How To Do A Kitchari Cleanse

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When I found kitchari my life completely changed for the better. And everyone who knows me well has heard about kitchari and my infatuation at some point. So, what’s all the hype about this soupy little dish?

Ayurvedic practitioners swear by kitchari for its ability to balance all of the doshas and its ability to promote healing, digestive health and overall well being. Have you been a little overindulgent and need to clean up your digestion? Kitchari. Feeling sick or recovering from illness? Kitchari. Changing seasons or just need a fresh start with a clear mind? Kitchari. It is one of your most powerful tools for clearing out the old in order to make way for the new.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, I have explored practically every cleanse out there from cabbage soup to the master cleanse to air and light (yes you read that right). But kitchari made me a believer. This simple, soupy dish made primarily of rice, split mung beans, seasonal veggies and spices changed my whole outlook on cleansing and transformed my relationship with food and my body. Instead of feeling deprived, it made me feel nourished. Instead of frazzled and delirious I felt grounded, safe, and secure. And coming off it I felt clear and connected. I knew this was the one for me.

The beauty of this dish is that you can eat it for a single meal to give your digestion a break or do a full cleanse of 5-7 days where you really begin to release stored toxins and accumulation. It’s a great introductory cleanse because you still get to eat something throughout the day but at the same time it is the most effective tool I have found for healing and soothing the digestive system, increasing agni (digestive fire), reducing bloating, clearing the mind, healing attachments to food, and kick starting the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And yes, you may loose a few pounds long the way.

How to do a kitchari cleanse

  • Determine the number of days you will cleanse for
  • Begin to eliminate common foods that cause imbalance a few days before the cleanse (alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat, processed foods, etc)
  • Make kitchari daily (if possible) and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Drink warm, herbal teas and water throughout the day
  • Get plenty of rest and take time for self care (oil massage, warm baths, yoga, meditation)
  • In the mornings drink a cup of warm water with lemon followed by another glass of warm water to flush the system
  • If you need to eat something other than kitchari try some fresh, seasonal fruit in the morning or cooked grains with ghee

Here are five tips that I find helpful when doing a kitchari cleanse:

1. Use fresh, organic and seasonal and local veggies. This will give you the most vibrant energy, keep your nourished and connect you with the cycles of nature. Be sure to use organic veggies since we want to make sure you aren’t adding more toxins and pesticides while you are trying to clean them out.

2. Make a new batch of kitchari every day. Having it fresh will keep you motivated and interested in eating it, and it will also allow you to enjoy the prana (energy) of the food, which is depleted in leftovers.

3. Set an intention. Remind yourself of why you are doing this cleanse and dig deep to find your higher purpose for it. Your body and your energy will respond to your thoughts and intentions. Your body doesn’t respond in the same way to “I want to lose 5 pounds, I want to lose 5 pounds, I MUST do this…” as it does to “I want to heal my body and come back to balance. I am willing to release old habits and connect to something deeper…” Personally, I like to set and intention to heal and connect to my deepest self. To remind myself I simply say “I love you,” to my body every time I feel hunger. This brings new awareness and sweetness to the practice and reminds me of my intention. In short, setting an intention brings the practice from the ordinary to the sacred.

4. Feed yourself nourishing thoughts and energy rather than food. We are nourished by our thoughts and actions just as much as we are nourished by food. So clear out your calendar as much as you can. Know that you are prioritizing you and your health during this 3-10 days. Take the time to ease into the morning, start a meditation or yoga practice daily, get yourself a massage or take baths each night. Let this be a time for total self-love, reflection, and connection. It is amazing how much time and energy we have when we don’t need to think about food and preparing it. Use that time to connect to spirit, God, the deepest part of yourself.

5. Get your friends involved. Let people know that you are on a kitchari cleanse and see if you can get them on board (hint: share this post!). This will keep you accountable. I think cleansing is always more fun and easier with a buddy. On a recent cleanse I would look forward to an email from my cleanse buddy each day like I used to wait for mealtime. It’s an opportunity to reflect, connect, and encourage each other.

