Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)

Much like a rich, earthy and spicy Indian equivalent of a Mexican chili, this rajma is adapted from 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. 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. The book is nearly 800 pages and includes 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.

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.

This dish is fairly easy to make, and although you'll be hanging in the kitchen for a couple of hours, it's totally worth the time and effort and it's a great dish to serve to a small party of 8 or 10 people. 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. The dish can be made without the paneer, but it is worth looking for.

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
Published on March 21, 2007

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

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 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
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 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 with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. 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 from heat.

  • Remove the cooked beans from the liquid with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return the liquid in the pan to the stove. The liquid should be quite thick, but continue to gently boil down until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Remove from heat, discard the bay leaf, and set aside.

  • Transfer 3/4 cup of the cooked beans to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Set aside the cooked and mashed beans.

  • 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 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, 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 saucepan 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 crisp and golden, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a dish. (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.

  • Add the cooked beans, mashed beans, fried cheese cubes and the reduced cooking liquid to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Garnish with the fresh parsley and serve hot with fresh cooked rice such as a simple pulao.

Makes 8 to 10 servings
Curried Red Kidney Beans with Paneer (Paneer Rajma)


sunni 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 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.

sunni 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 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!

Mike 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

sunni 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 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!

Latha 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.