Mention digestion issues to anyone even remotely familiar with Ayurvedic medicine and the words “Kitchari Cleanse” are bound to come flying out of their mouth. I can’t even remember when I first had a crack at the kitchari protocol, I think it was in my extreme-nutritional-abundance-seeking phase of life so probably about 5 or 6 years ago. After dipping in and out of juice fasts - this reset just felt right, because, FOOD.
The basis of a tradition Ayurvedic kitchari cleanse it to eat (kitchari) when you are hungry and to eat often (can I get an Amen?). The ingredients that make up kitchari are a combination of various rice, lentils and beans, ghee, fresh vegetables and medicinal spices. So the load on digestion is very minimal. By lessening this often overwhelming load on digestion, the body is able to divert attention towards healing, restoring and replenishing the rest of your systems. And in all honesty - You can feel it! Skin definitely gets clearer, sleep improves (your body can rest instead of digest), several clients have noticed a drop in water weight (meaning - they lose the puffiness and fluid retention they have been carrying) and energy levels are surprisingly high (why you ask? Because you are not using so much of your energy stores on digestion).
So is it for you? Again - there is nothing that is a one size fits all. However, the beautiful thing about the kitchari cleanse is that you can tailor it to suit your needs. If lentils aren’t your thing - don’t use them. If a certain spice doesn’t resonate, swap it out for one that does and when it comes to adding vegetables - go nuts on the seasonal vegetables you love. Kitchari also does’t have to be done as a cleanse. Often I will have it as a meal instead of for every meal so there is no need to make it a mono diet - the dish itself is nourishing, grounding and delicious for any meal of the day.
The Ayurvedic lifestyle is very intentional. It's not meant to be overwhelming but rather a way to cultivate mindfulness and connection to our meals. This lifestyle has a strong affinity with rituals, so you will find that after a few practices, preparing the meal is quite ritualistic and meditative. Like all things, it's about initiating the first step and then just trusting the process. Below are the main players in any kitchari recipe…
+ Ghee (clarified butter): Helps sustain healthy microbes in the gastrointestinal tract to promote effective digestion and toxin elimination. It nourishes all the tissues of the body, including the nervous system, translating into calm energy throughout the day.
+ Garlic: Antibacterial and immunity-boosting, garlic is an ancient remedy used to aid the body's natural defenses and build strength.
+ Onion: Often used on a more medicinal level in the Ayurvedic lifestyle, onion can help purify the blood.
+ Spice mix (cardamom, cumin, asafetida, mustard seeds, turmeric, curry leaf, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, fenugreek, salt): This combination can be altered to serve your particular needs. All the spices offer different benefits and flavors. This particular profile delivers a nourishing, grounding overall effect. The spices are anti-inflammatory and soothing to digestion.
+ Rice mix (rice, mung beans, lentils): This combination provides your body with a complete protein, meaning you have all nine of the essential amino acids you need from food in one meal. Eating a full protein benefits blood sugar levels and sustains an equilibrium in the body promoting a sense of balance and satiety.
Further below is a video I filmed at Cook Space Brooklyn with Chef Nini Nguyen for NYLON and you can also scroll down further for the written recipe. ENJOY!
Ingredients (serves four):
+ 2 tbsp ghee
+ ½ yellow onion, diced
+ 2 tsp of fresh ginger, finely chopped
+ 3 cloves of fresh garlic
+ 4 tsp kitchari spice mix
+ 2 tsp salt
+ 1 head broccoli florets, chopped
+ ½ tomato skinned and diced (score an X on the bottom of a tomato and place it in boiling water for 5 minutes for the skin to peel off easily)
+ 1 smallish sweet potato or 2 small wax potatoes, diced
+ 2 cups of kitchari rice mix
+ 4 cups of water
+ 3 handfuls of baby spinach
+ Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
+ In a pot that is fitted with a lid, melt the ghee on medium-high heat.
+ Sautee the onion, ginger, and garlic until fragrant. Add in the spice mix and salt to toast the spices, add a few tablespoons of water to stop the mix from burning. Saute in the ghee on low for about 2 minutes.
+ Add the tomato and saute for a few minutes.
+ Add in the broccoli, tomato, sweet potato and rice mix. Mix around to toast the rice and lentils. Add the water and bring the mixture to a boil.
+ Once boiling, cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes. It is key not to open the lid as it will release the steam and slow down cooking.
+ After 20 minutes, turn the stove off and let it steam for another 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach, let wilt, and add salt and pepper to taste. A squeeze of fresh lemon is optional as is a dollop of yogurt (coconut or dairy)!