My favorite Kitchari Recipe

This recipe comes from a friend of mine at the Ayurvedic Center in Vermont. He told me his theory that adding the ghee and salt later in the process made the flavor come out more, and I totally agree.

This makes about 4-6 servings. You can cut it in half if you are cooking just for yourself. Or make a bunch to eat throughout the week (though I do recommend making it daily if that is a possibility for you).

4.8 from 4 reviews
Simple Kitchari
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup split mung beans (these can be found at most natural food stores or online. They can also be found whole rather than split, you can use these but be sure to increase your cooking time to break them down fully)
  • ½ cup organic basmati rice
  • 1 3x2 inch strip of kombu, cut into small pieces
  • 6-8 cups of filtered water
  • 3-4 cups fresh, organic and seasonal veggies (use at least one green veggie such as spinach or kale and one orange or root vegetable such as carrot, sweet potato or squash)
  • 1-2 Tbsp of CCF blend (made by grinding equal parts of cumin, coriander and fennel seed or by mixing the pre-ground spices)
  • ⅛ tsp asafoetida
  • ½ - 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger root
  • ¼ - ½ cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup loosely packed chopped, fresh organic cilantro
  • 2-3 Tbsp ghee (Vegans can use coconut oil in the warmer months or sesame oil in the cooler months use less ghee if you have kapha imbalance, lots of accumulation, or excess weight).
  • 1 tsp rock salt
Instructions
  1. Rinse the rice and split mung beans (I don’t really measure I just do a 2:1 ratio of rice to beans) then put them in a pressure cooker with the kombu and water enough to cover by at least an inch or 2 (about 3 cups of water depending on your pot).
  2. Boil until soft, 10-15 minutes (longer if not using pressure cooker). Chop veggies and cilantro and grind spices (if using whole spices) as the rice and beans cook.
  3. Add the veggies (keep kale or quick-cooking veggies out for now), add 2 more cups of water and cover. Cook 3-5 minutes or so until the water boils veggies are starting to soften. Add more water and adjust temperature as needed.
  4. Once veggies start to soften, add the diced ginger, coconut and spices (cumin, coriander, fennel, asafoetida and turmeric).  When making a warming kitchari in the fall or winter I’ll add a little black pepper and a dash of cinnamon too, maybe some raisins.
  5. Add the kale, spinach or other quick- cooking veggies and the fresh cilantro. Stir.
  6. Then add ghee and rock salt.
  7. Turn off heat, and serve with fresh cilantro and coconut garnish and a wedge of lime if you like.

For more recipes, resources and a step-by-step guide for doing a kitchari cleanse, check out the Kitchari resources page.

 

 

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  • Thank you for the instructions ad recipe as I want to begin a Kitchari cleanse this weekend or sooner. All the best,
    Lucy

  • Hi Krissy)
    Thank you for the information and recipe for the Kitchari Cleanse. I ordered the spices and mungs/rice/kombu today and hope to be on this cleanse by Tuesday!
    I do have a couple questions and was hopeful you could advise? Should I stop taking supplements during this cleanse? I take WELLNESS FORMULA (herbs) and PROBIOTICS daily.
    Also, is it fine to have green tea or yerba mate during the cleanse?
    Thank you soo very much! I am really enjoying your blog and the recipes)

    • Hi Lisa! This sounds great! I tend to not take any supplements when I am doing a kitchari cleanse but taking Wellness Formula and probiotics should be just fine. Caffeine free herbal tea is ideal during the cleanse (because you will bring vata dosha back into balance) but if you are used to drinking caffeine daily, green tea and yerba mate are a good was to wean off of it. You can start out with a few cups a day then crowd it out with herbal tea. Since each person is different it is hard for me to say exactly what is going to be best for you, but trust yourself and your intuition. Also feel free to email me at info@krissyleonard.com if you want to discuss what else might be best for you and your constitution and lifestyle. Lots of love, xoxo Krissy

  • Great and THANK YOU soo much! Can not wait to get started. I only drink 1-2 cups of coffee or yerba a day so I will just try to switch right over to herbals.
    I am mostly Pitta disposition with a little Vata happening too (I have a friend who is in Ayurvedic school so she has analyzed me in the past! Thank you again and I will update you as it goes.
    Have a great day!

