Here is a healthy and delicious rajma curry that’s full of flavor and taste. The perfect easy weeknight dinner.
Borrowing from other cultures may just be the single best thing about cooking. Making variations from traditional recipes and adding a new twist to them feels like creating bridges across continents. It’s permission to feel creative while paying homage to the flavors of a region or culture.
This is precisely what I did with this Rajma Curry, a North Indian dish that’s healthy, nutrient-dense (must be my favorite word ever), creamy and satisfying. Rajma is made of kidney beans cooked in a thick tomato sauce infused with spices. The result is a delightful recipe I can’t get enough of.
I’ve previously expressed my love and appreciation of Indian food and this recipe is up there as one of my favorites. The flavors, spices, and aroma are simply heavenly. Add aromatic basmati rice and it is an absolutely perfect dish. The combination of rice and beans is also known as Rajma Chawal.
What Is Rajma Made Of?
Rajma translates directly to kidney beans, the main ingredient in the curry. For my variation, I prefer using tomato puree which is thick and hearty along with coconut milk and lots of anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, ginger, cardamom, curry powder, garam masala, ground coriander, and cumin.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- It’s vegan and gluten-free
- Delicious, rich in fiber, and nutritious
- Is a perfect weeknight healthy dinner
- It requires mainly pantry ingredients and is inexpensive
For Your Shopping List
Tomato Puree – When it comes to canned tomatoes, the choices seem limitless, but I prefer the thickness of tomato puree for this recipe. You can certainly make your own but I opt for canned.
Tomato Paste – Canned tomato paste adds a nice layer of sweetness to the curry.
Coconut Oil – We’ll be using coconut oil for the rajma curry as well as the rice. But if you’re not dairy-free and tolerate ghee, you can use ghee as an alternative.
Kidney Beans – You can use canned kidney beans or for easier digestion, soak and cook your own (refer to FAQs for details).
Coconut Milk – For this recipe, full-fat canned coconut milk is the way to go.
Sweet Onion – yellow or red onion will also work or even leek.
Garlic – 2 large cloves will do.
Fresh Ginger – You can use ground ginger but I feel fresh gives the rajma curry an unmistakable flavor.
Spices – Turmeric, curry powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, garam masala, cardamom
Basmati Rice – If you don’t have basmati rice, jasmine or regular rice will do but I find basmati to be the best rice for curries as it’s fluffier when cooked.
Fresh Cilantro – If you don’t like cilantro you can skip this part but I find it essential in this curry.
How To Make It
Step 1. Under running water, rinse the rice well, at least 3-4 times.
Step 2. Over medium heat add 1 tbsp coconut oil to a medium saucepan along with rinsed rice and cook stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add a pinch of ground cardamom, 1 tsp salt, and 2 cups filtered water. Bring the rice to a boil, cover it with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for at least 5-10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.
Step 3. Meanwhile, preheat a large cast-iron skillet or dutch oven on medium heat. Using a grater, grate onion, garlic, and ginger. Keep the onion separate as it will go in first.
Step 4. Add 1 tbsp coconut oil to the pan along with the onion and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook the onion until it’s soft, slightly caramelized, and fragrant, stirring frequently – about 5-7 minutes.
Step 5. Add the grated garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds. * Tip, you can grate both directly in the pan. Follow with all the spices and cook them for an additional minute.
Step 6. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, beans, coconut milk, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, and simmer on low heat stirring frequently for 30 minutes.
Step 5. When the rajma curry has finished cooking, add 2 rounded tbsp freshly chopped cilantro. Serve right away and if you wish add gluten-free naan.
FAQs + Top Tips
Can You Use Canned Kidney Beans For Rajma Curry?
If you are sensitive to beans you can significantly cut down on the discomfort that so many of us struggle with when eating legumes. Soaking beans for 1-3 days and changing the water often will help to break down the hard-to-digest fibers. Cooking beans low and slow additionally helps to break down fibers, making kidney beans much easier to digest.
But if you are not sensitive to beans and tolerate them well, using canned beans and rinsing them well is perfectly fine.
Can You Cook Kidney Beans In the Instant Pot?
If you’re using soaked kidney beans, you can cook them for 15 minutes on high pressure or 30 minutes if they are unsoaked.
What Is The Best Tomato Sauce For Rajma?
For my version of rajma curry, I always gravitate towards a thicker sauce and find tomato puree to give it the consistency I am after. Though tomato sauce could also work in this case.
Why Should You Grate The Onion And Garlic?
If you cook with ginger often, you’re probably used to grating ginger, but grating onion is a different story. Onion holds a lot of water so be sure to not grate directly over the pot as it will release water straight into the oil. I recommend grating your onion in a separate bowl. And don’t worry, you won’t be able to use it all the onion that’s okay.
As far as the garlic and ginger, you can also buy ginger and garlic paste, but as always, I find the flavor of freshly grated to be much better.
But the reason why the onion, garlic, and ginger are grated in rajma curry is that they incorporate into the sauce much better and create a smoother texture without having chunks of onion in the sauce.
Can You Use Ghee Instead of Coconut Oil?
If you are not lactose intolerant and can handle ghee, then it’s a good alternative and also good for gut health. But if you’re looking to stick with a vegan curry, then I recommend using coconut oil and any mild oil.
How Do You Store Leftovers?
Any leftovers will be okay in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. You can also freeze the curry in freezer bags for longer storage if need be.
Tips For Making The Perfect Rice Every Time
Having a large enough pot is essential so the rice has room to expand. A medium soup pot is ideal for cooking rice. Make sure you rinse the Basmati rice until the water runs clear. Let the rice sit once it’s finished cooking so you get fluffy rice every time.
More Recipes You Might Like
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cans kidney beans or 3 cups cooked kidney beans
- 2.5 cups tomato puree
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 sweet onion, grated
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1" knob fresh ginger, grated
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 3/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
1. Under running water, rinse the rice well, at least 3-4 times.
2. Over medium heat add 1 tbsp coconut oil to a medium saucepan along with rinsed rice and cook stirring continuously for 1 minute. Add a pinch of ground cardamom, 1 tsp salt, and 2 cups filtered water. Bring the rice to a boil, cover it with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for at least 5-10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.
3. Meanwhile, preheat a large cast-iron skillet or dutch oven on medium heat. Using a grater, grate onion, garlic, and ginger. Keep the onion separate as it will go in first.
4. Add 1 tbsp coconut oil to the pan along with the onion and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook the onion until it's soft, slightly caramelized, and fragrant, stirring frequently - about 5-7 minutes.
5. Add the grated garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds (you can grate both directly in the pan). Follow with all the spices and cook them for an additional minute.
6. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, beans, coconut milk, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, and simmer on low heat stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
7. When the rajma curry has finished cooking, add 2 rounded tbsp freshly chopped cilantro. Serve right away with rice and if you wish add gluten-free naan.
1. You can store leftover rajma curry in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
2. You can use ghee instead of coconut oil if you are not lactose intolerant.
3. You can use canned kidney beans or freshly cooked ones. If you struggle with digestion issues refer to the FAQs section for instructions on soaking and cooking beans.