Kitchari with a Twist

vegan kitchari

I’m intrigued with Ayurveda, the”holistic” healing system developed in India over 5,000 years ago. This wellness approach depends on the delicate balance between mind, body, and spirit. One of the main dishes in Ayurvedic cooking is Kitchari  (pronounced kich-uh-ree) – an easy to digest stew used to cleanse, detox and re-balance the body. This mixture of split mung beans, Basmati rice, veges and warming spices is a humble dish, but don’t let that fool you!!! It’s also packed with flavor so bring on the cleanse!!!!

Too Tasty for a Detox Cleanse

I first prepared this to do a Kitchari mono-diet cleanse but the Kitchari was far too delicious. It was like doing a chocolate cake cleanse. The Kitchari was all I wanted to eat so it didn’t feel like a “cleanse”. Still, I was happy to know that unlike chocolate cake, Kitchari strengthens the immune system, balances the doshas  (which makes it easy if you don’t know yours) and rids the body of toxins. There was no deprivation here.

The Kitchari Cleanse

Ayurvedic practioners suggest doing a 3 – 7 day Kitchari mono-diet cleanse to remove toxins, restore nutrition, and reset the body’s digestive system. This is easier than most cleanses since there is no meal planning and the stews complete protein gives you plenty of energy. Eating Kitchari slows down the intake of harmful foods and replenishes the nutrition your body needs to re-balance itself. It’s gentle on the body and wont throw you into starvation mode, like other cleanses can.

For more on this cleanse, see here but basically – pick a number of days and eat Kitchari for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (avoiding snacks). Drink lots of water (sometimes with lemon) to flush out the toxins.

Ingredient Swap

Traditionally, Kitchari is a blend of yellow split mung beans and white Basmati rice, ghee, digestive friendly spices like ginger, turmeric and coriander, and you can add vegetables if you like. Mung beans are considered the easiest legume to digest and they are naturally astringent which helps eliminate toxins. Long grain Basmati rice stabilizes your blood sugar better than short grain rice. With no outer hull, this rice and bean stew is so gentle, it’s fed to babies and the elderly.

Kitchari has many variations so I adapted the recipe to use my favorite red lentils and nutty brown rice. I swapped the Ghee for coconut oil to keep it vegan and the recipe I followed had carrots and sweet potatoes which give it sweet and creamy flavor. Fresh ginger and Indian spices amp up the digestive juices as well as the flavor.

Ayurveda and Yoga

Ayurveda aligns well with the practice of yoga.

Both practices purify the “agni” (fire in the belly) and unify or “yoke” the mind, body and spirit. The fire you generate during asana practice detoxes body which is a major benefit of yoga. So, if your yoga teacher instructs you not to drink water during class, its because water extinguishes the fire you built.

In Ayurveda, a strong agni means you are healthy and disease free. When your agni is balanced, you experience passion, heat, power, strength,  transformation, and good digestion. But, when your agni is off you might have digestive issues, inflammation, depression, feel lazy, withdrawn (low fire), irritable, angry, and aggressive (high fire).

Signs your agni is weak or aggravated (source):

  • Inefficient digestion (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Evidence of toxic buildup (coated tongue, unpleasant body odor, excess mucus, and foul-smelling, cloudy urine)
  • Internal coldness
  • Low energy
  • A dull, forgetful, confused, unfocused mind
  • Mental/emotional weakness
  • Illness

Both Yoga and Kitchari  help to restore a healthy agni.

Kitchari Recipe 

This recipe is lightly adapted from Sarah Britton of My New Roots (one of my favorite bloggers).  Her site will dazzle you with incredible photography (hello – blog envy) and healthy, whole food, vegan recipes that are — dare I say, life changing!! I’ve slightly modified the original recipe, but this dish is highly adaptable so make it yours!!!

***I pre-soak the red lentils (1-3 hours) so they cook faster.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup red lentils (pre-soaked in water for 1-3 hours)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • ½ Tbsp each: cumin seeds/ mustard seeds/ coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large shallot or small sweet onion chopped
  • 2/3 carrots cut in half moons
  • 1/2 sweet potato cubed
  • 1 cup brown rice rinsed in cold water
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 4 – 5 cups water
  • 1 bunch of chopped cilantro
  • fresh lemon or lime

Directions: 

  1. Put lentils in a bowl and cover with water (about 2 inches above legumes) let soak at least an hour until lentils swell.
  2. Melt the oil in a large stockpot. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and stir until seeds start to pop. Stir in the remaining spices (1 minute) and add the tomato and ginger. Stir fry for a few minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the shallot, carrots, sweet potato, lentils, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat. Simmer on low for 30 minutes. Now, stir in the brown rice and cook for another 30 -45 minutes. Add water if necessary so the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  4. When rice and lentils are soft, add cilantro and fresh lemon to taste.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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