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Creamy Black Bean Curry

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This tasty easy creamy thick black bean curry is dairy-free, vegan, full of Indian-style flavors, and ready in under half an hour. Mildly spiced with a few tricks that make it taste just like a restaurant-style curry.

Top down view of a black cast-iron pan with a creamy light brown bean curry, on a grey background.

When I lived in India I absolutely loved all the kidney bean and white bean curries there, but when I did a vegan whole30 I discovered I actually react quite badly to kidney beans and cannellini beans (but fine to other legumes!).

So what’s a girl to do when she wants a bean fix Indian-style? Well adapt and make something similar with black beans! I got a lot of the inspiration for this dish from Dassana’s Veg Recipes rajma recipe – I highly recommend Dassana’s website if you’re a fan of Indian cooking, I’m a huge fan in particular of her South Indian recipes.

This is a very easy curry and you can easily add other vegetables or substitute/omit some of the spices. I’ll list below what are some easy swaps you can make to customize it.

For additions, some spinach added in the final few minutes of cooking would taste amazing, or some peppers and cubed potatoes added with the beans. Got leftover roast vegetables in the fridge? Toss ’em in to heat up a little near the end of cooking your tasty black bean curry.

You can use canned rinsed beans or beans you’ve cooked yourself, just make sure they’re cooked before they go in.

Oh and if you’re a fan of tasty easy curries then I highly recommend checking out these recipes:

Substitutions

First, let me say that I highly recommend you make this black bean curry as is – time went into testing it and the recipe works very well as is. Having said that, everyone has different tastes and sometimes we don’t have all the ingredients to hand, so let’s look at what ingredients we need to use in the photo below and what we can do if we don’t have some/don’t like some.

labelled ingredients for black bean curry including ground cilantro, black beans, vegetable stock, an onion, tomatoes, and spices

Plant-based spread: This can be replaced with vegan margarine, vegan butter, or (if not vegan) some ghee or butter. Whatever you use, make sure it’s a spread that tastes good as it really imparts a lot of flavor. I don’t recommend using oil instead, but if you don’t have anything else to hand you can use coconut oil.

Cumin seeds: Don’t like them? Leave them out. Don’t have any? Either leave out or add one teaspoon of ground cumin with the cayenne, cilantro and garam masala later on in the recipe.

Onion: Don’t leave this out! If you don’t have any white onion to hand it’s fine to use another similar type e.g. red onion, shallots, the white part of spring onions, as long as you use roughly the same amount (about one cup chopped).

Garlic: Don’t leave this out and don’t substitute with ground garlic, which tastes quite different. The cloves in this recipe need to be crushed, if you don’t have a garlic crusher you can just chop them finely instead.

Tomatoes: You need to use fresh raw tomatoes in this recipe, canned tomatoes won’t do. You can use any type of ripe red tomatoes.

Cayenne pepper: This is optional so if you don’t like spice just leave it out. One quarter teaspoon will give a mild amount of spice whereas half a teaspoon would be very spicy. You can use chili flakes instead in the same amount, or one red mild chili pepper.

Ground cilantro: Don’t omit this unless you’re one of those people with that genetic quirk that makes cilantro taste soapy, in that case you can leave it out.

Garam masala: If you don’t have this to hand you can either try making your own garam masala, substitute it with a high-quality curry powder that you like, or leave it out altogether.

Turmeric: If you don’t have it, leave it out.

Cooked black beans: You can use any type of cooked beans in this recipe if you don’t have black beans to hand. I don’t recommend making this recipe in a pressure cooker or instant pot as it will really tamp down the flavor a lot. If you only have dried black beans to hand it’s better to cook them first and then follow the recipe. Or, you can try making my vegetarian feijoada.

Vegetable stock: If you don’t have stock to hand you can either make some up with a stock cube or bouillon powder. Worst case scenario you can use water, although it won’t be as flavorful.

Coconut cream: If you don’t have any coconut cream you can chill a can of coconut milk for a few hours and then scoop the cream off the top after opening. For a lower-calorie alternative you can use light coconut milk although be warned it won’t be as creamy. If you’re not vegan, crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt can all be used instead.

