Kitchari – What Is It?
For thousands of years, the dish kitchari, or khichdi, has been used in ancient Indian cultures to heal the body, rekindle the digestive fire, or agni, and flush out toxins. This dish is tridoshic, which in Ayurveda, the world’s oldest healing system, means that it is healing for all three doshas. In other words, no matter who you are or your energetic composition, this dish will suit you and provide a whole range of benefits.
Kitchari is actually a super simple dish, comprised of ghee (or often coconut oil for us that are plant-based) healing spices, white basmati rice, split yellow mung beans, and any easily digested veggies you choose to use. Since it uses both a grain and a legume, kitchari is a complete protein, meaning it provides the ten essential amino acids that our body does not produce on its own, that we must get from our diet. So basically this dish is nutritious in pretty much every way.
The spices I have listed in the recipe at the bottom of this post are what I was able to find, definitely don’t feel like you can’t make the dish if you don’t have all the spices. I wanted to make the dish as traditional as possible, but you most certainly don’t need to! As always, do what works for you. I found that the more spices I used, though, the more flavorful and pleasant the dish was, and also there are many benefits to each spice.
The white basmati rice is used in kitchari because it is the most easily digestible grain. This entire cleanse (and Ayurveda in general!) is alll about digestion. The body cannot function at its best if you are not digesting your food properly.
The split yellow mung beans (or moong dal) are used because they are the only legume that does not produce intestinal gas. Not to be confused with just regular mung beans, the split yellow mung beans have their husks, which are what causes gas and poor digestion, naturally removed. Soaking these overnight also helps majorly with digestion.
The ghee, or in my case, coconut oil, used in kitchari helps the food to be digested even better by helping your gastrointestinal tract break them down. Oil is not to be feared!!!
And as in every dish, you gotta have your veggies. You want to only use very easily digestible veggies in your kitchari, so no cruciferous vegetables! I used carrot, zucchini, and yellow squash and would recommend this combination to anyone who tries it.
Now, let’s get onto the 3-day kitchari cleanse that has been practiced in Ayurveda for thousands of years to really give the digestive system a break from our daily processed foods or any other food that might be causing digestive discourse.
The word cleanse really has a negative connotation what with all the crazy fads/juice cleanses/etc. that are used as quick fixes to lose weight (or whatever the reason is those are used), but I can’t explain enough times how nourishing kitchari is. It contains grains, legumes, veggies, healing spices, oils – everything our body needs and could actually live off if you wanted!! This cleanse is so comforting and warming and filling, I just want western countries to one day understand that you can help your body heal and detoxify itself without depriving it. So let’s get to it.
First, READ THIS: Please consider what is best for your mental and physical health before embarking on this 3-day journey. If you are struggling with disordered eating or have in the past and may be triggered by the idea of a cleansing process or eating just one type of meal for 3 days, I would not participate in this. Please make sure you are doing this for the right reasons and caring for what your body needs.
The cleanse is simple. Basically, you’re just eating kitchari at every meal for 3 days straight! I believe that in a traditional kitchari cleanse, you would not eat any other foods, say, as a snack. Personally, I cannot and do not want to go all day without snacking, so I adjusted this cleanse to work for ME. I snacked on fruit (and kitchari actually a few times!) between meals and was just fine. Do what you gotta do, but keep whatever you’re eating simple, unprocessed, and easy to digest, so no raw veggies.
An important thing to note, you want to make your batch of kitchari fresh each day for optimal nutritional density, which is why the recipe I have come up with was the exact amount I needed in a day, as not to have any food waste!
But aside from the food, there are many other important practices to make this cleanse as effective as possible.
I highly recommend taking this opportunity to cleanse more than just the digestive system. You really don’t want to be under any stress during a cleanse of any kind because when we undergo stress, whether it’s an intense workout or being chased by a bear, our body has no way to categorize it, it’s just stress!
When we experience stress, our body switches on the sympathetic nervous system (aka fight or flight mode) where it isn’t focused on digestion or any other systems really, it just wants to survive. When we lower our stress, our bodies can then switch back to the parasympathetic nervous system (aka rest & digest mode) and work on absorbing nutrients, removing waste, and flushing out toxins. So here’s what you should do besides eat kitchari during this cleanse:
During the cleanse you should take a break from exercise or move in gentle ways. No running or lifting heavy weights or super sweaty yoga. Just take this opportunity to let every part of your body rest and not really do anything more than a relaxing walk, stretching, or light yoga. Meditation should be part of the daily routine in this cleanse!
If you can, choose a 3-day period where you don’t have school or work, or will at least only have for one of the days (preferably not the first day which was the roughest for me!). Find a 3-day period where you don’t have a whole lot to do and just focus on this.
