Beyond Kitchari: Rice and Bean Recipes for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha
If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, then trust me when I say that kitchari—Ayurveda’s classic healing dish—smells (and tastes!) just as wonderful in the form of the beloved international staple, rice and beans.
Perhaps more popular in the West than kitchari, there’s a reason rice and beans have been coupled in so many cuisines around the world throughout time, no matter what variety comes together in your pot.
Ayurveda’s Take on Rice and Beans
If we look into their energetic profile through an Ayurvedic lens, this mix of complex carbohydrates make for an interesting combination of tastes. Rice is sweet (earth and water) and has a nourishing effect (brmhana), whereas beans tend to be astringent in taste (earth and air) with anti-nourishing (langhana) qualities.
It’s worth breaking down the role of beans as “anti-nourishing,” in this combination and to better understand Ayurvedic nutrition in general. “Why would we eat anti-nourishing foods?,” you may ask. Well, foods that are langhana (bitter and pungent tastes also fall into this category) do a lot to help our bodies digest, just indirectly.
Astringent foods scrape the body of accumulated waste, or ama, so that we can properly absorb and assimilate what we ingest.
And in the case of high-fiber foods like beans, they directly feed our microbiome. It turns out those billions of bugs that cohabitate in our guts love fiber, and when they're eating up the stuff we can't digest, they help stoke our agni by extension (imagine little bacterial burps and farts catalyzing digestive enzymes).
In turn, this process helps us receive nourishment from the brmhana, or more building, foods we consume. This is why we love kitchari: It’s the perfect blend of sweet and astringent, nourishing and cleansing, yin and yang.
White rice lacks a fibrous coating and mung dal, being low on the astringent scale, helps digestion by giving your system a break from difficult-to-digest foods (more than by a scraping action). You can think of this like covering your car parked under a tree so it’s not assaulted by pollen, rather than taking it to the car wash.
This is ideal when we’re looking to reset digestion, are recovering from illness, or undertaking a deep Ayurvedic cleanse (panchakarma) and need to rejuvenate the body with the sweet taste.
But if you’ve spent any time in the dry goods section of your grocery store, you’ll know that there are countless types of grains, beans, and legumes from around the world. This makes for even more combinations of nourishment (and cleansing) to suit your constitution, as well as the seasons, in your daily cooking.
Rice and Bean Recipes for Each Dosha
These three variations of rice and bean recipes feature ingredients suitable for balancing each of the doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha. Once you get the sense of the formula, you can experiment with your own combinations and add in seasonal veggies and herbs.
With cleanse season upon us, these can also be excellent substitutes for kitchari. Especially if you are feeling healthy and have a strong appetite and regular elimination, but still want the feeling of a cleanse.
The next time you feel like your body could use some gentle nourishment, but kitchari isn’t on the menu, try one of these recipes and enjoy the benefits of this universally beloved meal customized just for you.
Cleansing Kapha Recipe with Brown Rice and Adzuki Beans
With kapha’s tendency toward stagnation and over-nourishment, this rice and beans recipe is heavier on the fiber to leave the channels of the whole body squeaky clean.
The pungent spices and vegetables help melt blockages and wake up the taste buds of sleepy kapha.
- Prep time: 10 minutes plus overnight soak
- Cook time: 45 minutes
- Serves: 4 to 6
- 1 cup brown basmati rice
- 1 cup adzuki beans
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- Pinch of hing (optional)
- Pinch of baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ghee
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 6 celery stalks, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
In separate bowls, soak the rice and beans in water overnight. In the morning, strain and rinse.
Place the rice in a large pot—you will be adding the other ingredients into this pot, so pick a big one! Add three cups of water, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Partially cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed.
In a separate pot, combine the beans with three cups of water, ½ teaspoon of salt, the bay leaves, ginger, cumin, hing, and baking soda. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Partially cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 35 minutes, or until the beans are tender (the water will not completely absorb).
While the rice and beans are cooking, warm a large skillet over medium-low heat for about a minute. Add the ghee and swirl to coat the pan. Add the garlic and fenugreek and cook for about three minutes until the garlic is browned and fragrant.
Add the celery and bell pepper; gently stir to coat in the ghee and spices. Cook for another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
When everything is finished, add the vegetables and beans, with their cooking liquid, to the pot with the rice. Stir to integrate all the ingredients evenly.
