Kitchari has been a daily meal for me for well over a decade now. You may think that this would get boring, but it is quite the opposite. On the rare days that I go without kitchari, I really do crave it wholeheartedly and cannot wait to make it again. My love for kitchari begins with its unparalleled nutritional value and health benefits (simply put – it makes me feel great!), but as you will see kitchari can be just as delicious as it is healing. Keep reading to discover how to turn any kitchari recipe into a tantalizing meal every time!
Before we get to the “how” on making kitchari, let’s briefly talk about the “why”. From my personal experience, kitchari is one of the only meals I can eat daily without feeling heavy, sleepy, or unmotivated afterwards. On the contrary, after I eat my lunchtime kitchari, I get my second wind and am able to sustain my energy (and appetite!) until evening. The warm and soupy nature of this dish makes me feel grounded and nourished, while the spices and flavorful ingredients awakens my body and mind.
With endless recipe options, you can choose a different kitchari each time you cook to fulfill your dietary, healthcare, or tastebud’s needs. There are cooling kitchari recipes for the summertime, soothing recipes for the fall, heating recipes for the winter, and cleansing recipes for the spring. There are kitchari recipes for each specific dosha type, and kitchari recipes that are healing for all bodytypes alike. No matter the recipe however, using the essential recipe tips listed below will make any kitchari recipe even more delicious, flavorful, energizing, and healing!!
11 Ways To Make Any Kitchari Recipe AMAZING!!
1. Use fresh spices.
Spices are a kitchari essential and if you are using stale, old, lifeless spices that have been sitting in your cabinet for over a year, well your kitchari may just taste lifeless too. By using fresh spices, you will be able to smell, taste, and feel the difference in ANY kitchari recipe…. and don’t be shy. Kitchari should be a beautiful golden color with specs of browns and blacks. If your kitchari is a pale yellow, you may need to add another dash of turmeric to your pot!
Freshness tip: Make sure your powdered spices are less than 6 to 9 months old, your whole spices are less than a year old, and they are stored in an airtight glass jar out of the sunlight.
2. Sauté the spices before cooking the kitchari.
Please do not simply add your spices into your already made kitchari! By taking a moment to sauté them in a small amount of ghee or oil before the cooking process, you will undoubtably enhance the flavor and aroma of your meal. In fact, your whole house will smell of delicious spice, your mouth will begin to water, and your digestive fire will be awakened!
Sauté tip: Sauté any whole seeds in the hot oil for about 2 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently (they should begin to pop or crackle when done). The powdered spices will burn more quickly and should be only sautéed for 30 to 60 seconds, stirring constantly. This process should be done as the first step to your recipe and then the water can be added directly to the same pot after the spices (and onion, etc) have been sautéed.
3. Use fresh ginger and freshly ground black pepper.
Replacing your powdered ginger with finely minced fresh ginger will give any kitchari recipe more life and PAZZAZ! And who doesn’t want pazzaz? Freshly ground black peppercorns will provide much more flavor and oomph as well. Although dry ginger will still bestow many health benefits, many people’s pre-ground black pepper tends to be very old, dull, grey, and yes, lifeless. Black pepper has so much flavor and so many health properties, but to really utilize them, we must think fresh!
4. Keep it exciting – switch up the ingredients!
Kitchari traditionally consists of mung dal, basmati rice, ghee, and spices. This is a great basic base, but if you plan to eat kitchari regularly, this will simply not do. I make kitchari using whole mung beans, red lentils, mung dal, or chana dal depending on my day’s preference. I also may use red rice, brown rice, quinoa, millet, or basmati for the grain. And when it comes to vegetables, the possibilities are quite vast – carrots, beets, bitter greens, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sweet potato. . . OH MY! Even the choice of spices can greatly change the flavor. For example, one day I may add in a pinch of hing and curry leaf, while another day I may choose to add in a cinnamon stick and cardamom.
By choosing these various ingredients, you can change the flavor, the energetics (heavy, light, heating, cooling, etc), and even the healing properties of any kitchari recipe!
