How to Make Kitchari
According to Ayurveda, kitchari — a nourishing stew of white basmati rice and yellow split mung beans, can help heal digestion and support detoxification. Learn when to eat it and how to make it with the recipe below.
Open up any Ayurvedic cookbook or 101 guide to Ayurveda and you will likely find a recipe for kitchari (also spelled kitchadi or kitcharee). This iconic Ayurvedic dish is so associated with Ayurveda that it’s not uncommon for me to come across people who assume following an Ayurvedic diet means mainly eating kitchari all the time.
While kitchari offers wonderful benefits including, providing a complete protein and being easy to digest and soothing to an upset tummy, Ayurvedic cooking and eating doesn’t have to be so limiting. That said, I do recommend all of my clients learn how to make kitchari. It’s good to have it in a culinary repertoire ready to use as a simple one-pot meal or whenever your gut needs some TLC.
Customize Your Kitchari by Dosha
Out of the varied feedback I’ve heard about kitchari, some people don’t like it while others love it. I’ve concluded that whether or not you enjoy kitchari comes down to how you make it. Numerous recipes and versions of kitchari exist, and there are many ways to change it up according to one’s individual needs.
Use less rice to suit kapha dosha. Decrease the amount of mung beans to support vata. And, use spices appropriate to the dosha you want to affect as well.
You can add vegetables as your kitchari simmers, or cook them separately and serve on the side. Or, omit the vegetables all together if using it as part of a more intense cleanse or detoxification program.
“I Thought Grains Were Bad?”
The mention of white rice or grains as a detoxifying food raises eyebrows for many who associate white rice with “high carb” and “high carb” with “bad”. Again, it is best to prepare kitchari in a way that is appropriate for the individual, which means a high kapha person experiencing insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome needs less grain in proportion to the mung beans, along with adding hotter spices such as ginger, mustard seeds and black pepper.
White basmati rice is traditionally used because it is easier for most people to digest than say brown rice; however you can switch out the aromatic long-grain rice for other grains as well. Choose quinoa or millet for another light and gluten-free option suitable for all doshas, but especially helpful to kapha.
Consider brown rice, barley, or amaranth (pk-) as possible options as well. I experiment with these other grains when eating kitchari as an anytime meal. I stick with basmati rice when eating it for digestive upset or cleansing.
Do’s and Don’ts of Kitchari
Regardless of how you make your kitchari, consider these guidelines to get the best result:
- Soak the mung beans overnight or for at least a few hours for optimal digestion, however, it is possible to use them with little to no soaking.
- Make a fresh batch. Ayurveda advises against leftovers for the sake of eating food with high prana (life-force energy). If in fact you do have some kitchari leftover, only eat it the next morning adding a little fresh water and a squeeze of lemon.
- Cook, but don’t overcook the veg. When using vegetables, add longer-to-cook root vegetables like carrots or sweet potato at the beginning. Vegetables that cook in 10 minutes or less, such as broccoli florets, french green beans or zucchini, add them half-way through or towards the end.
- Do find the ingredients in your local Indian supermarket or order online. You can easily find basmati rice, ghee and various spices in most grocery stores, however, the yellow-split mung beans can be hard to find unless you go to an international foods or Indian grocery.
If you’re new to kitchari, start with this recipe, and let me know how it goes in the comments section below.
Kitchari (Easy to digest rice + mung bean porridge)
Prep & Cook Time: 30 – 60 min :: Serves: 2-3
- 1/4 c Yellow Split Mung Beans
- 1/4 c White Basmati Rice
- 2 Carrots peeled and thickly sliced
- 1/2 c Green Beans, chopped (or whatever combination of seasonal, doshically pacifying veggies you prefer)
- 1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds (optional for vata, omit for pitta)
- 1 tsp. Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 tsp. Coriander Powder (ground coriander seeds)
- 1/2 tsp. Fennel Seeds (optional)
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1/2 – 1 tbsp. Freshly peeled, minced or grated ginger
- 2 tbsp. Ghee
- 4 cups water
Rinse rice and yellow split mung beans in water and soak overnight or for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Drain and discard soaking water.
Heat ghee over medium heat. Sauté spices (partially ground or powdered) about 2 mins, stirring. Add soaked/drained mung beans & rice, stir to coat. Add the boiling water (makes process go quicker if water is already boiled). Stir occasionally.
Add carrots and any root veggies after about 8 mins of cooking on medium. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes before adding other vegetables. Add vegetables like zucchini or summer squash even later in the process. Cook for another 15-20 minutes on low.
Add more water if need. Finished consistency should be like porridge. Add chopped, fresh cilantro at the end. Salt to taste with pink Himalayan, Sea or Kosher salt. Serve in a bowl and top with a little more freshly chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
NOTE: For a quicker version, add all ingredients (except for the fast cooking vegetables) to a sealed Instantpot. Set to pressure cook for 10 minutes.
*Serves 2-3. Double recipe to serve 4-6.
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