Punjabi Rajma Masala (Kidney Beans Curry)

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Use your pressure cooker or Instant Pot to make this quick & delicious Dhaba style Punjabi rajma masala. While you can serve it with rotis, the combination of rajma and chawal (rice) is what makes this dish truly special. 

An overhead shot of rajma chawal served on a gray plate.
Rajma Chawal Recipe

Restaurant-style Rajma masala is a rich, flavorful curry made by cooking kidney beans (rajma) in an onion-tomato gravy. Rajma paired with rice is popularly called as rajma chawal and it is considered the ultimate comfort food just like the chili we make in the US.

There are lots of recipes for this famous Punjabi dish, but this easy rajma recipe is a simple, hearty version of this curry which is light on spices and big on taste. It is also, rich and creamy just like the ones made in restaurants but without using any heavy cream. 

How to make rajma

The process to make rajma curry is pretty simple – 

  1. Soak the kidney beans for about 6-8 hours or overnight with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  2. Rinse and pressure cook the kidney beans with twice the amount of water either using a traditional stovetop pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Let the pressure release on its own. 
  3. Heat oil in a wok, add the whole spices – black cardamom and bay leaf. Let it fry for about 30 seconds or so, and then add the onions. 
  4. Fry the onions till they are soft and translucent. Add ginger and garlic, along with chopped green chili and fry them for about a minute.
  5. Carefully remove the spices – black cardamom and bay leaves and discard them. 
  6. Add chopped tomatoes, along with the spice powders – chili, cumin, and coriander powder. Mix well.
  7. When the tomatoes begin to soften, add about a cup of liquid from the cooked rajma. Use an immersion blender, and blend the onion-tomato mixture to a fine paste. [This gives the gravy a creamy texture].
  8. Add the rajma along with the liquid to this gravy. 
  9. Add garam masala, and amchur powder (if using) and mix well. Let the rajma curry simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Note – I let it simmer for about  30 minutes to get an authentic slow-cooked taste. 
  10. Serve this rajma curry with rice or roti.

Variations 

  1. Add a teaspoon of store-bought Rajma masala – gives this dish a nice tang. 
  2. To make rajma masala for chapati, simmer it till most of the liquid evaporates or add less of the reserved liquid from pressure cooking rajma. 
  3. To make this Punjabi rajma recipe a one-pot meal, 
    • Prepare the gravy first and then add soaked beans to it.
    • Pressure cook the beans with the gravy for about 30 minutes using an Instant Pot. Note – The reason I don’t cook this way is that leads to inconsistent results at times. The beans don’t cook uniformly (at times) and often take longer to cook. This is because tomatoes are acidic and they interfere with the cooking of the beans. 

How many hours do you need to soak Rajma?

Soak rajma or kidney beans overnight for 8-10 hours with 1/2 teaspoon of salt for the most flavorful rajma curry. 

Can you cook red kidney beans without soaking?

Yes, you certainly can but soaking has its benefits –

  1. Reduced cooking time.
  2. Helps reduce/eliminate phytic acid – a natural substance found in plant seeds that hinders mineral absorption. 
  3. Soaked beans are easier to digest.

If you have forgotten to soak kidney beans, here are your options – 

  • Traditional pressure cooker – If you are using a traditional Indian pressure cooker like this one, pressure cook till the vent goes off 7-8 times before switching off the heat. Let the pressure cooker cool down naturally before opening the cover.
  • Use canned kidney beans – Drain off the liquid and thoroughly rinse it before using.
  • Using an Instant Pot – Rinse the kidney beans before adding it to the Instant Pot. For every cup of dried kidney beans, add 2 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Pressure cook for 4 minutes on high using the manual mode and wait until the “keep warm” timer has reached 10 minutes. Press Cancel and twist the steam release handle on the lid to “venting” position.

Making Instant Pot rajma with canned beans

To make rajma with canned beans,

  1. Start with draining and rinsing the beans.
  2. Add it to the gravy and pressure cook it for 10 minutes at high pressure in an Instant Pot for soft kidney beans. Let the pressure release naturally. 

How long does it take to pressure cook rajma or kidney beans?

Soaked rajma takes about 25 minutes to cook in an Instant Pot and in a stovetop pressure cooker, the kidney beans need to be cooked until the vent goes off 4-5 times (cooking times may vary depending on the pressure cooker)

Traditional pressure cooking vs Instant Pot cooking – Which one is better?

I have cooked using a traditional pressure cooker for years before I bought the Instant Pot. Now that I own the Instant Pot, I have been leveraging the Instant Pot to make rajma curry because of two reasons –

  1. Slow cooking – Sometimes I slow cook the rajma masala curry for an hour at a low setting to give it a Dhaba style feel (Dhaba = streetside stalls in India where the food is cooked on a slow fire and simmered for hours to bring out the most tantalizing and unique flavors)
  2. Keep warm function –  The obvious reason I love this feature is when the pressure cooking is complete, the Instant Pot switches to the “Keep Warm” function which keeps the food warm till we are ready to eat.
An overhead shot of rajma (kidney beans curry) served in a black bowl and garnished with cilantro.
Authentic Punjabi Rajma Masala

If you are looking for similar curry recipes that go well with rotis and rice, here are my top favorites – 

