Kichadi (Indian rice and lentils)

Kichadi is an East Indian comfort food that features rice and lentils (or often split peas), and a variety of spices and vegetables. The combination of herbs and spices will fill your kitchen with a wonderful fragrance, and reward your tongue with spiciness that isn’t overly hot. This hearty dish is not short on ingredients, so please see Notes below for time-saving variations.


3½ cups water
¾ cup dry brown basmati rice
¾ cup dry red lentils (see notes)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom seed
⅛ teaspoon ground clove
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (10 ounces/2 cups chopped)
½ tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
3 cups water
1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced into small cubes (8 ounces, about 1-1/4 cups)
1 medium yam, diced into small cubes (8 ounces, about 1-1/2 cups)
2 large ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)
1¼ cup green peas (thaw first if frozen)
4 cups roughly chopped curly kale (about 3 large leaves)
2 tablespoons walnuts to grate on top (optional)

1. In a large soup pot, stir together the water, rice, lentils, and spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper, turmeric, cardamom, clove). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. While the rice and lentils are cooking, chop and prepare the remaining ingredients.

2. About 15 minutes before the rice and lentils are done cooking, place a large skillet or saucepan on high heat with 2 tablespoons of water. Once the water starts sizzling, add the chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes (adding water as needed to prevent sticking). Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté for another 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, adding water as needed.

3. Add to the onions, garlic and ginger: 3 cups water, potatoes, yams, and celery, and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook covered for 7 minutes. Stir in the peas and kale and cook an additional 3 minutes (still covered). (The potatoes should now be tender.)

4. Add the onion-potato mixture to the pot of rice and lentils and stir well. Serve immediately as is or with a dusting of grated walnuts on top.

Preparation: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6 (makes 9 cups)


Red lentils: While they are called “red” lentils, they can actually be a variety of colors, from gold to orange to rosy red. They can be found in most healthy groceries as well as Middle Eastern markets labeled as masoor (red lentils).

Curry substitution: If you don’t want to bother with the individual dried herbs and spices (cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, turmeric, cardamom, clove), you may replace them with 2 to 3 teaspoons of your favorite curry powder. But while curry powder does a fine job, it doesn’t really compare to using the individual herbs and spices, which result in an exotic range of flavors and aromas.

Simplify: If you’re not in the chopping mood, you can also make a meal of just the lentils, rice, and herbs and spices after cooking them all together in step 1.

More heat: To add a little more heat, add a half to one teaspoon more red pepper flakes.


Above: This recipe makes a lot of food, perfect for leftovers, potlucks, or a special family meal.


Above: To garnish with walnuts (or any type of nut), use a rotary cheese grater.

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This recipe was updated on August 2, 2013 (click here to view original).


  1. says

    I like your variations and ideas here… the kale and the celery, for example. I’ve been making kichadi for a long time and I love it. It’s almost impossible to mess up and great for lazy evenings. I have to admit I slip some oil in at the beginning to lightly fry and prep the spices.

  2. Victoria A. says

    This is my new favorite dish. Thank you so much for the recipe.
    I love how thick and rich it is. It can be eaten as is, in a pita for lunch, on top of a salad, over rice, whatever – it is so versatile. And the flavors are incredible.

    • says

      Hi Tammy, I’m thinking yes, but I’ve never done it. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. I’d just put it all in at once and let it cook. Maybe hold out the kale though, as it may be totally overcooked. And I’m not sure how rice cooks up in a slow cooker, but google it and see if anyone’s done it and how. :)

      • Tammy says

        I made the Kichadi in the slow cooker today and it was awesome. I had some cooked brown rice in the freezer so I added that with all of the other ingredients except the peas and kale and set the slow cooker on high while I went to work. When I came home, I added the peas and some cilantro instead of kale and served it with some naan. Next time I will cook on low and add the rice at the end too. What a nice comforting meal to come home to, thanks for the recipe.

  3. says

    This is fabulous! The combination of seasonings create an intoxicating aroma. I can’t remember the last time the kitchen smelled this good. What a perfect, hearty, warming, fragrant dish for a dark and rainy day.

  4. Nicole says

    I was not terribly impressed with this recipe. I will try it again and tinker with the spices more. I did not have ground cloves on hand, but other than that I made the recipe exactly as directed. I ended up adding additional curry powder in my left overs, and it needed more than the 1/4 tsp chili flakes. I couldn’t taste any fire in this at all. Anyone have suggestions for how to spice this up a bit more?

    • says

      Hi Nicole, I tend toward the less spicy in my cooking and tastes, but feel free to add type and amount that suits you. I would look at some Indian recipes and see what spices they use and what amounts and experiement. :)

  5. kate wehr says

    This was also good good when I adapted to exclude nightshades (I.e., no potato, no red peppers). A lovely dish – thank you!

  6. Lydia says

    I made this today and I am totally excited. It tastes much like the dishes I’ve had at Indian restaurants,! My husband and I both loved it.

  7. says

    Hi Cathy – I’m going to try this next week. I don’t have red lentils on hand but I do have green split peas and French lentils. Do you think either of them would substitute well?

  8. says

    Made this tonight for supper. As some have mentioned, the flavors are fairly subtle but delicious! What a wholesome and satisfying meal. Lentils, rice and vegetables! I used French lentils I had on hand instead of red lentils. Another small variation I a made was to add a little fresh squeezed meyer lemon juice to it at the very end. Probably a teaspoon or less. It tasted great without it but I like to add something acidic in a curry dish. Will definitely be making this again, but next I’m on to the Cuban Black Bean burgers!

  9. Sandy says

    Thank you for your web site and recipes! I really appreciate the measurements/ounces for things like “one medium potato”. I have tried many of the recipes and haven’t found one I don’t like. I always come here when I have to make a dinner for a group. I just made this recipe and it is DELICIOUS! However my result was much more watery than pictured above (from the onion/potato mix). I’m letting it simmer to see if i can cook out any of the water but wonder what I did wrong?

  10. Nicole says

    Any idea of the calorie count I added mine up and only came up with 1240 calories for the entire pot. Just seems it should be more but I am new to plant based eating and calorie counting. Lol
    It was delicious btw

    • says

      Hi Nicole, I came up with the total recipe being 1080 calories (with all ingredients cooked), and 180 calories “per serving” (1.5 cups). :)

  11. says

    I am only 1 person and although I don’t mind leftovers, I really don’t want to eat this for an entire week. I am not crazy about the consistency of rice after it is frozen. Can I scale down the recipe to one half ? Thanks !

  12. Kris McCormack says

    What a delicious dish, Cathy! I made it for the first time yesterday and my husband and I both love it. Thank you for another fabulous recipe! (I hope this is going in the book.)

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