Quick red kidney bean (rajma) dahl

Red kindney bean rajma dahl

I make this red kidney bean dahl quite often as a quick midweek meal. I used to always drain and rinse my cans of beans until I started making this recipe. It seemed like a curiously radical thing to do the first time I made it – to throw the beans, liquid and all, into the pot. I was making this dahl one day after school and a friend of my son was watching me – he looked at me aghast as I threw the beans and  liquid into the pot and even told me rather sternly that I wasn’t meant to do that. But if your beans are good quality (preferably organic) there’s no reason not to throw entire contents of the can into your pot: it really makes the gravy richer and tastier.

Red kidney bean rajma dahl and rice

This is a quick and easy dish with simple and accessible spicing. It’s a good dahl to make if you like Indian food but are not confident cooking with a lot of different spices. It can be served as part of a more elaborate meal or simply as it is with rice or naan, a dollop of cooling yoghurt and salad.


Curry leaves aren’t called for in the original recipe but as curry leaves are fairly readily available in Sydney, as well as being easy to grow in a pot or in the ground, I tend to throw it into pretty much every Indian-style dish I make. If you can get access to curry leaves, they freeze well, but if you can only get dried curry leaves, I probably wouldn’t bother – the dried seemed like such a pale imitation of the fresh version.

Red kidney bean rajma dahl

Red kidney bean dahl

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves for four to six

  • 3 tablespoons of light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2½ cms (1 inch) of ginger root finely chopped (or microplaned if you are feeding fussy children)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 plump tomato, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large green chilli, chopped (optional)
  • 8 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon tumeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ cup of tomato passata
  • 3 cups of cooked red kidney beans or 2 x 400g cans of kidney beans
  • chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
  1. Heat oil in medium size saucepan. Add curry leaves and cumin seeds let sizzle then add onion, ginger, garlic and green chilli and cook until soft and translucent.
  2. Add remaining spices, cook for 30 seconds then add tomato passata, salt, kidney beans (with liquid) another cup of water and diced tomato.
  3. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes until the gravy is nice and thick.
  4. Remove from heat, garnish with coriander and serve with rice or flat bread and a dollop of yoghurt.


  1. I’m not aghast you throw the water and all from the can in the pot – I’m aghast you’re using canned beans at all! 😉

  2. Fair enough! What brand?

    • I usually get the bio nature organic brand or the Annalisa brand which are available from Woolworths. Coles are now stocking a weird selection of brands of beans none of which (including their home brand) I’ve found particularly good.

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