Rajmah – A nostalgic pot of Red Kidney Beans

Rajmah_1_sq_blogI recently was chatting over email with fellow Westchester blogger – Phyllis and was quite amazed and impressed by all the culinary greats that she has worked with.

She has actually learned Indian cooking from Madhur Jaffrey, she describes this beautifully with some recipes in this post. When I think of Madhur Jaffrey, I think of a person who before the likes of Suvir Saran, made Indian cooking accessible in her own right.

Simple, home style dishes like Rajmah or Red Kidney Beans mostly in the north Indian tradition of cooking, a style of cooking making a comeback. People are indeed more interested in simple home flavors, just like I am interested in simple, sustainable Indian flavors. Lentils and legumes are such a core part of this equation.

Rajmah - North Indian Red Kidney Beans

Well, possibly one of my first Indian cookbooks were by this grand dame of Indian cooking Ms. Jaffrey. I could not actually find it today. I made these kidney beans – Punjabi Rajma, inspired by memory. Over time, although I have modified this dish to make it closer to my mother-in-law’s recipe, this I share with you in the Spices and Seasons, Cookbook.

Rajmah_North Indian Red Kidney Beans


I do know that here recipe called for two things that I did not do, the first was to add cream and the second was to simmer the beans for 3-4 hours, hey, that is why I have a pressure cooker…. Now, little did I know when I first made this, that it is North Indian comfort food at its best. I have since then made this so many times that I have sort of put my own stamp to it. It never fails to please on a cool day.
Rajmah – A nostalgic pot of Red Kidney Beans

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

A simple and classic North Indian dish, the Indian equivalent of rice and beans.


  • 2 cups of cooked red kidney beans
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cumin
  • Salt to taste (please take care to balance this with the amount of salt that the beans have been cooked in)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


  1. 1. Place the red kidney beans with about 3 cups of water and cook under pressure for 25 minutes on a stovetop and 25 to 40 minutes in an electric pressure cooker. This time can be shortened by soaking the beans. Cool the beans until the pressure cooker can be easily opened.
  2. 2. Take about ½ cup of the cooked beans and blend to a puree with about 1/2 cup water and set this aside.
  3. 3. In a separate pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and cook till fragrant and aromatic.
  4. 4. Add in the onion and cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until the onion in soft and beginning to turn golden (about 3-4 minutes).
  5. 5. Add in the ginger and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. 6. Mix in the tomatoes and cook for 5-7 minutes.
  7. 7. Add in the cooked whole beans with any water, chili powder, powdered cumin and mix well. Let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes and stir in the pureed beans and simmer for another 10 minutes until the mixture is thick creamy and smooth. Turn off the heat.
  8. 8. Cut the lemon, remove any seeds and squeeze in the lemon juice.
  9. 9. Garnish with the chopped cilantro prior to serving.
  10. 10, This dish is typically served with steamed white rice and any assortment of garnishes, such as diced red onions, radishes or carrots.

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