This meal has been an important part of my life for the better of 20 years.
I used to eat it a lot when I lived in a Vaisnava temple because it’s considered a sattvic (mode of goodness) meal perfect for that monk life. It’s also affordable and can feed a big crowd. When I went to Bangalore, India in 2003, I visited a midday meal program for school children where they served kichari. It’s been there when I was sick, when my digestion was off, during morning sickness, for cleanses and for when I didn’t feel like thinking about what to make. I’ve even dehydrated cooked mung beans to make kichari while camping in the Smoky Mountains -see here.
My whole family likes it! I’ve eaten kichari for over a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! We eat it at least once a week, sometimes more!
What is kichari?
It is a traditional meal recommended in Ayurveda to help the body heal by providing easily digestible food. Ayurveda translates to mean the science of life. It is the oldest holistic health system in the world, and just like its sister science of Yoga, originates in India and Vedic philosophy.
Kichari is basically a combination of split peeled mung dal, basmati rice, water, and spices. The simple recipe is suitable for all 3 doshas -mind/body types – Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. Vegetables are also added to provide micronutrients and variety. Why mung beans? According to Ayurveda, this little legume is light, good for all body types, easily digestible, and detoxifying. It’s also a good source of plant-based protein to keep blood sugar levels stable. It’s one of those homey, comfort foods that you would never find in a restaurant. The Middle Eastern equivalent might be something like mujadara, and the Filipino one might be arroz caldo. These are soupy rice-based meals I also love!
I started cooking kichari in a large pot, then moved to a pressure cooker, and now I cook it in my InstantPot. The ability to just press “Pressure Cook” and set for 5 minutes makes it one of the easiest complete meals to make.
Since I always have basmati rice and split peeled mung beans in my pantry, I can just vary the spices and vegetables to suit the season we are in and how I am feeling. I can adjust the water amount to make it soupy or more like a stew. It’s such a versatile meal and fully customizable.
Sometimes I make it Asian style with sesame oil, more ginger, bok choy, sea vegetables, and mushrooms.
My version in the photos has carrots, kale from our garden, cilantro and lemon and I served it with some air-fried karela (bittermelon) chips.
My basic recipe is below!
Instant Pot Kichari
- Instant Pot
- ¾ cup split peeled mung dal
- ¾ cup basmati rice
- 2 cups vegetables (ex. root veggies, greens, squash, tomatoes)
- 2 tsp oil (ex. avocado, olive, coconut, sesame)
- 1 -2 tsp dry whole spices (ex. cumin seed, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, chilies)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp powdered spices (ex. coriander, garam masala)
- 2 tsp ginger, minced/grated
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 5 cups water
- Plug in Instant Pot and press "Saute". Add oil and saute whole spices and ginger.
- Add rice and mix until all grains are covered in oil.
- Add dal, turmeric, powdered spices and water. Add hard vegetables like winter squash or root vegetables. Add tomatoes if using.
- Place Instant Pot Lid and seal. Press "Pressure Cook" and put in 5 minutes on High.
- Release after the 5 minutes of pressure cooking is done. You'll hear a beep!
- Add the soft veggies like zucchini and any greens like kale, swiss chard, bok choy, and place lid back on to cook for 1-3 minutes.
- Mix gently. Serve with garnishes: cilantro, lemon or lime, Indian pickle, vegan yogurt
You can also make this in a regular pot for those of you without an Instant Pot. Boil 5 cups of water and add washed rice and dal. Also add turmeric, coriander powder, and ginger. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Place a lid and simmer for about 20 minutes. Check water level and doneness of dal. If the dal is still floating or still hard and intact, cook longer. Add another cup of water and the hard vegetables and salt. Stir once and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the soft veggies or greens on top and cook until done. In a small pot, heat the oil and spices until they pop. Add these tempered spices to the kichari and serve with garnishes.
This is a great time to do a kichari cleanse as we transition from the dullness of winter. Many cultures celebrate the new year at Spring Equinox. It’s also a time of allergies due to everything blooming. Some people experience water retention and mucus production due to Kapha. Add these veggies to your kichari: Leafy greens (even bitter ones like dandelion or arugula), asparagus, broccoli, and sprouts on top. Add a squeeze of lemon!
It’s hot outside but we still want a filling meal! Use seasonal veggies like tomatoes, okra, summer squash. Use fennel and coriander in your spice mixture. If you eat chilies, cut back in the summer. Use coconut oil for its cooling properties and squeeze of lime instead of lemon. The dominant dosha is the fiery Pitta.
With dry, cold, and windy weather, we can experience aggravated Vata.
We need grounding with lots of warm and moist foods.
Pumpkin, butternut and other winter squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots are great for this time of year. Use warming spices. I’ve even put pumpkin spice in my kichari in the fall!
This season is a lot like fall, cold and dry. It’s also a time when people are overindulging in holiday food, especially in Western countries. Follow the fall kichari guidelines and add some more hearty greens like kale. You can add a little more oil to keep things moving. Use warming spices like mustard seeds, cumin, and chilies. Eat kichari as a break from excess sweets, snacks, and less than healthy food at gatherings.
Where do I buy these ingredients?
I shop at my local Indian/Asian market. In Austin, that’s Man Pasand or Big Bazaar. There are even organic brands now! I like the Laxmi brand or 24 Mantra. If you have an Hmart in your town they carry everything in one aisle. Your local health food or grocery store should have basmati rice and spices.
You can also order organic split peeled mung from Banyan Botanicals, either their website or on the big A site (you know what I mean…I’m trying to support local businesses but I know for many of you it’s just too convenient!)
I hope this has been helpful! Let me know how your kichari making goes!
Feel free to tag me on social media @veggiebytes I would love to see what you make!