Meatless Monday: My Easy Kitchari Recipe

Are you sometimes stumped for an easy vegetarian meal? Has your digestion been on the fritz? Do you ever crave a “cleanse” that doesn’t involve green juice or starvation of any kind? If you answered yes to any of these then you should probably meet Ayurveda’s answer to all ailments: the warm, tasty goodness that is Kitchari.

Last night after some gentle Sunday slowga it occurred to me that I was craving a bowl of this stuff. It had been a while, and since we’ve been promising to mix up Mondays with some recipes, I decided to go full-hog and take pics.

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So, what’s Kitchari? It’s a one-pot-stop Indian dish that contains everything you need nutritionally, while also going super easy on your digestive system. Week-long Kitchari cleanses—more accurately mono-diets, where you eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—are a common practice in Ayurveda to prepare the body for the strain of the changing seasons. They’re usually done in the spring or the fall, but Kitchari is recommended anytime you feel like your system needs a little break or extra love.

If you google recipes you’ll see there are all kinds of little variations, but I promise that almost anything goes here with spices as long as you add the fresh fixings (and enough salt) at the end.

The ingredients…

2 cups mung beans (the one bean known to be kind to all tummies), 1 cup basmati rice (I used brown this time), 1 tablespoon ghee* (very important!), teaspoon turmeric (anti-inflammatory and amazing), teaspoon fennel powder (I didn’t have any this time), teaspoon asoetifida (a hard-to-find, slightly funky smelling spice that tastes a little like garlic and is known to help digestion). Sometimes I use onions, even though they’re not technically part of the Kitchari recipe—in Ayurveda onions are generally a nono, but man do they add a nice flavor. Last but not least, fresh ginger, lemon or lime, fresh cilantro, and salt and pepper.

*Ghee is clarified butter, and you can find it at Whole Foods and most health food stores. It’s also considered to be a healing ingredient, which is great because it adds a richness and sweetness to everything it touches.

Step by step…

1. Strain your mung beans and in a large pot, melt a tbsp of ghee. Throw in the beans and spices on medium heat and toss them around for a few minutes.

2. Now add your rice and do the same.

3. Cover with 4-6 cups water. You can always add water—or cook water off—later so don’t worry about being exact here. You’ll see in the pic that I also added chopped leaks at this stage—usually I would have done this right at the start but I didn’t realize I had them!

4. Bring everything to a roaring boil and then lower heat to a simmer, keeping the pot covered for 15-20 minutes and then taking the cover off so that some of the water can boil off. It should take about 40 minutes give or take to fully cook, and depending on whether you want this to be a bit soupier or more substantial adjust water accordingly.

5. Season generously with salt and pepper.

6.Finally in your bowl, add another teaspoon or so of ghee, a squeeze of lime (or lemon), fresh cilantro, and freshly chopped or grated ginger. Probably a bit more salt too.

As I mentioned, if you add those to your bowl at the end, as long as you didn’t burn your Kitchari it will taste amazing.

Have you ever tried Kitchari? How do you make yours?