  • Thanks for all the information! Is it possible to do this cleanse and get similar benefits without the asafetida? I would like to start the cleanse today but can only find asafetida online?

    • Yes! You do not need the asafetida to do the cleanse. This just helps make digesting the beans easier. I’d love to hear how your cleanse goes! Also, in case you missed it, I’ll be hosting a free webinar on how to do a kitchari cleanse tomorrow Thursday, September 25th at 7:30pm EST. I hope you can make it! Check out the link here to sign up: http://bit.ly/1rmDWOP xoxo Krissy

  • Hi Krissy,
    Thank you for sharing the cleanse process and your recipes!
    I was wondering if it would be OK to switch the basmati rice with organic brown Jasmin rice?
    I only eat brown rice for a few years now and don’t feel like going back to white rice.
    Thanks again,
    Gili

    • Hi Gili!

      The thing with brown rice is that it is harder to digest, which is why the recipe calls for white even though we hear so much about how much better brown rice is! I think that you would still have some benefit in terms of releasing mental attachments to food, and gentle cleansing with the brown rice. However, I would recommend the white because the easier you go on your digestion, the more you stoke your digestive fire (in ayurveda we call this agni). When agni is strong, that is when we get the most detoxification, cleansing and healing happening. You might choose to try both and see how you feel. Good luck and let me know how it goes! xoxo Krissy

      • Hi Krissy….I am wondering about the white rice due to past concerns over high lead concentrations found in white rice? I had done a 10 day detox that my naturopath recommended and it included white rice and apple juice on may days and I asked him about the lead issue for both and he was not aware of it, so I wonder if you could answer that?

        • Hi Joyce! I had not heard about lead in white rice, but I did some research and found the study from 2013 that I think you are referencing. Not to freak you out even more, but rice tends to be susceptible to lead and arsenic too because of the way it is grown. There is lots of information about this on the FDA website. White rice (over brown rice) is considered to be less likely to contain arsenic (not sure about lead) and if you are looking for other types of rice with lower levels try Fair Trade rice that is not paddy grown, like Madagascar pink rice or Volcano rice. Otherwise my personal belief is that it’s ok. Some rice in your diet especially during a kitchari cleanse is not going to have a significant impact on your health and the benefits of the cleanse will far outweigh the negative. The truth is so much of what’s in the mainstream is crap. If you have a pristine diet and want to eat rice sparingly to reduce lead levels I say all the power to you! And I totally get that you’d be concerned seeing as you were eating primarily rice on your cleanse. I think it’s smart to be looking into it and educating yourself. I find that for most people our diets are not pristine so I typically recommend starting by taking out the big aggravators: sugar, processed foods, alcohol, conventional dairy, meat, refined flour. These tend to have the biggest overall impact. From there you could reduce some rice and rice products in your diet and see how you feel. I hope this is helpful Joyce let me know if there is anything else I can help you with! xoxo Krissy

  • Dear Krissy,

    I’ve begun eating kitchari the past week and a half after learning about it from a friend. I’ve made 3 different kinds and now I’m going to do a 5 day cleanse. I have awful irritable bowel and I’m doing this to calm and rejuvenate my system. I was going to do the traditional cleanse without all the spices though I think I May need the sustenance. What do you think? I also have side effects from herbal teas, so I was going to stick with water. I’m concerned about how to eat after the cleanse. I appreciate any advice you have!!
    Thank you,
    Nicole

