Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
rajma paneer

One of my all time favorite dishes, especially enjoyable during the winter months, is rajma, a robust north Indian classic featuring plump red kidney beans in a thick and spicy tomato gravy. Just as there are countless ways to prepare Mexican-inspired chili stews ever so popular in the Western world, there are likewise many variations on the rajma theme.

This particular version elevates the rajma experience a level as it incorporates succulent cubes of paneer cheese into the mix making for a substantially more filling dish that is especially unique and satisfying. In addition to adding texture, paneer acts as a vehicle for the aromatic spices, further enhancing the dining experience.

Consider serving this when cooking for a larger crowd. It's always been a popular dish with my family and friends and is ideally complete when served with Indian flatbreads, vegetable sides and rice.

The recipe I present here is inspired by Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi. This extensive cookbook was my very first introduction to Indian cooking, and I highly recommend it to both novice and veteran cooks alike. I've gifted it and recommended the book on more than a few occasions and a few of my dinner guests have purchased the book after tasting some of my creations inspired by the delicious recipes contained within. I frequently refer to it as the bible of Indian cooking as the recipes are easy to follow, though they vary in complexity, and a wide variety of traditional Indian dishes are presented. With nearly 800 pages, recipes for beans and legumes, grain, breads, vegetables, cheese, chutneys and sauces, snacks and sweets, and beverages, in addition to a very helpful glossary of terms and definitions are offered up.

As I have noted before, I normally prefer cookbooks with lots of pictures, but the little illustrations throughout this book — along with detailed descriptions preceding each section and recipe, serving suggestions and information regarding the origins and traditions of the dishes presented — more than compensate for the lack of photos.

Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)

Notes: Ajwain seeds and paneer cheese are easily available at any Indian or Asian grocer, but ajwain seeds can be substituted with a few extra cumin seeds and a pinch or two of dried thyme. Paneer cheese has a consistency much like tofu, only it's made from whole milk rather than bean curd, and is much tastier, rather like a firm version of cottage cheese. If you can't find paneer, consider making it yourself. The dish can be made without the paneer, though its presence is highly recommended.

Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)
Recipe by
Adapted from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking
Cuisine: Indian
Originally published on March 21, 2007

A rich, earthy and spicy red kidney bean curry served with tender pieces of fried paneer cheese

Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

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  • 2 1/4 cups dried red kidney beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or butter
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, shredded or minced
  • 2 to 3 fresh chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or a mixture of butter and oil
  • 8 to 12 oz (200 to 300 g) paneer cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 medium firm ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Rinse the kidney beans and soak overnight in several inches of water. Drain and rinse, then transfer to a large saucepan and cover with 6 cups of fresh water. Add the bay leaf, turmeric, cayenne, paprika and ghee or butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender.

  • Remove the cooked beans from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon, roughly mash about 3/4 cup of the beans with the back of a fork and set aside. Continue to gently simmer the broth until quite thick, until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, and set aside.

  • Meanwhile, combine the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and ajwain seeds in a spice or coffee grinder and reduce to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl.

  • Place the ginger, chilies and 1/2 cup of water in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Stir in the powdered spices and add the garam masala, turmeric, asafetida, salt and lemon or lime juice. The mixture should have the consistency of a thin cream. Add a little more water if it is too thick.

  • If using fresh paneer, heat the ghee or butter and oil mixture in a large frying pan or wok over medium heat. When hot, add the paneer and stir for 5 to 8 minutes, constantly turning the cubes to brown them evenly on all sides. As they turn golden, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a dish lined with kitchen towel. (If using pre-fried paneer there is no reason to fry them twice.)

  • Add the ginger and spice paste to the pan and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 8 minutes or until the tomatoes are reduced to a thick paste.

  • Pour the tomato mixture into the reduced broth, add the cooked beans, mashed beans, fried cheese cubes and stir well to combine. Gently simmer over low heat for 15 minutes to heat throughout. Serve hot, garnished with fresh parsley, alongside some cooked rice such as Cracked Black Pepper Rice or Yellow Rice with Fried Cashews.

Makes 8 to 10 servings


Other rajma recipes to try:
Classic Kidney Bean Curry
Potato and Mint Rajma
Spicy Kidney Beans in a Tomato and Yogurt Sauce


Anonymous said...

This sounds so yummy. Rajma is a regular meal for us already (with a slightly different recipe than yours), but I'll have to hunt down some paneer so we can try this.

Reg said...

That looks soooo good Lisa. It's like your some kind of an Indian food Godess. Either you have to move east to 'Mitchieville Township' or I have to move to London so I can head over to your place for supper on a regular basis.

Lisa Turner said...

It's one of my favorite dishes. I'd be happy to have you over for dinner Reg. I'll do the cooking and you can do the dishes afterwards :)

And Sunni, you must try this dish. Though I said you can make it without paneer, it's much tastier with the addition of those delightful cheese cubes. Soon, I'll be posting another favorite of mine: mung paneer.

Anonymous said...

I adore mung beans! Looking forward to that recipe too – and do I remember rightly that you said you'd share a recipe for paneer too?

Lisa Turner said...

Yup, a recipe is on the way soon for homemade paneer. I have lots planned for this blog, but alas, there are only so many hours in a day!

command economy said...

Imagine there's this huge vat
It isn't hard to do
Lisa just keeps on filling it
So there's hardly time to chew
Imagine all the people
Eating Lisa's food

Ooo, oooo-oo,
You may say that I'm a glutton
But I'm not the only one
I hope one day you'll join us
No better way to gain a ton

Anonymous said...

No pressure intended from me, Lisa – I know very well how quickly those hours fill up. I just wasn't sure that I was remembering correctly.

Laughing @ Mike's great rip on that Lennon classic, too.

Lisa Turner said...

I was hoping actually try making the paneer in my own kitchen before posting the recipe, as I have always wanted to do so and I prefer to test any recipes that I include here. However, as you note, the hours fill up quickly, so I might end up posting it sooner than later.

Thanks for checking in!

Anonymous said...

A good combination, Lisa! Actually I tried replacing the paneer with potatoes but nah.... Cooking the beans in a pressure-cooker considerably reduced the cooking time. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Lisa!

hilariusaquarius said...

What changes would you make if using canned Kidney Beans? Two cans? any additional liquid?

Lisa Turner said...

If you wish to use canned beans instead of dried beans then I would use 4 14-ounce cans, simmered for about 15 minutes with a few cups of water with the spices that go in with the dried beans. Add more water as need to reach desired consistency. I do however strongly recommend using dried beans for this recipes for superior results.

Joanne said...

I don't think I've ever tried a rajma before! But it sounds so warm and cozy, which I definitely need right now.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Scrumptious and comforting! This is one great combination.