Kitchari, The “Chicken Soup” of India

Kitchari is the comfort food of India and is considered a balancing meal that can promote health and wellness. It is often referred to as the “soul food” of India and even the “chicken soup” of India. Kitchari is frequently recommended as a simple food for a person recovering from illness.

There are literally thousands of different ways you can make kitchari. If you’ve never made it before I hope this basic recipe will get you started on your own delicious variations.

Before we get started let’s look at our ingredients more closely.

Basmati rice

Basmati rice is a wonderfully fragrant species of rice. The word basmati roughly means aromatic in the Hindi language. It has been cultivated in India for thousands of years and is a highly sought-after grain due to its delicious flavor. Although I buy a lot of my grains from bulk bins, basmati rice is much fresher and better tasting when sold in a closed container.

Mung Beans

Mung beans are originally from India and are also a traditional therapeutic food in China. According to Paul Pitchford in his book Healing with Whole Foods, they are often used for cooling and draining the body specifically in times of damp heat such as summer heat, diarrhea, red rashes with swelling, edema of the lower extremities, gastro-intestinal ulcers and dysentery. Mung beans are specifically considered beneficial to the liver and gallbladder.

To increase the digestibility of dried beans, I like to soak them about 5-7 hours along with some whey or yogurt. Soaking dried beans breaks down indigestible sugars in the beans, resulting in less gas and it also allows for a shorter cooking time.

The spices…

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)

Cumin was perhaps one of the first herbs ever cultivated. It is warming and slightly bitter and is often used in cooking to promote digestion. It increases circulation, dispels gas and can quell nausea. It was used in ancient Egypt as medicine as well as in the embalming process and is also mentioned in the Bible.

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Coriander seeds come from the cilantro plant. It is another herb that has been used for literally thousands of years. It is considered to be hot and pungent and, like many of our “culinary” spices, often used to promote digestion. Herbalist Brigitte Mars says that coriander seeds can be used topically to relieve cramps, neuralgia and to stop hemorrhoidal bleeding.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric is currently our featured herb at HerbMentor. Instead of asking what this amazing rhizome can do, it would be far easier to ask what it can’t do. A potent anti-inflammatory as well as a digestive aid, turmeric is commonly used for all sorts of ailments including chronic pain, gastric ulcers, regulating blood sugar and stopping fungal infections.

This recipe calls for ghee or coconut oil. I avoid using olive oil when cooking and prefer these more stable oils. Ghee is clarified butter and can be bought at health food stores or easily prepared at home.


To make this recipe you’ll need…

  • 1 cup of basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup of mung beans (or other type of legumes such as lentils)
  • 2 tablespoons of whey or yogurt
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1-2 onions
  • 2-4 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

You can get the spices right here…

Step one (in advance)

Begin by looking over the mung beans for any stones or other debris. Once they have passed inspection, soak the mung beans overnight or in advance with the whey or yogurt.

When you are ready to start cooking, strain the beans and rinse them well along with the rice.

Place the rinsed rice and beans in a pot with 2 and a 1/2 cups of water.

Heat on high until it starts to boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to let it simmer for 30 minutes.

Ten minutes before the rice and beans are finished cooking, heat coconut oil or ghee in a large pan. Add the chopped onions to the warmed oil and saute until they become translucent.

Add the spices and saute for about 30 seconds or until you start smelling the spices.


Add the cooked rice and mung beans mixture and combine the two together well.


This kitchari recipe is simple example of how to make this dish. Kitchari is very amenable to variations.

The different spices that could be used in this recipe is endless. Some others you may want to try include cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, ginger, etc.

Try quinoa instead of basmati rice.

Any variety of vegetables can be added to the rice and beans.

I especially like adding a lot of cilantro.

More broth can be added to make it more of a soupy texture.

Coconut milk and/or shredded coconut can add an additional flavor.