In Ayurveda, things that we ingest are divided into three categories:

  • Poison
  • Medicine
  • Neutral

Poison is defined as anything that hinders digestion. Medicine is considered to be anything that we ingest that aids the digestive process. Neutral is anything we ingest that gives support and nourishment without either aiding or hindering the digestive process.

Kitcheri is a unique because it falls under both the neutral and medicinal categories. It not only provides nourishment for the body, but, due to its spice combination, also benefits digestion. This makes kitcheri a food of choice for times of stress on the body, such as during a change of seasons, periods of overwork and during illness. It is a particularly good food for a mono-diet during an internal cleansing regime. There are variations to a basic kitcheri recipe. The recipe below is basic, easy to start with, and balancing to all three doshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha).

Usually available at health food stores or East Indian groceries
2-3 TBS ghee recipe, extra virgin olive oil or, if kapha or ama is high, omit oil or ghee entirely and replace with a half cup water and water-sauté them)
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 small pinch of asafoetida (“hing”) powder
½ cup split yellow mung dal, rinsed well, soaked overnight and drained. (It is best to use mung dal with the hulls still on if you tend toward constipation).
1 tsp rock salt (omit if pitta or kapha are increased)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup white Basmati rice, rinsed well and drained.
4 ½ cups water if using a pressure cooker. About 6 cups if using a regular pot.
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
4-5 thin slices of, or 1-2 TB freshly grated, fresh ginger root

Using either a pressure cooker (much faster) or a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the ghee or oil on medium heat. Ghee burns easily, so be careful. Sauté the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the ghee until the seeds pop. If omitting oil or ghee, dry fry the mustard and cumin seeds for a few minutes. In either case, then add the drained mung dal, asafoetida powder, turmeric and salt. Stir until the mix starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Then add the rice, water, cumin powder, coriander powder and ginger. Stir well, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pressure cooker or pot.

If you are using a pressure cooker, fasten the lid on and turn the heat to high, let full pressure build up. Once the pressure has built up to full pressure (that will vary depending on your pressure cooker. Be sure to carefully read your pressure cooker instructions), turn it off, and let sit until there is no more pressure and you can safely open the lid.

If you’re using a regular pot, cover and bring it to a boil on high heat. Then turn the heat down and let it simmer until both the rice and dahl are mushy.

You may have to experiment with how much water you use to find a consistency that you like. (The more water, the thinner the consistency). A thinner consistency is preferable if digestion is weak. You will notice that kitcheri will thicken when it cools and you may need more water than you originally thought. It also may be a good consistency as soon as it is done but congeals quickly so you can always add more water and use a masher to return the kitcheri to a desired consistency.

Sometimes I like the porridge-like consistency and sometimes I prefer the rice has more integrity and it’s not so porridge-y. Those times I will adjust this recipe to have a 1-2 ratio of bean/rice -water. So, if the total amount of mung dahl and rice is 1.5 cups, I would use 3 cups of water and cook this in a regular, heavy-bottomed cooking pot instead of the pressure cooker, and cook until the rice and beans are cooked–about 20 minutes.


Onions: Can add one medium sized, diced onion–after the seeds pop, and sauté on medium heat until translucent and then proceed with the recipe. If omitting oil or ghee, you can first dry fry the seeds until they pop and then add 1/2 cup water and one medium sized, diced onion and simmer until onion is translucent and then proceed with the recipe.

Veggies: Can add chopped veggies of your choice once all the other ingredients are assembled. I like chopped carrots or cauliflower or kale.

In order to provide the best quality of energy to your body, Kitcheri should be made the day that you wish to eat it and served hot. This recipe serves six.


* Fresh cilantro (great for pitta – ok for vata and kapha)
* Coconut (great for pitta)
* Lime (ok for everybody)

by Dr. Claudia Welch

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