Living Vegan In Charlotte, NC

Virtual Vegan Potluck – Rajma!


Rajma – Classic Punjabi Comfort Food

Rajma is what I usually bring to real-life potlucks, so it only makes sense I should bring rajma to a virtual one!  Especially a late-autumn potluck.

I must admit, I was skeptical the first time my partner made this for me, three years ago.  Maybe because he called it “red beans and rice,” instead of the more exotic sounding “rajma”.

“Red beans and rice, indeed!”  I turned up my nose, although it was kind of exciting to see a  shirtless man with long, flowing black hair and the body of an Indian god cooking dinner.  To this day, I’ve rarely seen anyone doing that much justice to a pair of faded jeans.  “I’m a Southern girl,” I continued.  “I grew up on red beans and rice!  I can cook a mean Creole red beans and rice that would make you swear you were standing in New Orleans as you ate it.”

And then I tasted the rajma and – oh, wow, it really was completely different!

Sometimes rajma is referred to as North Indian chili, but calling it “chili” doesn’t do justice to it either.

It’s classic Punjabi comfort food – I don’t know what the American equivalent would be, maybe macaroni and cheese?  Mention it to any Indian and see their face light up.

Oddly, this is one dish you never see in Indian restaurants.  Maybe, it’s too common in India?  Not fancy enough?

And I’ve rarely seen a good recipe for rajma in a cookbook.  Usually, the recipe is either too Americanized (one recipe called for canned beans, chili powder, and hot sauce!) or “restaurantized” (calling for cream).

Seriously, if I had to pick just one Indian dish, this would be it.


  • 2 cups Light Red Kidney Beans, sorted and rinsed (You could also use dark red kidney beans or pinto beans, but I prefer the light red ones).  PLEASE DO  NOT USE CANNED!
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Yellow Onions, diced
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Ginger Root
  • 5 small Green Chili Peppers, diced
  • 1 cup canned Crushed Tomatoes (Not diced, not stewed – crushed.  Not tomato sauce, not tomato paste – crushed tomatoes.)
  • 1 or 2 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 TBL Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
  • 1-2 teaspoons Garam Masala (not curry powder)
  • Handful fresh Cilantro, chopped


  • Sort and wash the kidney beans, then cover with water and let the beans soak overnight.  This will dramatically reduce the cooking time.
  • In the morning, drain the soaking water and add enough fresh water to cover the beans with a few cups extra.  You want the final product to be a little “soupy” since you’ll be serving it over rice.
  • If using a pressure cooker, the beans will usually take about an hour to cook.  If using a regular pot, plan on the beans taking at least 90 minutes to cook.
  • While the beans are cooking, make the masala.  In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, saute the onions and green chili peppers in vegetable oil, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 5 minutes, until the onions start to turn golden brown.  If the onions start to burn, add more oil. Add the crushed tomatoes and stir.  Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, and chopped tomatoes.  Stir, then reduce heat and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the oil starts to separate from the sauce.  Set aside.
  • The beans are done when they are soft and the water looks a little “brothy”.  Add the masala mixture to the beans as well as 2 teaspoons garam masala, and simmer on low heat another 10-20 minutes.
  • Taste; you may need to add more salt.
  • Serve over basmati rice and top with chopped cilantro, and, if desired, a dollop of plain, unsweetened soy yogurt.


  • To save time, the masala mixture can be made the day before and refrigerated.
  • Always make a large batch so you’ll have leftovers.  It tastes even better after sitting overnight in the refrigerator!
  • Indian cooking is not an exact science, so relax and have fun with this!

Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes is bringing the next dish to the table!  I can’t wait to try it!

A.B.C. Vegan brought the last dish to the table before mine.  Mmmm…I just may have to go back and get some more …

Tagged as: , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: Chilis, Indian & Indian Fusion, Vegan Recipes

34 Responses »

  1. I solemnly promise not to use canned bean when I make this Rajma recipe… IF you post a photo of your shirtless fellow making it. 😀

  2. I love that this is the dish you bring to real, live Potlucks! I love rice and beans any way I can get them – and this sounds particularly delish! Thank you for participating in the Potluck!

  3. Just making my way through the VVP & wanted to say hey 🙂

  4. Yum, this looks so amazing! You’re right, definitly perfect for fall.

    • Thanks! I also live in an area of the American south that’s not terribly diverse, so this is also a bit novel for those potluck goers who are expecting something more along the lines of your typical Southern red beans and rice.

  5. I lovee this dish. The spices associated with this are amazing.

  6. Perfect dish for sharing at this potluck! Don’t you wish it was a “real” one! You are amazing! Thanks so much for being part of the potluck! xx

  7. Yum, that sounds so good. And so true– I’ve never seen rajma in a restaurant!

  8. Can I admit that when I read the line “shirtless man with long flowing hair” I pictured you as Sookie Stackhouse with some sort of gorgeous supernatural being cooking for you?
    Ahem…anyway, I love Indian food so I will certainly give this a try. And NO canned beans will be used 🙂

    • ROFLMAO! I’ve never thought of myself at Sookie Stackhouse! He did look pretty gorgeous cooking … I guess that was all part of his courtship ritual! I see I’m not the only woman out there that would have worked on!

  9. MMM,…What a grand & very appetizing meal! I love it! 🙂 Yummy Yum!
    I also joined the VVP but am not a vegan but do cook, bake & eat vegan 5x/week! Yeah!

    • If you cook, bake, and eat vegan 5x/week that is very impressive! You are doing great things for your health, the enviornment, and the animals! BTW, it took me awhile to become a full-time vegan! Some people can do it all at once, but for me it was a process. I was “mostly” vegan, then a little more vegan, then a little more vegan … 🙂

  10. This looks delicious. We fairly recently discovered Indian food, and this looks like a pretty easy way to make something other than just curry at home (not that there’s anything wrong with curry. That was dinner last night). When we make our beans through, we cook them in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours, which covered both soaking and cooking. Would we save that broth? Thanks!

    • Yes, save that broth! The tomatoes in the dish really just flavor the broth – you want lots of that good bean broth for the rice! If you’re interested in exploring Indian foods and use your slow cooker a lot, there’s a great book called The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla. It does have meat recipes but about half the recipes are vegan (or vegetarian that could easily be converted to vegan).

  11. All my favourite things in one delicious dish – a must try recipe 🙂
    Thank you!

  12. This is great. I will be making a double batch because left over curry is the best!
    Thank you for the great recipe.


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