Rajma Masala (indian red kidney beans curry) is a dish native to Northern India, but is one of the more popular and loved dishes across the country. Because there are few things as comforting and hearty as a plate of Rajma Chawal.
And so in this rajma recipe I have shared the ingredients and the instructions to make this rich, creamy, tangy and spicy curry at home, so that you can feast on this delicious delight any time you want.
That being said, like most Indian dishes, there are many ways Rajma Masala is made, with variations not only in taste, but texture and consistency too. Which is why, I have shared some known modifications and variations in the notes, so that you can mold this recipe to suit your preferences.
But essentially Rajma curry is made by simmering soaked and boiled rajma/kidney beans in a rich, creamy onion and tomato based curry, along with select spices and herbs to bring out the delicious, hearty flavor of this dish.
This might sound like more work than it really is, but like you will see in the recipe, this dish is pretty simple and easy to make, and you can always double batch and store this.
In-fact, I’d highly recommend doing that, as this is one of those dishes that taste better the day after it is made, once the rajma beans have had the chance to sit in the curry, and absorb all the flavourful spices.
Moreover, this is one curry that goes equally well with roti, naan, and/or plain steamed rice. So take your pick, and pair it with your favorite kind of indian flatbread or rice, and enjoy!
How to Make Rajma
1. Soak uncooked rajma beans in water overnight – for at-least 6-8 hours.
2. Drain all the excess water in the morning & pressure cook the rajma beans with fresh water for 4 whistles.
The goal is to get rajma beans soft enough that they will not have a bite, and will melt in your mouth instead. So after pressure cooking, the rajma beans must be soft and mushy when pressed but otherwise still hold form. If this means 5 or more whistles in your pressure cooker, then adjust accordingly. But usually 4 is good enough.
3. Set the pressure cooked rajma beans aside, retaining the water in which the beans were cooked, as we’ll need it for the curry.
4. Then in a pan, heat up a little oil, add the chopped onions and salt, and saute till the onions start turning light golden brown.
5. Next add the ginger garlic paste, mix well, and saute for 2-3 minutes just until the paste loses the raw flavor.
6. Then add the masalas, which include rajma masala, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder & chilli powder. Mix well and saute for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. If required, sprinkle some water to avoid the masalas from burning.
Some people prefer to only add rajma masala, which is what I prefer too, when it’s homemade rajma masala. But when I am using store-bought masala, I always add additional spice powders to suit our palate. But they are completely optional.
7. Finally, add the chopped tomatoes, mix well, and saute on medium low flame, till you see the oil leave the sides. Then turn off the gas, and let the onion tomato spice mix cool for a bit.
8. Once the spice mix has cooled down, it’s time to puree it in a blender, along with a little water, and a few spoons of rajma beans, till you get a smooth paste like consistency.
Here adding the rajma beans in the mixie is optional. But it’s something I’ve picked from my mom, that I always do. Especially whenever I am making curries using different types of beans.
I always add a little of whichever beans I am using in the masala puree to kind of ‘marry’ the beans with the curry, so that it all comes together better. It also makes the curry more creamier.
9. Once the puree is ready – pour it into a pan. And to this pan, add the boiled rajma beans along with the retained water, some more fresh water, depending on the consistency you desire, and mix well. At this point also taste for salt, and adjust accordingly.
10. Finally add chopped coriander leaves & a little kasoori methi, and mix well.
11. Then let the rajma curry simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring intermittently.
The Rajma Masala is now ready to serve with roti / naan or rice.
Pro Tip: This is one of those dishes that taste better the next day, once the beans have had a chance to sit in the curry and absorb all the flavorful spices. So it makes a good candidate for make-ahead meals for the week.
1. I have pureed the onion tomato base, but this is completely optional. If you prefer a more chunkier texture, you can choose not to puree it, and add the boiled rajma to the onion tomato spice mix instead. Some even grate in the onion and use tomato puree instead of fresh tomatoes. So you can adapt the texture to your preference.
2. Adjust the spices to suit your taste buds. Like I mentioned above, I never add additional spice powders when I use homemade rajma masala. But I always complement with additional spice powders when I use store-bought rajma masala. Also you’ll need to adjust the spice level based on the sourness of the tomatoes you are using.
