The Veggie: Khichdi to the Rescue!

25 Nov, 2021
A gently seasoned pot of rice and lentils is the perfect antidote to holiday feasting.

Khichdi to the Rescue!

After a few days of intense, almost athletic eating and drinking with my family, I crave something delicious but basic. So after all the big, celebratory holiday dinners this week, and after several days of happily eating leftover pie for breakfast, it’ll be time for … a big pot of khichdi.

I usually make it with basmati rice and split moong dal, but khichdi (also called huggi, pongal, pulagam, and other names across India) can be made with other grains, and other lentils, too. Samantha Seneviratne makes her stew-like khichdi in an electric pressure cooker with a little tomato, onion and ginger, and here’s how to make another simple version that I love, which I affectionately refer to as “baby khichdi” because the seasoning is so gentle:

In a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot with a fitted lid, mix 1 cup long-grain white rice and 1 cup split yellow moong dal (also labeled split mung beans). Rinse with cold water, and tip out the water several times, until it runs almost clear. Add about 10 cups fresh water, 1 heaped teaspoon fine sea salt, ½ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon chile powder, 2 teaspoons garam masala and 6 tablespoons ghee or butter. Over high heat, bring up to a boil, then stir well, turn the heat down to low and cover. After about 20 minutes, taste the rice and moong for tenderness and to adjust seasoning.

If you want a drier final product, more like a pulao, you can leave the lid off and let some of the extra liquid evaporate for a few minutes. If you want it soupier, more like a porridge, add a splash of water. Otherwise, just give it a gentle stir and turn off the heat. Serve as is, or with a drizzle of ghee and some yogurt on the side.

Khichdi variations:

Peanut khichdi: Add a big handful of whole roasted peanuts, a few roughly chopped tomatoes and a small bunch of cilantro leaves to the pot at the same time that you add the water and spices.

Green khichdi: Add a big bunch of washed, chopped greens or a bag of frozen chopped greens to the pot at the same time that you add the water and spices. Chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach, morning glory — anything that will be nice and tender after 15 minutes of simmering.

Veggie khichdi: While the khichdi is cooking, in a separate pan, sauté cumin seeds along with a few sliced cloves of garlic. Add a couple handfuls of cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen peas, chopped potatoes and carrots, and, once tender, tip it all into the pot.

If it’s not khichdi, I hope you’re cooking whatever makes you feel good after the stress of the holiday. And if you’re looking for more one-pot recipes with similar vibes, take a look at Melissa Clark’s mujadara with leeks and greens, and Ali Slagle’s rice and beans.

Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.
Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.
Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

One More Thing!

I wanted to point you toward several more khichdi techniques to really give you a sense of its breadth.

You can cook this one from Two Sleevers in the Instant Pot using short-grain rice and almost any split lentil, while Khushbu Shah’s version is finished in the oven. This khichdi from Saffron Trail uses pearl millet (soaked beforehand), and this one from Manjula’s Kitchen is seasoned with a delicious fried tomato mixture.

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