Healing Kitchari

While staying at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai during my first trip to India some time ago, we were served a yellow, mushy cooked food at each one of our meals.  I had no idea what it was – all I knew was that it was totally delicious.  This began my love affair with kitchari.  On this past trip, the joke between our group was how Lauren would finish off any of the kitchari left at the table!  I swear, I could eat it all day, every day.

Kitchari means “food of the gods” in Sanskrit.  This hearty, one-pot dish is widely eaten in India, especially by sadhus, who leave it to cook while they are meditating.  It’s also served in India’s hospitals to children and the elderly since it’s an easy-to-digest nourishment.  Therefore this recipe is great for anyone who is recovering from an illness, fatigue, or having digestive problems.  It’s excellent for general detox at the change of season, hence the reason why I’m spotlighting it now as we bloom into spring.  Prized as a nourishing and cleansing complete meal in Ayurveda, it has been a staple in my diet when I’m sick, cleansing, or needing to give my system some serious comfort.

Ghee, spices, rice & beans, veggies all cooking in a pot
= divine kitchari that tastes and feels oh-so-good.


1 cup split yellow mung dahl beans (available at health foodstores, Asian or Indian grocery stores)
1/2 cup long grain white basmati rice (feel free to use brown if you’ve got it, see below why white)
1 tbsp ghee (click here to learn how to make your own – it’s so divine and healthy!)
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger root
1 tsp each: black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder
1/2 tsp each: coriander powder, fennel seeds, sea salt
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 inch kombu (seaweed)
5 – 6 cups filtered water
1 – 2 cups chopped vegetables (optional, but I love carrots, organic zucchini, spinach)
Wash rice and split mung beans well. 
In a saucepan warm the ghee on medium low heat.  Add all spices (except turmeric, bay leaves and kombu) and saute for one-two minutes until the aroma of spices are released.  Add rice and split beans and saute for another 2-4 minutes, mixing well to coat with the spices.  Stir in turmeric, bay leaves and kombu then add 5 – 6 cups of water, stir, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Cook until rice and beans are tender (approximately 30-45 minutes).  If you’re adding veggies, stir in the longer-cooking ones like carrots or zucchini sooner than later, and add the leafy greens towards the end.  Your finished kitchari should be the consistency of a vegetable stew as opposed to a broth.  If you need to add more water you always can.  Taste test to see if it needs a bit more sea salt.  Serve with fresh chopped cilantro on top, or blend together the cilantro chutney below and serve with a generous tablespoon of it.  Either way, slow down and enjoy this uber comforting meal.  
Cilantro Chutney Recipe:
1 bunch fresh chilantro
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup filtered water
1/4 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp fresh ginger root
1 tsp raw honey
1 tsp sea salt
Directions: Blend ingredients in a Magic Bullet or blender until it’s like a paste.  Use a dollop on top of your kitchari to add a zing to it.  This can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.  
Why long grain white rice?  
If you’re using kitchari to cleanse, long grain white rice is used because the husk has been milled off to make the rice easier to digest.  While brown rice may be used – and will actually supply more nutrients – the husk makes brown rice much harder to digest (and may irritate the intestinal wall and cause gas or belly pain).  Also, long grain white rice has a lower glycemic index than short grain rice.  Who knew?
Benefits of Kitchari:
Kitchari gives strength and vitality, while playing a key role in nutritional healing.  It’s a potent blood purifier.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, mung beans are used to strip environmental toxins out of the tissues which is especially helpful for the reproductive organs, liver and thyroid gland health. 
Kitchari, being both rice and beans, is a complete protein.  It provides ten essential amino acids.  Animal proteins are “complete” in that they contain all ten essential amino acids, but plant foods need to be combined to make a “complete protein.”  Rest assured that this wholesome meal is complete and totally satisfying, no matter what your diet may be.  Give it a try and see for yourself!  
In India, kitchari is often the first food for babies, not only because it is so easy to digest, it also heals and soothes the intestinal wall.  It’s also fed to monks and yogis to help create a sense of stillness and deep inner calm to assist in spiritual inquiry and meditation practice.  
Make kitchari when you are sick, when you are sad, when you are cleansing, for others when they are under the weather, when you can’t be bothered to cook, when you come back from a long trip, when you need to regain strength, when you need some serious comfort food. 

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