Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer)

Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer)

Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer) is super rich, satisfying and, yes, healthy. While the original recipe called for paneer, a mild Indian white cheese, I made it using firm tofu. However you make this incredibly easy and quick curry it will be delicious. If you use canned beans, the dish will be ready in under 45 minutes and any leftovers will last for several days. But if you decide to cook up your own beans (which I did) the cooking liquid can be used in this recipe or as a base for soup.

I only started seriously cooking my own beans this year, but have found it to be both easy and thrifty. And storing dried beans takes up less space in my pantry. An additional benefit is that I don’t have to worry about exploding cans that got lost in the back of my cupboard!

My husband and I were enjoying the leftovers last night while talking about how different our diet was now from what we grew up with. As children of the 1950’s and 1960’s, meat was on the menu almost every night. Since we both grew up on the Eastern seaboard, we also ate a fair amount of fish. And unlike today, our chicken and eggs were delivered to our house by Irving, the “Chicken Man”. Why Irving also delivered fresh pizzas I couldn’t say. Our milk (whole, of course) was also delivered every few days in glass bottles. The cream always rose to the top, forming a plug when you opened the cap. In the wintertime, if the temperatures went below freezing, the bottles could explode and then we were forced to drink powdered milk – super yuck!

While I was never a huge meat eater, red meat now is pretty much reserved for holidays and a bit more in the winter as stew or in soup. Increasingly, though, our dinners are vegetarian, sometimes vegan and poultry as pretty much our only animal consumed. Living in the Midwest, our access to good fresh ocean fish is less and it tends to be VERY expensive. And I do hate the way my house smells when I cook it.

But I digress. As I have mentioned many times in this blog, we love Indian and Middle Eastern cooking (acknowledging that there are many varieties of both cuisines). Both are very fruit, veg, whole grain and pulses forward and by generously utilizing herbs and spices the dishes sing.

Kidney Bean Curry is just one more example of how we can eat healthily and well without meat. Serve the curry over some rice or with a flat bread of choice. We like to add a dollop of yogurt on top, but it is also good without if you are trying to stay away from dairy. This wonderful weeknight dinner comes from Healthy Indian Vegetarian by Chetna Makan with a couple of tweaks by me.


Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma Paneer)

Yield: 4 to 6 servings [It may not look it, but it will make this much with rice]


2 Tablespoons neutral oil [I like Canola]

2 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 Tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger root

14 oz. can chopped tomatoes [I always buy fire roasted if I can]

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1.5 teaspoon garam masala

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 Tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) [If you don’t have this lovely herb, add 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup]

1 teaspoon sugar (light brown granulated or jaggery)

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

3 cups of cooked red kidney beans (about 400g.) [If you are cooking your own, I used 1 cup of dried beans]

18 ounces (500 ml.) of boiling cooking liquid from the kidney beans or water. [If you are using canned beans, only use the liquid if the beans are organic]

14 ounces of firm or extra firm tofu or paneer cheese, cut into 1-inch dice


Drain and rinse the kidney beans if using canned beans. If you cooked them, simply drain the beans while reserving the liquid.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds. As soon as they start to sizzle, add the onions and cook on medium heat until golden brown.

Add the ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add the canned tomatoes, including the liquid and cover the pan. Cook for about 8 minutes or until the tomatoes are well-softened.

Remove the lid and add in the remaining cumin seeds, the other spices, sugar and salt and cook for 1 minute, stirring everything through. Add the beans and the boiling water or liquid from the beans. Cover the pan and cook on low to medium heat (just simmering) for about 30 minutes. The beans should still hold their shape but be very tender.

Stir through the tofu or paneer just enough to heat it. Serve over rice or with flat bread.

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