The practice of Ayurveda yields many healing benefits through time-proven organic and natural remedies. Among the natural healing concepts associated with Ayurveda are recipes, and kitchari is one that aids detoxification.
What is Kitchari
Kitchari is a classic Ayurvedic dish. It's nourishing, easy to digest and tasty. Warm and porridge-like, kitchari makes for wholesome comfort food. It’s given after the Ayurvedic detox process of panchakarma to nourish the body without overwhelming the digestive system, and it can even be considered a detox food in itself. (Learn more in Preparing for the Ayurvedic Cleansing System of Panchakarma.)
Kitchari simply means a combination of beans and rice. This recipe follows the classic combination of white basmati rice and hulled and split mung beans, as it is the easiest to digest. Together, the two form a complete protein, providing the ten essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own. This makes kitchari a very nutritious meal, which is probably why nearly every culture has its own staple dish of beans and rice.
This simple kitchari recipe is a one-pot meal and lends itself to infinite variations. Digestive spices like cumin, coriander, fennel, nigella and ginger make it easier for the body to process, while turmeric and asafetida reduce any gas-producing effect of the mung beans. Mustard seeds help to move the bowels, while cinnamon and bay leaves cleanse the body’s fluid systems. Ghee or coconut oil augment digestion while lubricating the body, and cilantro adds a bit of freshness while purifying the blood. (Learn Why Yogis Love Turmeric.)
Any of these spices can be omitted or substituted. Different fresh herbs like parsley or basil can be thrown in at the end, and even chopped vegetables can be added during the cooking process to make this kitchari even more nutritious.
Here, 4 cups of water are used to make a thicker, fluffier and porridge-like kitchari, but up to 7 cups of water can be used for a softer, more soup-like version.
This kitchari can be eaten for lunch or dinner, year-round. It’s the perfect food to heal the gut whenever the digestive system has become overloaded or when recovering from an upset stomach. It can also be used for a kitchari cleanse: a one or multi day digestive reset where it’s consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Read more on why A Plant-Based Diet Makes Better Yogis.)
Simple Kitchari Recipe
- 1 cup white basmati rice
- 1/2 cup hulled and split mung beans
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon nigella (black cumin) seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 pinch hing (asafetida)
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups water
- A pinch of Himalayan salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
How to Prepare This Simple Kitchari Recipe
Combine the rice and mung beans in a sieve and rinse. Allow to drain. Next, put the cumin, coriander, fennel, nigella, turmeric, asafetida, ginger, cinnamon and bay leaf in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the ghee or coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. When the ghee is hot (flick a few drops of water in, and if they sizzle, it’s ready to go) pour in the mustard seeds. Give them a stir. As soon as the mustard seeds pop (a matter of seconds), add in the mixed spices we set aside earlier. Turn the heat down to medium and stir continuously for 30 seconds.
Coming back to our drained rice, add in the drained rice and mung beans to your pot, stir and fry for 3 minutes, mixing gently. Pour in the water and bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to low.
Cook gently for 35 minutes. Make sure that the bottom doesn’t scorch, checking the kitchari around the 20 minute mark and each 5 minutes after - stir if needed. Crack the lid open if the kitchari still seems too watery after 25 minutes, this will provide some ventilation and evaporation of the residual liquid present in the pot. The kitchari is done when it’s a homogeneous, mushy and porridge-like mixture.
Remove your kitchari from the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide it into two bowls, and then top your dish with the chopped cilantro and an extra dollop of ghee if desired.
A Variation of This Recipe
Toss in 2 cups of chopped vegetables when adding the water. Carrots, turnips, rutabaga, celery, green beans and winter squashes all hold up nicely. Alternatively, add 2 cups of chopped leafy greens in during the last 10 minutes of cooking, allowing them to steam gently. Good options are chard, collards, and kale.
Serve and enjoy your nourishing kitchari dish!