If you are even semi-familiar with the science of Ayurveda it is likely you have heard the term Kitchari being thrown around. Kitchari is an Indian dish commonly used as both food and medicine in Ayurveda; however, this is not your ordinary recipe. This simple, yet powerful food goes much farther than a tasty meal. With a long list of health benefits, uses and variations, this dish is undoubtably an Ayurvedic essential!
“Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine.”
So what is Kitchari exactly?
Kitchari is a traditional Indian dish with the main ingredients of mung dal and basmati rice that has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years. Mung dal is the green mung bean, sliced in half with the outer green skin removed, leaving a small yellow lentil. The process of this allows the bean to cook into a mushy state, making it much easier to digest. Since this is one of the main health benefits of Kitchari, mung dal is often preferred over the whole mung bean when making Kitchari.
Why is Kitchari so revered in Ayurveda?
Kitchari is considered an Ayurvedic staple for several reasons. As mentioned above, the mushy state of the dal and basmati rice allows for easy digestion, even by many individuals that have a hard time digesting other beans. When eating meals such as this, the digestive fire (Agni) can reduce its work load and “take a break”. This (often much needed) break allows the digestion to strengthen and toxins to be flushed from the system.
Kitchari is also considered a “perfect protein” source, meaning it contains the nine essential amino acids that are needed in the body. However, Kitchari’s nutrient value goes much farther than protein. This hearty meal is a great source of numerous essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and various B vitamins. It is a great source of dietary fiber and contains a large amount of anti-aging, cancer-fighting antioxidants. Due to the high nutrition content of Kitchari, it is considered a healthy, nourishing, sustainable meal option to eat on a regular basis (I personally eat Kitchari almost everyday!).
Between these two essential factors, Kitchari is considered a great meal choice for the daily diet, but even more so during times of cold, flu, illness, digestive disorders, pregnancy and postpartum. It is the single food taken during most Ayurvedic mono-diet cleanses such as the Kitchari Cleanse and the more in depth Panchakarma Therapy. Unlike many other cleanses and fasts, the regular intake of Kitchari allows the body to flush out the toxins while simultaneously providing enough nutrients to avoid extreme weakness and depletion.
Finally Kitchari possesses an unlimited amount of variations to fit your personal needs. Although traditionally Kitchari is created from solely mung dal and basmati rice, many individuals choose to switch up the ingredients for health purposes, doshic needs, seasonal influence or simply taste preferences.
1 c split mung dal, soaked for a few hours or overnight
1 c basmati rice (can be substituted for brown rice, millet or quinoa for Kapha types)
4-6 cups purified water (depending on taste, more water can be used for soupy Kitchari, and less for a thicker result)
1/2 cup leaves of spinach, chard, kale or collard greens
2 bay leaves
2 star anise or whole fennel seeds
2 Tbsp ghee, coconut oil or sesame oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
10 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon hing/asafetida
7+ sprigs of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste (sea salt or pink Himalayan)
How to Make it
Place the water in the same pan and bring to a boil.Add the mung dal.Reduce the heat to low, stirring occasionally and skimming the white froth off the top.
After15 minutes of cooking, add the basmati rice and turmeric. Stir.
Keep the ingredients on a low boil until the beans and rice are soft (almost mushy) and well cooked. Add and spinach. Stir every 5 minutes during this time.
In another pan, heat the ghee and add the spices, once they release their aroma, add to the pan with the beans and rice.
Remove from heat. Add cilantro, fresh lemon juice.
NOTE: When using whole mung beans and/or brown rice the cooking time will increase. Make sure to use more water and to cook for at least 30 minutes alone before adding the veggies.
Savour this meal as your lunch, dinner or as a mono-diet during sickness, illness or a cleanse. It is easy to make, tasty, nourishing, great for the digestion and suitable for every-body.