This Rajma recipe is a lightly spicy, creamy and delicious Punjabi curry made with red beans, onions, tomatoes and spices. This is my mother’s recipe for making this famous and truly Punjabi restaurant Rajma Masala.
Rajma is the Hindi word for red beans. In fact, beans along with this curry dish are called Rajma. Another name for this dish is Rajma Masala – where Rajma refers to beans and Masala means spicy sauce.
Rajma masala is a weekend home affair and a Sunday lunch. This particular restaurant-made rajma recipe goes very well with steamed rice and naan. And do you need anything else when you have rajma and rice?
At my house, there are no side dishes prepared on the day the rajma is cooked. Just melt rajma beans in your mouth in a creamy curry with steamed rice and you have a comforting meal.
Why this recipe works
This rajma recipe follows the accepted and most common method of preparing rajma curry. So there is no chance that something will go wrong, if you follow the recipe correctly.
In the recipe, the kidney beans are cooked first, which are then added to a sautéed base of spices, onions and tomatoes. This tasty base is cooked to a curry or gravy consistency by adding water, then finished with cream.
Adding cream makes for a truly restaurant-style rajma that tastes so good and can be served with Indian flatbreads like naan, paratha or roti.
My family love rajma masala with steamed basmati rice. But even Indian flatbreads and jeera rice go very well with rajma masala.
In Punjabi houses, they often make rajma chawal on weekends, where the tasty rajma curry is served with steamed rice. The word “chawal” means rice in Hindi.
Also Read: Matar Paneer (Cooker And Instant Pot)
How to make Rajma Masala
My detailed step-by-step process will help you create the best rajma recipe ever. I cooked the beans in a pressure cooker.
These can be easily cooked in a pot or instant casserole.
Rajma Dipping and Cooking
1. Rinse a few times, then soak 1 cup of rajma (kidney beans) in enough water overnight or for 8-9 hours.
2. The next day, throw away the soaked water. Drain and rinse the soaked beans several times under running water.
3. Drain all the water again and add the rinsed kidney beans to a 3-liter pressure cooker.
4. While stirring, add 3.5 to 4 cups of water. For 18 to 20 whistles or for about 15 to 20 minutes, cook the rajma under pressure. The cooking time will vary depending on the quality and age of the rajma.
5. When the kidney beans are cooking, you can chop 1 large onion (¾ to 1 cup), 2 large tomatoes (1 cup finely chopped tomatoes) and make the crushed garlic + green chili + ginger paste.
You need to crush or grind 1 inch of ginger, 5-6 small garlic cloves or 3-4 medium garlic cloves and 1-2 green chili peppers into a paste in a mortar or small grinder.
6. When the pressure in the pressure cooker stabilizes on its own, open the lid. Check whether the rajma is cooked or not by eating or pressing a bean with your fingers. Cooked beans should not be bitten.
Rajma beans should be fully cooked. If they are not fully cooked, cook again under pressure, adding water if necessary for a few minutes.
Make the masala
7. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter or 2 tablespoons of butter + 1 tablespoon of oil in another pot or pan or kadai. Keep the heat on low or medium-low.
8. First add ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds and let them crackle and brown.
9. Then add the finely chopped onions.
10. Stir and start to sauté over medium-low to medium heat.
11. Continue to stir the onions while sautéing them, for even cooking and also to prevent them from burning. Be careful not to burn them as this will give the rajma curry bitter tones.
12. The light browning of the onions is also very good.
13. Sauté onions until caramelized or golden.
14. Lower the heat and add the crushed ginger-garlic-chili paste.
15. Stir and sauté for 5-10 seconds over low heat or until the raw aroma of ginger and garlic is gone.
16. Add the finely chopped tomatoes.
17. Mix very well.
18. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until tomatoes are tender over medium-low to medium heat.
19. Add all the spice powders one by one – ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon of red pepper powder, 1 teaspoon of coriander powder, a pinch of asafoetida (hing) and ½ teaspoon of garam masala powder.
20. Mix very well again.
21. Continue to sauté the entire masala base until the fat begins to leave the sides of the masala over medium-low heat.
22. Use a slotted spoon or colander and remove the rajma beans and add them to the masala. You can also filter the rajma first and set it aside. Also set the broth (the water in which the kidney beans were cooked) aside.
23. Stir and sauté for one minute.
Make Rajma Masala
24. Take 2 cups of the broth or a mixture of broth + water and add.
25. Add salt as needed.
26. Stir the whole rajma curry mixture.
27. Over low to medium-low heat, simmer uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes or more until the rajma masala thickens slightly. Rajma curry should not be watery.
28. Mash some rajma beans with the spoon. It helps thicken the rajma curry.
29. Until you get a medium consistency, continue to simmer the curry.
30. Stir at intervals while the rajma masala is simmering.
31. The punjabi rajma masala should thicken and the curry should have the right consistency, which is neither too thick nor too thin.
32. Then add 1 teaspoon of crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream (low fat cream). Mix very well and simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute. If you are using heavy whipping cream, just add 1 tbsp.
33. Turn off the heat.
34. Serve rajma masala restaurant-like 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 northern India.
You can garnish with a few cilantro leaves when ready to serve.
- Why soak red beans? It is important to soak rajma (kidney beans) overnight or for 8-9 hours and then cook them very well. Dried beans when soaked become easier to digest because soaking reduces the phytic acid they contain. The phytates found in beans cause indigestion and gas. Soaking also helps the beans cook faster.
- Cooking rajma: When preparing a recipe with kidney beans, they should be very well cooked. They should melt in your mouth when you bite them, offering no resistance. This is a very crucial and most missed aspect of cooking rajma. Even in restaurants, beans are bitten off and it not only ruins the texture of the dish, but also affects your stomach.
- Quality of kidney beans: Always buy rajma beans that are new, not old. Older beans take a long time to cook and you don’t get the perfect texture in rajma. I always check the date of packaging when purchasing them and do not buy a rajma if they are over 6 months old.
- Canned Kidney Beans: When using canned kidney beans, add them at the stage where the cooked beans are added. Add cool water and simmer for a few minutes until the consistency thickens. You can use two 15 oz canned kidney beans.
- Gluten-free variant: For this rajma recipe to be gluten-free, avoid asafoetida (hing).
- Vegan variant: instead of butter, use oil and skip the cream completely.