Rajma masala or spicy red kidney beans curry


Keeping my growing daughter’s dietary needs in mind, I decide to go with a vegetarian protein-packed dish today. Beans, is what pops up. Since we eat Indian home cooked meals most days of the week, I decide to make the quintessential beans dish popular in many a home in North India, Punjab specifically. It’s Rajma masala! Dried red kidney beans cooked with a curry made with onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and spices. It’s comfort food for a Punjabi like me:-). It’s partner is white Basmati rice. Both rajma and rice marry extremely well together, and one cannot isolate one from the other!

It’s healthy, using simple ingredients, found locally in every grocery market these days. My recipe has a slight twist though – This gal from the Punjab, has put on her sombrero 🙂 Since beans are such a staple dish in every Mexican home too, I incorporate ancho chile in my recipe. I would say it is mild, but definitely an underlying element of heat, very slight. And with its deep maroon color, it imparted a great color to the overall dish, just what every rajma masala should look like. Plus, a subtle smoky flavor too. And a few other common ingredients used in Mexican cuisine, like cumin, cinnamon and red chile powder.

If you own a handy pressure cooker, it makes the cooking process much quicker. I always use one especially for cooking lentils and beans. In this dish, the beans need to be well-cooked and very tender. A slow cooker would work too. Otherwise, a Dutch oven on a regular stove top, the cooking process would be longer than a pressure cooker.

For vegetarians, vegans and bean lovers, do go for this dish. I guarantee, you will be left licking your fingers, for more 🙂

Servings 4

Ingredients :

Dried red kidney beans – 1 1/2 cups. I always wash and soak the beans overnight or at least 6 hours. It facilitates the cooking process.

2 large tomatoes

1 onion, sliced

Minced garlic – 2 tsp.

Minced ginger – 1 tsp.

1 dried ancho chile. I prefer to remove the seeds.image

In Indian cooking, it’s the Kashmiri dried red chile which does the work,basically giving color to any curry or dish. One could use it too, if you can’t get your hands on an ancho chile.

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp.

Red chile powder – 1/2 tsp.
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp.

Coriander powder – 2 tsp.

Garam masala powder – 3/4 tsp. I make my own batch at home.IMG_2122


1 small cinnamon stick, a couple each of green cardamoms and cloves.


Roasted cumin powder – 3/4 tsp. I generally roast cumin seeds for a couple of minutes, till they give out a nice aroma. Then grind in a spice grinder(I use a small coffee grinder as one, for all my ground home-made masalas, including garam masala).

Oil, any cooking oil you use – 2 tbsp.

Salt, to taste.

Heat oil over medium high heat in a pressure cooker, since I used one. Add cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf. Add the onions and sauté till onions turn pinkish to a light golden brown. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for a minute. Remove from heat.


A handy small food processor does the trick here of getting the base of the curry ready  – Add the dried ancho, broken in a few course pieces, tomatoes roughly chopped, the fried onions mixture and purée.



Add it back to the pressure cooker or cooking pot. On medium low, add turmeric, chile powder, cumin powder. Simmer the mixture on low heat for 10 minutes, covered.

image image

Drain the water from the dried beans.

Add the beans and mix well. Add enough water, say 4-5 cups. Add salt. For pressure cooking, cook on high for 1-2 whistles and then lower heat to low and cook for 30 mins. The beans should be cooked and tender.


Sprinkle the garam masala powder, stir and serve with Basmati rice.


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