Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: June 7, 2010

Last Updated: February 22nd, 20243 Comments on Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

A delicious and super-healthy kidney bean delight from the Punjab region of India – packed with colour, flavour and texture – rajma shawl is everything you need for a filling, flavoursome lunch or dinner.

A bowl of Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

Beans are a personal favourite, and I eat them in so many ways. One of my most favourite beans is the creamy, rich superfood kidney beans. Packed with goodness and filling too!

No other part of the world puts beans and pulses to such magnificent use as India. Much of the population is vegetarian or vegan so it's no surprise that the menu reflects this with thousands of ingenious uses of the humble bean.

Kidney bean curry is called Rajma Chawal and incorporates soft, creamy kidney beans in a tangy, lightly spiced sauce. It's a dish that is happy on its own or as part of a larger Indian feast. It's rich, luxurious and super filling! Oh, and pretty easy to make at home too.

A bowl of Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

What is Rajma (राजमा)?

Rajma, also known as Rajmah, Razma and Lal Lobia eaten all across the Indian sub-continent and particularly enjoyed in Punjab. It consists primarily of kidney beans and can be cooked in a few ways. Rajma is the bean itself, rajma chawal when served with rice and rajma masala when cooked in a more complex sauce.

This recipe is a bit of an amalgamation of all three. I always serve mine with copious amounts of rice as rajma chawal but this recipe focusses on the sauce itself, which is more like rajma masala - confusing? Just know that at its heart it's RAJMA! :)

Why it works

It's so tasty! - The kidney beans are all the protein you need in life. Rajma Chawal is so flavourful and I'm not hungry after a hearty bowl with rice. Super-food delicious.

It's easy - I'm sharing the recipe for this in two ways. One cooking your own kidney beans from dried and another using canned. Great taste either way, two options.

The Ingredients for Rajma Chawal (Indian Kidney Bean Curry)

Stuff you'll need

You can cook this dish using dried or canned kidney beans, there are fewer ingredients if you choose canned, so here are the ingredients if you choose dried (full recipe below)

  • Dried kidney beans - cooking with dried allows for extra Indian flavour to the beans.
  • Spices - Bay leaves, cumin seeds, cardamom, ground cumin, paprika, coriander, cinnamon, chilli powder, curry powder, fennel seeds and dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi).
  • Fresh - garlic, ginger, onion, tomato passata, chilli and yoghurt.

Step by Step

This is the FULL version using dried kidney beans. For the abbreviated how to using canned beans, see the recipe below.

  1. Step 1 - Add dried beans to lots of water along with the cardamom, bay leaves and cumin seeds. No need to soak we're just going to cook them until they're done.
  2. Step 2 - After about 1½-2 hours the beans will be nice and soft. Pick out the cardamom and bay leaves and drain. Keep about 2 cups of the cooking liquid for later.
  3. Step 3 - Heat a little oil and fry the fennel and cinnamon then add the garlic and ginger.
  4. Step 4 - Add the onion to the mix
  5. Step 5 - Tip in all the ground spices and fry briefly
  6. Step 6 - In goes the tomato passata and yoghurt
  7. Step 7 - The sauce simmers for a few minutes until it's thick and concentrated
  8. Step 8 - Tip in the beans and around 1 cup or more of the cooking liquid. We want a creamy texture. Lastly, the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) goes in - for that, I activate the flavour by rubbing the leaves in my palms to make a super-fragrant powder.

That's it! Your rajma masala is ready to go! Serve it with lots of fluffy basmati rice and you'll have yourself rajma chawal!

Cooking dried kidney beans in water with spices and bay leaves
Cooked kidney beans in a pan
Frying garlic and ginger in oil with fennel seeds and cinnamon stick.
Adding onion to a spice and garlic mix
Adding dried spices to a fried onion paste
Adding tomato and yoghurt to a fried spice paste
Simmering a tangy spiced tomato sauce
Adding kidney beans and dried fenugreek leaves to a pan of rajma chawal (kidney bean curry)

Pro Tips to help

  • Use dried kidney beans - I love using dried kidney beans as it gives you the opportunity to inject a little more flavour when you cook them.
  • Use canned kidney beans - You can make a super tasty alternative using canned kidney beans too. Just eliminate the process (and ingredients) for cooking the dried beans. Tip the beans in along with their liquid at the same stage and cook for 10 minutes. You'll need 2 x 15oz cans.

Serving and storing suggestions

Rajma Chawal is Rajma with rice, so be sure to serve it with a bit fluffy pile of basmati. It also pairs well with tangy fruit chutneys, mint chutney or a cooling yoghurt sauce.

