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Chitra's Rajma

Recipe by: Chitra Agrawal from cookbook Vibrant India

Serves 4

Chitra's Rajma
Photo by:  

Chitra Agrawal

Kidney beans for some reason play second fiddle to chickpeas but I just don't understand why - they are so delicious naturally! There is a certain creaminess that comes from making this bean from its dried form which means you really don't need to add that much cooking oil or fat when preparing it. Lately I've been just pressing the bean setting on my Instant Pot while I work so I have the cooked beans ready to go when we're close to dinner time. They are also so dang cheap compared to buying cans of beans!

When I describe rajma to anyone that has not had it I say it's Indian chili but its much more than that. Rajma is flavored with warming spices like cardamom, clove and cinnamon. I love to eat it not just with rice and roti but it's amazing in tacos and also on nachos! This is one dish that Alok never says no to. Now I actually use Dad's Savory Tomato Curry a recipe loosely based on one my Dad would prepare for me growing up, as the base has onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and many of the spices (asafetida, cumin, coriander, garam masala, chili powder) already included but if you don't have Dad's, I have also included the ingredients you will need to make the sauce from scratch.

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For Serving
*If you don't have Dad's Savory Tomato Curry, you can make the sauce from scratch using the following ingredients adding them in the following order: 
  • 1 tablespoon mild oil such as sunflower
  • pinch of asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon Jodhana Cumin seeds
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger grated
  • 2 green chillies or to taste (can use jalapeno as a sub), minced
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes or 3-4 chopped plum tomatoes  – can sub in a few tablespoons of tomato paste with a 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon ground Nandini Coriander 
  • 1/3 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon Guntur Sannam Chilli powder or to taste



  1. In a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, clove and bay leaf and fry till they sizzle. Mix in the turmeric powder.
  2. Add Dad's Savory Tomato Curry. Add 1/2 cup of water to the jar and shake it up. Pour the water into the pan. Add the cooked kidney beans and simmer until flavors meld, 5 minutes. Add the amchoor powder, optional jaggery and salt to taste. 
  3. Serve over rice or with roti or naan with yogurt and achaar for heat! Garnish with  chopped cilantro and sliced onions.

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