Rajma Recipe also known as Rajma masala is a North Indian curried dish made with kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, spices and herbs. This delicious dish is easy enough to make for a healthy and hearty meal. Serve it over chawal (rice) or with roti for a protein-packed vegetarian meal. My latest recipe will help you make mouth-melting rajma masala that you can either cook in an Indian pressure cooker or in the Instant pot. Have no pressure cooker? No worries! I have the instructions to cook rajma in a pot or use canned red kidney beans for ease.
Rajma chawal is a favorite combo in many North Indian households where rajma masala is served with chawal (rice). Some onion & lemon wedges on the side is all you need to enjoy this delicious dish.
We Indians eat a lot of legumes regularly as they are the main source of protein and fiber. Skinned lentils, chickpeas, black eyed peas and red kidney beans are some of the most commonly used in curries.
Chole, Dal makhani, Chana masala & rajma masala are some of the popular curries from North Indian Cuisine. You will always find these on the restaurant menus and even made in most North Indian homes regularly.
Rajma is the Indian name for red kidney beans. These are soaked, cooked & then simmered with onions, tomatoes & spices to make the dish, Rajma masala. It is also just referred as rajma. It is the quintessential North Indian dish made on weekends, special occasions, weddings etc.
Rajma are fat free and have many benefits since they are high in fiber, folate and magnesium. High fiber promotes digestive tract health, folate & magnesium makes them a heart healthy food. Considering these benefits red kidney beans are widely eaten in India.
Kinds of Rajma
If you are wondering what kind of Rajma to use, you can use whatever you like but remember the initial cook time changes with each of these. There are basically 4 or even more kinds of rajma, varying in sizes and colors. Red rajma, Chitra rajma, Jammu Rajma and yellow rajma are some of the most commonly available in the Indian stores.
Everyone’s choice is different. A lot of people love chitra rajma because they cook faster. If you begin to take a look at the different kinds of rajma available in the stores, you may easily get confused and not know which one to use.
I prefer to use the red rajma, though they take a little longer to cook, red rajma taste delicious, have a lot of flavor and also makes your gravy thicker.
About This Rajma Masala
There are numerous ways to make rajma masala. In this post I share 2 ways to make the same recipe.
- The traditional way but in a pressure cooker or instant pot and
- The restaurant way
The traditional Punjabi style Rajma masala is made with overnight soaked kidney beans. They are pressure cooked until tender and then simmered with the bhuna masala.
A typical bhuna masala is made with chopped onions, ginger garlic, tomatoes and garam masala. Like most other Indian dishes, traditionally Punjabi rajma is made with chopped onions and chopped tomatoes.
My first method shows you how to make rajma masala the traditional way but in the pressure cooker / IP. If you have never liked a one pot pressure cooked rajma dish because they don’t turn out soft, you got to try my recipe.
At the end you will be surprised at how soft, mouth melting and creamy the rajma turns out. This recipe works in both the Indian stovetop whistling pressure cooker and in the instant pot as well with great results.
It is the fastest and easiest to make as well and the curry/ sauce is delicious.
My second method is to make like in any standard restaurants, rajma curry is made with pureed onions and pureed tomatoes to give a better texture & taste to the dish. Though the method of making is the same as Punjabi rajma, using onions & tomatoes in pureed form makes the entire dish taste so different and good.
Now I can’t say one is better than the other because both are made with the same ingredients but in different methods. The flavors are so good with that you won’t need anything on the side other than chawal (rice).
Follow any method to make this rajma recipe and you will be rewarded with a thick, delicious & flavorful dish that you can serve either with chawal/ plain basmati rice, Jeera rice, roti or naan.
Soak & Prepare Rajma
1. Add 1 cup rajma to a large bowl and rinse them well a few times in lot of water. Pour fresh water and soak for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours. Soaking helps to soft cook them well.
While you soak them , do not cover the bowl completely. Beans need fresh air while they soak, so cover them with a mesh basket or a thin breathable cloth. This prevents Rajma from turning sticky. Discard the water and Rinse them thoroughly before cooking.
How to Make Rajma Masala (Stepwise Photos)
Here I share pictures of making this in the instant pot but also writing the instructions for Indian stovetop cooker. I have tested this recipe in a 3 lts steel cooker and pressure pan for the number of whistles. However if you have a different cooker, you may need to cook for more whistles.
Pressure cooker & Instant pot Method
2. Heat the pressure cooker with 2 tablespoons ghee. As soon as the ghee melts, add 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste and ½ to 1 green chili (optional). Saute on a low heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute without burning. (For the instant pot, you will press the saute button and carry on)
3. Add 1 cup chopped onions (2 medium or 1 large) and sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté until the onions turn golden and about to caramelize.
