I was talking to a friend who said she felt like it makes no sense to start cleanses and resets in the dead of winter. (We’re talking to you, New Year’s resolutions!) I get what she meant: when it’s cold and frosty out, the last thing I want to eat is a salad or plate of veggies. With everyone kicking off 2018 healthy eating goals, I think it’s all about finding that balance between cozying up to something hearty but still eating mindfully. Enter: kitchari.
If you haven’t heard of kitchari, think of something similar to a savory rice and lentil oatmeal. Practices like Ayurveda look to kitchari as Indian comfort food, but unlike a lot of “comfort food” in western cultures, kitchari is known for it’s nourishing and cleansing benefits. My version isn’t quite traditional, and this version is a little thicker than the traditional, but I still love it! Traditionally, you leave it plain with just the rice and lentils, it’s easy on digestion. I add in the extra veggies any other time I need something heartier. For me, this is the dish my mom would make for us any time my brother and I came down with a cold or were just feeling under the weather. You could even say that I consider this the Indian version of chicken noodle soup!
Kitchari is fairly simple to make and is one of those dishes that can be adjusted based on your preferences along with what ingredients you have on hand. While my mom has always made it plain with just the lentils and rice, I recently made a super thick version that I topped with jammy eggs and greens for breakfast, and I make this drier version with tons of veggies for dinner.
The main reason that Ayurveda looks to kitchari as a great cleansing dish is because of the spices and ingredients that make this dish light and very easy for our digestive systems to work with. Both the white rice and split moong beans are easier to digest than brown rice and other beans and lentils that have a natural husk on them, and the spices like hing (asafoetida) and cumin seeds have properties that make them great natural digestive and immune system aids. (No wonder this is why my mom would give us HUGE bowls of this whenever we weren’t feeling our best!)
While I will forever turn to the classic and plain version of this dish topped with yogurt for something quick and cozy, loading this recipe up with veggies is an easy way to add something delicious and healthy for a weekly meal plan.
This is also a super easy dish to use extra leftover or frozen veggies in. With this version I tossed in some extra carrots and broccoli that I had in the fridge, frozen peas and greens, and an extra potato I had lying around. It would be great to adjust the veggies based on what’s in season as well!
So if you’re still dealing with this crazy cold winter and need something hearty and delicious, whip up a big pot of kitchari – you won’t regret it!
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1/2 inch of grated ginger root
- 1 heaping tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 big pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 1/2 cup white basmati rice
- 1 cup moong dal (split yellow lentils)
- 4 - 6 cups water (for a drier kitchari like this one, I used 4 cups, but if you want a more porridge-like consistency like a traditional kitchari, use closer to 6 cups water)
- optional assorted vegetables (I used a total of approx. 3 cups of vegetables - broccoli florets, carrots, cubed potatoes, frozen peas and greens, traditional kitchari is made without the extra veggies so this is optional)
- Add the ghee to a stove top dutch oven and bring up to a medium heat.
- Add the ginger and all of the spices and begin to toast the spices, about two minutes.
- While the spices are toasting, add the rice and lentils into a bowl and rinse and drain. Add the rice and lentils into the pot and toast for 2-3 minutes with the spices.
- Add the water and bring the kitchari up to a heavy simmer. Cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes.
- Add the prepared vegetables to the pot, cover, and cook for an additional 10 - 15 minutes depending on how dry or porridge-like you want your kitchari and until the rice and lentils are tender.
- Remove from stove and serve hot. Top with lime wedges, cilantro, hot sauce, or your favorite topping!