Kichari (pronounced KIH-cha-ree) is an ages-old comfort food in Ayurveda that is still popular in Indian kitchens today. Traditionally, variations of it are cooked to help treat all kinds of imbalances, using different spices for different ailments.
The recipe below was passed on to me by my beloved teacher, Umaa. It is a standard kichari that is appropriate for kapha, pitta and vata constitutions and for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Eat a smaller portion at dinner.)
Nourishing, gently warming, cleansing and easy to digest, it is also an excellent choice for a mono-fast—a fast of eating only one kind of food for one or more days, which allows the body to gently cleanse.
If you want to try the mono-fast, this kichari recipe will feed you (and possibly another family member) for the three meals of the day.
Simple Cleansing Kichari
Prep time: Overnight soaking + 15 minutes
Cook time: 15-30 minutes
- 2/3 cup (or 150 ml.) split mung beans (if not available, use split red lentils)
- 1¼ (or 300 ml.) basmati rice
- 2 Tbsp. (or 30 ml.) ghee, divided into 1 Tbsp. and 1 Tbsp.
- 1 tsp. (or 5 ml.) fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp. (or 5 ml.) coriander seeds, finely ground
- 1 tsp. (or 5 ml.) cumin seeds, finely ground
- 1 tsp. (or 5 ml.) fennel seeds, finely ground
- 1 tsp. (or 5 ml.) turmeric powder
- ¼ (or 1 ml.) asafoetida/hing powder (available at Indian grocery stores)—optional for pitta imbalances; most important for vata imbalances
- 1½ tsp. (or 7.5 ml) sea salt (Pink Himalayan sea salt is an excellent choice, because it contains nourishing minerals.)
*Organic ingredients are always preferred!
- Soak the mung beans overnight or at least 4 hours. (If using red lentils, soak for a minimum of one hour.)
- After soaking, rinse the mung beans a couple of times or until the water runs clear. Also rinse the rice very well, until the water runs clear; then set it aside.
- In a large, heavy-bottom cooking pot, heat the ghee over medium heat. Then add the ginger, coriander, cumin, fennel and turmeric. Roast the spices in the ghee until fragrant.
- Turn the heat to low; then add the lentils and rice. Mix the lentils with the spices and ghee for 2–3 minutes, coating them well.
- Add enough water so the water level in the pot is about 2½ cm. (1 inch) higher than the lentils/rice. Add the asafoetida.
- Cover, leaving a small space for steam to escape. Cook for 15–30 minutes, or until the lentils and rice are both very soft. Toward the end of the cooking time, add the salt and stir well.
Note: Depending on your climate, altitude, rice, mung beans, etc. more water may need to be added. Keep an eye on the kichari while it’s cooking. If it starts becoming thick or sticking to the bottom, that’s your signal to add more water.
The final consistency of the kichari should be very soft, moist and stew-like (i.e., somewhat pourable, but not a liquidy soup).
Eat the kichari warm and fresh. Optionally garnish with a dollop of ghee, fresh leaves of cilantro, roasted sesame seeds and/or grated, unsweetened coconut that has been freshly toasted.