To help your body flush out these toxins, you need to up your water intake to as much as you can handle! I drank lots of warm water between meals and really felt a difference. Also you can drink herbal tea or maybe some pure coconut water!
To be honest, I wish I would’ve done a social media detox while doing this cleanse. I was open about the process and got some pretty negative messages from people who just really didn’t understand, and some of them hurt me and hendered my experience. Nevertheless, I tried to take deep breaths and let their words go. Sad that diet culture has added such a negative connotation to the word cleanse that this entirely nourishing and healing one isn’t given a chance.
If social media stresses you out or causes negative emotions of any kind, take a break for these 3 days.
During this cleanse, I also tongue scraped before I brushed my teeth in the morning and at night with a copper tongue scraper. This removes the bacteria that builds up in our mouths while we are sleeping.
I also used a dry brush, which has so many benefits including improving circulation and assisting in toxin removal, followed with a self-oil massage using coconut oil.
Lastly, many kitchari cleanses recommend taking triphala, a natural supplement made up of 3 fruits to support digestive health. Aka helps with regularity 🙂 You can take in tablet form or in tea.
My Cleanse Diary:
Here are some random notes I recorded about how I was feeling each day. By ZERO means will you feel and experience the same things I did.
Super low energy on Day 1 and had lots of cravings for the foods I have a habit of eating everyday. I was bloated and gassy for the entire middle of the day. Drank tonsss of water between meals.
Today was MUCH better than the last. I woke up with detoxification symptoms, but felt much better after drinking warm water and meal #1. Energy was amazing the rest of the day which was a stark difference from the first day. Feelin guh-uh-uuuuuddd.
Today was normal except major sweet/cold cravings in the morning. My energy was still amazing and I was in the BEST mood this afternoon and evening. Honestly noticed more psychological differences than digestive during this cleanse!
My cleanse was pleasant and very interesting from an experimental perspective. I noticed that normally when I wake up, my stomach is still a little bloated from the previous day’s worth of food, but during this cleanse it was not. Not because I was hungry or deprived, my food had just been fully digested. I wouldn’t say I noticed a CRAZY difference in my digestion (as in bloat and gas) during the day as I was still very bloated after lunch, but it was better. The fourth day after the cleanse when I went back to regular food, I got super bloated again! I’d recommend easing back into your normal diet for sure, but it was interesting to see the difference when going back to regular food.
More importantly, in my opinion, though, was the psychological differences I noticed. The first day was rough and my energy was terrible and my brain felt extremely foggy, but by the second and third day, my energy and mood were AMAZING. I now understand that the food I’ve been putting in my body out of habit might be causing my energy and moods to be erratic at times.
I probably won’t do a full 3 day cleanse again anytime soon, but I am definitely willing to do 1 day or even just a meal or two of kitchari anytime that I’m feeling poorly digested or low-energy.
I embarked on this 3-day journey to improve my digestion which had been out of all sorts of whack the past few weeks, do a fun little experiment, and open myself and my mind up to a culture different from my own, and I’d say it was a success.
Here is the recipe I came up with and, if I do say so myself, perfected by day 3.
My Kitchari (Khichdi) Recipe:
This is enough for 1 batch, aka a day’s worth of kitchari for the cleanse for me (please adjust to what your body needs!)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil (or preferably ghee if not vegan)
- 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- heavy pinch black pepper
- pinch asafoetida (if you can find it!)
- 1 cup organic split yellow mung beans (aka moong dal), measured dry and soaked overnight or for at least 6 hours
- 3/4 cup organic white basmati rice, measured dry
- 4 cups organic vegetable broth
- 2 cup water
- 3 cups chopped easily digestible vegetables (I did carrot, zucchini, and yellow squash)
- Heat up coconut oil and seasonings in a large pot on medium heat. Stir around constantly so they don’t burn.
- Rinse the soaked split yellow mung beans with the rice about 2-3 times or until water comes out clear. Add to pot and stir constantly for about a minute.
- Pour in vegetable broth and 1 cup of the water, bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and lower to a simmer. Leave for 25 minutes.
- Add in the chopped vegetables and remaining cup of water, stir, and cover with lid for 15 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir to fluff up the kitchari.
- Serve with cilantro, sesame seeds, himalayan salt, and ghee if not vegan, and enjoy the nourishment!
*the first day I topped with tahini (as seen in picture) but a reader told me to avoid that for optimal digestion and it tasted just as good without it on day 2!
I researched as much as I possibly could before doing this cleanse, as should you if you choose to try. Here are some articles I found informative and which helped me write this blog post.