  • Refrigeration - rajma will stay fresh in the fridge for a week when stored in an airtight container.
  • Freezing - rajma freezes excellently. Portion into single serves in airtight containers or thick freezer bags. Cook from frozen until piping hot. I also like to add about 1⁄4 cup of water before cooking to avoid the rajma from drying out.

Garnishes

  • As with ANY food, I love to make it look more appealing. We eat with our eyes, so garnishing a dish can really make a difference. I like to add an extra scattering of the dried fenugreek leaves, a scattering of fresh cilantro, thinly sliced red onion and some sliced fresh red chilli. Use whatever garnishes you prefer!
A bowl of Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about Rajma? Let me know in the comments.

Is Rajma Healthy?

Kidney beans are considered a superfood, with an abundance of iron, phosphorus and potassium. They are also high in protein which is a great way to fill up without the calories. A portion of rajma is only around 200 Calories so a good choice for a calorie controlled diet.

What is Rajma?

Rajma means 'kidney beans' - rajma chawal is kidney beans with rice, rajma masala is kidney beans in a curry sauce.

Does Rajma cause gas?

Beans can certainly cause gas, but cooking them properly is essential. Be sure to cook your beans until they're perfectly soft and creamy inside. Test a few within the pan and if you meet any graininess then continue to cook. Cooking times can vary, so be sure to follow the mouth feel rather than the cooking time in a recipe. A properly cooked bean should lessen any gassy issues!

Ready to get cooking?

So, as you can see Rajma is a wonderful, complex marriage of flavour and textures. A splendid vegetarian delight that is one of my most favourite bean dishes in the world. Hope you enjoy!

A bowl of Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)
A bowl of Kofta (meatball) curry drizzled with yoghurt and garnished with chopped cilantro

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A bowl of Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

Rajma Chawal (Kidney Bean Curry)

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Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 220

Ingredients

Using dried kidney Beans

Using canned kidney beans

For the rajma masala sauce

Garnishes

  • 1 small bunch cilantro (optional)
  • red onion slices, fresh chilli (optional)
  • yoghurt to drizzle (optional)

Instructions

To cook the kidney beans

  • Rinse the dried beans and then tip into a pan. Cover with 6 cups water and then add the cumin seeds, bay leaf, cardamom and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook gently for 1½-2 hours or until the beans are soft and creamy.
  • Pick out the beat leaf and cardamom and drain the beans. Retain about 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set aside until you need it.

To use canned kidney beans

  • Open cans and keep in their liquid. Set aside until you need them.

To make the rajma masala sauce

  • In a large saucepan or wok, heat the oil over a medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the fennel seeds and cinnamon stick and sizzle for 10 seconds before adding the ginger and garlic.
    Let this sizzle gently for 1 minute before adding the pureed onion.
  • Stir fry the onion for 4-5 minutes until browned and most of the water from it has evaportated.
  • Add the ground spices and stir into the onion paste then add the tomato passata, yoghurt and then ½ cup water. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced into a thickish paste-like sauce.
  • Add your cooked beans or canned beans and stir in well. If you're using your own cooked beans, add about 1 cup of the cooking liquid to create a thinner, creamy sauce.
    If you're using canned beans, add the whole cans, liquid and all. You might need to add a little water for think things out a little, not more than ½ cup.
  • Season well with salt and pepper and cook gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the fenugreek leaves. Tip: rub the leaves between your palms to make a powder (MORE FLAVOUR!).
    That's it, you're done!
  • Serve with lots of fluffy basmati rice.
  • Garnish your rajma chawal as you like, I like to sprinkle a little more fenugreek leaves, thin red onion slices, chilli slices, cilantro and a little drizzle of yoghurt that I thin out with a touch of milk.

Notes

Storage

  • Refrigeration - rajma will stay fresh in the fridge for a week when stored in an airtight container.
  • Freezing - rajma freezes excellently. Portion into single serves in airtight containers or thick freezer bags. Cook from frozen until piping hot. I also like to add about 1⁄4 cup of water before cooking to avoid the rajma from drying out.

Garnishes

  • As with ANY food, I love to make it look more appealing. We eat with our eyes, so garnishing a dish can really make a difference. I like to add an extra scattering of the dried fenugreek leaves, a scattering of fresh cilantro, thinly sliced red onion and some sliced fresh red chilli. Use whatever garnishes you prefer!

Nutrition

Calories: 220kcal (11%) | Carbohydrates: 40g (13%) | Protein: 15g (30%) | Fat: 1g (2%) | Saturated Fat: 0.2g (1%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Trans Fat: 0.003g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 60mg (3%) | Potassium: 1004mg (29%) | Fiber: 10g (42%) | Sugar: 5g (6%) | Vitamin A: 937IU (19%) | Vitamin C: 11mg (13%) | Calcium: 132mg (13%) | Iron: 5mg (28%)
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