Kitchari: A Clean, One Pot Vegetarian Meal

kitchari photoJess Root/via

At the start of the winter I decided to give my body some love to prep for the upcoming season of belly-heavy, hard-to-digest comfort foods. I opted for a 7-day gentle, whole foods cleanse with an Ayurvedic twist.

Ayurveda is so large a subject it merits vast study but briefly, it's not a far departure from living in accord with the season. In the winter it's all about specific warming foods and beverages. Among other reasons, this is to keep cold at bay and increase digestive fires, that otherwise if not kept in check could lend to internal imbalance-- showing up in less-than-sexy signs like joint pain, dry skin, irregular bathroom trips, etc.

What's Kitchari?
Kitchari is one of those Ayurvedic meals that I ate during my cleanse. It's like a vegetarian, Indian version of American chili. Unlike chili, it's cleansing, easy-to-digest and provides a complete protein, entirely plant-based. I've since kept the meal in my winter menu repertoire. I just feel too good post-Kitchari to give it up; warmed up inside, satisfied and light on my toes, stoked to get on my yoga mat after it digests. I can't say that about a burger, as delicious as a grass-fed one -- I admit -- may be!

I borrowed this recipe from The Ayurvedic Institute but improvised using the goodies I already had in the cupboard. I would encourage playing with the recipe and spicing it to your tastes. If you run a quick search on Kitchari, you'll see everyone has their own favorite variation.

Don't expect fireworks in the tastiness department but enjoy knowing you're giving your digestive system a rest, your immune system a boost (with spices shown to have anti-inflammatory properties) and the planet one too by going meatless.

Ingredients: (Yields 4-6 servings)
1 cup Organic Basmati Rice (try to stay strict on this one -- it's among the easier grains to digest.)
2 cups mung dal (split yellow beans) (I used organic red lentils.)
6 cups (approx.) filtered tap water
2 tbs. organic ghee
3 tsp. mustard seeds (I used mustard powder as I didn't have seeds.)
2 tsp. cumin seeds (I used powder as I didn't have seeds.)
2 tsp. tumeric powder
2 tps. fennel powder (I used cardamom powder.)
Optional sea salt (or Himalayan pink salt) to taste -- this really takes the meal from bland to yum!
Optional seasonal, organic veggies such as butternut squash, sweet potato, cauliflower, etc.

1. Heat large soup pot and melt in ghee.
2. Saute the seeds (or powder) in the ghee until they pop. Then add the other spices. Saute for 1 or 2 minutes.
3. Add water, bring to boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the beans are about 2/3 cooked.
4. Now prepare any veggies to suit your tastes. Cut them into smallish pieces.
5. Add rice and veggies to the pot. Stir to mix, adding extra water if required. Bring back to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. Aim to have minimal water remaining, leaving the lid on the pot to allow any excess to slowly be absorbed.
6. Serve into a bowl and salt to taste. For a more filling meal, accompany with a ripe slice of avocado.

Now that my cleanse has ended, I fancy up my Kitchari with a glass of red wine-- as pictured above. When I have leftovers, I warm it up and wilt in some organic fresh baby spinach to get in some more clean greens.

More Vegetarian Recipes:
7 Cheap and Easy Vegetarian Meals
Our Weekday Vegetarian Column
Sunday Vegetarian Recipe: Nettles Pesto

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