Rajma Masala

In India, rajma refers to “kidney bean,” and in this vegetarian curry, they are swimming in a tomato curry gravy. Try this recipe out–it will sure to please even picky palates.

I prefer to use dry beans when I make any type of legume. Soak them overnight in three times their amount of cold water. They will double in size and cook in far less time than if you were to start dry. If you would rather use canned beans, simply drain and rinse well. They are ready to use as is.

I always use a pressure cooker to make rajma masala. In a regular pot, it would take about 2 hours for the beans to cook down to that melt in your mouth texture I am after. In a pressure cooker, it only takes around 45 minutes.  Like many curried dishes, you splutter the spices in oil for a few seconds before adding onions, which you want to brown to intensify their flavour.

Once the onions are brown, pureed or diced tomatoes are added and simmered for a few minutes. This is to release maximum flavour from the spices and to intensify the tomatoes. Then the legumes and water are added with coriander, turmeric and chili powder. These are in powder form, and adding them in the beginning may burn them.

Then it’s time to seal the cooker and allow the curry to cook under pressure for 45 minutes. If you are using canned beans, there is no need to use a pressure cooker. Simply simmer in a regular covered pot (after the beans and liquid go in) for the same 45 minutes. When using a pressure cooker, I have to stress never to open the lid when the pressure valve is up. This will cause an explosion, so remove from heat and allow the cooker to cool enough that the pressure valve drops. This is when it’s safe to remove the lid.

The final touch to this dish is the salt, a warm sprinkling of garam masala and a bright dose of chopped cilantro. Enjoy this hearty vegetarian curry with a dollop of yogurt and basmati rice or any flat bread. Can you say, mo’ please?


Rajma Masala


  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole green cardamoms (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained & rinsed OR
  • 2 cans (19fl.oz.) red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 4 tomatoes, pureed
  • 2-3 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. In a pressure cooker or regular pot, heat oil until hot.
  2. Add cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamon pods, asafoetida and cumin seeds. Splutter for a few seconds to release flavours.
  3. Add onions and cook for 7-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic & ginger and stir for 30 seconds.
  4. Add pureed tomatoes and cover pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add coriander, turmeric and chili powder, followed by the beans and water. There should be enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch.
  6. Seal cooker or cover pot. Cook under pressure with heat reduced to medium low for 45 minutes. If using a regular pot, simmer for 1-1/2 - 2 hours or until the beans are very soft.
  7. Remove from heat. When pressure cooker is safe to open, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly.
  8. Add cilantro, garam masala and salt to taste. Top with a dollop of yogurt and serve with rice or flat bread. Serves 4-6.