This recipe for rajma, an Indian kidney bean curry, is a family favorite. And it is so easy to make in an instant pot!
What is Rajma?
Think melt-in-your-mouth kidney beans coated in a thick onion and tomato masala gravy and loaded with flavor. I’m not sure there’s anything more comforting than a bowl of rajma chawal (rajma and rice).
Rajma is a red kidney bean curry that’s typically served with basmati rice hence the words rajma chawal. For those of us who are Punjabi, these two words go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Not only is this recipe extremely economical thanks to the dried kidney beans, but it’s also great for those following a gluten-free or vegan diet.
I’m Punjabi, and so as a child, this dish was in our regular dinner rotation. The funny thing is that back then, I loathed rajma. It was nothing compared to Butter Chicken, my childhood dish of choice. But now, if you were to ask me to choose between the two, I think I’d pick rajma (ugh, tough choice, though). It’s a dish that makes me feel nostalgic, and I find it so, so delicious. I relish every bite.
It wasn’t until I left home and went off to college that I started to miss my mom’s rajma. I still remember the look of surprise on my mom’s face when I asked her to make it for me – not kidding when I say her jaw dropped. It’s funny how things you don’t care for as a child end up being dishes you love. I feel the same way about bitter melon (karela) – hated it back in the day, absolutely love it now.
Should I Soak Kidney Beans?
This always seems to be a controversial topic. I know many people feel pretty strongly over whether or not to soak legumes, but I think many Indian families soak beans/legumes before cooking. I partially do it out of habit (it’s what my mom taught me and what my grandmother taught her) and because I think it makes the beans easier to digest. You decide what is best for you, but please know that you will need to cook the kidney beans for longer than the time listed in my recipe if you use unsoaked beans. My method results in perfectly soft and tender kidney beans.
In addition to increasing the cook time – another thing to keep in mind if you decide not to soak the beans is that you’ll likely have to add more water to the recipe as soaked kidney beans absorb water. If you decide to use unsoaked kidney beans, then let us know how it goes.
One last thing about kidney beans – they contain a high level of a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin (yeah, that’s a mouthful) – this lectin is destroyed if you cook the beans long enough. Eating kidney beans that aren’t properly cooked can cause some pretty bad stomach/GI issues – another reason to either soak the rajma or cook them longer.
If you love this Punjabi dish, then chances are you’ll love my recipe for Punjabi chole too, so give that a try next!
- 2 cups dried kidney beans soaked overnight
- 1 onion roughly chopped
- ½ Serrano pepper or green chili
- 3 tablespoons oil of choice
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- Pinch of cayenne optional
- 2 cups fresh tomato puree OR 1 cup onion masala* see notes approx. 1 pound tomatoes if blending fresh puree
- 2 cups water
- Cilantro garnish
- Soak the kidney beans in cold water overnight. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Add the onion and green chili to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Press the sauté button. Add the oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add the cumin seeds and once they become brown, add the blended onion and Serrano pepper to the pot and stir-fry for 8-10 minutes, or until the onion mixture begins to brown.
- Add the bay leaf, garlic, ginger, and spices and stir quickly, then add the pureed tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the kidney beans and water.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 30 minutes at high pressure.
- Naturally release pressure.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.
- If you decide not to soak the kidney beans, you will need to add more water to the recipe as soaked kidney beans absorb some water. You’ll also need to adjust the cook time and cook the unsoaked beans longer. I haven’t tested this recipe using unsoaked kidney beans (as I always soak legumes); however, if you try, please leave a comment letting us know!
- If you’d like to make this using my onion masala, use 1 cup of onion masala and omit the onion, ginger, garlic, and tomatoes. Just add the onion masala in step 5 with the kidney beans and water.
Love Indian Food and want more Instant Pot recipes?
Then check out my cookbook: Indian Food Under Pressure!
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