Kidney Beans, Punjabi-style

Rajma with rice tastes good cooked almost any way. However, a great rajma is … well, we couldn’t find the right word.

Until C Y Gopinath said this of one of the best rajmas he’s eaten:

“Inderjit Singh does nothing to his rajma. That’s probably why it tastes so special …

His rajma is the second purest I have ever eaten. The purest was at the home of a schoolmate in Old Delhi decades ago. I remember steaming rice, a clear hot spoonful of ghee, and an overwhelming rajma — medium brown, not submerged under a cavalry of cardamoms, cloves, gingers and garlics, not mashed, not forced to join hands with black dal. The red kidney bean, allowed to speak for itself, emitted a mellow purr, mumbling first but growing in confidence with every mouthful.”

That’s the word: PURE. We’ve been looking for the “purest’” rajma for years now – creamy, nutty, where the bean is allowed to assert itself.

We haven’t achieved that. This recipe adapted from Gopi’s comes close, but it has got a lot to do with the quality of the beans, we think. The kidney beans in India are creamier and tastier than those in the U.S. Even within varieties found in India, the smaller dark red Kashmiri kidney beans just blow the others out of the water.

We’ve found three types of red beans in U.S. grocery stores (Hispanic section)

Left to right: Red Beans (frijoles rojos pequeños), kidney beans, red Salvadorean beans

This recipe works with any of these varieties. Our favourite are the small red beans (frijoles rojos pequeños). Their paste is also used to stuff sweet Chinese dumplings. They cook up really fast and are creamy with a sweet nuttiness. The smaller Salvadorean variety taste closer to red cowpeas (chori).

This rajma has just five ingredients excluding salt and water.

Five-Ingredient RAJMA

1.5 cup dried kidney beans/red beans

Soak 4 hours or overnight. Throw the water, add 3 cups fresh water and pressure cook with salt to taste for 3-4 whistles (depending on the size of bean). Or cook on the stovetop until it holds its shape, but mashes easily between the fingers.

If you have a slow cooker, this is a good place use it. (If using kidney beans, boil them for 15 minutes first. If using red beans, add them directly to the slow cooker)

Fry in 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

3/4 cup chopped red onion (or shallots) until golden.


1/2 cup chopped tomato

and fry until it releases it’s juices and begins to dry up and get really thick.

Add cayenne powder to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

Blend this along with
1/3 cup of the cooked beans and a tablespoon of the bean liquid

to a smooth paste.

Add this to the beans and simmer for another 20 minutes or so. Let it sit for a while to let the flavours come together.

Tastes better the next day.

Gopi cautions:

Do not mash. Do not garnish with coriander. Do not garnish with anything. Do not add garam masala. Do not speak while eating.

We disregarded his ‘do not mash’ dictum, ‘cos we found the gravy to be too watery otherwise. We totally agree with the rest.

More Rajma recipes
Our Spicy Kidney Bean Burgers
Gogji Razma (Kidney Beans with Turnips)
Unusual rajma (kidney bean) snacks

Rajma with black rice, green salad and a mandarin orange.

CLICK: Beans ‘n Lentils
Event Details HERE

Photographer: Bee
Camera: Canon EOS 300D
Lens: 100 mm macro
Shutter speed: 0.25 sec
ISO Speed: 200
F-stop: f/6.3

DEADLINE: May 30, 2008

Red beans and ricely yours,
Louis Armstrong

That’s how the great musician would sign his mail.

Which is your your favourite rajma recipe? If you have a link, please post it in the comments section.

- The Jugalbandits

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  1. This is a cool coincedance. Have jus finished making lunch and whats the menu? tada – no points of guessing – rajma chawal ( of course with little difference..) Will blog abt it some time later. I have an issue with eating mashed up rajma gravy with rice so try to keep it intact.

    And yes I agree that kashmiri kidney beans tastes the best..I searched for it here too..dint get it. Its a good thing that u have made it as plain as possible..Never made it this way..will give it a try.

    But I am curious..How did it taste with wild rice?

    we love black rice (it’s different from wild rice). it doesn’t absorb the gravy like regular rice, but it has a fantastic flavour all on its own. – b.

  2. sunita says:

    I love those petite kidney beans too…some are soaking as I type this…I too tend to mash up a little of the beans for the thicker gravy…which reminds me…i am yet to post my recipe for rajma…thought I had already done it…the pictures are probably languishing somewhere :-(

    Your meal looks so very tempting…love the nuttiness of wild rice :-)

  3. Purnima says:

    Bee, thats unique combo..Rajma wt wild rice!

  4. Vishakha says:

    My army brat DH swears by Anita’s(Mad Tea Party) rajma recipe. Allowed to supplant MIL in the best rajma ever title :-)

  5. Cham says:

    One of the simplest rajma recipe, i ve came across. I ve seen a little pinky version (lighter colour) of Rajma in CA Indian stores…. Should taste the same, i guess…
    I ve made Kidney beans pulaov which is my fav.
    Got 2 think which bean or lentil to click :)

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Ooh, I love rajma. I don’t have a favorite recipe, but I’ll definitely try this one!

  7. Rainee says:

    Perhaps it is ok for variety of bean you have used, but a slow cooker should not be used for kidney beans. Kidney beans sprouts may also be poisonous.

    From the Whole Foods website:
    “Red kidney beans contain a toxin called Phytohaemagglutinin (Kidney Bean Lectin) that causes severe gastric distress, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Under-cooked beans can be more toxic than raw and it only takes 4 to 6 beans to bring on symptoms. Cannellini and Fava beans also contain this toxin but in much smaller amounts.”

    we read up on this and the consensus seems to be that if you boil it for 15 minutes first, it can be cooked in a slow cooker. have amended the post accordingly.

    a slow cooker is okay if it is boiled first and completely cooked. kidney beans that are not completely cooked are toxic. we’ve posted about the toxins here.

