommend tomato puree as that would make this Indian red beans curry too watery.
- Onions: A small white or yellow onion can stand in for the red onion, though the flavor profile will be different and slightly less sweet.
- Olive Oil: Ghee, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil can substitute for the olive oil if needed.
- Spices: Fresh minced garlic and ginger will provide the best flavor, but bottled minced garlic or bottled ginger paste can substitute if needed. I don’t recommend using ginger garlic paste, as you can’t control the quantity of garlic vs. ginger in that combined paste. For other spices, while whole cumin seeds have more flavor, you can also use cumin powder as a substitute. If you can’t find the individual spices in this recipe for Rajma, you can also try a pre-made Rajma masala powder.
🔪 How To Make Rajma Masala
Though this kidney bean curry may appear to be intimidating at first glance, it’s actually pretty simple. Here’s how to make it:
Saute The Veggies: In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the oil, onions, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add The Tomatoes And Seasonings: Add the garlic, tomatoes, ginger, cumin seeds, Garam Masala, lemon pepper, and dried red pepper flakes
Cook The Vegetable Mixture: Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Add The Kidney Beans And Remaining Seasonings: Add the red beans, salt, and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes more.
Thicken The Curry & Serve: To achieve a thicker curry, you can mash some of the kidney beans with a potato masher and simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and let it heat through for 1-2 more minutes. Serve this Indian kidney beans curry warm!
💭 Expert Tips
- Cook the beans until they are well done. They should be slightly mushy in texture but still retain their shape. This will help for mashing the beans if you choose to (see the next point below!).
- Make the recipe ahead of time. Like most curries, this curry red beans recipe actually tastes even better the next day! So if you’re making it for a large group – I’d recommend making it the night before and refrigerating it before heating and serving the next day.
- Use up extra vegetables: This dish is a great way to use up any extra veggies you have in the fridge – just dice them up small and throw them in the pot. Spinach stirred in at the end of cooking would also be tasty!
🍛 How To Make Thick Rajma Masala
If you prefer a thicker and more luscious curry gravy, just mash the beans before adding in the lemon juice/cilantro and let it simmer for an extra 5-10 minutes uncovered on low.
✨ How To Make Rajma Masala In The Instant Pot
The Instant Pot (or another brand of electric pressure cooker) can make this red kidney bean curry even easier to make. Here’s how to make Instant Pot Rajma:
- Saute the onions and peppers in the oil on the Instant Pot’s medium heat saute setting for 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, spices, canned kidney beans (or cooked kidney beans), salt, and pepper to the pot. Stir well and lock on the pressure cooker lid.
- Pressure cook the curry on high for 8 minutes. Quick-release the pressure. Mash the curry with a potato masher if desired and season this red kidney beans curry with lemon juice and cilantro. Enjoy hot!
How To Make This Curry With Dried Beans
Traditionally this recipe is made with dry kidney beans. If you’d rather make this easy rajma recipe in the classic Punjabi style, just rinse 1 cup of dried kidney beans with water and then soak them in water for at least 5-6 hours (but ideally overnight). Rinse the kidney beans well and then use the soaked rajma in the recipe as directed.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
Keep this Rajma Chawal recipe classic and serve it with white rice for a complete meal (Rajma Chawal is basically Indian rice and beans!). To add extra nutrition, however, you can serve it with any combination of:
- Brown rice, basmati rice, jeera rice, quinoa, or vegan biryani (the combination of rajma and rice or quinoa will create a complete protein!)
- Vegan flatbread
- Guyanese roti
- Almond flour tortillas for a gluten free option
- Whole wheat pita bread
- Sprouted wheat tortillas
- Whole wheat naan or regular naan
The Rajma curry is ultra flavorful as-is, though you can also garnish it with minced onion, additional cilantro, and lemon slices before serving if you desire.
📖 Recipe Variations
- Increase the heat of your curry by using more red pepper flakes or red chili powder in the recipe.