Tips to make Good Rajma Masala
1. Check packaging date of beans. It’s best to use newer stock of red kidney beans. Look for the packaging date, and avoid anything that was packaged over 6 months ago. Fresher beans cook better and more evenly.
2. Ensure to soak the rajma beans. Soaking the rajma beans unlocks the bioavailability of nutrients and enables quick and even cooking of the beans. Which is why it’s best to pre-soak them, in-spite of the fact that there are ways to make rajma curry even if you forgot to soak the beans (listed below).
3. Cook the rajma beans really well. When the rajma beans are cooked well, they don’t have a bite, and literally melt in your mouth. Which is a hallmark of a great rajma masala.
4. Grind a few boiled rajma beans with the onion tomato base. This will help the beans bind with the curry better, and also make the curry more creamier.
5. Simmer. Simmer. Simmer. Once you have added the boiled rajma beans to the curry base, it’s important to simmer on a low flame for at-least 10-15 minutes. This helps the rajma beans to soak up all the flavor from the curry, making it really delicious.
How to Soften Rajma Quickly if you Forgot to Soak Rajma?
If you forgot to soak Rajma, and you need to make rajma curry, you can use either of these two methods to make almost instant no soak rajma masala.
1. Boil + Power Soak
Boil the rajma beans using a little more than double the amount of water (for ¾ cup rajma beans, use 2 cups water) till there is a proper boil. It might take 7-10 mins on medium flame. Then turn off the gas, cover the pot with a lid, and let the beans power soak in this hot water for 1-2 hours.
The end result would be the same as if you had soaked the beans for 6-8 hours.
The only difference being, I usually drain the water I soak raw rajma beans in. In this case, I do not drain the water, but use as much water is available and add more water if required for pressure cooking.
2. No Soak Method for making Rajma
In this method, you don’t have to soak rajma beans at all. Just pressure cook the rajma beans with a little more than double the amount of water (for ¾ cup rajma beans, use 2 cups water) for longer /more whistles than you would normally do. And then proceed as normal.
For eg, soaked rajma I pressure cook till 4 whistles, and for raw rajma beans, I pressure cook till 6-7 whistles.
That being said, it’s best to use these last minute rajma hacks when you have forgotten to soak the rajma beans instead of making them common practice. Because soaking unlocks the bioavailability of nutrients more.
Using Canned Kidney Beans to Make Rajma
You can use canned kidney beans to make rajma curry. For this particular recipe listed below, you will need 2 cups of canned beans.
But I personally avoid processed stuff when I can, and prefer to soak & cook the beans from scratch because of nutritional value as well as the fact that canned beans make me gassy.
Moreover, this is easy enough to make at home. Soaking requires some advance planning, but you can always try the no-soak method shared above.
More Indian Curry Recipes:
Spicy Kolhapuri Misal Recipe
Mangalorean Shrimp Curry
This recipe has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in 2019.
Rajma Recipe | Easy Rajma Masala | Rajma Chawal
- ¾ cup raw rajma beans / red kidney beans
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 3 cup chopped onions
- 1.5 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 2 tablespoon rajma masala powder
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala powder
- ¾ teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon red chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- ⅓ cup chopped coriander leaves
- 1 teaspoon kasoori methi flakes
- water as required
Rajma Beans Prep
- Soak the uncooked rajma beans in water overnight - for at-least 6-8 hours.
- Drain all the excess water in the morning, rinse well, and pressure cook the rajma beans with a little over double the quantity of water for 4 whistles.
- Set the pressure cooked rajma aside, retaining the water in which the beans were cooked, to use in the curry later.
Making the Masala Base
- In a pan - heat up the oil, add in chopped onions and salt, and mix well. Saute till the onions start turning light golden brown.
- Then add ginger garlic paste, mix well, and saute for 2-3 minutes, just until the paste loses the raw flavor.
- Now it’s time to add the masalas - rajma masala powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder, chilli powder & cumin powder. Mix well and saute for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. If required, sprinkle some water to avoid the masalas from burning.
- Finally, add in the chopped tomatoes, mix well, and saute on medium low flame, till you see the oil leave the sides. Then turn off the gas, and let the onion tomato spice mix cool for a bit.
Pureeing The Masala Base
- Once the spice mix has cooled down, puree it in a blender, along with some fresh water, and a few spoons of boiled rajma beans, till you get a smooth paste like consistency.
