This is a Punjabi rajma recipe not to be missed!
In my cookbook ‘The Curry Guy‘, I featured a Punjabi rajma recipe that I learned from my good friend, Bob Arora who is the own and chef at Sachins in Newcastle. Together, we cooked the rajma recipe live together at the World Curry Festival in Bradford in 2014. That recipe has been my ‘go to’ rajma recipe for many years but now I have a new rajma for you. You’ll find this one pot, vegetarian curry to be rich, creamy and out of this world delicious. The homestyle rajma ticks all the boxes for what makes a great curry and is comfort food at its best.
What is Rajma?
Rajma is a vegetarian bean curry that is hugely popular in the Punjabi region of northern India and Pakistan. The word ‘rajma’ means kidney bean in Punjabi and Hindi and a rajma curry is a vegetarian curry made with, you guessed it… kidney beans.
You might also see rajma curries at restaurants called rajma masala which is the same thing… a kidney bean curry in a rich gravy.
How I got this rajma recipe…
Caroline and I were visiting our son and his girlfriend at their home in Stanley, near Leeds. We went out to the pub and after a few drinks, struck up a conversation with Inder whose wife had started a hugely popular Punjabi takeaway business, Reena’s Indian Kitchen, a few years earlier.
He insisted that we needed to try his wife’s cooking. We ordered a takeaway the following weekend and it was amazing.
I wanted to help spread the word about her delicious homestyle Punjabi food and asked Reena if I could have a couple of recipes for a cookbook I’m writing. She sent me three delicious recipes and this rajma recipe is one of them. Watch this space, I’ll be posting the others here soon too.
Which kidney beans to use for this rajma recipe?
Kidney beans come in several varieties. The dark maroon beans you find at the shops in tins (cans) are just one of them and are the most common.
Visit any Indian grocer and you are likely to find the other varieties on the shelves too. You’ll find large and small kidney beans. Some are two toned with streaks of white through them and there is also a rare black kidney bean that is worth a try.
You can use any variety of kidney bean for this rajma recipe or a combination of a few.
What is best, dried or tinned kidney beans?
Although tinned (canned) kidney beans are convenient, you will get better results if you purchase dried beans. Doing so will give you a nicer texture and flavour. You can also use the cooking liquid to make the masala sauce of this rajma recipe instead of just water.
This rajma recipe deserves the best, so used dried beans if time permits.
How are dried kidney beans prepared?
Although it takes some time to prepare them, it’s really easy. First, you need to wash the dried beans in a couple changes of water. Then cover them with fresh water to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Once soaked, it’s time to cook them. This can be done in a pan on your stove or in a pressure cooker which is much faster. I use an Instant Pot to cook mine in no time.
Cooking the beans in a pan: Cover the soaked beans in sufficient water in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are soft. Set aside until ready to use or place in the fridge for up to 3 days. Don’t throw the cooking liquid away as it will take this rajma recipe up a level or two!
Cooking the beans in an electric pressure cooker: As a general rule of thumb, cook one part dried beans with 3 1/2 parts water. So for this recipe you will need 1 1/2 cups beans and 5 1/4 cups water. Place the beans and water in your electric pressure cooker and pressure cook on high for 45 minutes. Then allow to continue cooking while the pressure naturally releases. Then release the remaining pressure. Done!
Pro Cooking Tips…
- Soak your beans overnight: Although some recipes out there say that you don’t need to soak the beans if you are pressure cooking them, I have found that it is best to soak them, regardless of if you are preparing this rajma recipe on the stove or in a pressure cooker. The beans turn softer and are nicer to eat as well as digest.
- Don’t rush the cooking of the beans: If using dried kidney beans, it is essential that you cook them long and slow for best results. There’s no point rushing this process! This rajma recipe will get you fantastic results but only if the beans are deliciously tender.
- Use the cooking liquid in your rajma curry: One of the reasons I insist on using dried beans is the cooking liquid you get from the process of doing so. You just don’t get that from a tin (can). You will find that this rajma recipe tastes just as good as those at the best Punjabi restaurants if you do.
Pro Flavour tips…
- Use ghee: Punjabi food is famous for its use of ghee and this rajma recipe is no exception. Using ghee gives the curry a mouthwatering buttery flavour that when stirred into the thick tomato sauce just plain gets it! If you are vegan, you can of course use oil or even a vegan ghee such as Better Ghee.
- Taste this rajma recipe before serving: It is so important that you taste the finished dish before serving. Only by tasting it can you decide if it needs to be spiced up with more chilli powder or seasoned with more salt, for example. Tasting is a good way to ensure you serve the perfect rajma masala!
- Serve the finished rajma with quartered lemons: Punjabi dishes offer the perfect combination of spicy, sweet, savoury and sour. The ingredients that give you the sweet, spicy and savoury flavours are all in this recipe. There is a bit of tart flavouring from the tomatoes but a good squeeze of lemon juice at the table really takes it all up a level.
Rajma recipe in photos…
Here are a few other recipes you might like to try.
Onion Bhaji Curry This one is so good! If you like onion bhajis, you’ll love this.
Aloo gobi – The perfect side for this rajma masala!
Sri Lankan Butternut Squash Curry – This is one I learned out in Sri Lanka. It is really easy to prepare.
- 1.5 cups of dried red kidney beans soaked overnight or 2 tins (cans)
- 3 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 white onions, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
- 2 green bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
- 2 tsp tomato puree
- 125ml (1⁄2 cup) unseasoned tomato passata
- 1⁄2 tsp Kashmir chilli powder (more or less to taste)
- 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- Couple Pinches of Kasturi Methi (Dried Fenugreek)
- Salt to taste
- 1⁄4 tsp garam masala
- 3 tbsp fresh coriander (cilantro) to garnish
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When visibly hot, add the cumin seeds and stir them into the oil for about 30 seconds. Add the chopped onions and fry for about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste along with the chopped chillies.
- Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, lifting the lid every minute to give it all a good stir.
- Now add the , chilli powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander and stir these spices into the onion mixture.
- Simmer for another 5 minutes adding a drop of water if needed so that you don’t burn the spices.
- Add the tomato puree and passata and continue simmering until oil bubbles separate and rise to the top.
- Allow to cool some and then blend to a smooth and medium thick sauce using a stick blender or countertop blender.
- Bring this thick sauce to a simmer in the pan and then add the pre-cooked or tinned (canned) kidney beans and simmer over a low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, adding a little water to achieve the sauce consistency you prefer.
- To finish, add the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) to the sauce by rubbing it between your fingers. Stir it in and season with salt to taste.
- Continue simmering over a low heat for another 5 minutes. Sprinkle the garam masala over the top and garnish with the chopped coriander to serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 151Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 228mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 7gSugar: 5gProtein: 8g
I hope you enjoy this homestyle Punjabi rajma recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.