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Rajma (no onion or garlic!)

Rajma (no onion or garlic!)

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Rajma is a Northern Indian favorite comfort food. This version is made with no onions and no garlic, making it a Jain vegetarian and Buddhist friendly option.

The best thing happened to me the other day. Neha from The Smoothie Corner made my acquaintance and agreed to be my guide to unlock the secrets of Indian cooking. Up until this point, I didn’t have anyone on the inside! But now, thanks to her, I’ve got access to the treasure trove of secrets. Mark this as the beginning of many Indian recipes to come- I am very excited. Be sure to check out Neha’s Instagram page, The Smoothie Corner!

So we began creating this recipe via email. Neha told me all about the dish and why it’s special before giving me the gist for how she makes it. From there we got some more specific instructions down and started testing it. Here is the result, and it is AWESOME. The flavors are rich and deep and fire on all cylinders by being bright but creamy. It is by far the best Indian recipe I have ever made and I am very pleased to share it.

This recipe hails from the Punjabi region of Northern India. For the uninitiated, Rajma is a red kidney bean curry that is commonly served with rice. Like many bean-and-rice dishes across almost every culture, it is often considered ultimate comfort food.

Everyone has their own version of this dish. This particular version of rajma is made without onions and garlic. Why is this significant? Many Indians- such as Jain vegetarians and some Buddhists- don’t eat garlic, onions or other alliums. Jain vegetarians make a point to not eat alliums or potatoes for fear of hurting small creatures in the ground as they are harvested. Some of the more devout Buddhists also believe that these foods increase bad feelings.

Instead of onions, this recipe uses cashew paste to create perfect creaminess. This is done by soaking cashews and then blending them with a little water to create a smooth sauce. If you’re allergic, the cashews can be omitted and this will still be pretty good! But I definitely suggest going with the cashews if you can.

This recipe begins by using a pressure cooker to first cook the beans. You can always use your Instant Pot on the “beans” setting if that’s what you have. And of course they can be cooked the old fashioned way on the stove- just allow yourself a few hours to make sure they get soft. Your goal is to cook them all the way through before you begin assembling your Rajma.

Like many Indian recipes, the next step is to create the masala. “Masala” is a general term used to describe the spice blend or flavor profile of your dish. It can be a mixture of dry spices, or more of a paste, as is the case in this recipe. You’ll find that I did indeed still include a garlic clove in the masala- this is totally optional! To make this one, simply blend your tomato, garlic clove, green chili (see note below) and a few cranks of pepper. Puree until smooth and then cook it down to create the perfect base for the rest of your flavors to meet upon and marry!

The green chili that this recipe uses is a bird’s eye or Thai chili. I often use these in Thai recipes such as my Restaurant-Style Thai Curry. These should be available in any Asian market and in some well-stocked major groceries. You can find more information about these chilis here. In some Indian recipes, you will see these referred to as just green chilis or Indian green chilis. They are the same thing.



Rajma (no onions no garlic!)

Rajma is a Northern Indian favorite comfort food. This version is made with no onions and no garlic, making it a Jain vegetarian and Buddhist friendly option.

Course Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Keyword buddhist friendly, jain vegetarian, rajma no garlic, rajma no onion, vegan
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Time 2 hours


For Cashew Paste:

  • 1/4 cup roasted cashews
  • 2 tbsp water (plus more for soaking)

For Masala:

  • 1 tomato (about 1/3 lb)
  • 1 garlic clove (optional!)
  • 1 bird's eye (Thai) green chile
  • a few cranks of pepper

To Assemble Rajma:

  • 1/2 cup dried red kidney beans (about 1 1/2 cups after cooking)
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp lime juice + lime wedges for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked white rice for serving



  1. 8-12 hours before you plan on cooking your beans, soak them in water.

  2. 2 hours before cooking, cover roasted cashews in an inch or so of water in a separate bowl

Cook the Kidney Beans:

  1. If you have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, cook your soaked beans at pressure for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If you are cooking your beans on the stovetop, allow 2-3 hours for them to soften completely.

Create the Masala:

  1. Roughly chop the tomato. Place in blender with the garlic clove (if using), bird's eye chili and pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour into a separate bowl and set aside.

Create the cashew paste:

  1. Rinse your blender. Drain water from cashews and place them in the blender. Add 2 tbsp of water and puree until smooth. Scrape the sides if necessary.

Assemble Rajma:

  1. Heat neutral oil in a medium frying pan. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and cloves and sautee until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

  2. Remove the solids. Pour in your masala mixture. Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes.

  3. Add cooked kidney beans,turmeric, coriander, chile powder, garam masala and bay leaf. Stir to combine and then add 1 cup of water.

  4. Cook, partially covered, until soft and the liquid has reduced - about 20 minutes.

  5. Remove from heat. Stir in cashew paste and lime juice. Season generously with salt and pepper. Serve with white rice, lime wedges and (optional) flatbread!

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