Ananta Ripa Ajmera
advisor of Ayurveda at THE WELL
This warm Ayurvedic dish can be eaten all year — here's how to make a batch with springtime benefits.
Made of cooked green and/or yellow mung dal lentils, white rice and a variety of spices, kitchari (also called khichadi) is one of Ayurveda’s classic superfoods and a favorite of THE WELL Kitchen & Table's guests.
Almost all Indians know kitchari as a traditional healing food, as it is a staple to eat anytime you feel unwell in Indian homes. Filling yet light, it’s also wonderful for yoga practitioners who want to go deeper into their spiritual practices, as it brings about a calm mental state (known in Sanskrit as sattva, which means mental clarity, peace, harmony and balance).
Versatile and Healthy
Kitchari can be made with a number of seasonal spices and vegetables so you can continually experience different flavors while retaining the health properties.
In the spring, kapha dosha, an Ayurvedic bioforce responsible for stability, is out of balance. Because this dosha represents earth and water elements — the heaviest of the five great elements — it's an ideal time of year to balance your body with lighter and easily digestible foods like kitchari. (Learn about other Ayurvedic springtime practices here.)
It's also a great opportunity to enjoy all kinds of in-season and easy-to-digest green vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, kale, asparagus, green peas, Brussels sprouts, dandelion greens, beet greens, chard and bok choy — to name a few!
Plus, green veggies are rich in the bitter taste, which is recommended during the spring season. Bitter taste cleanses your body, helping you detox and refreshes your palette so that your tongue can perceive new tastes.
- 1/2 cup white basmati rice (or quinoa)
- 3 cups water, plus more if needed
- 1 cup green or yellow mung dal (you can also use 1/2 cup yellow and 1/2 cup green dal)
- Himalayan pink rock salt
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 4 tsp ghee (clarified butter), divided
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (optional)
- 1/4 tsp fresh chopped ginger (optional)
- 1/4 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
- 2-3 garlic cloves (optional)
- 2 1/2 cups (approx.) of your choice of seasonal vegetables such as: red onions, carrots, cauliflower, radishes, cabbage, eggplant, green peas, bell peppers, radishes
- Fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
- Rinse the rice (or quinoa) and dal, then add to a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the rice and dal by 1 inch and soak for 3-4 hours if possible (or at least 30 minutes).
- Place the pot on the stove over high heat. Heat until it boils, then reduce the heat to low. Add the rock salt and turmeric and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has a mushy consistency, 20-25 minutes. Add additional water if preferred, or cook until it becomes as dry as you like.
- Place 2 tsp ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and whatever other spices you choose to use. Cook until the seeds start crackling, about 10-15 seconds or less.
- Pour the warmed ghee mixture into the pot with the rice and dal.
- At the same time, add the spring veggies of your choice to a skillet with the remaining ghee and cook until soft. Add to the rice (or quinoa) and dal mixture and combine.
- Serve with fresh cilantro for added flavor and digestive power.
Ayurvedic Spices to Stock in Your Pantry This Spring
I recommend spices that are naturally abundant in the bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. Examples of these include: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, black pepper, mustard seeds, cloves, ajwain (bishopsweed) seeds, hing (asafoetida), cinnamon, garam masala, curry powder and whole red chilis.
People with high pitta dosha (the Ayurvedic bioforce made of fire and water elements that is responsible for transformation in the body) may find some of these spring spices too heating for them. If you are sensitive to spicy foods and tend to "run hot," then you may have a lot of pitta dosha. In this case (and a practitioner can help guide you if you’re unsure), milder spices like cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, basil, parsley, turmeric and curry leaves are your best options for the springtime.