    • Hi Nicole! Thanks so much for being in touch. I’m so glad that you’ve gotten to experience making kitchari and have a few different kinds to choose from, this can be nice to have some variety! I also want to commend you for making this commitment to your health and to helping reduce the negative effects that you are experiencing from IBS. Without doing a personalized consultation it is hard for me to say which approach would be best for you. Soupy rice (without spices) is traditionally recommended if you have very weak agni (digestive fire). You could start with a day of soupy rice and then build up, but again I would need to learn more about your current situation. I am also interested to learn more about the herbal teas, and there are alternatives like warm water, warm water with lemon, turmeric tea, ginger tea, licorice tea, etc, but again this will depend on your constitution and current imbalances. I recommend that you sign up for one of my free SPARK Sessions, and we can do a 30 minute free consult so that you know which is the best approach for you. If you’d like to book one of these sessions, I recommend doing it as soon as you can since I only offer 10 of these a month and it would be best to touch base before you start your cleanse. Lots of love, xo Krissy

  • Hi krissy, can you eat kichari indefinitely?
    I live a very busy life and have been making up a big pot every couple of days. I love the flavors and ease of it.
    I’ve been eating this with freshly squeezed juices for about a month now and am really feeling and seeing changes in my overall happiness and wellbeing.
    Is there any reasons for me to get off this ride?
    can i continue?

    I look forward to your response.

    Ps. Adding salt at the end really does make a difference

    • Hi Kylie! It would be hard for me to advise you on this without learning a bit more about you first and what it is you would like. In general, I recommend my clients do 1-7 days of kitchari cleansing and then bring in more substantial foods to get the nutrition and volume of food you need. That being said, it is fine to have a day of kitchari once a week or for lunch or dinner multiple times a week if you really enjoy it. It is certainly better than a hamburger and fries 😉 but you want to ask yourself “what is my intention here?” If you are just doing kitchari and juice indefinitely, my gut feeling is that this might be too extractive/cleansing and not providing you with enough augmenting/nourishing that also helps to build vitality. I hope this is helpful. If you would like to discuss more, you can get some personalized support through doing a SPARK Session consult, which you can sign up for here: https://krissyleonard.com/free-spark-session/

      Lots of love! xoxo Krissy

      • Another quick thought, Kylie – You may also be interested in learning more about Ayurvedic Meal preparation, which uses many of the same spices and ingredients we use in kitchari, but it will also give you more flexibility to tailor what you eat to what your body, mind, and soul need on a regular basis. I think you might really enjoy this! A great place to start is Myra Lewin’s Book: Freedom in Your Relationship with Food and Simple Ayurvedic Recipes. Good luck love! xo

  • Thanks for this, Krissy. I’m starting tomorrow. My Pitta is way out of control. I’ll be cleansing for 10 days and plan to incorporate morning massage ritual and easy exercise (which is tough for me because I think you’re not working out unless sweat is dripping in your eyeballs!) with the disciplined eating. My toughest vice to release? Alcohol. But it is also the reason, coupled with corporate work and single mama stress, of why I feel so horrible these days. My second toughest task? Clearing my calendar. My goal is to take it easy, eat clean and get very clear about how I’ve been treating my body.
    Thanks for the inspiration and guidance. xx

    • Thanks so much for this beautiful share, Karma. Ahhh yes sounds like Pitta is on the rise but the good news is that you can use the kitchari to bring it back into balance. The thing about the doshas being out of balance is that it makes us crave more of what brings us out of balance (for pitta this can mean craving action, movement, pushing, and stimulating foods and yes alcohol!) One of my favorite things about ayurveda is learning that it is not that there is something wrong with US but that the elements are simply out of balance. You may find that as you come into balance you don’t crave the alcohol as much, at least this has been my experience. Trust your intuitive hit that is telling you to reassess your calendar. Creating space for relaxation will also calm pitta and perhaps even help with the cravings for food and drink that provide that effect – a win-win! Another idea is to create a nourishment menu – a list of things you can do to bring you ease and relaxation. Incorporating self care (even if its something small) in the morning and evening will be extremely beneficial. Would love to hear how it goes. xoxo Krissy