4. Do not burn and do not skip this step. Caramelized onions impart a wonderful flavor to the dish and they actually dissolve in the curry giving a thicker consistency. This step takes about 5 to 6 mins.
5. Add all the spice powders:
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon red chilli powder (Kashmiri)
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
6. Turn off the heat (stove or instant pot – press cancel) and mix all the spices well. Do not burn them
Make Rajma Masala
7. Add soaked, drained and rinsed rajma along with 2 cups water if cooking in instant pot. For the stove top Indian whistling cooker, pour 2 ¼ cups water. Mix well and deglaze the pot well so any bits of food stuck at the bottom is released.
8. For the Stovetop Indian cooker, cover it and place the weight. Pressure cook for 4 to 5 whistles on a medium heat. Please note that number of whistles may vary depending on your cooker. Meanwhile place your tomato puree bowl/ pot on the stove and cook on a medium heat until it loses the raw flavor. Cover the pot partially as it splatters a bit. This takes about 5 to 6 mins.
Instant pot: Place a trivet inside the instant pot and place your tomato puree bowl over that. Secure the Instant pot with the lid, press the pressure cook button and set the timer to 20 mins.
9. After the pressure cooker is done, wait for the pressure to release naturally. Open the lid and check if the rajma is soft. They will have a melt in the mouth texture. This is what we are looking for. Mash them with a spoon and check. Super soft! Yet they hold their shape well. Now Mash 1 to tbsps of rajma and add it back.
Finish the Dish
10. Mix well and pour the tomato puree and simmer for 2 to 4 mins. You won’t smell the raw tomatoes at all. If you want add more hot water to adjust the consistency. If you are not serving right away it thickens more as it rests and cools down, so if you want it runny, add about ½ to 1 cup boiling hot water & simmer for 1 to 2 mins until. (No cold water here!).
11. Taste test and adjust salt. Add more ¼ to ½ teaspoon garam masala if required along with ½ to 1 tablespoon kasuri methi. Stir and take off from heat.
Garnish rajma masala with chopped coriander leaves and fresh ginger juliennes.
Squeeze some lemon juice over the Rajma and serve with chawal / rice, sliced cucumbers and raw onions.
Rajma with Pureed Onions – Method 2
Cooking Red Kidney Beans
1. Pressure cooker: If cooking directly in the pressure cooker, then pour 2 cups of water along with the rajma and pressure cook for 4 to 5 whistles on a medium flame depending on your cooker.
This time I placed the rajma bowl inside the cooker and pressure cooked for 6 whistles, this is because I didn’t cook them directly in the cooker. Rajma has to be soft cooked yet hold their shape.
To cook in Instant pot – Pour only 1 cups water to the rajma bowl. More water makes mine mushy. Pressure cook on high pressure for 18 to 20 mins. Wait for the pressure to release naturally. (refer notes in the recipe card)
Check if rajma is cooked by pressing it with your thumb and fore finger. It should get mashed easily. You can also bite and check it should not be al dente. If they are al dente then cook them again for 2 more whistles.
2. While the beans pressure cook, prepare the onions and tomatoes. If you want to use chopped onions and chopped tomatoes you can but for a smoother curry base I suggest to puree onions and tomatoes. So this step is optional. To make the onion paste, add 1 large onion (1½ cups chopped) to 2 cups of boiling water. Boil them for 3 to 4 mins. Drain them, cool and make a fine paste in a blender. Set this aside to a bowl.
3. In the same jar, Puree 2 to 3 medium tomatoes (about 1½ cup chopped). The puree has to be smooth. [Tip: I also added 2 tbsps of soft cooked rajma so I get a smooth & thick flavorful curry. This is the secret to my flavorful rajma masala. If you don’t like you may skip it.]
Make Rajma Masala
4. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons ghee or oil in a pan. Add 1 bay leaf and half teaspoon cumin seeds (both are optional). When the cumin sizzles, turn the flame low and add 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste. Saute until a nice aroma comes out.
6. Then add the onion paste or fine chopped onions.
7. Saute until it turns golden. If using chopped onions make sure they become deep golden and begin to caramelize.
8. Add the tomato puree or chopped tomatoes.
9. Add all the spice powders and salt mentioned below.
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ to ¾ red chilli powder
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- 1½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ¾ teaspoon roasted cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
10. Saute the masala until it turns thick and leaves the sides of the pan. The onion tomato masala should be well cooked and not have any raw smell.
11. Then add the soft cooked rajma along with the stock (rajma cooked water).
12. Pour 1 cup more water to bring it to a consistency. Totally I used 3 cups water for the entire recipe. This my vary depending on the other ingredients.
13. Mix well and add 1 tsp ginger juliennes & 1 slit green chilli (both are optional). Cover the pan. Simmer on a low flame for 10 to 15 mins.
14. After 15 to 16 mins, this will be the consistency of rajma masala. They must be tender and soft otherwise pour more water and cook for a little longer.
Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon garam masala, ½ to 1 tablespoon kasuri methi if using and mix well. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons coriander leaves. You can also stir in 2 tbsps. cream. I did not use cream. Taste test at this stage and add more salt if needed.
Serve rajma hot with chawal (rice), onion and lemon wedges.
Choosing Rajma: Always buy your rajma from a store where the stocks move out faster so you get fresher stock of beans. Old beans (aged beans) that have been in the shelves for a long time take longer to cook. Sometimes won’t cook at all. Avoid them at all cost as they also don’t digest well.
However if you want to use up the stock you already have you may brine them in salt or baking soda as mentioned below.
Soaking Rajma: Soak your kidney beans well for 8 to 12 hours. Soaking beans before cooking helps in easy digestion, without making you feel bloated and experience flatulence. This process not only softens the beans cutting down the cook time, but also cooks them to a smoother and creamier texture. Well-cooked rajma are easier to digest.
Cooking without a pressure cooker: Cooking in a pot without a pressure cooker can sometimes be tricky and the soaked beans may take forever to soften and reach the desired texture. So soaking them in a brine gives better results.
Soak 1 cup rajma in water with ¾ teaspoon salt or ¾ teaspoon baking soda. Salt and baking soda act differently but will give you softer and creamier beans when cooked.
Avoid sticky rajma: Rajma tends to become sticky and slimy when soaked for too long or left in the stock for too long after cooking because they haven’t been prepared well. Avoid covering the bowl while soaking, beans need ample amount of air to breath as they soak. Cover with a mesh basket or a thin breathable cloth.
Also rinse them well after soaking and change the water at least once if soaking for longer than 8 hours.
Avoid eating undercooked rajma: Consuming undercooked rajma is extremely dangerous and can lead to health issues. For the same reason you should not be cooking unsoaked rajma.
How to Make Rajma Masala Thick?
Slow cooking for long time to some extent makes the curry thick. I know a lot of people mash the rajma lightly once they are cooked in the masala. But I do not do it as my kids don’t like the mashed rajma. Here are my tips which will help you to get a thick gravy
- Blanch & puree the onions instead of grating or chopping.
- Puree the tomatoes and use. Chopped or grated tomatoes often separate water in the gravy.
- Blend 2 tbsp of soft cooked rajma with little water and add it to the simmering gravy. Or puree them along with tomatoes & use. This will triple the taste, flavor & texture of your rajma masala. You will be surprised at how good your rajma smells & tastes.
- I haven’t used any cream like they do in the restaurants. However you can add a bit towards the end if you like.
To get soft melt in the mouth rajma, they ideally need an 8 hours soak. However if you are short of time soak them in hot boiling water for 5 hours. Well soaked rajma are easier for digestion and help to achieve a creamier and smoother texture.
Pressure cook rajma for 4 to 5 whistles on a medium heat. However it depends on the kind of cooker. Smaller cookers and pressure pans cook faster in about 4 to 5 whistles. Aged, organic & Non-GMO beans take longer to cook. Soak them for about 12 hours so they cook in 4 to 5 whistles.
Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil and pour over 1 cup rajma. Cover and keep aside for 25 mins. Repeat this 3 to 4 times and keep draining the water. Under soaked and under cooked red kidney beans can be potentially toxic. So cook them well after this process.
Drain all of the liquid from the cans. Rinse the rajma well under running water. This helps to get rid of the excess sodium in the canned beans. Make sure they are soft and not al dente. If they are al dente, boil them with fresh water until soft. Make the onion tomato masala and add the canned beans and cook with fresh water.
Rajma Recipe (Punjabi Rajma Masala)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup rajma (dry red kidney beans, 2 – 15 Oz canned beans (3 cups))
- 2 tablespoons ghee (or oil)
- 1 green chilli chopped (optional)
- 1 ½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste (or 1 teaspoon each minced & crushed)
- 1 cup chopped onions (2 medium)
- 1½ cups tomatoes (2 large, chopped & pureed, or 1 cup canned tomato puree)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red chilli powder (Kashmiri or byadgi)
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala (¼ to ½ teaspoon for later)
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt (½ teaspoon more to adjust)
- ½ to 1 tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- Few Ginger juliennes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (fine chopped)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream (Optional)
- Add rajma to a large bowl and rinse them well with water thrice. Drain and soak them in enough water for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours. Do not cover the bowl while you soak. You may spread a thin cotton cloth so the beans don’t turn sticky.
- When you are ready to cook, drain the water and rinse them very well with fresh water at least twice and drain completely.
- Chop the onions finely and puree the tomatoes. Keep them aside.
How to Make Rajma Masala in Pressure cooker
- Add ghee or oil to a pressure cooker. Heat it on a medium heat.
