Slow Cooker Punjabi Rajmah: Spiced Kidney Beans

October 28, 2014

Curry › Kids Eat Healthy › Vegan ›

Halloween is around the corner.

But, instead of getting spooked by the bags upon bags of candy that my kids and I will be surrounded by, I instead decide to empower myself. How? By pulling out my slow cooker and cooking...without really cooking. 

Instead of fighting the inevitable, I just realize that the only way I can manage the amount of candy my kids (and I) suck up is by simply keeping us all full with the good stuff. So, come this Friday I'll throw something delicious into the slow cooker and insist that my girls and hubby eat a warm, hearty bowlful over some freshly-made basmati rice before hitting the sidewalks begging for sugar morsels.

And, when they get home from walking our Chicago streets, it's always the same story. They splurge a little, but do more counting, piling, and bragging than actual eating. 

This Halloween, try my amazing Rajmah. It's spiced kidney beans - a dish that we eat regularly in North Indian families. We typically eat it over spiced basmati rice with a side of lemony, spiced raw onions on the side. This recipe is on page 74 of my book, The Indian Slow Cooker, with a few slight changes. I've add a few more spices and tweaked the steps involved. I find that processing your fresh ingredients in a food processor gives you an even creamier texture later. I've also added instructions using soaked beans, unlike my original recipe. (Some folks bodies just respond better to soaked beans, especially kidney beans.)

Read on, and try the recipe below. I'll make a believer out of you, too! 


Spiced Punjabi Kidney Beans
Slow Cooker Size: 5-Quart, Cook for 10-12 hours on High (See notes below), Yield: 15 cups

3 cups dried kidney beans, cleaned, washed, and soaked in ample water overnight
1 medium yellow or red onion, roughly chopped 
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped 
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
2-4 Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed (truth be told, we use more)
4 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon red chile powder (reduce if you don't like heat)
2 tablespoons salt, or to taste (if you want to cut the salt, start with half)
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 cups water
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Drain kidney beans and rinse again with clean water. Add to slow cooker. 

2. In a food processor, grind onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles until smooth. Add this to the slow cooker. (I usually have about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of this mixture.)

3. Add remaining ingredients except cilantro and mix well. 

4. Cook on High for 12 hours, adding the cilantro about 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Serve over delicious basmati rice, white or brown. Try not to peek too much in between. Some estimate that for every time you lift the lid of a slow cooker it slows down cooking time by 15 minutes. I love peeking, so won't judge you, promise. 

Reduce Cooking Time: You can cut your cooking time to 10 hours if you use boiling hot water instead of room temperature. I keep a kettle handy just for this purpose. 

Make Less: To make this recipe in a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker, use 2 cups of dried kidney beans soaked overnight, cut all your other ingredients in half (but still use 1 cinnamon stick and 1 bay leaf). This will make about 9 cups.  This recipe is easily scalable, just tweak it as you need to for your slow cooker size.Always remember that 3 teaspoons make a tablespoon, and when cooking Indian it's not important to measure every seed and ounce of can feel comfortable to wing it a little. That's how our mothers and grandmothers cooked. 

Biggest Mistakes: The best Rajmah is at once flavorful and creamy. You truly need to cook it this long to get the level of creaminess we look for in a North Indian, Punjabi home. The biggest mistake folks make is to try and cut back on the cooking time. The beans truly start to break down about 10 hours into cooking. And, no, you cannot get that same creaminess from canned beans. You can use canned, but it will never quite do this dish justice because canned beans have already absorbed all the moisture they are going to take in. 

Try This! I often get double duty out of my Rajmah by making a nacho salad out of it, serving it over chips and smothered in avocado, diced onion, sliced black olives and fresh chiles. Or, serve it over a tortilla. My kids love it this way and it saves me one night of making dinner AGAIN! 

Spice Note: Don't get discouraged if you don't have all the spices. Although I like the woody, earthy taste of black cardamom pods, they are a little tougher to source. I know Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square in Chicago has them..head over and tell them I sent you. But, if not, then just omit them for now. You can find all the other spices in any Indian grocery store - and well stocked grocer. And if it's easier, purchase them from my website. Whatever works for you and gets you motivated to start cooking. 

Enjoy! Anupy xoxo 

By the way, I hit the road in November for my Indian For Everyone book tour. I truly hope to see you all to sign copies of my book personally for you. Nov. 1 I'm in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, then Seattle, Vancouver, and Philadelphia - my home town. I truly hope you'll come out and support me and my book. Would love to meet you all. Click here for more information. Email me personally if you plan to come out at 




Anupy Singla
Anupy Singla


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