Kasuri methi: Okay this is optional but only because I know that it can sometimes be tricky to find. If you can get it, do. Adding this to your recipe will give it that restaurant-style taste (you can also use it in my vegan dal tadka recipe). You can order it online or pick it up in your local Indian or speciality grocer’s.

Fresh cilantro: This is optional and can be omitted.

top down view of a cast iron pan with pale brown bean curry and two bowls of rice and curry and naan bread

How to make it

Easy creamy black bean curry is pretty easy to make but I always recommend having your ingredients ready, chopped and measured, before you begin cooking as things will move pretty fast once you get going. In this section, I like to go through the process of making the recipe in detail for newer or less experienced cooks, but if you’re a pro you can skip this section and scroll down to the recipe card.

First of all, add your plant-based spread to the pan (image one below, I use Flora margarine for cooking with, Miyoko and Earth Balance are also great) and turn the heat to medium-high. When all of the spread has melted and the pan is hot (hold your hand an inch over the pan to check the heat) add in the cumin seeds (image two).

When the cumin seeds have lightly browned and/or make popping or crackling sounds (after about two minutes), add the onion and mix well (image three). It’s important that you don’t burn the cumin seeds – when lightly toasted they impart a lot of flavor, but burnt they can make the dish taste bitter. Cook the onion-cumin mix for around five minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking and burning until the onions are lightly browned.

First six photos showing how to make black bean curry. Heating spread, adding cumin, onions, garlic, tomatoes and frying.

Add the crushed garlic (image four above), reduce the heat to medium, stir and cook one minute more, stirring every 10-15 seconds to prevent the garlic from sticking. I use a garlic crusher on unpeeled cloves of garlic and scrape the skin out after every clove before the next one goes in to stop the crusher from getting jammed. If you don’t have a crusher you can just finely chop the garlic.

Add the seeded finely chopped tomatoes (image five), mix well (image six) and fry for another five-seven minutes stirring often until the tomatoes are soft and disintegrating (image seven below). This is why it’s important not to use canned chopped tomatoes, they hold their structure too well and the chunks of tomato don’t add much flavor to sauces, it’s really the juice from the can that adds any flavor, and that’s not what we’re going for here.

Add the cayenne pepper, ground cilantro, garam masala, and ground turmeric (image eight). Mix well and cook one more minute to toast the spices a little and release more of their flavor.

photos labelled 7 to 12 showing fried tomatoes and onions, spices added, beans and stock added, reduction and cream and herbs added.

Add the drained rinsed beans and the vegetable stock (image nine). Two cups will give a drier curry as in the photos on this page, two and a half will give more sauce. Add salt to taste (I added a quarter teaspoon but it will depend on how salty your vegetable stock is).

Increase the heat to high until your black bean curry is at a lively simmer and then reduce to medium to maintain at a simmer for around twelve until thickened to your liking (image ten above) depending on how much sauce you like in your curries. Remember that the coconut cream will also loosen the curry more so it’s okay if it looks a little drier than you prefer.

Add the coconut cream, half of the chopped cilantro if using, and the kasuri methi (image eleven). Rub the kasuri methi between your fingers to finely crumble it in. Mix together well and check it’s the consistency you’d like – if you’d like it more “saucy” you can add up to half a cup of water to loosen it more.

Sprinkle the remaining coriander over (image twelve) and serve with steamed basmati rice, and garlic naan if you really want a feast!

Storing it

This tasty creamy black bean curry can be kept in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to five days. The beans will continue to release starch so the sauce may thicken as it sits in the fridge, just loosen by mixing in a little water until it’s at the right consistency, and then either reheat in the microwave on high for two minutes, stirring halfway through or by warming in a saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat and stirring often until it’s heated through.

It also freezes beautifully in sealed freezer bags or sealed reusable containers for up to three months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and then follow the directions for reheating as above.

bowl of black bean curry with coconut milk

Frequently Asked Questions

What is kasuri methi?