- Add additional salt or lemon juice if this vegan curry needs a bit more brightness when taste-testing it.
- For a naturally sweet element to this Indian spiced vegetarian chili, substitute in 1 or 2 sweet red, yellow, or orange peppers for the green pepper.
Storage And Freezing Directions
This vegetarian Indian curry recipe is easily doubled and is perfect for leftovers and freezing so you can enjoy it later.
Leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. They also can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. To reheat the rajma masala from frozen, just defrost it in the microwave on low and serve!
❓ Recipe FAQs
In general, yes it is, but it depends on how you make it! As long as you don’t use too much oil or ghee, rajma masala is a healthy main dish.
Thanks to the kidney beans, this dish is a nutritional powerhouse: each serving has 13 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of protein but only about 250 calories! Kidney beans have plenty of health benefits. They are rich in vitamins and minerals like folate, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, and more. They are also high in fiber and protein, low-glycemic, help keep your blood sugar steady, and are heart-healthy too!
Absolutely! This easy one-pot meal is great for the whole family. It is full of flavor but not overly hot. Depending on how sensitive your kids are to “hot” spices like red chili flakes, you could leave out the red chili flakes + lemon pepper before giving it to your kids, and add it in just for the adult portions.
Rajma is a curry. The main difference between a dal and a curry is that dal is made with dried split peas or lentils, while a curry is made with a protein and / or vegetables in a spiced sauce. Because rajma is made with kidney beans in a spicy tomato based sauce, it is considered to be a curry, not dal.
Rajma masala is a hearty and flavorful dish made with red kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, and spices. It has a rich, creamy texture and a complex flavor that is savory, spicy, earthy, tart, acidic, and slightly sweet. The kidney beans are cooked until they are tender and fall apart, and the spices add a depth of flavor that is both warming and comforting.
🍛 More Vegetarian Indian Recipes!
- Cauliflower Thai Green Curry With Chickpeas
- Vegetable Vindaloo
- Instant Pot Dal Makhani
- Aubergine Curry
- Tandoori Cauliflower
- Chickpea Tikka Masala
- Vegan Chana Masala
- Pav Bhaji
- Indian Rice and Curry Casserole
- Instant Pot Lentil and Cauliflower Curry
- Sweet Potato Curry
Love this vegetarian indian recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating 🌟 in the recipe below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page!
📋 Recipe Card
Rajma Masala (Kidney Bean Curry)
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion diced
- 2 green bell peppers diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tomatoes diced
- 1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- ½ tsp lemon pepper
- ⅛ tsp dried red pepper flakes or to taste
- 3 cups drained kidney beans (2, 15oz cans)
- 1 tsp salt or more to taste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice or to taste
- 3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the oil, onions and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, tomatoes, gingerroot, cumin seeds, Garam Masala, lemon pepper, and dried red pepper flakes
- Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
- Add the beans and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes more.
- To achieve a thicker curry, you can mash some of the kidney beans with a potato masher and simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and let it heat through for 1-2 more minutes.
- Serve warm with a sprouted wheat tortilla or naan on the side. Or serve with brown rice or quinoa.
- If you use dried kidney beans, soak them for at least 5-6 hours (ideally overnight) before cooking.
- Cook the beans until they are well done. They should be slightly mushy in texture but still retain their shape (this will help for mashing the beans if you choose to – see the next point below 🙂 ).
- For a thicker curry, mash the beans before adding in the lemon juice/cilantro and let it simmer for an extra 5-10 minutes uncovered on low.
- Like most curries, this recipe actually tastes even better the next day! So if you’re making it for a large group – I’d recommend making it the night before and refrigerating it before heating and serving the next day.
- You can make a batch of this and freeze it – let the chili come back to room temperature after cooking and place in a freezer safe container. Defrost fully before reheating in the stove.
- This dish is a great way to use up any extra veggies you have in the fridge – just dice them up small and throw them in the pot. Spinach stirred in at the end of cooking would also be tasty!