  1. Chana masala –  Punjabi Chana Masala (Choley) popularly known as the Indian Chickpea Curry is a crowd-pleaser. This vegan one-pot curry can be made in an Instant Pot as well as a stovetop Pressure cooker. Get all the deets on how to make this delicious curry at home!
  2. Chettinad chicken curry – If you like spicy chicken curries then this fiery, aromatic Chicken Chettinad curry is right up your alley. It is so delicious that you’ll want to lick your plate off!
  3. Chicken Vindaloo – Learn how to make this tangy finger-licking chicken vindaloo curry in an Instant Pot or Stovetop. It is gluten and dairy-free and absolutely delicious! Serve it with warm pav (dinner rolls) for an authentic experience. 
  4. Prawns balchaoPrawns Balchao is a fiery dish that finds its origins in Goa. Prawns are stir-fried first and then added to a pickled curry sauce to create a dish that makes your taste buds tingle and leaves you asking for more.
  5. Easy butter chicken recipe – This authentic and 30-minute Indian Butter chicken recipe is so easy and delicious that I guarantee that once you make it at home, it will soon be part of your weekly dinner menu.


Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  
An overhead shot of rajma chawal served on a gray plate.

Punjabi Rajma Masala Curry

5 from 3 votes
This quick & easy one-pot Punjabi rajma masala curry is super simple to make and loaded with rich and delicious flavors.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Pressure release time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6
Diet : Gluten-free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Course : Lunch/Dinner
Method: Instant Pot
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
  

  • 1.5 cups rajma, kidney beans
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed into a paste
  • 1 inch ginger,
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • salt as needed
  • 1 Indian or Thai green chilies (Bird's eye), slit lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon dry mango powder, amchoor, optional

Instructions
 

  • Soak the kidney beans for about 6-8 hours or overnight with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Pressure cooking

  • Stovetop pressure cooker – Rinse the soaked kidney beans and pressure cook it over medium heat it with 3 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt (Approximately till the vent or whistle goes off 4 times). Set it aside to cool.
  • Instant Pot – Rinse the soaked kidney beans and pressure cook it over high for 25 minutes with 3 cups of water and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

Making the gravy (start this process as the kidney beans are being pressure cooked)

  • Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. If using an Instant Pot, add oil and select the saute function and set it to 'Normal'.
  • Add the whole spices – black cardamom and bay leaf. Let it fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the chopped onions. Fry the onions till they turn soft and translucent (approximately 10 minutes)
  • Add chopped green chilies along with ginger and garlic. Fry them for a minute or two to let the raw taste disappear.
  • Add chopped tomatoes, along with the spice powders – chili, cumin, and coriander powder. Mix well.
  • Continue to cook till the tomatoes begin to soften.
  • [Optional step] Add about a cup of liquid from the cooked rajma. Use an immersion blender, and blend the onion-tomato mixture to a fine paste. [This gives the gravy a creamy texture].
  • Add the cooked kidney beans with the liquid along with garam masala and dry mango powder (if using).
  • Let the rajma simmer for about 10 minutes. For best results, simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with either chapatis or steamed rice.

Notes

Variations 
  1. Add a teaspoon of store-bought Rajma masala – gives this dish a nice tang. 
  2. To make it a one-pot meal,
    • Prepare the gravy first and then add soaked beans to it.
    • Pressure cook the beans with the gravy for about 30 minutes using an Instant Pot.
Note – The reason I don’t pressure cook kidney beans with the gravy because the results are inconsistent. The beans don’t cook uniformly (at times) and often take longer to cook. This is because tomatoes are acidic and they interfere with the cooking of the beans. 

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Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 212kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 6gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gSodium: 347mgPotassium: 211mgFiber: 15gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 192IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Did you make this recipe?Take a photo and tag @simmertoslimmer on Instagram for a shoutout!
Keyword : Authentic, Dhaba-style, Punjabi

This post was originally published on April 7th, 2017, and has been completely updated on July 11th, 2019.

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11 Comments

  1. Question – you did not specify in the ingredients how much garlic and ginger you used in this recipe. I will wing it this time, but am just am wondering. Thank you.

  2. You recipe sure surprised me as you said it is Punjabi Rajma!! Punjabis do not ever make Rajma without Ginger!!! ( I grew up amongst Punjabi friends and so know!! )

    By the way, I like your website and your style of writing and presentation of the recipes!

    1. Thanks, Anita. Most North Indian dishes do use ginger and garlic. I used to skip it though since I wasn’t the greatest fan of ginger for the longest time. Though that has changed now 🙂

  3. Hi,
    Stumbled on to your excellent website while looking for calories in methi thepla. I’m glad I got here — can’t wait to try many of the things you have made.

    Re rajma, I’ve found that whether you’ve soaked them overnight or not, it works to give them two whistles and then let the cooker simmer for 15-25 minutes, depending on how much they’ve been soaked and the size of the seeds. The simmering also allows the flavors of the rajma and seasonings to blend wonderfully. I usually boil the rajma like this with salt, ginger, and red chilly powder first, then add the onion-tomato-garlic paste that you’ve mentioned above, and give it one more whistle.

  4. I usually soak it for 8-12 hours. Even then sometimes the Rajma doesn’t cook. It primarily depends on the quality of seeds (I think). I soak and while cooking wait for 4 whistles which works most of the times. If it doesn’t I do it in increments of 2 whistles at a time till it cooks..

  5. i tried preparing rajma with dry seeds and read online to soak for 8 hrs or put it in a cooker , i kept it in cooker i waited for 8 whistles till it is not boiled. so how many whistles need to rajma to boil?

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