Scoop the mixture into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, if desired. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to two days.
Nourishing Pitta Recipe with Buckwheat and Red Lentils
Pitta types tend to have strong digestion, which demands more macronutrients to fuel agni and build strong tissues that can withstand their naturally high internal heat. But in summer (pitta season), our activity levels might be in competition (pun intended!) with a weaker agni, making it hard to satisfy energy demands without experiencing bloating or burning sensations after eating.
This nutty combination of buckwheat and red lentils offers light but filling protein without any carbs (technically, buckwheat is a seed). This helps to ground and contain pitta-type agni rather than stoke the flames.
Alongside bright, hydrating, and refreshing squashes and chutney, this meal will catch the eye of and slow down even the most intense pitta energy to savor every bite—before they’re off to the next adventure.
- Prep time: 10 minutes plus 1–4 hours soaking time
- Cook time: 20 minutes
- Serves: 2
- ¼ cup buckwheat groats, soaked 1–4 hours
- ¼ cup red lentils
- ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaf (or 1 whole bay leaf)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¾ cups water
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- ½ Delicata squash, halved and sliced into half-moons
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced (fronds reserved)
Cilantro Mint Chutney
- 1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 cup fresh chopped mint leaves
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Juice of 2 limes
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Splash coconut water
Drain and rinse the buckwheat until the water runs clear and the slimy coating is gone. In a medium saucepan, combine the buckwheat, lentils, bay leaf, cinnamon, and water. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 15 minutes.
Warm a large skillet over low heat. Add the coconut oil, coriander, fennel, and turmeric. Stir to coat the spices in the oil and allow them to bloom for about a minute.
Add the zucchini, squash, and fennel to the pan. Stir to coat in the oil and spices. Cover lightly with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until the vegetables are soft but not mushy.
For the chutney, combine all the ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender. Blitz until well combined and almost smooth, adding more lime juice or coconut water to reach the desired consistency.
To serve, scoop some of the buckwheat and lentils and the vegetables into bowls. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and a spoon of chutney. Enjoy immediately, or store leftovers separately in airtight containers for up to two days.
Energizing Vata Recipe with Oats and Tamarind Sauce
You might notice something missing from this rice and beans recipe—not by mistake! For vata, we need to be careful about the astringent taste, since this more delicate dosha tends to not have much extra to scrape away.
Beans are infamous for aggravating vata, since their gaseous nature will increase the air and space elements already predominant in the vata system. Instead, this dish combines highly nutritive oats with ingredients that boost ojas, replenishing the immune system and energy reserves that vata can sometimes lack.
Sesame is prized in Ayurvedic texts in all its forms–oil, seeds, paste–as the ideal medicine for vata, while the unctuous quality of dates softens and sweetens vata’s dryness and rigidity. The oat base can also be paired with stewed apples or pears for a sweet variation.
- Prep time: 10 minutes
- Cook time: 40 minutes
- Serves: 2
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- 3 Medjool dates, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ cup water
- 1 eggplant, cubed
- 3 cups chopped carrots
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
- Apple cider vinegar
- Mineral salt
Miso Tamarind Sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon tamarind paste
- Pinch ground coriander
- Pinch ground cardamom
- Splash rose water (optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine the oats, sesame seeds, dates, cinnamon, ginger, and water. Cook over low heat for about five minutes, or until the oats are soft and the water is absorbed.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the eggplant and carrots, then drizzle with the coconut oil and spices. Use a spatula to toss the vegetables in the oil and spices. Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes, or until soft when pierced with a fork.
While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the pickled onions. Place the onion slices in a large jar. Use a plastic lid if possible or place a piece of wax paper under a metal lid to prevent corrosion. Add enough apple cider vinegar to fill the jar a quarter of the way. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, close the lid, and shake the jar. Let the onions sit on the counter while the rest of the meal is cooking to pickle. They’ll get softer over time, so you can also make these in advance.
For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Stir two tablespoons of the sauce into the cooked oats.
To serve, divide the vegetables and oats between two bowls. Garnish with additional sesame seeds and drizzle with the sauce. Enjoy! Store leftovers separately in airtight containers for up to two days.