With spring in full bloom, you may be feeling the shift in seasons and the need for a cleanse or reset. The transition into spring is wonderful time for renewal and gentle cleansing practices. Even if you aren’t planning on any type of special cleanse, incorporating light, simple, easy-to-digest foods—such as kitchari—into your daily diet is a wonderful way to rejuvenate. Kitchari is a staple food in Ayurveda, and there are about as many ways to make it as there are to spell it! Kitcheree, kitchari, kitchadee, kichari…it is a simple dish with many ayurvedic benefits.
Kitchari and Ayurveda
Open any ayurvedic cookbook, and you will likely find one or more recipes for kitchari. Why so much fuss about this easy one-pot porridge? To start with, kitchari forms a complete protein and is easy to digest. Traditionally made of mung dal and basmati rice, this one-pot wonder gives your body the nutrition you need without bogging you down. For those who have eaten kitchari—as a stand alone meal or as part of an ayurvedic cleanse—you probably noticed how easily your body assimilates and digests it.
Furthermore, you can tailor your kitchari recipe to suit the season and your constitution. Since Ayurveda is not a one-size-fits-all system, it is helpful to be able to carefully select spices and other ingredients to complement one’s dosha.
For instance, in Usha and Dr. Vasant Lad’s cookbook Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, the kitchari recipe for Vata dosha calls for black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing and turmeric. The Pitta balancing kitchari recipe calls for fresh ginger, dried coconut, cilantro leaves, and turmeric. Kapha dosha, on the other hand, is balanced by a combination of bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon bark, and cardamom.
All of the above kitchari recipes use a combination of white basmati rice, split yellow mung dal, ghee, and filtered water. For a basic kitchari recipe you can check out our Kitchari Recipe post.
Also, some kitchari recipes will even offer alternatives to rice and mung dal. For instance, you can replace rice with quinoa or use other legumes in place of mung dal. However, basmati rice and yellow split mung dal are the standard base because both ingredients are tridoshic, light on the system, and easily digested.
Furthermore, Ayurveda is a proponent of eating vegetables that follow the seasons and balance one’s dosha. This is another great way to tailor-make your ayurvedic kitchari. For Vata dosha, root vegetables are helpful. Think sweet potatoes and carrots. Pitta dosha is balanced by bitter, leafy greens such as kale. Also, cooling, fresh herbs like cilantro work well for Pitta dosha. Kapha dosha needs to keep it light and spicy, so add some black pepper and stick to leafy greens or spicy veggies such as radishes.
An Ayurvedic Classic
Kitchari is an ayurvedic classic for good reason. If you have never made kitchari, give it a try! Enjoy a bowl of kitchari for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can mix veggies straight into the pot or add some veggies on the side. Also, for some extra rejuvenation, eat a spoonful of Chyawanprash 15-30 minutes before your morning meal. You will feel light, nourished, and energized for the day!
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.
Reviewed by Dr. Jayant Lokhande, MD (Botanical Drugs), MBA (Biotechnology)