KITCHARI - EVERY WHICH WAY
BASIC KITCHARI RECIPE (page 184 in East by West)
Kitchari (also spelled kitcharee, khichadi, kitchadee, and in many other variants) is one of the staple healing foods in Ayurveda. It is believed to balance the doshas, support the tissues, detoxify the body and purify the digestive system. In India, it is used to nourish the elderly and sick, and it is often a baby’s first food since it is easy to digest. It also used for mono-diet fasting at retreats and cleanses, where participants eat kitchari for every meal for a couple of days to give the digestive system a much-needed rest while still providing the essential nutrients. This Ayurvedic ‘chicken soup’ is perfect for when you are feeling under the weather, exhausted after a long trip or in need of a cleanse or a comforting hug. It’s a simple one-pot hearty dish that makes it quick and easy to add a thousand-year-old healing food and all of its benefits to our modern diet. You can easily customise it with your Dosha’s pacifying herbs, spices and vegetables. Lightly spiced, it makes a delicious breakfast porridge, lunch and dinner and a staple for the CLEANSE + RESET.
Mung beans are one of Ayurveda’s superfoods: Tridoshic and Sattvic, easily digestible and great for removing toxic residues from the intestines. Similarly, basmati rice is also considered balancing and Tridoshic, making them a perfect match. When combined, mung dal and basmati rice provide a ‘complete’ meal with all the fibre, protein and nourishment the body needs in very soothing and digestible form. You can make it with whole mung beans (just make sure you soak them overnight!) and brown basmati rice, but if you are feeling unwell or have a weak digestion, I recommend following the recipe below using split mung beans* and white rice** to keep it soothing and nourishing. NOTE: there is nothing al dente about this dish, it should be perfectly soft and even mushy or soup-like.
Here’s how to make the perfect kitchari, with vegan and gluten-free variations as well vegetable options for all three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. It's ok to skip the veggies for a few days during a cleanse if your digestion is weak. To make this vegan use coconut oil or see the extra virgin olive oil tip below. This recipe makes 3-4 portion depending how soupy you make it and whether or not you add veggies.
For a CLEANSE + RESET, eat kitchari for all of your meals for a day or two—or simply enjoy it as a delicious part of a healthy, whole-foods diet.
1 cup/200g yellow mung dal*
½ cup/100g white basmati rice**
2 tbs ghee (or coconut oil) ***
4 cardamom pods, cracked (just bite between your teeth!)
2 bay leaves
5 cups (1.25 litres) of water or more
2–5 cups of chopped seasonal vegetables
(see Dosha-specific ideas below)
1 teaspoon of:
2 teaspoons of:
Black mustard seeds
Rinse the mung dal and rice until the water runs clear.
Measure out all of the spices into a cup — this makes it less likely that you'll burn your spices while searching for the others.
Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot. Add all of the spices and sauté together on a medium heat for a minute until fragrant. Be careful not to overdo this stage — it's better to err on the side of caution on your first attempt than risk frazzling the spices and making them bitter or burnt.
Stir in the mung dal and rice. Add 5 cups of water and any chopped vegetables. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, lid on.
Cook for at least 40 minutes (longer if using whole green mung beans), or until the dal and rice are completely soft (easily squashed between finger and thumb), the kitchari has a porridge-like consistency and the ghee has risen to the top, adding more water if necessary. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with fresh chopped herbs if you like.
If serving to children, use less black pepper and ginger to reduce the heat and remove the cardmom pods (and bay leaves while your'e at it!) to avoid them getting a strong cardamom flavour - which I love but it's not everyone's cup of tea!
Mung dal* - 'mung' is the type of lentil and 'dal' means split. These small split yellow lentils should not to be confused with yellow split lentils or yellow split peas which are something different. Available from International food stores, mung dal or 'split mung dal' is the traditional ingredient for kitchari as it's extremely nourishing and the most easy lentil to digest when well cooked with spices. The second best option are the whole green mung beans (recognisable by their green jackets) which can be found in most supermarkets. If using these make sure to soak overnight, rinse and drain before cooking.
Basmati rice** - white basmati is the golden grain of Ayurveda. Brown basmati rice has a higher nutritional value but is not as easy to digest - if using, be sure to soak overnight, rinse well and overcook. Aged white basmati rice, available at some supermarkets and international food stores, is even better for all doshas.
Ghee*** - organic ghee can be found in most health food shops and online. Non-organic ghee can be found in most supermarkets. For vegans sub with coconut oil, OR skip sauteing the spices and instead pop them into the pot with the rinsed dal and rice and continue with the recipe. When you are ready to serve drizzle with extra virgin olive oil in order to add some all important fats to the recipe.
Use ½ inch of chopped, fresh ginger instead of ground ginger and add 1tsp of cinnamon in winter
To reduce or pacify vata dosha (energy)
Use twice the amount of ghee.
Try quinoa instead of rice or homemade bone broth instead of water to increase the protein content.
Use double the amount of rice.
Choose carrots, courgette, peas, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and asparagus.
To reduce or pacify pitta dosha (energy)
Omit the mustard seeds and fresh ginger and halve the black pepper.
Use coconut oil rather than ghee.
Enjoy with plenty of chopped fresh coriander.
Choose leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, courgette and carrots.
To reduce or pacify kapha dosha (energy)
Reduce the ghee or skip altogether and throw the spices into the pot with the dal and rice.
Try quinoa, millet, or amaranth instead of rice.
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Choose leafy greens, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, and celery.
TIP: Make sure that the vegetables are well cooked. If cooking the recipes for a family with different doshas - make the basic kitchari recipe and cook the veggie selection separately.
Swap the rice for cauliflower rice. Rough blitz half a head of cauliflower in a food processor until it reaches the consistency of rice. Toast in a pan with 1 tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil. Use 2 cups less water to cook the dal and then stir in the 'cauliflower rice' to serve.