Food plays a big role in the Ayurvedic lifestyle. Ayurveda
teaches us that food is basically medicine. It says:
diet is poor, medicine is of no use. When diet is good, there is
no need of medicine.”
Foods should be prepared for efficient digestion. When our digestion is efficient, the rest
follows more easily, we get the optimal benefit from our food
and we are more in balance.
There is a Vedic expression that
basically says that if our digestion is strong, our bodies
can turn poison into nectar, but if our digestion is weak, the
body can turn nectar into poison.
This Ultimate Guide to Ayurvedic Cooking will cover the following aspects:
1. A brief introduction to the doshas
2. Sustaining prana or life-giving energy
3. The six tastes
4. The properties of foods
5. The quantity and timing of food
6. The eating environment
7. Incompatible foods
8. Ayurvedic Cooking For Your Dosha
9. The Vata Diet (How To Balance Vata Dosha)
10. The Pitta Diet (How To Balance Pitta Dosha)
11. The Kapha Diet (How To Balance Kapha Dosha)
12. Cooking utensils
13. Staples for the Ayurvedic pantry
14. Ayurvedic cooking for groups
15. An Ayurvedic meal recipe
16. Cooking with Ghee
A Brief Introduction to the Doshas
Ayurvedic Cooking focuses on eating the right food for your dosha.
But what is a dosha?
The ancient Indian science of life called Ayurveda explains
that human beings, like the universe, are made up of each
of the five elements (air, space, fire, water and earth) and
How are these elements expressed in our bodies?
Air is inhaled during breathing, it pumps the blood
through our system to keep us alive.
Space is in the hollow cavities of the body, and we
require space to move around.
Fire is a part of our digestive system that helps to
break down the food we eat and burn calories to
give us energy.
Water comprises about two-thirds of our body, and
we need water to survive.
Earth is in our bones and the vital minerals that keep
These elements, in their biological form, are known as doshas:
Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Vata is made up of a combination
of Air and Space.
Pitta is a combination of Fire and Water.
Kapha is made up of a combination of Earth and Water.
Because we all have
all of the elements in
our bodies, we have
each of the doshas as
well. But every one of
us is born with a unique,
individual balance of
these doshas. So, no two
of us are alike!
is to find what our own
special combination of
doshas is, and to work
to keep it in balance so
that we stay in radiant
health mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Through learning about our doshas, we
learn to recognize our strengths and work on our weaknesses.
Vata-type people are generally thin and find
it hard to gain weight. Because of this, Vatas
have very little energy reserve and can tire
easily and get themselves out of balance. Vatas need to get sufficient rest and not
overdo things, stay warm, and keep a regular
lifestyle routine. Vatas are creative, and get
bored easily. Think about a hummingbird as a very Vata-like creature, very light and airy, going from one thing to the next
quickly and unpredictably.
Pitta-type people are generally of medium size
and well-proportioned. They have a medium
amount of physical energy and stamina. They also tend to be intelligent and have a
sharp wit and a good ability to concentrate.
Fire is a characteristic of Pitta, whether it shows
up as fiery red hair or a short temper. They are ambitious by nature but can
also be demanding and abrasive.
Pitta types are known for their strong digestion but should be
careful not to abuse it. Their heat makes them particularly
thirsty, and they should take care not to douse their agni, or
digestive fire, with too much liquid during meals.
An eagle is representative of Pitta in nature. Strong, powerful,
Kapha-type people tend to have sturdy,
heavy frames, providing a good reserve of
physical strength and stamina. This strength
gives Kaphas a natural resistance to disease
and a generally positive outlook about life.
The Kapha dosha is slow, and Kapha types
tend to be slow eaters with slow digestion. They also speak
slowly. They are calm and affectionate but, when out of
balance, can become stubborn and lazy. They learn slowly,
with a methodical approach, but also retain information well
with a good understanding of it.
Kapha types need to progress to stay in balance. They
should not dwell in the past or resist change. They need lots
of exercise and need to be careful not to overeat. Kaphas
need stimulation to bring out their vitality. Kapha dosha
teaches us steadiness and a sense of well-being.
The swan is a very Kapha-like animal. Heavy, serene, and
Wondering what your unique dosha is? Take our free dosha quiz here.
Prana or life-giving energy
Food is the sustainer of living beings and the cause for their strength, complexion and vigor. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to prepare food in a way that does not destroy its prana or life-giving energy.
Overcooking, deep-frying, or burning not only destroys prana, but also the food’s taste.
Food should have color (varna), taste (rasa), aroma (gandha) and touch (sparsha).
It should be pleasing to the mind, and prepared and processed properly with pure consciousness and love. This provides and supports life energy. Food supports the life force.2
The strength, complexion and immunity of a living system is under the control of diet, which, in turn, is under the control of the six tastes.1
The Six Tastes
Ayurveda recognizes that foods can have six different tastes. Each taste has its own elemental
composition and unique properties through which it affects
the doshas and the tissue systems.
Ayurveda says that all the six tastes are to be judiciously used in our meals so as to keep all the tissue systems, body channels and doshas in balance and to ameliorate the diseased conditions.
