Kitchari Cleanse and Kitchari with Quinoa, Curried Winter Squash, and Sautéed Greens

Several people asked about my kitchari cleanse after I mentioned it a couple weeks ago, so I would like to share a bit about it with you.  In case you aren’t familiar, Kitchari is a porridge made with mung beans and basmati rice and mildly seasoned with ginger and dahl-like spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, etc.  Eating only kitchari is considered a “mono-diet” (eating just one food) and the theory behind it is that it provides enough sustenance to keep most people going for the duration of the cleanse (usually 3-10 days), but gives your body a rest from digesting the myriad of foods we typically eat in a day.  I decided to do it because I was feeling very ungrounded and “spinny” and, while most cleanses or fasts would be totally outrageous for me (especially in mid-Winter), simplifying my diet seemed like a really appealing idea.

So, what’s so good about kitchari?

  • Mung is the most easily digested type of bean.
  • The combination of beans and rice makes a complete protein and, as evidenced by the cuisine in many areas of the world, provides good, solid, satisfying nutrition.
  • The spices typically used in kitchari aid in digestion, among other things including decreasing inflammation
  • Kitchari can be made in many variations to suit individual preferences.
  • It is absolutely nourishing, warming, and delicious – a true comfort food that’s good for your body.

Why might one do a kitchari cleanse?

I cannot necessarily speak to all of the reasons, but after doing it myself, here are some benefits as I see it:

  • It can help change less-than-optimal eating patterns.  For example, I ate more sweets than normal over the holidays and then continued to crave sweets as a result.  Doing the cleanse helped me regain my blood sugar balance.
  • It can be used as an elimination diet.  Assuming you feel good eating kitchari, you can add foods you are questioning back into your diet slowly to see if they change how you feel.
  • It helps create more space and awareness around eating.
  • It gives your body a rest, as I mentioned before, but I find that it also gives your mind a rest.

I did the cleanse for a few days and have been on a modified version of it for the past couple weeks.  I went into it thinking I would just stay on it until it seemed like the right time to get off and, while I have had some non-kitchari meals, I’m still finding that I am enjoying the simplicity of the (modified) cleanse.

Even during the true kitchari-only days I added some variety by serving it in different ways (with the rice in it, with the mung beans in a separate bowl next to veggies and rice, and using different vegetables either as garnish or stirred into the soup).  And, in case you are wondering about snacks, I did eat fruit sometimes between meals.  After the first few days, I started to replace the rice with quinoa for one meal, or eat mung bean pancakes with grains and veggies on the side instead of the porridge version.  Then, I started to use red lentils, which are a little harder to digest than mung, but still very digestible, for one of the meals.  Now, I am eating kitchari or something close to it for 2 meals a day and eating something different for 1 meal; when needed, I eat other foods for snacks, as well.  I’m not being rigid about it, because that would defeat my purpose, as our state of mind while we eat also has a significant effect on our digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

Doing the kitchari cleanse was not difficult and I feel much better as a result.  I’m glad to be off my little blood sugar roller coaster and I feel more grounded and clear.  I will definitely keep it in mind when I need a little pick-me-up in the future during the colder months.  Since I don’t think I’ve ever read about a cleanse or fast without seeing a warning to talk to your healthcare provider before undertaking any major dietary changes, I’ll pass on that warning too…

I’ve posted recipes in the past for mung bean pancakes as well as kitchari, but here’s another version.  It’s simple, with just parsley cooked in, but I like to garnish it with Curried Winter squash cubes and sautéed greens.  It’s not traditional kitchari, but it’s a delicious variation.

  • 1 cup split mung beans (can also use red lentils or other small lentil or bean), soaked 2-8 hours
  • 3 Tablespoons ghee (or olive oil for a vegan version)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • pinch asofaetida*
  • 1 strip kombu, optional (can be soaked with the beans)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 cup finely minced parsley
  • lime juice, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cooked quinoa (or grain of your choice) for serving
  • Curried Winter squash cubes and sautéed greens for garnish

Asofoetida, also known as “hing”, is a spice used as a digestive aid and commonly paired with beans for that reason.  The smell of the raw spice is strong, to say the least, and has been compared to stinky feet, so it needs to be stored in an airtight container.  However, it mellows when cooked and is thought to have a taste reminiscent of sauteed onions and garlic.  Just a pinch of it is all you need.

Rinse the soaked mung beans well and set aside.  Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the ghee and cumin, and cook for about a minute or so, then stir in the turmeric, cayenne, and asofoetida.  Mix the beans into the spice mixture, then pour enough water over the mixture to cover it by 2-3 inches, add the kombu and ginger, and bring it to a boil.  Once it boils, turn the heat down to low and let the soup simmer until the beans and soft and creamy.  Add the parslty, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper, stir well and give it a taste.  Adjust seasonings as needed, keeping in mind that this is a cleansing meal and should have just enough salt to pull the tastes together.  Serve over quinoa and garnish with plenty of curried squash cubes and sautéed greens.  Enjoy and be nourished!

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3 Comments »

  1. […] on their own, but I’ve also been adding them, along with sauteed greens and quinoa to a yummy stew I’ve been making, and they make a wonderful addition to a roasted vegetable salad.  They do […]

  2. atfaught said

    Thanks for this great article ~ your experiences with going on the kitchari fast sound exactly like mine 🙂 ~ from the holiday blood sugar problems to the way you changed up your meals, to how often and strict you ate it ~ wish I had come across your article first! I will keep it at hand to pass around though ~ still loving kitchari as part of my daily diet, and now enjoying other foods 🙂

  3. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who
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