5. Keep it healing – focus on health.
Whether you are looking to calm your Vata, lose weight, strengthen your bones, or cleanse your liver, there is a kitchari recipe out there for you! You would want to use more heavy and nourishing kitchari ingredients such as basmati rice, sweet potato, and beets if your Vata is high, while focusing more on stimulating and lightening ingredients such as quinoa, onion, garlic, chili pepper, and bitter greens during times of weight loss. Similarly you will want to add in some calcium-rich ingredients for improving bone health (think sesame seeds, broccoli, leafy greens), and some liver-healing foods for liver cleansing (think bitter greens, fresh lemon juice, red rice, and olive oil).
No matter your healthcare needs, adding in or switching up your typical kitchari ingredients will give you more variety and more focused healing!
6. Keep it healing – focus on season.
Keeping your kitchari ingredients seasonal, will allow more variety of flavor throughout the year, while also providing you with the freshest, most nutrient-rich, and environmentally friendly ingredients. Not to mention mother nature is oh-so-wise and these seasonal vegetables will help to keep you in balance – no matter the time of year! Sweet potato, beets, carrots, and winter squash are in season during fall and winter and will help to keep you grounded and warm. Zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower are freshest in the spring and summer seasons and will keep you cool and hydrated.
7. Use tasty condiments.
When it comes to kitchari, there are so many scrumptious additions to add to your dish. Each condiment will bring its own unique flavor – and health benefits too! The list is really endless but my absolute favorites are a spicy chutney (or any chutney you desire), shredded coconut, toasted sesame seeds, a scoop of tahini, chopped cilantro, fresh lemon or lime juice, and/or toasted almond slivers or cashew pieces.
As you can imagine, each condiment will add its specific qualities. For example, adding a scoop of yummy tahini to a bowl of kitchari will instantly give it some creaminess, bulkiness, warmth, and a delicious sesame seed flavor; whereas adding in some chopped cilantro will increase the cooling, cleansing properties of the meal and provide its own uniquely, delicious flavor.
Mix and match and see (or rather taste) the possibilities as they unfold!
8. Add some ghee to your bowl!
Whether you have used ghee to cook your kitchari with or not, I highly recommend adding a bit extra to your bowl upon serving. Adding in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ghee (per bowl) to your kitchari, directly before you are ready to take your first bite, will give your meal a very delicious flavor that will stand out! In the cooking process the taste gets lost, so it is really important to add the ghee to your individual serving each time.
9. Use broth as a base.
If you really want to jazz up your kitchari recipe, this recommendation will not disappoint! Replacing the water in any kitchari recipe with a broth of choice (bone, chicken, veggie, etc – homemade is best), will give a delicious flavor and yes, more health benefits! This recommendation is great during the fall and winter months when you are needing a bit more nutrition, healing, and warmth. It is also great during times of illness, Vata imbalance, and when you are coming off of a cleanse. Of course, I use broth anytime I simply want to add a delicious flavor and some excitement to my everyday kitchari meals.
10. Share the love, eat in good company, and always be grateful!
Keeping to this recommendation can make any meal more enjoyable (and healing). It is always best to share your meals and when they are cooked by you, it makes it all the more special! If no one in your house wants your kitchari (sadly I can relate), then the next best thing is to sit, eat, and enjoy your meal in good company and good (light) conversation. If you are alone in your home, well then sit, breath in the aroma, enjoy the silence around you, and give thanks and blessings for your delicious meal!
11. Reheat the right way.
Alright, so reheating meals is not recommended if you are wanting to follow a strict Ayurvedic diet. However, reheating is a reality for many of us (including myself!), and I personally believe that reheating a bowl of kitchari instead of eating out, making a frozen meal, or eating processed pre-made food is still a much more healthy option. So if you have made a large pot of kitchari to eat off of for the next couple of days, here are some essential tips to reheating the right way!
- Use a stove top and always avoid microwaves
- Only reheat what you need – never reheat any food more than once!
- Use turmeric and fresh lemon (or lime) juice in your original kitchari recipe to help preserve the kitchari (and its health benefits!)
- Kitchari tends to dry out when refrigerated – add in 1/4 cup of water or broth to make it moist again (if needed)
- Add a small amount of fresh spices (e.g. turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt) when reheating your meal to awaken the flavor
- Add fresh ghee and condiments (cilantro, lemon juice, etc) after reheating each serving
- Store the extra kitchari in an airtight glass container
- Eat within 1 to 2 days