Kitchari is a staple food in India. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for 5,000 years as part of a cleansing diet. It is known for its comforting, yet detoxifying, properties. It also helps to balance all three Doshas.
I first learned about kitchari in September of 2011. I had been feeling sluggish and had been wanting to find a detox or cleanse regimen that I would be able to do without feeling like I was depriving my body. In the 2011 September issue of Yoga Journal, I read about an Ayurveda detoxification program that seemed simple.
With this cleanse; you are instructed to mainly eating kitchari, drink lots and lots of water, drink ginger tea-made by boiling fresh ginger root in water, and take an Ayurvedic supplement called Triphala. In essence, as with any cleanse, you are to avoid all alcohol, processed foods, caffeine, and sugar. The first time I did the cleanse for 3 days, and I will admit, they were the hardest 3 days of my life. I had never done anything like this before. Even though I really didn’t eat all that bad, I found myself craving junk food! Turns out I wasn’t as ready for this cleanse as I thought.
Since then, I have changed and grown in my healthy eating practices. Still, due to the winter holidays this past year-I realized that I had splurged a little too much, I soon found my body calling out for detox. Naturally, the first thing that popped into my head was this kitchari cleanse. This time around something was different. I researched a lot of different recipes and came up with something of my own. Even the hubby seemed satisfied eating this meal, which for me, is a big deal! The recipe I used this time seemed more satisfying, and more flavorful.
So what is different?
The original recipe that I used called for mung beans and kombu; that’s what I used the first time around. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to a whole foods store this time. However, I learned via the internet and my Ayurvedic cookbook, I could use lentils instead of mung beans and any leafy greens instead of kombu. I learned that lentils pack just as much nutritional benefits that mung beans do, but were easier on the tummy as well as easier to cook(they require no soaking!). I couldn’t go wrong with that!
So what makes this food so special, detoxifying, and delicious?
When you put the rice and beans together it makes a complete protein which your body needs for a slew of things, namely ENERGY. As we all know, our bodies need lots of veggies. The veggies in this recipe are specifically geared to help with:
- lowering blood pressure
- purifying your blood
- supporting and building your immune system
- making your heart healthy and happy
- cleansing the liver
- stabilizing blood sugar
- aiding with weight-loss
The spices used in this recipe have similar properties. When you put them all together with the beans and rice, you get not only yummy goodness in a bowl that will comfort and calm you, but food that will leave you feeling satisfied and light .
Ghee is also used in this dish. Ghee is clarified butter. When using, it is important to only use one to two tablespoons per day as it is composed solely of fat from the butter. In Ayurveda, using small amounts of ghee is said to help with digestion. While normal butter slows digestion, ghee helps stimulate stomach acids to aide in digestion.
As of this post, I am on day 5 of detoxing; I have lost 4 pounds and I feel great! Not to mention, when I started I was at the tail end of the cold flu. I really feel that if it had not been for this cleanse, I would still be sick and laying on the couch. I definitely will be making this cleanse a part of my life one to two times a year.
Below is the recipe. I use very little salt, but feel free to add more, just remember that a little goes a long way in this dish due to all the spices. If you do use kombu, leave out the salt, as kombu is a sea vegetable and is naturally salty in taste.
I hope you enjoy!
Serves 6-8; about 1 1/2 cups each
1 cup green lentils
1 cup basmati rice
6 cups of water
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 garlic cloves, minced or diced
2 cups baby spinach leaves or Kale (if using Kale it needs to be pulled off the stem and chopped)
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala (a blend of spices)
½ tsp of coriander
½ tsp of cinnamon
1) Rinse the rice and beans, separately, using a strainer with small holes so that the rice and beans don’t fall through. Next, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the rice, and reduce the heat to simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes. Add the lentils, bring back to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for 15-20 minutes more. When done, drain off any excess water and let cool. (lentils should be soft and intact, but not mushy)
2) Meanwhile, dice the onion, celery, carrot, and mince the garlic (if you do not own a garlic press, you can finely chop the garlic). Chop the zucchini, and if using Kale-chop into bite sized pieces.
3) Melt the ghee in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add all the spices, mixing quickly-careful not to burn. Once mixed, add the onion, celery, and carrot, stirring frequently. Sauté for about 5 minutes. Next, add the zucchini and garlic, stirring to combine. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
4) Add the lentils and rice, stir to mix. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture seems to dry, add a little water or vegetable stock, the mixture should be of porridge consistency (I like to use vegetable stock for a little more flavor). Add the baby spinach and mix until spinach is wilted, about one to two more minutes.
5) Serve and enjoy!
**Note-when reheating kitchari, especially if using during detox, use a stove. You can do this by placing the left-over kitchari in a pot with a lid and warming on a low temperature, stirring occasionally Using a microwave takes out some of the beneficial nutrients that are essential to cleansing your body.