    • Hi Nathan! Kombu is a type of seaweed. I use this one from Emerald Cove: http://amzn.to/1OHEzQO. You will know the cleansing is working when you feel lighter, more clear, your elimination becomes regular, you feel less sluggish in the morning, your eyes brighten, discomfort goes away, etc. I also know it’s working before those benefits arrive, usually I feel tired at first. I might get a dull headache. I feel more aware of my food compulsions, etc. Does this answer your question? Let me know how it goes! xoxo Krissy

    • As Krissy said, split and peeled mung is best, because it is easily digestable. If you can only get whole green mung beans, you should soak them in water during the night and rinse them properly before preparing your Kitchary, because the green husk contains toxic hydrogen cyanid. Furthermore you can add more of the digestive spices (cumin, fennel, ginger,…)

    • Hi Karla! Split green mung is best, if you can only get whole green mung beans that’s ok but not at easily digestable as the split. xo

  • a friend recommended this cleanse to me-she gave me John Douillard’s LifeSpa site and i used that recipe-i followed everything down to the letter-rhen when i ate my first batch i got these weird intestanial “hic cups” like a cat gets before it spits up-my throat closed up and i had trouble swallowing-then i threw up-this scared me-but i tried to eat it again-twice-each time with the same result-is this normal??? should i try again??? whats wrong???

    • Richard, curious are there spices(hot) that you are not used to? This occassionally happens to me upon ingesting a spicy food.

    • Hi Richard! I this sounds like it could be an allergic reaction, it’s possible to try it without the spices, just ghee and rock salt and ginger. If you get the same issue I wonder if it could be the mung that is giving you the reaction. Either way please consult a doctor before attempting eating the kitchari again if you are having an allergic reaction. I have not heard of this before and I want to make sure you are safe moving forward.

  • Hi Krissy,
    Is it ok if I use green mung beans instead of yellow? Is there any difference ? I couldn’t find them at any markets near my area.

    Savy

    • Hi Savy! Yes green are great. You want to used split green ones if you can, the whole ones are just slightly more difficult to digest. The green split mung sometimes look yellow because the green skin is removed. xoxo Krissy

  • Great recipe, thx! Any chance you could be convinced to create a DIY recipe for the spice mixture alone, the way Banyan Botanicals sells (but only easy to buy in the US; shipping internationally is a major headache). Like a 4-oz stash that you can just grab a tbsp from per kitchari batch? THAT WOULD BE SO AWESOME. Hint hint hint 😀
    http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/kitchari-spice-mix/

    • Hi Mia! Great idea! I’ll think about this for sure. I do encourage you to make your own though too it’s so easy! Just grab whole cumin, coriander, and fennel from the bulk section at your local co-op (if you have one) and grind in a coffee grinder. Otherwise you can buy the powders and combine too! Best of luck!! xoxo Krissy

    • Hi There! I would not recommend fresh chilies because that will make this dish more rajas (stimulating) rather than sattvic (balanced). If you want to make a whole foods meal that is flavorful there’s nothing wrong with chilies but for the cleanse I would not advise, also the chilies will add heat, so if you have pitta imbalance (too much heat/fire in your system) this could bring you further out of balance. I hope this is helpful! xo Krissy

  • Your kitchari looks amazing. I will try it on the next cleanse. Right now I am doing the basic Banyan Botanicals kitchari kit for my first cleanse, ever. I will only be doing it for breakfast and lunch, though. I won’t eat terrible for dinner, just not kitchari. 🙂

  • This is my second time doing the cleanse and I’m loving it. I started to feel the benefits within 24 hours. Feeling lighter in my mind and body and my cravings disappeared after two days. I’m planning to go 2 weeks on the cleanse with one “cheat day” in the middle when I have friends from out of town coming in. I’m stoked and loving the experience and the results. My goal, aside from the general cleanse, is to lose about 10LBs which I did on my last K-cleanse. Thanks Krissy for making this available and sharing your knowledge!

    • Hi Morgan! I am so so so happy to hear this wonderful update! Congratulations on all your progress using kitchari! I could not be happier to hear this. Wishing you the best of luck. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you in your journey! With love, Krissy

  • Would this be okay to for 3 days while I’m breastfeeding? My baby is about 4 months old and exclusively breastfed

    • Start with 1 day and lots of water. If you feel light headed or depleted bring make the kitchari less soupy and more substantial to keep your caloires and milk production up. If that feels good, move on to 2 and then 3. You should consult with your doctor prior as well.

