Rajma – Indian Kidney Bean Curry

Rajma - Indian Kidney Bean Stew

Rajma served with brown rice

So, I have somewhat of a backlog of recipes to post here, for the kind of stupid reason that I prefer to take pictures of my food in natural light – which is to say, daylight – but I’m often not home during the day. EVERYTHING – you dog, your grandma, your significant other, and the curry you just made – looks better in natural light. But I usually cook in the evening, so I have to wait until the next day, or, more often, several days later, to take pictures of my dishes. I currently have a backlog of leftovers in my fridge, waiting to be photographed. Oh, the trials of food blogging. (#firstworldproblems, I know.)

Anyway, I made this stew last week and, as usual, its extreme tastiness did not fail to boggle my mind. This recipe is actually what inspired me to start thinking about dishes in terms of their tastiness-to-simplicity ratio. I never make a recipe twice if it’s not tasty the first time around, but some things that I cook on a regular basis are tastier than others, and this recipe is near the top. Yet it lacks the long, long lists of ingredients and steps that a lot of supremely tasty dishes have. And it’s cheap to boot. Basically, it wins at everything good.

I reeaallllly recommend using home-cooked kidney beans here rather than canned – their cooking broth adds a lot of flavor and texture to the stew. This stew comes out best when you can overcook your beans a bit so that they’re starting to break down, so pressure-cooked beans are ideal. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, mash some of your beans against the side of the pot after they have cooked.) Serve this stew over rice.

I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook, with very few modifications.


Rajma – Indian Kidney Bean Curry (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook)

1 lb. or around 2 cups dried kidney beans, soaked (or two large cans, if you must)
3 Tbsp. vegetable or coconut oil*
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece ginger, minced (tip: if organic, leave the skin on – it does no harm)
2 serranos or other hot green chiles, chopped with seeds removed
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, if in season, diced, OR 1 15.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on how much heat you want
2 Tbsp. dried mango powder (available in Indian markets) OR 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (I actually like the lemon juice better)
1 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

Cook the kidney beans: Place in a large pot, cover by a couple inches of water, and cook for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until done, OR cook in a pressure cooker for 12-15 minutes.

When the kidney beans are nearing done-ness, start the rest of the dish: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion until it turns a reddish-brown color, about 15-20 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one minute. Add the chile, tomatoes, and all spices (not including salt), and cook over medium heat for five minutes. Stir in the cooked kidney beans and enough of their cooking liquid to cover everything, plus the mango powder or lemon juice, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Season with salt, and serve over rice, om nom nom.

*A note on oils: I general substitute coconut oil for vegetable, because of its many health benefits. It is definitely not a neutral-tasting oil, but I think it adds a lovely additional flavor to basically any Indian or Asian dish. (I use olive oil or butter for all other dishes.) It’s SUPER expensive at food co-ops, Whole Foods, etc., but can be bought for a relatively reasonable price through Amazon – this option, for example, is $22 for a HUGE tub of it that should last you several months.


Cost of core ingredients: All primarily organic and purchased at my food co-op.

1 lb. kidney beans @ $2.19/lb.= $2.19
1 large onion: ~$1.20
2 serrano chiles: $0.32
1 15.5 oz. can diced tomatoes: $1.49
1 lemon: $1.06
~3/4 lb. brown rice for serving @ $2.29/lb. = ~$1.72

Total for at least 4 servings: $7.98 + the cost of small amounts of oil, garlic, ginger, all spices, and salt.

Bon Appétit!



Filed under Beans, Gluten-free, Indian, Recipes, Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian

4 responses to “Rajma – Indian Kidney Bean Curry

  1. Wade

    I’ve been putting off steering away from canned beans. I’ve been meaning to, I promise! Your recipe has convinced me this really needs to happen sooner rather than later. Thanks for this!

  2. Pingback: Rajma – Indian Kidney Bean Stew | Fighting Fat, Fighting Fit

  3. Wade

    I tried it out (with a few modifications based on what I had in stock already) and it was delicious! Thanks again for the recipe. I wrote about it here: http://fightingfatfightingfit.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/rajma/
    (Dried beans turned out great! Picked up a pressure cooker and my life was changed 🙂 )

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