The History of Kitchari and My First Cleanse

An ancient Ayurvedic healing remedy

Known as the “chicken soup of Ayurveda,” kitchari is a delicious stew meant to cleanse the body and mind.

What is Kitchari?

Kitchari translates into mixture. The dish traditionally consists of, according to The Ayurvedic Institute:

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1 cup mung dal (split yellow)
  • 6 cups (approx.) water
  • 1/2 to 1 inch ginger root, chopped or grated
  • A bit of mineral salt (1/4 tsp. or so)
  • 2 tsp. ghee
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander powder, cumin powder, whole cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and turmeric powder
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)
  • Handful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups assorted vegetables (optional)

The ingredients can differ depending on your dosha as well. Vatas and Kaphas should add ginger and Pittas should leave out the mustard seed.

Kitchari is insanely simple to make, you more or less throw all the ingredients into a pot with water, let it boil, and then simmer for about 45 minutes.

This meal is extremely easy for the body to digest and therefore strengthens your “agni,” or digestive fire. Members of traditional Ayurvedic homes, give kitchari to the sick, elderly, and newborns due to its healing and digestive properties.

Mung beans and rice also pair to make a complete protein, so this dish will definitely keep you full.

How to Cleanse with Kitchari

During the cleanse, you’re meant to consume kitchari for all three meals for 3-7 days.

You should avoiding snacking between meals, but if you find yourself excessively hungry, it’s suggested you have a spoonful of kitchari or fruit to hold you over. The body cannot cleanse itself if it’s concerned about starving!

If you find eating kitchari for every meal difficult, it’s recommended that you have a bowl of plain oatmeal with fruit for breakfast, but continue to eat the kitchari for lunch and dinner.

While on the cleanse, prepare the kitchari fresh each day. Additionally, tea plays a large part in the cleanse and you should consume it between meals, in the morning, and if you find yourself lacking appetite.

Some individuals also like to include digestive supplements such as

Throughout the cleanse you’re shouldn’t exert your body or mind too much. It’s best if you can avoid intense exercise and stress.

Following the cleanse, you should gently reintroduce your normal foods. Have things like soup and then throughout the next few days return to your everyday diet.

Visit Banyan Botanicals for more information on the benefits of this cleanse.

My Cleansing Experience

Coming back home for the holiday I needed a cleanse. I’m really not a fan of juice cleanses or extensive fasting. I find I don’t benefit from them nearly as much, as I become exhausted and cranky.

The kitchari cleanse always appealed to me because it simply is a reset. You don’t have to ignore your body’s cues or starve, simply just eat one thing. I also like the emphasis on resetting your eating habits altogether.

Instead of rice I used quinoa for extra protein and fiber and I substituted coconut oil for ghee.

I wasn’t really feeling having to make a batch of kitchari every single day so I made all that I would need ahead of time and re-heated it as I needed.

Because I’m of Vata constitution, I only did the cleanse for three days.

KitchariDay One

The first day of the cleanse was a breeze! I was excited to reset my body and mind in relation to food and the kitchari really is delicious so I didn’t feel deprived at all.

I am usually a snacker because I like to eat smaller meals, so I did have to have a few spoonfuls of kitchari to hold me over between meals.

Being home, I couldn’t resist the calling from the punching bag in the garage, so I did do a bit of kickboxing as well, going against the intention to relax.

Day Two

I’m always one to indulge in sweet breakfasts like oats or fruit, but I’m really growing fond of the savory kitchari in the morning.

My digestion seems to have slowed a little but that’s normal when doing a cleanse.

I’m much more tired today, which is probably my own fault for going a bit too hard kickboxing the previous day.

Another thing I noticed was food didn’t distract me as much as usual. Since kitchari was the only thing I ate, I indulged when I was hungry, and stopped when I was full, not stuffed.

It was good to reacquaint myself with my true hunger cues after being at school and having a strange eating schedule.

I only walked that day to make sure I didn’t over exert myself again.

The cravings today were pretty bad, I didn’t want any processed food but had intense longings for all the fruits I usually eat and found myself lusting after recipes on Pinterest.

Additionally, my skin was breaking out especially on my forehead which is an indication of impaired digestion.

Once dinner came around I really wasn’t feeling too good and was actually a bit nauseous. I eventually ate my kitchari dinner but felt pretty ill going to bed that night.

Day Three

The next day, I couldn’t stomach the idea of kitchari for breakfast or really anything. I also was itching to get moving again (I’m a busybody I know) so I did a circuit training session.

Following my workout I felt much better and was ready to eat, but the idea of kitchari still made me feel a bit sick. I ended up having a mango and banana with chia and hemp seeds.

After resetting with a different breakfast and going for a walk, the idea of kitchari sounded less revolting.

For lunch I had just kitchari and dinner I had steamed veggies and kitchari as well.

Day Four

Since I still had a good amount of kitchari left I decided to go ahead and eat it. For breakfast I had a banana and berries with nut butter, but lunch and dinner consisted of kitchari.

I felt significantly better today. My digestion was in tip top shape and all cravings had subsided. I can tell that my skin is starting to clear as well.

The eating patterns I developed with the kitchari seemed to maintain as well, I only wanted food when I was hungry and didn’t overeat.

Kitchari Cleanse: Do or Don’t?

If you need a reset on eating habits or find your digestion is a bit lacking, try it out! Kitchari is really tasty and unlike other cleanses you can eat as much as you want.

I do recommend, however, really sticking to the physical resting aspect of the cleanse. I think that my experience would have been much better if I had done that.

Also, don’t lose hope if you start feeling a lot worse before you get better. It will be worth it in the end though, I promise.

If the idea of a cleanse puts you off a bit, then just try out kitchari for fun or the next time you have a cold. It’s a delicious meal and incredibly restorative.

Cover image via One Green Planet


Also published on Medium.

Sarah is a sophomore studying journalism at the University of Miami. She...