Making Rajma Curry
- Once the puree is ready - pour it into a pan. To this pan, add the boiled rajma beans along with the retained water, some more fresh water, and mix well. At this point also taste for salt, and adjust accordingly.
- Finally add chopped coriander leaves & crushed kasoori methi, and mix well.
- Then let the rajma curry simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring intermittently, before turning off the heat.
- The Rajma Masala is now ready to serve with roti / naan or rice.
- If you have forgotten to soak the rajma beans overnight, and need to make this dish really quickly, you can either boil the rajma beans in 2 cups water & let it power soak for 2 hours & proceed as normal. Or you can simply pressure cook raw (unsoaked) rajma beans for a few additional whistles (above the recommended 4 for soaked or power soaked rajma beans). Either of these methods will work in a pinch.
- Boiled rajma beans should mash easily with minimal pressure when pressed by hand but still hold form. This will ensure the rajma beans will not have a bite and will have that melt in mouth quality.
- In this recipe, I have pureed the onion tomato base, but you can skip it if you like a chunkier curry. You can also use chopped onions along with tomato puree. Adapt the texture to your preferences.
- However if you do choose to puree the base, add a few tablespoons of boiled rajma beans while grinding to help the rajma beans bind better with the curry and also make the curry more creamier.
- Adjust spice level to your palate. I always add additional masalas if I am using store bought rajma masala powder. If I am using homemade rajma masala powder, then that’s usually the only spice powder I use.
- If you want to use canned rajma beans, then use 2 cups of canned beans for this recipe.
- This dish is a good candidate to make ahead as it gets tastier a few hours or a day after it is made, once the rajma beans have had a chance to sit in the curry and absorb all the flavors.
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Loved the recipe… Makes it seem really easy.
Thank you. So glad you liked it!
Thanks for sharing this recipe. Love how simple and uncomplicated it it is!
Thanks, Nanditha. I am glad you liked it! 🙂
Just last week I was wondering whether to buy rajma because I love it but hubby doesn’t. And, I haven’t eaten it in ages. So, now that I read your post, I am getting those kidney beans home and making it for myself some day.
Thanks so much, Shan!
Yay, happy eating!
I have no idea why but I never liked Rajma 😐 Your recipe seems simple, Shantala. I would love to try out your version for sure.
P.S: That’s a beautiful pic 🙂
Incidentally I used to not be fond of Rajma for the longest time. As I was generally averse to most squishy pulses. That being said, whenever I (reluctantly) tasted Rajma anywhere, for the most part, I seemed to like it. So I started making it, and now I am a convert.
Hope you try out this version and love it as much as we do!
This looks too yummy 😊
I love rajma. Rajma with basmati rice is comfort food for me since childhood. My kids love it too and it is so good in lunchboxes. For my rajma, I use only Kashmiri rajma which is much more flavourful.
Oh I have to try that one. Though I am not sure we get Kashmiri Rajma beans here. Will keep an eye out for them. Thanks, Rachna!
Sanch @ Sanch Writes
I do like rajma and have made it occasionally. I like how easy it is to make
Yes simple, easy and convenient. And always so comforting!
I love Rajma and make it often at home for my lunch dabba. I use an ever simpler recipe where I boil the onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger for 10 minutes, cool it, make a paste out of it and saute it in oil for a little while, add all the other condiments and add the boiled rajma in it. Works like a charm everytime! 🙂
Yeah, sounds delicious! 😀
Easily one of the top 10 Indian comfort foods especially with rice. Not to mention, especially healthy too.
Yes, I agree. It’s a win, win! 😀
Shantala, that’s a super appetizing image. Till a few years back, rajma chawal was my fav food and my mom would make it on my birthday. Then my daughter came along and she liked this combination so much that she would ask me to make it every week. Result – not only I don’t like it anymore, even my daughter is off this combination. I hope to get back to liking it very soon, because I miss it. For rajma curry, we use small jammu rajma, that’s supposed to be very flavourful. I don’t blend my rajma, but that’s a neat trick.
Oh yeah I know, that’s happened with many dishes for us too. The only thing that I/we don’t tire of is chicken. Fingers crossed it stays that way. 😀
That being said, you are the second person to mention Jammu/Kashmiri rajma beans. I haven’t ever tried them, but I’ll keep an eye out for them now. Thank you!