Punjabi Rajma Masala with 10 Tips for best taste
Want to make the Best Rajma masala at home? then this authentic Punjabi Rajma masala recipe is for you.
Punjabi Rajma Masala, a creamy curry made with kidney beans and whole spices is a classic in North Indian cuisine.
Today’s post is a guide to making the Rajma masala easily at home, with minimum ingredients that are available in the Indian kitchen and without any special cooking skills. With this recipe, even an amateur will not go wrong.
What is Punjabi Rajma Masala?
Rajma is the Hindi name for Kidney beans. Though rajma is a popular bean in India, it did not originate in India. Surprising, isn’t it? The origin of Rajma is Mexico, it was introduced to the Indian subcontinent by the Portuguese.
But this Indian dish is very different from the Mexican preparation. Punjabis created the rajma masala by adding basic Indian ingredients which are now popular around the world.
For Punjabis, a get-together or weekend is incomplete without having a plate full of Rajma Chawal. It won’t be wrong to say that rajma chawal is a staple food for them.
The dish is called Rajma masala as kidney beans are cooked in mildly spiced onion tomato gravy commonly referred to as masala (bhuna hua masala).
However, in the North, the dish and beans are known as Rajma.
Apart from chole and dal makhani, rajma is also the most popular vegetarian dish in North Indian main course. But now it is popular and loved across the globe.
About the recipe
Like any other Indian dish, each house has its own recipe. While most of them are common in terms of ingredients, there is a slight variation here and there.
This Punjabi rajma masala recipe is a traditional way and most common in North Indian homes or dhabas.
In this easy recipe, soaked rajma is pressure-cooked first and later added to a base gravy of onion, tomatoes, and a few basic spices. I do not use readymade Rajma Masala powder/spice mix but still, the curry tastes delicious just like any dhaba or restaurant.
Well, you can make this recipe a one-pot meal. Prepare the masala first, add the soaked rajma, and pressure cook till done. I have tried this way and the result is inconsistent. Because of acidic tomatoes, the cooking process of beans takes a longer time. So, I do not prefer this way.
While there are a lot of recipes for this famous Punjabi Rajma masala, this homemade recipe will give you a restaurant-style thick, melt-in-the-mouth texture, a flavorful and aromatic dish that you can enjoy with basmati rice, jeera rice, plain parathas, roti, or naan. It is also rich and creamy but without using any cream.
Punjabi Rajma masala pairs the best with plain basmati rice and is popularly called Rajma Chawal.
Why is Rajma Chawal so popular in the North?
Punjab is the origin of rajma chawal. Probably this is second on the list of comfort foods after dal bhaat/chawal.
This combination is a complete meal in itself. This means you do not need to worry about cooking a side dish (dal or any other vegetable).
Rajma chawal is a dish that one can eat on the go. If you are in hurry and also hungry, you do not need to depend on fast food. In fact, this dish takes lesser time than fast food and is nutritious, wholesome, and delicious.
Nothing can beat a plate of North Indian-style Rajma Chawal served along with green chutney, raita, sirca pyaaz/pickled onions, and papad.
The most important reason is it’s tasty. Rice is completely covered with thick rajma gravy, the rice grains absorb all the flavors from the tangy and mildly spiced onion-tomato gravy.
The taste of rajma is based on the making process. My step-by-step instructions will help to get the best rajma masala taste ever.
Reasons to make Rajma Masala
*Cooking at home is effortless
*Delicious and comfort food
*Can be made vegan
*Perfect meal on special occasions or parties
*Numerous health benefits and high in protein
*Rajma and chawal/rice is a complete protein
*Wholesome meal for lunch box
Types of Rajma
In the market, there are different types of rajma are available depending on size and color. They are;
Red Rajma/Red Kidney beans: These are dark red color in color and available in small as well as big sizes. Red rajma holds its shape even after its cooked.
Kashmiri Rajma: Also, called Jammu Rajma. They are red in color and small in size. This variety is extremely popular in areas around the Himalayas.
Chitra Rajma: This variety is big in size, light brown, and white in color. Because of the color, these look beautiful. The texture of Chitra rajma is softer than red rajma. Also, starch content is more than red rajma.
Ingredients to make Punjabi Rajma Masala
The best part of this Punjabi rajma masala recipe is, that the ingredients are minimal and easily available in the Indian pantry.
Rajma/Kidney beans: You can use either Chitra or Red rajma. If these are not available, you can also use canned beans. It also reduces the cooking time.
Onions: Finely chop the onion for the smooth texture of the gravy. You can also grind the onion to smooth paste.
Tomatoes: The number of tomatoes will be more than onions for the perfect tangy taste and the right consistency of the gravy.
