The Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Masala)

Rajma curry or rajma masala. Indian food curry.
Copyright: rakeshpicholiya

Kidney beans are a super pulse for cooking with and whilst we might think of them as a food for chilli con carne and other Mexican dishes, Indian cuisine has also made great use of them in a simple curry which is the Rajma Masala. The classic recipe which was passed to me by the top Indian restaurant in Monmouth is:-

Ingredients For Rajma Masala: 

  • 1 can of cooked kidney beans otherwise it can be a cup of dried kidney beans, soaked in water for at least 6 hours and drained. Incidentally these will be cooked and the cooking water is used for the sauce.
  • 2 tbsp of rice bran oil where 1 tbsp is used at various times If this is unavailable then rapeseed oil will also work well
  • 1 chopped medium red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 green cardamom
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon
  • a half can of Italian tomatoes 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne or chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • (option) 1/2 tsp celery powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 3 tbsp minced coriander or cilantro as the garnish


  1. Cook the kidney beans from the can or if soaked to just soften them. Reserve the cooking water for later so minimise the cooking water. This is to become the base for the dish.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed pan, add 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil. Add the onions and garlic, and spices such as  cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom too and allow the onion to soften by gently frying. Allow the onion to brown slightly and then remove all from the heat.
  3. Add the whole mixture to a food processor with a grinder in place and pulse until a paste is produced. If a food processor is not available, simply pound in a pestle and mortar and for the really lazy, just mix as thoroughly as possible.
  4. Add another tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan (not cleaned) and return the mixture for cooking. Add the remaining spices such as cayenne or chili, cumin, coriander and turmeric.
  5. Cook slowly for a few minutes so that the whole spice mixture becomes fragrant.
  6. Pout the tomato puree into the mixture and cook for a just a few minutes until a soft red mass is created.
  7. Add the kidney beans, the cooking water and a pinch of salt. About 1.5 to 2 cups should be needed to create a slightly watery mixture with the beans.
  8. Simmer the beans to pick up all the glorious flavours until the sauce thickens.
  9. Serve from the pan. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve with basmati rice.

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