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).
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the kale, spinach or other quick- cooking veggies and the fresh cilantro. Stir.
- Then add ghee and rock salt.
- 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.