Ginger-garlic paste: I prefer to use fresh ginger garlic paste. But, you can use ready-made or store-bought instead.
Oil: Dhabas use mustard oil for authentic taste. You can use any vegetable oil. I use oil to cook the masala and also add ghee at the end.
Spices: Basic Indian spices such as coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and garam masala powder.
Other Ingredients: Salt, Coriander leaves, and lemon.
Step by Step Instructions
Soak and cook the Rajma
1. Wash and soak the rajma in enough water for 8-10 hours.
2. Discard the water and rinse them thoroughly to get rid of any bad smell (especially during summer or soaking for more time).
3. Add the soaked rajma to a pressure cooker and add 3 times water.
4. Pressure cook on high flame for 5-7 whistles or until they are soft. Keep them aside.
Make the Rajma Masala
5. In a pan heat oil over medium flame. When hot, add bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, and jeera. Let them sizzle.
6 & 7. Add finely chopped onions and saute on medium flame till it turns light brown color.
8. Next, add ginger garlic paste and saute till the raw smell goes away.
9. Add red chili powder, little turmeric powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder.
10. Immediately add little water, it will stop further cooking of onions and prevent masalas from burning. Do not skip this step.
11. Saute until the powdered spices cook well and the oil separates.
12. Add tomato puree.
13 & 14. Mix well and cook the tomato puree until moisture reduces and oil separates. If the masala sticks to the bottom, add little water and continue to bhuno the masala.
15. Add salt and give a good mix.
16. Add a ladle full of cooked rajma and mash them.
17. Add cooked rajma along with water and give a good mix.
18. Add garam masala and mix.
19. Cover the pan and turn the flame to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
20. Adjust the consistency as per your preference. Add chopped coriander leaves and mix.
21. Heat ghee in a small pan.
22. Add dry red chili and asafoetida. Saute for 5-10 seconds.
23. Pour it on the rajma curry. Cover the pan for 5 minutes.
24. Lastly, sprinkle coriander leaves all over the rajma curry.
Punjabi Rajma masala is ready to serve.
The most important tip to make the best Punjabi Rajma masala is to put lots of love and patience while cooking the onion-tomato masala.
Beans: Use good quality and fresh beans. Old stock beans will take more time to cook.
Soaking the beans: Soak the beans for 6-8 hours or overnight. Soaking reduces the time to cook the beans and also helps in easy digestion.
Pressure cooking rajma: Always pressure cook rajma till soft and mash easily. If the beans are not cooked properly, it may upset the stomach and lead to indigestion.
Cooking time can be 5-10 whistles, as it depends on the water density (hardness or softness of the water) in your area.
Onions: Finely chop the onions and saute till they turn brown in color. By doing so, the onion will turn into a paste. Else, you will get pieces of onion in the gravy.
You can either grate or grind the onion, it will take a little more time to cook for the raw smell to go away.
Tomatoes: It is a key ingredient to make Rajma masala. Tomatoes should be sour. So, use local tomatoes which are usually round in shape. So, either grind or grate or use readymade tomato puree.
Grind the tomatoes: For perfect smooth gravy, grind the tomatoes. If you add chopped tomatoes, the skin will separate and be seen in the gravy.
Cook onion-tomato masala for a longer time: After adding the tomato puree, cook the masala well before adding the cooked rajma. I cook for a good 10-15 minutes, it may seem a long time but trust me, it’s important for the best taste.
Simmer the gravy on low heat: After adding the cooked beans along with water to the masala. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes. This helps kidney beans absorb the flavors and the curry gets a creamy texture.
Mash rajma: Mash some of the kidney beans with the back of the spoon or with the help of a potato masher. The starch in the rajma helps to thicken the gravy.
Another way is to blend 2-3tbspn cooked rajma to smooth paste. Add it to the gravy before simmering.
Ghee tempering/tadka at the end: I always add ghee and hing tempering at the end. Ghee adds aroma and hing helps in digesting.
Tastes better the next day: There are many dishes like Chole, Kadhi, Sambar, Dal Makhani that taste better the next day. Rajma masala is one of them.
I usually follow this when it is a pot-luck in the office. You can follow the same for any get-together or party or celebrations. Cook a day ahead, cool completely, and let it sit in the fridge. Serve your guests the best Rajma masala.
However, the creamy Punjabi Rajma masala curry goes well with poori, or any Indian flatbread like naan, roti, plain paratha, laccha paratha, phulka.
Whenever I make Rajma masala, it is in large quantities. So, that I can enjoy leftovers the next day too.
Let the curry cool completely and refrigerate in an air-tight container for 2-3 days. Take out the container and let it rest for 2-3 hours before eating. Reheat until warm.
