How to Make Kitchari – Healing Stew

In Ayurveda cooking, Kitchari, or kichadi, combines protein (mung dhal) and carbohydrates (basmati rice) into a single dish—it’s best known in Ayurveda as a cleansing and complete protein meal. This amazingly tasty dish heals digestive distress, balances the metabolism, is a potent blood and  liver cleanser, assists in healthy weight loss, helps the body’s tissues to detox what they don’t need and absorb the nutrients they do, and is a breeze to make!

In Ayurveda, digestion is of the utmost importance! Based on the ayurvedic understanding of agni (digestive fire), white basmati is the most preferred form of rice as it is lightest and easiest to digest. Specifically in terms of a kitchari cleanse, we are looking to eat light, digestible foods that are nourishing while also allowing our bodies to digest the accumulated ama (toxicity due to excess or improper foods that the body has not digested fully, leading to a variety of maladies from indigestion and gas to high cholesterol and more). When your agni is stronger, you are more capable of digesting heavier foods. A kitchari cleanse will help to strengthen the agni.

Use mung dhal (aka mung dal or mung dahl or moong dal…it can be confusing!) which are yellow, split mung beans. They have been used for centuries to detox the body. Don’t use whole, green mung beans—they are not as digestive friendly and can cause extra gas or bloating.

There are lots of variations on Kitchari, but here’s one that I especially love in the fall and winter months. This recipe is tridoshic friendly, healing for all doshas as it balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. If you don’t know your dosha (Ayurvedic body-mind type), take the test to find out.

Stay with 2 or 3 veggies in this dish so it is more easily digestible. Enjoy!

Kitchari

  • 1 cup white organic basmati rice OR organic quinoa (I’ve tried this and it’s great too!), soak overnight and rinse well
  • ½–1 cup yellow split mung beans (see variations below), soaked overnight and rinse well
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds or powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
  • 5–6 cups water, more if adding extra veggies
  • 3 leaves of Swiss chard
    • Other options: spinach or kale
  • 1 cup each (or more—I LOVE my veggies): carrots, sweet potato, celery2 teaspoons sea salt, to taste
    • Optional veggies: asparagus, green beans, beets
  • Garnish with cilantro, parsley, dill, or basil
  • 1–2 tablespoons lime juice, per serving

Rinse rice and beans well (several times) and set aside. In a large pot, warm coconut oil over medium heat. Once oil has warmed, add fennel, cumin, and turmeric. Keep in mind the turmeric will stain everything so use stainless steel measuring spoons over plastic. Stir well then add rice and beans and combine well.

When rice and beans begin sticking to the sides of the pot, add ginger and water. Cover and bring to boil. Stir and set timer for 20 minutes to allow rice and beans to cook at medium heat, a nice simmer.

While the rice and beans are cooking, chop the Swiss chard, carrots, sweet potato, and celery. Also chop up your garnish and set aside.

Once rice and beans are cooked, add vegetables and mix well. Add more water if necessary (depending on how many veggies you added), then cover and allow vegetables to cook to finish the dish, about another 20 minutes or so. The finished consistency should be rich, thick, and soupy.

Serve into bowls and add the lime juice and fresh chopped garnish to each bowl. Season with more salt to taste.

This is a very filling and satisfying stew. Start with a small bowl and see how it fills you up. Be mindful and aware of how much you eat at every meal and enjoy it in a peaceful environment—no computer, TV, or loud distractions—with good, satisfying company and peaceful background music for best digestion and nutrient assimilation.

This pot will make enough for 6–8 servings depending on the size of the bowls. For any leftovers, it is best to reheat in a little pan on the stove with a little water to thin it out. Use within three days. Just remember that the longer something stays in the refrigerator (or freezer), the more lifeless it will become. FRESH is the BEST.

Dosha appropriate variations:

  • Kaphas do well with more beans and spices and less rice.
  • Pittas do well with equal parts beans and rice, lots of cilantro, and some appropriate spices.
  • Vatas do well with more rice and spices and fewer beans.

Moong Dal photo By Sudeshna Banerjee (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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