Easy Vegan kidney bean curry is a tasty, no-fuss recipe made with aromatic Indian spices in a sweet tomato sauce prepared without coconut milk or added oil for a clean, plant-based dinner.
Kidney bean curry, or rajma masala, rajma curry, rajma chawal, or palak rajma, comes in various textures and spice combinations influenced by regions, ingredient availability, and preferences.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
I often make this rajma recipe because it offers a delicious flavor in a lighter sauce that goes perfectly with brown rice or our favorite, brown basmati rice, for a complete meal.
The flavor of this dish is a combination of spices, garlic, ginger, and the method of flavor layering. We build flavor by cooking a few ingredients at a time, letting the flavor build, adding another layer of ingredients, and repeating the process.
Red kidney beans are a great source of protein and fiber, and you can find them everywhere. It's one reason why several of our vegan curry recipes feature them.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Tomatoes. Diced, fresh tomatoes keep the sauce lighter; however, you can also use canned tomatoes in juice.
Whole spices. Cumin, fenugreek, and bay leaves are toasted for a bigger flavor. Use one teaspoon of ground cumin or ½ a teaspoon of fenugreek powder to substitute with ground spices. Only toast whole spices. Add any ground with the tomatoes and date paste.
Date paste. The best substitute is maple syrup. If you have whole dates, you can easily make date paste or soak them and puree them with the vegetable broth used in the recipe.
Garam Masala. Garam masala is a special spice blend with a unique flavor profile. You can find garam masala near the curry powder (it isn't the same thing), or make your own homemade garam masala mix to have the exact blend you want ready anytime you fancy Indian cuisine.
Garlic and ginger. Ginger and garlic are recipe essentials; however, you can use the prepared kind. Chopped garlic, garlic paste, or a few tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste are convenient time savers. Look for them in tiny jars in the grocery store.
Jalapenos. Use fresh red or green chili. For less spiciness, remove the seeds and white parts.
Cayenne Pepper. This is optional if you want a spicier flavor than the jalapenos can deliver. You can also use dried chili flakes or Indian red chili powder.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
If you aren't a fan of kidney beans or run short, use a different kind of bean, in combination or entirely. Black beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), or mixed canned beans make a delicious curry. Home cooking and improvising go hand-in-hand.
Step 1: in a medium pot or large skillet, toast the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and bay leaves over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to constantly toss the spices for 1-2 minutes until they release their aroma before they brown.
Step 2: Add the onions and jalapenos. Mix them with the spices and stir them until they soften (3-4 minutes).
Step 3: Stir in the garlic and ginger. Lower the heat a little if the vegetables begin to stick. Cook for about 30 seconds.
Step 4: Add the tomatoes, date paste, and the ground spices. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the tomatoes for 10 minutes.
Step 5: Stir in the kidney beans and vegetable broth. Cover the pot again and continue simmering for 30 minutes. Mash a few of the beans against the pot's side if desired. This helps thicken the sauce.
Step 6: Stir the curry and turn off the heat. Add the juice of 1 lemon (1-2 tablespoons). Add salt if desired.
The longer the curry cooks, the thicker the sauce gets. Kidney beans can dry out if there isn't enough liquid or if they sit on the top of the pot too long, so stir the curry a few times as it simmers.
This is a curry meant for rice. Think about timing so the rice is ready when the curry is done. You can also serve this curry as a lighter meal with a few sweet potato flatbreads or toasted whole wheat pita slices to scoop the sauce.
Garnishes include additional lemon slices or chopped cilantro.
Frequently Asked Questions
Store leftover curry in an airtight container for 5 days. Kidney bean curry also freezes well, for 3 months or more.
Making kidney bean curry using cooked kidney beans in the Instant Pot or another type of pressure cooker shaves a few minutes off the cooking time and helps build the sauce's flavor. After adding the ingredients, set the Instant Pot to high pressure and cook the curry for 5 minutes.
To make kidney bean curry using dried beans, soak 1 ½ cups of beans overnight. Drain and rinse the beans, and increase the liquid to 4 ½ cups of water or vegetable broth. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes plus at least 10 minutes of natural pressure release. Unsoaked beans will take about 40 minutes plus time for natural steam release.
The easiest way to thicken curry sauce is to increase the cooking time by 5-10 minutes. You can also add a tablespoon of tomato paste (tomato puree). Mash some of the kidney beans against the side of the pan or remove a cup of the curry after cooking and puree it.
More Recipes with Kidney Beans
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Easy Vegan Kidney Bean Curry
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- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds - or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 medium bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds - or ½ teaspoon fenugreek powder
- 1 medium onion - diced
- 2 medium jalapenos - diced, remove the core and seeds to keep the heat down
- 6 cloves garlic - peeled and minced
- 1½ inch fresh ginger - peeled and minced, 1 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - optional
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 4 medium tomatoes - diced, about 4 cups
- 2 teaspoons date paste - or maple syrup
- 4½ cups kidney beans - 3 cans, drained and rinsed
- 2½ cups vegetable broth
- ½ medium lemon - 2 tablespoons of juice
- In a medium pot, add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and bay leaves . Toast them over medium heat, stirring them constantly for 1-2 minutes until they becom fragrant, but not brown.
- Add the diced onions and jalapenos and sauté for about 3-5 minutes until they soften.
- Stir in the garlic and ginger for 30 seconds. Adjust the heat if necessary so they don't stick or burn.
- Add the remaining spices (coriander, turmeric, cayenne and garam masala), the tomatoes and date paste. Mix everything, cover the pot and simmer the tomatoes for 10 minutes to allow them to break down. Mash a few of the tomatoes after they simmer to help the sauce thicken.
- Stir in the vegetable broth and beans. Cover the pot and simmer the curry for 30 minutes. Mash a few of the beans to help thicken the sauce if desired.
- Remove the curry from the heat and squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon over the top. Give it a last stir, add salt or additional spices as desired.
- Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with additional lemon wedges or chopped cilantro if desired.
- If you use cumin powder or ground fenugreek instead of the whole spices, add them with the rest of the spices when adding tomatoes.
- If you want a thicker chili texture or the curry is too thin for your liking, increase the final simmering time with the beans and vegetable broth. Another solution is to remove a cup of the curry, blend it, and return it to the pot.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.