More Vegetarian Curry recipes
If you want to impress your guests or make a weekend special meal, try this Punjabi Rajma masala recipe, and do let me know your feedback. You can also follow me on Instagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!
Punjabi Rajma Masala
- 1 cup Rajma (chitra or red rajma big size)
- 3 tbspn Oil
- 1-2 Bay leaf
- 1 inch Cinnamon stick
- 1 tspn Cumin seeds
- 2 medium Onion (finely chopped)
- 1 tbspn Ginger-Garlic paste
- 1 tbspn Red chili powder
- 1 tbspn Coriander powder
- 1/2 tspn Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- 3 medium Tomatoes (grind to puree)
- 1 tspn Garam masala powder
- Salt as per taste
- Fresh coriander
- 1-2 tbspn Ghee
- 2 Dry red chilies
- 1/2 tspn Asafoetida (hing)
Soaking and cooking the Rajma
- Wash and soak rajma in plenty of water for 8-10 hours or overnight.
- Discard the water and rinse them thoroughly to get rid of any bad smell (especially during summer or soaking for more time).
- Add the soaked rajma to a pressure cooker and add 3 times water.
- Pressure cook on high flame for 5-7 whistles or until they are soft. Keep them aside.
To make the Rajma Masala
- In a pan heat oil over medium flame. When hot, add bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, and jeera. Let them sizzle.
- Add finely chopped onions and saute on medium flame till it turns light brown color.
- Next, add ginger garlic paste and saute till the raw smell goes away.
- Add red chili powder, little turmeric powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder.
- Immediately add little water, it will stop further cooking of onions and prevent masalas from burning. Do not skip this step.
- Saute until the powdered spices cook well and the oil separates.
- Add tomato puree. Mix well and cook the tomato puree until moisture reduces and oil separates. If the masala sticks to the bottom, add little water and continue to bhuno the masala.
- Add salt and give a good mix.
- Add a laddle full of cooked rajma and mash them.
- Add cooked rajma along with water and give a good mix.
- Add garam masala and mix.
- Cover the pan and the flame to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Adjust the consistency as per your preference. Add chopped coriander leaves and mix.
- Heat ghee in a small pan.
- Add dry red chili and asafoetida. Saute for 5-10 seconds.
- Pour it on the rajma curry. Cover the pan for 5 minutes.
- Lastly, sprinkle coriander leaves all over the rajma curry.
- Punjabi Rajma masala is ready to serve.
Can I make this curry without Onion and Garlic?
Yes, you can. Heat oil in a pan, add whole spices – bay leaf, black cardamom, and cumin seeds. Let them crackle.
Turn the flame to low and add tomato puree. Cook on medium flame till oil separates.
Add salt, dry spices, and little water. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add the cooked rajma along with water and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add a pinch of sugar and garam masala powder and give a good mix.
Next, add the ghee tempering.
Is Rajma healthy?
Yes. Kidney beans are a powerhouse of nutrients. The incredible benefits of rajma are;
1. Rajma has a high quality of plant protein.
2. Amino acids in Rajma helps the information of better muscle fibers and improve the function of the muscles.
3. Has a low glycemic index. So, it is ideal for diabetics as well.
4. Is a good source of Soluble Fiber.
5. Contains Calcium and Manganese that help in strengthening bones.
6. Because of protein and fiber, it is good for weight loss when had in limits.
How to make Rajma curry thick?
There are a few tips that you can follow to make curry thick.
1. Finely chop the onions and saute till light brown color. Later when the onions cook in gravy, it almost turns into a paste.
2. Use tomato puree. It helps to thicken the gravy and texture is best.
3. Simmer the gravy for good 15-20minutes.
4. Mash a few rajma while simmering the gravy. The starch from the beans will help in thickening the gravy.
Is Rajma Chawal healthy?
Yes. The combination of Rajma and Chawal is a rich source of protein, carbohydrates, fibers, and many minerals and vitamins.
Can I freeze Rajma masala?
Yes, you can.
Cool the curry completely and freeze in a freezer-safe box for up to 2 months. Suggest you freeze in small portions.
Thaw it for 1-2 hours before eating.
What if I forgot to soak Rajma overnight?
You can follow quick soak method.
Take a wide and deep pot. Add water, on high heat let the water boil. Turn off the flame and add washed beans. Cover the pot and let the beans sit in hot water for 1-2 hours. It will be same as rajma soaked overnight.
Then while pressure cooking rajma, add a pinch of soda.
Can I add cooking soda in Rajma curry?
Yes, you can. Add a pinch while cooking the rajma, it reduces the cooking time.
If you are using fresh beans and soaked them for 8 hours, you don’t need to cooking soda.