  8. bhavani says:

    hey jugalbandits:-)

    i have never tasted rajma without any of the additional ingredients that gopinath says not to add, the reason being i don’t care for the taste of kidney beans. i will send you my recipe, which includes everything (and probably more) that we were told not to add. and i mostly cook mine in the slow cooker, didn’t know i shouldn’t. is there a specific reason kidney beans should not be cooked in the slow cooker.

    check this out. also applies to cannellini beans (white kidney beans):

  9. Jyothsna says:

    Bee try using small Jammu rajma, they taste excellent. You can try my rajma recipe I learnt from my MIL.( And do not follow Gopi’s dictums :)

  10. jnirmala says:

    Wow! What a scruptous meal ? I love Rajma and have soaked some for a kulamu today. Will post it soon. Thats a beautiful CLICK !

  11. Shibani says:

    This is really cool,I just soaked rajma for dinner and happen to Check ur blog, looks so srumptious.

  12. Oh such a great dish! It has me reaching for the kidney beans in my pantry. You know that I am such a fan of simplicity with food. Funny about the words of Gopinath – they sound so much like Elizabeth David when she writes about french food. She talks about letting the ingredients speak for themselves. I am won over by him.

  13. Asha says:

    Good Morgan Jugs!!:)

    More fa..y Frijoles here! Looks yummy, always a comfort food for me. Will try sometime, giving my tummy a rest today!

  14. Priya says:

    The name is now official!! :D
    Gopinath’s recipe was really tempting and the way he described the rajma nearly got me to buy the dry beans. I always get away by using the canned ones, may be I should try the real deal soon :)

  15. mallugirl says:

    wow photo elating the humble rajma to another level!! i too am a fan of the creamy kashmiri rajma.. till i tasted that i always wondered why the rajma didn’t cook fav recipe is Anita’a rajma..yum!!

  16. Núria says:

    He, he… When I finished my Gigantes post, I thought which music would go with the recipe and… trumpets and Louis Armstrong came to my mind ;-) !!!! But I was too much in a hurry to look for a song and now I regret I didn’t!

    Your beans look great, but I bet you Spanish beans are better than Indian :D :D :D

  17. shilpa says:

    I love rajma chawal, but could not cook the one that liked :( . Rajma cooked by my North Indian friends was so creamy and tasty. I will have to try again now…all inspired by your lovely picture.

  18. Sandeepa says:

    I like C Y Gopinath’s description. Is it not true of many dishes

  19. Sonia says:

    Nice recipe! I also use dried persian limes (limoo amani) in my rajma which gives it a nice aroma and zest while keeping the beans’ sweetness intact.

    I read your wonderful educational posts about vegetarian sources of proteins and other nutrients and was wondering if you would consider a post on vitamin B12 which plants are unable to provide. I know how you dislike people posing questions that are more suitable for wikipedia searches. Please just ignore this request if you feel its unreasonable. I have been reading about the role of B12 and am curious to know how you include it in your diet.


    we’ve wanted to try limoo amoni, but our afghan grocer only stocks a humongous bag. we’ve been thinking of a B12 post. will get down to it.

  20. Kalai says:

    Love the mix of colors and textures in that last photo. Rajma made this way sounds so simple, but am sure it was delicious. Thanks for sharing! :)

  21. Smita says:

    CYG = cool beans ;-)

  22. ramya harish says:

    i love rajma.. recently i made mexican rice for Dk’s event…and u can find my favorite beans there on the rice.. here is the link

  23. Rashmi says:

    I totally agree that the quality of rajma( or any dal for that matter) can really make or mar the dish. I made this one too, and loved it for its simplicity. This is my ‘zen rajma’ :)

  24. Hi,

    your blog is very informative, interesting and with stunning pictures. That rajma looks delicious. I just sent my entry to this month’s click event!

  25. dee says:

    Bee very true. rajma is pure when its the simplest. K is the one who makes it everytime , cos he doesnt believe that I being a southie can cook better than me ( oh! what bias) Kashmiri rajma was first introduced to me by a cousin in delhi my sis-in-law would send me a year’s supply of kashmiri rajma I love the flavour and colour it emits. I found a 2lb box last summer in Houston, texas and without hesitation , picked 2 .I cook it only for special occasions. rajma and chawal… soul food for us!!

  26. [...] recipes that I tried and don’t have pictures of are: Jai and Bee’s Rajma - Actually I do have a picture of this – but it sucks! I was in a big hurry to serve and gobble [...]

  27. dee says:

    Hi Bee, I got kashmiri rajma from my recent trip to India and thats the only rajma I can eat. I just made ur version of rajma for K’s lunch and it is the best rajma I have eaten till date :) Thanks for the beautiful and simple recipe!

  28. [...] of cowpeas (like red cowpeas/chori) or their cousin, black-eyed peas). Some recipes also use varieties of red beans or kidney beans. I used azuki/adzuki [...]

  29. [...] Dinner: 16 oz. smoothie with blueberries, Napa cabbage, orange, papaya, carrot, pumpkin, 1 tsp flax powder, 2 scoops pea and rice protein powder. 1/4 cup kidney bean (rajma) and potato curry [...]

  30. [...] Dinner: 16 oz. scary smoothie with strawberries, raspberries, pumpkin, carrot, cabbage, banana, orange, 1 tsp flax powder, 2 scoops pea and rice protein powder. 1/2 cup kidney bean (rajma) and potato curry [...]

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