Kasuri methi is sun-dried fenugreek leaves. Not to be confused with “methi”, which is Hindi for fenugreek, and usually refers to the fresh leaves or the seeds. It is a popular herb in Indian cooking.

What are black beans called in India?

Although I rarely saw them, black beans are sometimes used in Indian cooking and I believe they’re called black turtle beans.

How do I cook dried black beans?

You can simmer the dried beans in three times the amount of water (e.g. one cup of beans to three cups of water), with some aromatics (onion, garlic cloves, halved lemons, bay leaves, bouillon etc.), for around one and a half hours. Soaking overnight will improve how easy they are to digest and help the beans keep their shape better, but isn’t necessary. If you have a pressure cooker, forty minutes on high pressure should give you soft beans. For the Instant Pot, cook thirty minutes at high pressure and leave to naturally release.


I hope you enjoyed this black bean curry, and if you made it please let me know how you got on in the comments below or leave a star rating and review by clicking on the stars in the recipe box.

Ooh, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram (@the_fiery_vegetarian), I love seeing your creations!

Yield: 4 servings

Creamy Black Bean Curry

Top down view of a black cast-iron pan with a creamy light brown bean curry, on a grey background.

This easy creamy black bean curry is dairy-free, egg-free and sumptuous, full of spices and deep rich flavor. Just a few simple staples and a handful of some exotic spices yields this yummy curry in just over half an hour.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 26 minutes
Total Time 31 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons plant-based spread
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 medium tomatoes (350 grams), seeded and finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ½ tablespoon ground cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 3.5 cups cooked black beans (580g, roughly two cans)
  • 2 - 2.5 cups vegetable stock (depending on how much sauce you want)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tablespoons coconut cream
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves to serve, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1.5 teaspoons kasuri methi (optional but recommended)

Instructions

    1. Melt spread in pan on medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds.
    2. When cumin seeds brown and crackle (after about two minutes), add the onion. Cook around five minutes until onions are lightly browned.
    3. Add garlic and cook one minute. 
    4. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium and fry around five to six minutes, stirring often, until tomatoes are soft and disintegrating.
    5. Add the cayenne, cilantro, garam masala and turmeric. Mix well and fry one minute more.
    6. Add the drained rinsed beans and vegetable stock. Add salt to taste (I added ¼ tsp but it will depend on how salty your vegetable stock is). Increase heat to high until simmering lively and then reduce to medium to a simmer for twelve minutes until thickened to your liking depending on how much sauce you like in your curries. 
    7. Add the coconut cream, half the cilantro leaves, and the kasuri methi, rubbing the kasuri methi between your fingers to crumble it in. Mix well and sprinkle remaining cilantro leaves on top to serve.

    Notes

    Vegans can use any plant-based spread, vegan butter or dairy-free margarine. If you don't have an issue with dairy or aren't vegan, you can use butter or ghee.

    Once seeded and finely chopped, you should have about one and a quarter cups of chopped tomatoes.

    Two cups of vegetable stock will yield a drier gravy while two and a half will yield more sauce. You can adjust the thickness of the gravy by reducing cooking time for more sauce, increasing for a drier curry, adding more water to the finished curry etc.

    Cilantro leaves are measured before chopping. So it should be roughly three tablespoons of the leaves which are then finely chopped.

    Nutrition Information

    Yield

    4

    Serving Size

    1

    Amount Per Serving Calories 333Total Fat 5gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 1gCholesterol 0mgSodium 998mgCarbohydrates 59gFiber 16gSugar 17gProtein 16g

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    Sara Welch

    Wednesday 26th of May 2021

    Enjoyed this for dinner last night and it did not disappoint! Loved all the bold flavors; even my picky eaters gobbled this up!

    Andrea

    Wednesday 26th of May 2021

    This is such a flavor packed curry. Love that it uses black beans.

    Claudia Lamascolo

    Wednesday 26th of May 2021

    I love the seasoning in this delicious and a winner for sure!

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