Kitchari (pronounced kitch-a-ree) is a one-pot healing wonder of white bhasmati rice, yellow mung dhal, ghee and digestive spices that is extensively used in Ayurveda to balance the digestion and gently detoxify, whilst nourishing all the tissues of the body.
A Complete Protein
The combination of grain and pulse forms a complete protein that has sustained vegetarians of the Asian subcontinent for thousands of years. The human body needs 20 amino acids to make up proteins for the cells of the body. Of these 20 amino acids, only 11 can be produced by the body. The other 9 amino acids are known as Essential Amino Acids (EAA) as they cannot be produced by the body and need to be obtained from food. Although grains and pulses in isolation from each other have some of these 9 EAA's missing, when combined they compliment each other so that all 9 EAA's are present. It is for this reason that Ayurveda views Kitchari as a complete meal.
Balancing for Everyone
Kitchari is balancing for all three Doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Mung is the most easily digested of all pulses and also the least gas-producing. Additionally, you can pick and choose the herbs that you add to your Kitchari to balance a specific Dosha, for example adding warming spices such as cardamom and cloves to combat the cold and heavy qualities of Kapha.
Detoxifies & Balances Digestion
Kitchari is seen as a medicinal food that is so easily digested and gentle that it is traditionally given to babies, the elderly and during illness.
Ayurveda teaches that all good and ill health starts from the digestive tract. In order to support balanced digestion and thus good health, Ayurveda recommends that all food consumed should support Agni (digestive fire). As Kitchari is so readily digested and assimilated, it is used during Ayurvedic cleanses and Panchakarma (Ayurvedic purificatory procedures) where it gives the digestive system a welcome break from digesting more complex meals. Whilst the digestive system receives a rest, the body can focus on healing and detoxification. Kitchari can be eaten as a single meal, or it can be taken as a mono-fast, where only Kitchari is eaten at each mealtime for a few days in order to do a simple and effective detox.
Both basmati rice and mung dhal have a very low Glycaemic Index, avoiding blood sugar spikes. Kitchari allows for gentle and comfortable cleansing, as its protein content helps to keeps you satisfied.
Why not whole grain and pulse?
White basmati rice has been polished to remove the husk, bran and germ layers, making it easier to digest. Brown basmati rice has its husk removed, but the bran and germ layers are intact. When the rice is polished, it is gentler on the digestive tract and prevents possible irritation of the intestinal wall by the bran and germ layers during the detox. It is for the same reasons that yellow split mung dhal (with its outer husk removed) is used, rather than the whole green mung bean. Of course, if you have good digestion, a Kitchari made from brown basmati rice and either yellow split mung dhal or whole green mung beans is also a great option. To add a bit of variation, I love replacing the rice with quinoa!
Simple Kitchari recipe
Recipe courtesy of Sunila Gadhoke, a friend and Ayurvedic cook.
- Basmati rice – 1 cup
- yellow, split Mung Dhal – 1/2 cup
NB: Pre-soak the rice and dhal together in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Soaking increases digestibility and reduces cooking time.
- Ghee, 1&1/2 tbs
- Asafoetida (Hing), a pinch
- Cumin Seeds, 1 tsp
- Fresh Ginger, 1/2 inch peeled and sliced or grated. If you dislike ginger, you may use the piece whole to reduce its strength.
- Turmeric, 1/2 tsp
- Ground Coriander, 3/4 tsp
- Salt, 3/4-1 tsp
- Water, freshly boiled – 4 cups
- Ground pepper to taste
Place Ghee in a cooking pan on low heat. Add the Asafoetida (Hing) and Cumin seeds and sauté for about a minute to 'wake up' the spices and release their flavours. Next, add the ginger and sauté for another minute. Turn the heat off and use the residual heat (as the herbs can easily burn) to sauté the Turmeric and Coriander powders, along with the salt. Add the basmati rice and mung dhal, along with 4 cups of freshly boiled water. Turn up the heat and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until soft. You may add water during the simmering process if you want to make it more soupy in consistency – the more watery, the easier to digest. Once cooked, add salt (if needed) and pepper to taste. Serve warm and enjoy!
Tip: make a simple cartouche by placing a square of kitchen towel under the lid during simmering, for quicker and more even cooking and to prevent the top of the Kitchari drying out.
Recipe serves 2–3.