- When the ghee melts, saute ginger garlic and green chilies for a minute just until it begins to smell good.
- Add the chopped onions and sprinkle salt. Saute until the onions turn golden and about to caramelize.
- Turn off the stove. Now add all the spices – red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala and turmeric.
- Mix everything well and add drained rajma and pour 2 ¼ cups water. Mix everything well and loosen any bits of spices or onions stuck at the bottom of the cooker.
- Cover the pressure cooker and cook on a medium heat until you hear 4 to 6 whistles, depending on the kind of pressure cooker and the age of your rajma.
- While the rajma cooks, pour the tomato puree to a small pot or pan and cook it on a medium heat, for 6 to 7 mins until the raw smell disappears completely. Keep the pan slightly covered to prevent splatters. Keep this aside.
- When the pressure in the cooker drops, open the lid and check. Rajma will be fully cooked. To check mash a rajma, it has to be soft and get mashed very well. It should not have a bite to it. If you think they are undercooked, simply cook for a few more whistles.
- Add the cooked tomato puree to the hot rajma and mix well. If required you may add more hot boiling water to adjust the consistency.
- Bring this to a boil and cook for 3 to 4 mins, until it reaches a desired consistency. Taste test and add more salt and garam masala if required. Crush kasuri methi in your hands and sprinkle it. Stir in the cream (optional).
- Garnish rajma masala with chopped coriander leaves and ginger juliennes.
Instant Pot Rajma
- Press Saute button and Pour ghee to the steel insert. Add ginger garlic and chilies. Saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add onions and salt. Saute for about 5 minutes stirring constantly to cook evenly until golden, about to caramelize.
- Add all the spice powders and press cancel. Stir well. Add rajma and pour 2 cups water. Deglaze to release any bits of food stuck at the bottom.
- Place a trivet and keep the bowl of tomato puree over that. Secure the IP with the lid and pressure cook for 20 mins (for softer beans, if you prefer al dente – 18 mins).
- When the pressure drops, open the IP. Rajma is super soft. Pour the tomato puree and cook for 2 to 3 mins on saute mode. If required pour about ½ to ¾ cup water to bring to runny consistency. Taste test and add more salt, ¼ teaspoon garam masala, cream (optional) and crushed kasuri methi. Press cancel.
- Garnish with coriander leaves and ginger juliennes. Serve rajma with chawal. Drizzle some lemon juice.
Rajma Masala in pan or pot
- To Cook Rajma in a pot without cooker: Soak 1 cup rajma in water overnight with ¾ teaspoon salt or ¾ teaspoon baking soda. Rinse well. Pour 3 cups water and bring to a rolling boil. Lower the heat & Cook uncovered until tender and soft. Or alternately use 2 – 15 Oz cans, drain the liquid and rinse them well. Rajma should be soft and has to easily get mashed.
- To Pressure Cook: Pour 2 cups water to overnight soaked rajma and pressure cook until soft, for 4 to 5 whistles. Or in the instant pot for 18 mins.
- Optional – You may boil the diced onions for 3 to 4 minutes and then puree to a smooth paste in a grinder. For the tomato puree you may add 2 tablespoons cooked rajma for a thicker texture. Both these will give you smooth gravy but are optional.
- Heat ghee in a pan or pot. Saute ginger garlic and green chilli for 1 minute, without burning.
- On a medium heat, saute onions with salt until golden and about to get caramelized, but not burnt. Add the spices – chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric.
- Stir well and add tomato puree. Cook on a medium heat stirring constantly until the onion tomato masala thickens and begins to smell aromatic. It should lose the raw flavor of tomatoes.
- Add the rajma along with the stock (rajma cooked water). Pour ¼ to ½ cup more water or as required. Mix well and simmer for 10 to 15 mins, until slightly thick. (If using canned beans, use more water as required to bring it to a consistency).
- Taste test and add more salt, ¼ teaspoon garam masala if required and crushed kasuri methi. Optionally you may stir in cream and garnish with coriander leaves and ginger juliennes. Squeeze some lemon juice. Serve rajma with chawal.
- I haven’t made any changes to the earlier recipe. It was for 3 servings which I converted to 4 so the recipe can be easily scaled down 1/2, to make 2 servings.
- You may add half teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 bay leaf to the tempering before adding the onions to the pot. (from the earlier recipe)
- Ghee imparts a delicious flavor. If you want to make it vegan, use oil.
- You can add 2 to 3 tbsps of cream for a creamy restaurant like taste.
- Saute the onions well until golden to light brown, about to caramelize. This gives a better flavor and texture to the rajma masala. This helps the onions to dissolve in the gravy & gives a thicker taste.
- Pour hot water as required to bring the dish to a consistency you like.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Rajma Recipe first published in November 2015. Republished in June 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
Follow Swasthi’s Recipes