For a low FODMAP version of this healing kitchari recipe, that might be more appropriate for the IBS / SIBO set, you can find an updated recipe in my cookbook, SIBO Made Simple.
Some version of this healing kitchari recipe has been on rotation in my kitchen for years, ever since I began learning more about healing my autoimmune disease and writing books about it.
Whenever I’m coming back from a particularly glutinous vacation, or if my digestion is feeling stagnant, I turn to warming bowls like this one. It’s a great compliment to a full vice detox or any period of liver cleansing.
Kitchari, for those who aren’t familiar, is a flagpole recipe of healing Ayurvedic cuisine, and is said to be the best combination of nourishing foods that won’t tax your digestive system. If you’re not familiar with the philosophies and teachings of this ancient medicine, I highly recommend listening to my interview on the podcast which tackles the Ayurvedic approach to gut health and pesky weight fluctuations.
What is Kitchari?
Kitchari is traditionally made from either yellow lentils or split peas, basmati rice, a mixture of digestive spices, and ghee. With Paleo-ism on the rise, I know this might seem strange to some of you. Aren’t legumes and grains hard to digest?
Why is Kitchari healing for the digestive system?
The theory behind this dish’s efficacy has a lot to do with the concept of food combining. A mono-nutrient fast gives our digestive systems a much-needed break from dealing with a mess of different foods every meal. The dal and rice is cooked until just short of mush, so it’s easier to absorb. The spice mix fires up our belly, and the ghee (or coconut oil) helps lube up your tubing and allows fat-soluable nutrients to assimilate.
This kitchari recipe, which is adapted from Leah Vanderveldt’s fabulous book The New Nourishing, is also packed with greens for added fiber, vitamins and minerals. This may go against the grain (literally and figuratively) of the traditional recipe, but since the veggies are also cooked down until quite soft, it isn’t too taxing on your system and makes the kitchari recipe more of a complete meal.
Is Kitchari Low FODMAP?
Even though one of the main ingredients is a legume, this dish is actually fairly easy to adapt to a low FODMAP diet. In fact, I have a recipe for low FODMAP brown rice kitchari in my new book, SIBO Made Simple.
Working from this kitchari recipe, simply double the rice and skip the split peas or lentils, and limit the broccoli to 2 cups. The mixture doesn’t have onion or garlic, so for once, you’re covered in that department. And you can serve without the yogurt topping.
In fact, traditional kitchari is a subtle nod to what many of us who have experimented with a low FODMAP diet know: that onion and garlic can be irritating for many people. It’s no surprise that they are omitted as part of the therapeutic aspects of this dish.
Other Kitchari ingredients
One of my favorite cleansing herbs is cilantro, which is an all-star chelating agent. If you’re doing a vice detox or even a period of SIBO treatment, I highly recommend adding a few handfuls of leaves to your finished dishes or pureeing it into soups. So for both flavor and health benefits, I think it’s the perfect things to garnish your bowl of green kitchari.
This recipe is naturally vegan, dairy free, gluten free, nut free, and soy free. But some people also will add a dollop of plain unsweetened yogurt for a probiotic boost. I try to steer clear of dairy whenever I’m doing a liver detox or healing my digestion, but a coconut yogurt would work well.
Finally, this recipe is quite plain on purpose, just using fresh ginger and digestive spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds and fenugreek. As I mentioned above, there’s purposely no alliums and no hot or spicy ingredients beyond the slight heat of the ginger. BUT if you’re just enjoying this recipe as a healthy dinner and not a cleanse, I will say that a dash of hot sauce or chili crisp makes it all the more delicious. Don’t shoot the messenger!
All in all, this kitchari recipe could not be easier. Since you’re cooking the rice and lentils in so much liquid, it’s hard to screw it up. If you find that your grains are too dry and they aren’t fully soft yet, just add more water. It benefits from some degree of experimentation and feel, but is also hard to screw up.
If you have any health woes that you’re planning on tackling, my meal plans might be the perfect way to approach them together. Kitchari is a fantastic pantry option, as are some of the recipes in my pantry planner.
With health and hedonism,
Ayurvedic Cleansing Green Kitchari Bowl
This Green Kitchari Bowl recipe is adapted from Leah Vanderveldt's fabulous cookbook The New Nourishing. The fennel seeds are the sleeper spice in here and so good for digestion. Kitchari is a staple of healing Ayurvedic cooking since the rice and lentils are cooked until easily digestible and the base is layered with supportive spices and ginger. I love that Leah adds lots of green veggies to aid in the cleanse.
- 1 cup dried yellow split peas or lentils
- 1/2 cup long grain brown rice
- 3 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
- 1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 5 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 small crown broccoli finely chopped into an almost rice-like texture (about 2 cups total)
- 1 medium zucchini coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup packed baby spinach roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- Plain full-fat Greek yogurt for serving
Rinse the yellow split peas or lentils and rice in a fine mesh colander under cold water until the water runs clear.
In a large lidded saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the coconut oil or ghee. Add the ginger and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, fenugreek, and turmeric. Cook for another 30 seconds, until fragrant.
Add the split peas or lentils and rice and stir to coat in the spices. Add the salt and pour in the water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peas/lentils are tender but not mushy and most of the liquid has been absorbed. (You may need to add more water if the mixture becomes to dry or begins to stick to the bottom of the pan).
Stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and spinach, then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes. Serve warm scattered with the cilantro and plain yogurt, if desired.
To make low FODMAP-friendly: Double the rice and skip the split peas or lentils, and limit the broccoli to 2 cups. The mixture doesn’t have onion or garlic, so for once, you’re covered in that department. And you can serve without the yogurt topping.
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