Rajma masala, a creamy kidney bean curry, is bursting with flavorful spices and aromatics for a satisfying Punjabi-inspired vegan dinner.
Just when I thought there couldn’t be another curry I hadn’t tried. Even though I already have a kidney bean curry, that I love. Yep, friends, there’s a new curry I’m excited to introduce to you. This one is so darned good that I even whipped up a batch of quick pickled red onions to make it even more special. Primo!
What’s in a word?
Rajma means kidney bean, and in the Punjabi region of India, there’s a lot of kidney bean curry happening. And these treats are not limited to India. The Punjabi style of cooking is probably the most recognizable to folks in the U.S. and U.K. It’s why so many of our curry creations depend on the aromatics, onions, garlic, and ginger, plus a wide variety of spices.
Choosing easy for the curry prep, I made a paste of the jalapenos, onions, garlic, and ginger along with 2 dates. The dates to sweeten it up and temper the heat of the aromatics. This ensures a bolder flavor that doesn’t dissipate because you won’t be sautéing them. When I first tried this method when making creamy tomato vegetable curry, I realized that this process also makes cooking without oil a breeze. There is enough moisture in the aromatics that there’s little sticking to the pan in the few minutes you need before adding the rest of your ingredients. That’s one for the books.
When I think of spices, my mind immediately turns toward Indian cuisine – spices rule. Let’s face it, even Christopher Columbus knew that when he inadvertently discovered America. He was really looking for a quicker route to shop for spices.
Consistent with my ‘blend before add’ theme, I pureed the tomatoes along with the chili powder, coriander, cardamom, and turmeric. I reserved the cumin seeds for the beginning of the cooking process. Toasting cumin seeds for about a minute helps them release their essence. And there’s nothing like the smell of toasted cumin seeds to alert your kitchen that curry is about to happen.
Putting it all together
Once you have the chili paste blended and the tomato spice mixture ready, this recipe becomes a quick stove to oven preparation. I spent about 10 minutes at the stove, 5 of which was tasting and adjusting the spices. I didn’t add any salt, so this is a good time for that should you desire. Once that’s done, mix in the kidney beans and add ½ a cup of plant-milk (I used oat milk). Then everything goes into the oven. Then, you get about 40 minutes to make rice, clean up, or dance (hopefully, it’s the latter).
Pick your pot
I used my faithful cast iron pot for this dish. It’s my favorite because it holds the heat really well. It doesn't seem to care if it's on the stove or in the oven either. Your mouth is probably already watering thinking about this curry, so don’t try to quell those urges because you don't have the appropriate pot. You can start this recipe in a skillet or pot and then transfer it to a baking dish. Pot perfection isn’t going to stand in our way when we’re talking curry.
And to top it off
Have you tried my quick pickled red onions? You’ll see them featured a lot in so many recipes. When I discovered these several years ago, I seriously couldn’t believe it. How can it be that slicing red onions and letting them sit in a bath of vinegar, agave syrup, and a pinch of salt is this good? Pickled onions taste amazing on burgers, wraps, even pizzas, and divine on a spicy curry.
You can whip these up in minutes. Personally, I find it’s better if you massage the onions for a minute or two to get them started. The only trick is to allow for an hour of marinating time. That’s easy enough. Start the onions before you start the curry prep. Pickled onions keep in the fridge for several days (maybe longer, I've never kept them longer). That means you can make them anytime and spruce up a salad or a hummus wrap.
Rajma curry is the perfect example of how you can happily and seamlessly incorporate healthy plant-based eating into your diet. We learned how to make a paste, so we didn’t fret about not using any oil. The heavy cream, traditionally used in such a recipe, was replaced by plant milk. We used dates as a natural sweetener. Simple alterations change nothing about the creamy, savory flavor. You get the added satisfaction of another great recipe that meets all the stands we strive for when eating healthfully. Peace.Print
rajma masala: kidney bean curry (vegan)
Rajma masala, a creamy kidney bean curry, is bursting with flavorful spices and aromatics for a satisfying Punjabi-inspired plant-based dinner.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 medium red onion, cut into quarters
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1 fresh jalapeno pepper (remove the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy)
- 1 - inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
- 2 pitted dates
- 2 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) cans of crushed or whole tomatoes
- 1 tsp. red chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 2 - 15 oz. (400 gm.) cans of red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- ½ cup plant-milk (I used oat milk)
Quick pickled red onions
- 2 red onions, peeled, cut in half, and sliced into thin, half-moons
- ½ cup raspberry vinegar, red wine vinegar, or merlot vinegar
- 3 tbsp liquid sweetener such as agave syrup or vegan honey
- ¼ tsp sea salt
*timing tip – if you are making pickled onions, take 5 minutes to make them first so that they have time to marinate.
- To make the onions, mix together the vinegar, agave syrup, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Add the onions and use your hand to gently massage the onions so that they are well-covered.
- Cover the dish and place the onions into the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.
- To make the curry, start by adding the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and ginger to a food processor or blender. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Set it aside or transfer it to a small bowl if you need the food processor for step 2.
- Next, add the tomatoes, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala to a blender. Blend until the tomatoes are broken down and smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 3500 F. (1800 C.)
- On the stovetop, heat a medium oven-proof pot over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. of cumin seeds and toast them for 1 – 2 minutes. Keep them moving so they don't burn. Be prepared to add the rest of the ingredients immediately.
- Add the onion-jalapeno mixture and mix it with the cumin seeds.
- Add the blended tomatoes and spices. Allow the tomatoes to heat through (5 minutes). When they start to bubble, cut the heat.
- Mix in the kidney beans and plant milk.
- Place the pot in the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until the curry is bubbling and the top has started to brown.
- Serve with the pickled onions, rice, and chopped cilantro (if desired).
- The nutritional information does not include the pickled onions (check the link for that information) or rice.
- If you do not have an oven-proof pot, transfer the curry to a baking dish before putting it into the oven.
- If you cannot find cumin seeds, substitute 1 tsp. of ground cumin. Mix this in with the tomatoes and spices and skip the first step.
Keywords: rajma masala