Kichari ~ a humble, but nourishing, lentil & rice dish

Kichari is considered a very nourishing and healing meal in India. That’s because it’s traditionally made with split mung dhal, a highly regarded food in Ayurvedic medicine.

This version of kichari is not that traditional, though — I’ve added vegetables to it (normally there aren’t any), and I’ve used organic split red lentils, since they are generally much easier to get a hold of.

If you’d like to use mung dhal, you’ll be able to find it at an Indian grocery store and some whole food stores. Just be sure you buy the split, husked variety.


This kichari recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian.

Serves 4–6

Prep time: ~15 minutes; Total cooking time: ~45 minutes

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 cup split red lentils (or split mung dal)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or olive oil + 1 extra tbsp
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 6 cups water (you’ll need about 7 cups if using split mung beans)
  • 3 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • sea salt, to taste

Wash the rice and lentils together in a sieve. Do this step twice

If you have trouble digesting lentils, soak the rice and lentils together for about 30 minutes then drain and set aside

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee/oil over medium heat in large pot (that has a lid)

Add mustard seeds

After the mustard seeds start to pop, add the cumin, onion and chilli

Sauté for a few minutes, until onions become translucent

Add the turmeric garlic and tomatoes

Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down

Mix in the rice, lentils, carrots and zucchini, and stir thoroughly so all the spices and flavours coat the ingredients

Add the water and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer

Stir in some salt. Try ½ a teaspoon.

Cook for 30–40 minutes with the lid partially on, until you get a risotto like consistency and the lentils are fully cooked. If you find that the kichari is drying out before the lentils are cooked, add some hot (freshly boiled) water

Stir continually while the kichari is cooking to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Using a heat diffuse may help

Once cooked, stir through the spinach and turn off the heat

Mix in the remaining ghee/oil and adjust seasoning to your liking

Serve as is or with a dollop natural yogurt


Vegan — use olive or coconut oil instead of ghee and serve with this cashew sour cream.

Vegetarian — this dish is already vegetarian

Seasonal — to make in winter, skip the fresh tomatoes and replace with 1 tablespoon tomato paste or leave it out. Instead of zucchini, use 1 head of broccoli, chopped.

Conscientious omnivore — sorry, this dish is meant to be vegetarian

Grain/legume free — um, then it’s not kichari

Paleo — not happening

Money-saving — this is quite an affordable meal as it is. To keep this dish affordable throughout the seasons, use seasonal produce {see above}.

4 thoughts on “Kichari ~ a humble, but nourishing, lentil & rice dish”

  1. Looks like a delicious recipe! I love cooking with lentils, and almost always have all the different varieties in jars in my cupboard. I’m going to try it tonight!

  2. Does look yummy, but I’m lazy. The list of ingredients frighten me. We, in Sri Lanka, usually have the rice separately with the red lentils cooked quite simply with turmeric, salt, dried red chillies, coconut milk and lemon juice (the last 2 added after the heat is turned off).

    Of course, some add a range of `greens’ and other spicy ingredients.
    All the Best

  3. What a great dish, simple, wonderful flavours, definitely will be a regular. I replaced the spinach with kale for my own twist, sorry but I have a habit of doing that. Thank you for a wonderful beginning of eating and living a healthy lifestyle, as much as I love my meat these dishes are so full of flavour that when we don’t eat meat it doesn’t matter. Love reading your blogs as well. Take care live well

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