Every vegetarian– everyone, really– should learn how to make kitchari. This Ayurvedic dish is so simple to make, so tasty, so nourishing that it will become your favorite go-to dish when you need some protein, or when you’re feeling like something light, or simply when you have no idea what else to cook.
Kitchari means a mixture of beans and grains. There are endless kitchari recipes– various combinations of white rice, brown rice, whole mung beans, split mung beans, lentils, barley, farro, kamut– you could theoretically have a different kitchari dish every night of the week.
You can add any vegetables to kitchari, throwing in whatever you have in your fridge. You can switch up the spices, giving it more of an Indian or Mexican or Italian depending what the tongue is craving. You can add more or less water depending on what consistency you prefer. You can literally make kitchari hundreds of ways. I make it a few days a week and have yet to repeat the same recipe.
In this recipe, we’ll use white basmati rice and hulled split mung beans. This is a classic combination that’s reputed for being particularly nourishing and easy to digest, often eaten during Ayurvedic detoxes. Unlike more difficult to digest brown rice and whole mung, white basmati and hulled split mung are both gentle on the tummy.
This kitchari is full of protein and good carbohydrates. Spices are added for their medicinal properties and simply because they’re delicious. Vegetables add vitamins and minerals. Since plain kitchari can be slightly constipating, the vegetables balance the dish with fiber.
I’ve adapted this recipe from The Ayurvedic Institute. The dish serves 4.
1/2 cup white basmati rice
1 cup hulled split mung beans
6 cups water
1 tbsp ghee (vegans can substitute coconut oil)
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp asafoetida
2 cups of assorted chopped vegetables– carrots, celery, chard, asparagus, zucchini, sweet potato, green beans, parsnips, kale, bok choy… whatever your heart desires.
1 handful fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste (Himalayan salt is ideal)
1 inch fresh ginger
Sort through the mung beans to remove any stones. Combine the beans with the rice and rinse in a couple changes of water. Drain.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 15-20 minutes; until the beans and rice are soft, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the chopped vegetables. Add more water if needed and cover. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, making sure the mixture doesn’t scorch on the bottom.
In a separate frying pan, heat the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the whole cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds, then add the ground cumin, ground coriander, tumeric, and asafoetida. Stir for a few seconds. Pour into the bean and rice mixture and stir to combine.
Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Tear or chop the cilantro leaves and stir to combine. Serve with freshly grated ginger.