Kitchari, my beloved ‘go to’ meal when I feel off balance and need a calming, comforting dish to reground me. I have a few favorite meals but I can safely say this is my favorite dish. It’s aromatic and flavourful, spicy and sweet and just makes me feel good. It’s comforting, warming and super easy on my digestive system. It makes me feel happy to know that my meal for the day is kitchari and my ten year old daughter happens to agree with me. She loves chicken soup, she can literally eat it every day of the week, however she says her favorite meal is a tossup between kitchari and chicken soup. The other day when she asked what we were eating and I told her that kitchari was on the menu she responded with an enthusiastic “YES!!!!”.
Kitchari means mixture in India, normally a mixture of lentils (mung beans) and rice. It’s a staple Ayurvedic dish which is highly nourishing and easy to digest. It’s a calming dish which is often used in Ayurveda to cleanse the body, particularly the digestive system and ward off any food cravings. It’s considered a calming, soothing and warming dish. It’s often recommended by Ayurvedic Doctors to cleanse the digestive system by eating kitchari for numerous days. I tried this a couple of years ago and ate only kitchari for 3 days and I have to admit I felt great during this cleanse. It was grounding, gave me clarity of mind, I felt great and it helped curb my food cravings. I just LOVE this simple dish.
Kitchari has two main ingredients: mung beans and rice, and is flavored with spices such as cumin, turmeric and ginger. The dish, given the combination of mung beans, brown basmati rice and the aromatic spices, is anti-inflammatory, blood sugar balancing, high in fibre low in fat and calories. Many different vegetables can be added to this dish. I’ve tried various vegetables such as sweet potatoes, kale, zucchini and butternut squash, and although each dish was delicious, I’m partial to the butternut squash version, which is the recipe I’ll be sharing in this post.
Given that mung beans are the main ingredient in the dish, I’d like to spend some time discussing some of the health benefits of this wonderful bean. Mung beans are a high protein, high fibre, nutrient dense, low calorie bean.
One cup of cooked mung beans are 212 calories; contain 14.2g of protein; 15.4g of dietary fibre (61% of DV); 80% of DV of folate; 30% of DV of manganese; also contains magnesium (24% of DV); phosphorus (20% of DV); iron, copper and potassium (15-16% of DV). This is a bean packed with vitamins and minerals, highly nourishing and easy on your digestive system. It’s a great bean to start with if you don’t currently incorporate beans in your diet.
Butternut squash is a lovely addition to this meal in both flavor and nutrition. There are numerous studies documenting the health benefits of butternut squash. It has been found to be blood sugar balancing, high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and helps prevent cardiovascular disease. It has an amazing phytonutrient content (Carotenoids: lpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin) which are antioxidants, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory. It also contains polysaccharides which are important anti-inflammatory nutrients and prebiotic food. In one cup of cooked squash you will find immune-supportive vitamin A (457% of DV) and free radical-scavenging vitamin C (52% of DV). It is also a very good source of vitamin B6 (13% of DV), manganese (18% of DV), and potassium (17% of DV) as well as a good source of magnesium (15% of DV), vitamin E (13% of DV), folate, thiamin and niacin (10% of DV).
I also love this meal given the colorful spices included in this dish. All of the spices are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, full of phytonutrients and antioxidants, support the liver, lower cholesterol and last but not least, delicious! I like to add the spices and coconut oil at the end, once the rice and bean mixture is fully cooked. I find that the meal tastes best when I do this, as well, limiting cooking time for the spices preserves their nutritional content.
- 1½ cups of dry mung beans
- ½ cup of brown basmati rice
- 1 butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes (approx. 3-4 cups)
- 7 cups of filtered or spring water
- 2T coconut oil
- 1 inch grated fresh ginger
- 1 T sea salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander seed
- ½ tsp ground black mustard seed
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ¼ tsp chilli powder (optional)
- Soak mung beans and rice overnight
- Strain mung beans and rice and place in a deep stainless steel pot, add cubed butternut squash, and top with water
- Bring mixture to a boil (pot uncovered), reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until beans are fully cooked
- Once cooked add all spices, salt and coconut oil