Quinoa & Mung Bean Kitchari
Kitchari — The nourishing, warming Ayurvedic touchstone for calming and healing the gut.
There are probably as many kitchari recipes as there are Indian households. And it’s one of the first dishes my mother-in-law taught me how to make.
Traditionally, it’s a 50/50 blend of split yellow lentils and basmati rice — cooked until almost mush with lots of warming spices.
It’s a classic example of food combining for easy digestion. The well cooked blend of starchy carbohydrates (with minimal protein) is easy for the body to process and assimilate, while the spice blend feeds our digestive fire (or Agni). The addition of coconut oil or ghee then helps move things through and assists with absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.
Soaking the mung and quinoa for 10-12 hours makes this dish even easier on digestion. The hands-off process helps break down both the lectins and phytic acid present in legumes and grains. These compounds can upset digestion and prevent nutrient absorption when over-consumed — something that I’ve found is easy to do when reducing meat consumption and embarking on a more plant-focused diet.
I’ve made many a kitchari over the years, but one thing remains constant in our household — the spices. I remember veering off course from what Ravi’s mom traditionally makes and never heard the end of it. Apparently ginger does not go in kitchari! But feel free to experiment with adding about 1/2-inch of grated fresh if you’d like… I’m sure it would be delicious.
One thing I did manage to play around with however was swapping out the lentils and rice for soaked mung beans and quinoa — it creates a lighter dish in my opinion — while still using Ravi’s mom’s simple, fragrant blend of toasted turmeric and cumin seeds.
And although you could definitely make this kitchari as is — I love adding extra veggies to the mix! As pictured, it’s roughtly 2 cups of cauliflower, but I’ve also thrown in a few handfuls of kale to wilt down in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Quinoa & Mung Bean Kitchari
Serves 4 | Soak time: 12 hours | Cook time: 45 minutes
1/2 cup whole green mung beans, soaked 10-12 hours
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked 10-12 hours
2 tbsp grass-fed ghee or virgin coconut oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
3 ½ cups of water
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper, more for garnish
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Lemon wedges, for serving
1-2 cups vegetables, chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
Cauliflower, sweet potato, carrot, butternut squash, etc. — add at the 20 minute mark with an additional 1/4 - 1/3 cup of water.
Softer vegetables such as zucchini or leafy greens such as kale or spinach — add 5-10 minutes before kitchari is finished.
Cover and soak quinoa and mung beans in filtered water for 10-12 hours. Rinse, drain, and set aside.
In a medium-large, heavy-bottomed saucepan — add in oil of choice and cumin seeds. Bring to medium heat and let toast until just fragrant and cumin seeds start to pop. Add in turmeric and toast for a few more seconds.
Add in rinsed quinoa and mung beans, filtered water, sea salt, and black pepper. Then let simmer, covered, for roughly 40 minutes. If the mixture seems too thick, add a splash more water.
If incorporating vegetables — see cooking notes under each ingredient.
When ready to serve, top each bowl with finely chopped cilantro, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and more black pepper. I also tend to top with a swirl of extra ghee.