Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Chawal)

Hearty and filling without any meat, vegetarian kidney bean curry has just enough heat to warm you up on a chilly evening. Since my recipe uses canned beans instead of dried, it’s easy to make and ready in just 40 minutes from start to finish!

overhead: dish of indian kidney bean curry

When the weather turns chilly, nothing warms you up quite like a bowl of curry. Technically, it’s just a well-seasoned type of stew — and we all know stews are perfect for winter meals.

Even though it’s a vegetarian dish, kidney bean curry is still very hearty and filling. But it has the added benefit of dietary fiber, which keeps you feeling full and satisfied for longer.

My traveling to India offered the opportunity to experience the flavors of plenty of different Indian masala curry dishes. And of course, there are popular curries made without a masala seasoning as well.

map of India

Some of my favorite Indian curry recipes are chickpea masala and mango chicken. And then there’s everyone’s favorite, the Punjabi butter chicken recipe

But if you’re looking for another meat-free option, you can’t go wrong with dal makhani! It features protein-rich lentils and beans in a creamy, spiced sauce. My all-time favorite!

Tip From Kevin

Are beans and rice a complete protein?

Individually, beans and rice are not considered complete proteins because they lack certain essential amino acids. However, when combined, they complement each other’s amino acid profiles, forming a complete protein. This makes the combination a valuable source of essential amino acids, making it suitable for those following plant-based diets to ensure they receive adequate protein intake.

bowl of rajma chawal with cilantro garnish with a bowl of steamed basmati rice and naan to the side

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Onion I like to use a white onion for this recipe, but you can use a yellow or red onion instead if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Chiles – Serrano peppers are a smaller version of jalapeños that are much spicier. If you prefer to dial down the heat, remove the ribs and seeds or opt for jalapeños instead.
  • Ghee A type of clarified butter that is the base of so many South Asian and Middle Eastern recipes. Find it in near the cooking oils or in the international food aisle of the store. In a pinch, regular butter will work.
  • Garlic & Ginger – Use ginger paste to save yourself some prep (find it in tubes in the produce section), but stick with fresh garlic cloves for the best flavor.
  • Tomato Passata – It may sound fancy, but this ingredient is simply puréed and strained tomatoes. Feel free to make your own from scratch or use storebought. Tomato sauce is a good substitute.
  • Spices – Season kidney bean curry with garam masala (I like my homemade version best), plus ground cumin, fenugreek leaves, and kosher salt.
  • Kidney Beans – Either light or dark kidney beans are the most commonly used variety of red beans for rajma chawal curry. To make this a quick recipe, I prefer to use canned beans with the liquid.
  • Cilantro – This garnish is optional but highly recommended. The bright, herbal notes help balance the heavier flavors in this dish.

How to Make Kidney Bean Curry

  1. Make the Curry Paste. Purée onion, chile peppers, and water in a blender or food processor. It will be very loose at first but will thicken up later as it cooks.
  2. Cook With Ghee. Melt ghee in a Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the onion purée. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-18 minutes, stirring often. The curry paste will thicken and turn a dark golden brown.
  3. Add Remaining Ingredients. Stir in ginger and garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Next, add the tomato passata and spices and stir to combine. Then, mix in the canned beans with liquid and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer & Serve. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over cooked basmati rice with your favorite flatbread, such as naan, dosa, or roti, and garnish with chopped cilantro.
overhead: tomato passata with fenugreek leaves and garam masala
  • Blender – Use this, or a food processor, to make the onion chile paste.
  • Dutch Oven – This heats faster and more evenly than other pans and is perfect for one-pot dishes.

Storing and Reheating

Leftover kidney bean curry can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

You can also freeze it for 3-4 months. Spoon into a zippered storage bag, removing as much air as possible, and store flat for best results.

To reheat, return the dish to a saucepan on the stove. Simmer over medium heat until warmed through, then make a fresh batch of rice for serving. If the curry is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

overhead: bowl of kidney bean curry with cilantro garnish next to bowl of basmati rice

Frequently Asked Questions

Are rajma masala and rajma chawal the same?

Yes, both are names for this Indian kidney bean curry and are often used interchangeably.

Can I make kidney bean curry with dried beans?

Yes, you can use dried beans for this curry recipe, but it requires some extra prep work. Dried kidney beans should be soaked overnight (or at least 8 hours), then cooked until tender. 

To make this rajma chawal recipe, you will need 3 ½ cups of dried beans, soaked and cooked, plus 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

What type of rice is best for rajma chawal?

Serve kidney bean curry with basmati rice, known for its fragrant, nutty flavor and long, separate grains. Because basmati isn’t sticky, it can handle the moisture from the curry without becoming a mushy mess. Jasmine rice is a suitable alternative, but it will need to be rinsed extra well to remove excess starch.

closeup: rajma chawal garnished with chopped cilantro

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overhead: dish of indian masala curry with kidney beans

Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Chawal)

My Indian kidney bean curry, or rajma chawal, is made with red beans in a curry paste tomato sauce. Serve over rice for a comforting meal.
Servings: 4
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 40 minutes



  • Puree the onion, chili and water in a blender until a loose paste is formed.
  • In a dutch oven over medium heat, melt the ghee and pour in the onion puree. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer for 15-18 minutes, or until it turns a dark golden brown and thickens to a paste, stirring often.
  • Turn the heat to medium and add the ginger and garlic, stirring to cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato passata, garam masala, cumin and fenugreek leaves. Stir in the beans and the liquid, season with salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Serve with chopped cilantro on top. I like this with warm naan and steamed rice.


  1. I use canned kidney beans and their liquid. If you want to make beans from scratch, use 3 1/2 cups dried, soaked and cooked kidney beans along with 1 cup of cooking liquid.
  1. This recipe was previously published on my other food site, Kevin Is Cooking, as Red Kidney Bean Curry with Lamb, dated March 2014. I have since updated the cooking technique and omitted ground lamb from the recipe.


Calories: 398kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 316mg | Potassium: 1134mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 339IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 7mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
overhead image of red kidney bean curry in copper bowl


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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