  • Thank you Krissy for this recipe. It is by far my favorite kitchari recipe and I use it frequently. My twin three year olds enjoy it as well.

    • You want to use white basmati rice because it is easiest to breakdown and digest (and a low glycemic index of 55) but I have had clients with good agni use quinoa with success, and so I think you would be okay with the red rice. I haven’t tried that myself yet so can’t say for sure. Good luck!

    • Mung beans are special and always best. Red lentils are a bit more drying but you can use them in a pinch.

  • I’m in day five of this cleanse. Need to perfect the recipe because its pretty bland BUT I’ve lost 5 lbs in three days. Incredible. I’m a believer.

    • Fabulous Christina! I find sprinkling the kitchari with shredded unsweetened coconut, lime and cilantro is great, you can also add ground flax if you want 🙂

  • Hi Krissy! Looks like a great recipe! I’m excited to try my first Kitchari cleanse.
    I’ve been eating mostly Paleo for a while now, so I’m not used to consuming grains. Is there a lower glycemic grain other than rice that you can recommend? Otherwise, would using brown basmati rice have the same effects?

    • White basmati is the best option because it is easiest to digest and actually has a relatively low glycemic index of 52 (regular white rice is 79 and brown rice is 55) Ayurveda doesn’t shy away from the whole grains, see how you feel after one day with the rice. Another option could be quinoa but only in cases where you have really strong digestion/agni. It’s much harder to digest, and part of the magic of the cleansing is giving the digestive track a break. Hope this is helpful! xoxo, Krissy

    • Usually 10-12 minutes for the rice and mung, another 8 after the dense veggies are added, so about 20-25 minutes all together.

    • It is not essential, just helps with the breakdown of the beans. Check amazon if your local health food store doesn’t have it.

  • Thank you for helping me change my lifestyle, my life!
    I’m going to do this over the weekend and allow myself to be self-nurtured.
    I so appreciate you!
    Paige

    • Hi Paige! You are SO welcome! Thanks for your willingness to try something new and create the change that you and your body both need to thrive. Let me know how it goes! I appreciate you too 🙂 xo, Krissy

  • Why, why, why the grayed out font color? Harder to read. I would say there is zero reason to use a pressure cooker. Let it run out of water once and you will be cured for life.

    • Hi Bill! Not sure which font you are referencing? The blog post font is black… it is pretty thin though, I am wondering if that is making it hard to read? Thank you for the feedback, I can definitely check on that. The reason some people might choose to use the pressure cooker is because it cuts the cooking time in half. This recipe calls for ample water and a short cooking time that would make it very difficult to run out of water in the pressure cooker. But to each their own! xo Krissy

  • Everything I have read says the Kitchari cleanse is positive and powerful. A friend gave me her recipe from yoga journal and I just made it with the intention of starting the cleanse tomorrow. I can’t say the recipe looks appetizing but I’m trying to go in with the mindset of how I will feel refreshed by Wednesday. My plan is to eat this for 5 days. I’m a pitta so fennel, green beans and zucchini have been added. The recipe called for burdock which now looking at it I should have use carrots for color. I have he chutney ready.

    I’ve never done a cleanse and I’m a little apprehensive on how I will feel any different than I do now. I will have to go back to work on Wednesday and hope that doesn’t interfere with the results.

    What type of menu should I prepare following the cleanse? I will be grocery shopping next weekend.

    • Hi Amy! Following the cleanse you want to keep it light – think deconstructed kitchari… light spices with rice or whole grain and sautéed veggies and a dal or beans or some lighter meats if you desire like chicken or fish. For at least 3 days after refrain from drinking alcohol and caffeine and drink lots of water and herbal teas to keep flushing things out. Also sugar, refined, fried, and processed foods should all be omitted. good luck and let us know how it goes! Xoxo, Krissy