The sweet taste is dominated by the earth and
water elements. Its qualities are unctuous, cooling and heavy. (Keep reading to learn more about the qualities or properties of foods)
It nourishes all the seven tissue systems, and is good for the hair, skin
and throat. The sweet taste increases strength, vitality and
If the sweet taste is consumed in excess quantities, then it
causes obesity, lethargy, lack of appetite, cough, cold and
asthma, diabetes and more.
Examples of the sweet taste
include: sugar and sugary foods, milk, sweet fruits, rice, wheat, licorice, asparagus, almonds and more.
The sour taste is predominantly composed of
earth and fire elements.It is light,
hot and unctuous.
If taken in moderation, it acts as an appetizer and
kindles the digestive fire.It strengthens the heart, aids in
passing accumulated gases in the intestines, aids digestion,
and stimulates salivation.
If taken in excess, the sour taste causes sensitive teeth,
involuntary closure of eyelids, hyperacidity, heartburn,
edema especially in emaciated individuals, and also aggravates the blood, causing skin diseases, like boils, eczema, and dermatitis, and it promotes infection
Examples of foods rich in sour taste include citrus
fruits, tamarind, raw mango, vinegar, sour cream, grapes,
lemon and more.
The salty taste is predominantly composed of
water and fire elements. It is a bit heavy,
unctuous and hot in properties.
In moderation, it relieves accumulated gases in the colon, relieving pain and
spasm. It aids in expulsion of mucous from the
respiratory tract and stools from large intestine. It purifies the
fluid channels of the body, and is important for the electrolyte
balance of the body. It relieves spasm of the muscles and
body pains and makes body parts supple. It induces salivation
and makes the food tasty, is an appetizer and digestive.
dominates all other tastes and makes them palatable.
If taken in excess, the salt taste causes wrinkling, premature
graying of hair and hair loss. It depletes the reproductive tissue,
weakens the sense organs, causes burning, excessive thirst,
acidity, aggravates the blood, causing bleeding tendencies,
hypertension, gout and skin diseases.
Examples of the salty
taste: any kind of salt, as well as kelp and some tofu.
The pungent taste is dominated by the fire and air elements. It has properties
of lightness, heat and dryness.
In moderation, it promotes salivation, nasal
secretions and tears and thereby helps in cleansing of mouth
cavity, sinuses, and eyes. It aids circulation, clears blockages,
helps sense organs to perceive better, relieves severe
flatulence, edema, and excessive oiliness. The pungent taste
can also help with weight loss.
In case of overuse, the pungent taste can deplete and
destroy the reproductive tissue causing ovulation failure, low
sperm count and sexual debility. It can cause vertigo, fainting episodes, thirst, burning, peptic
ulcers, nausea, tremors, pricking and tearing pains in extremities,
flanks and back.
Examples of pungent foods include peppers,
ginger, onion, garlic, mustard, rye and more.
The bitter taste has dominance of the air and space
elements. It is dry, cold
and light by nature.
Though by nature it is sometimes unpalatable, if taken in moderation,
it can cure anorexia, remove toxins, parasites, itching, skin
diseases, thirst and fainting. The bitter taste also purifies the
milk of lactating mothers. It brings down fever, makes the skin
firm by working on excessive oiliness and fat. It cuts down
on excessive fat and is drying in nature and thus reduces
lymphatic edema, and pus formation.
In excess, the bitter taste depletes all the tissue systems,
produces dryness in all the body channels, reduces strength,
causes emaciation, weakens the heart, produces dryness
Examples of the bitter taste include bitter
gourd, bitter melon, neem, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, aloe
vera, coffee, and more.
The astringent taste is dominated by the air and
earth elements. It is cooling, dry and heavy by nature.
It helps in the healing of wounds and
promotes clotting. By its nature, it depletes all the tissues and
produces roughness of channels. It absorbs water and causes
dryness of mouth and throat. It is a blood purifier.
In excess, the astringent taste may cause choking, absolute
constipation, severe flatulence, heart spasm, stagnation of
body fluid. It can cause excessive thirst, lack of virility due
to aggravation of Vata and may also cause Bell’s Palsy,
Hemiplegia or paralysis, lock jaw and other neuro-muscular
Examples of the astringent taste include: unripe banana,
tamarind and mango seeds, betel nut, colocasia, black plum
The Properties of Foods
Ayurveda has a very unique way of treating food just like medicine. It describes in detail the properties of various food
items and their effects on the doshas.
Generally, when the quality of a food is similar to the quality
of a dosha, it will result in the increase in the activity of that
particular dosha. Conversely, if the
attributes of a food are opposite to the quality of a dosha,
then it will reduce the activity of that particular dosha.
food which is beneficial for an individual considering the state
of doshas in his/her body, can be
harmful for another person as per the state of doshas in his/her body.
Knowing which food is most likely to suit
our body and which won't, will help us choose the right food for our unique body.
The 20 properties or attributes
Every food item imbibes fractions of the five basic elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth), with the domination of one
or more of the elements, and in turn the three Doshasalso have different proportions of the five
basic elements with dominance of certain elements in each.
These 20 properties are classified in opposing pairs of 10:
1. Heavy - Light
2. Cold - Hot
3. Unctuous – Dry
4. Slow - Sharp
5. Stable - Mobile
6. Soft - Hard
7. Slimy - Rough
8. Viscous - Liquid
9. Gross - Subtle
10. Cloudy - Clear
Here are some examples of how the 20 properties exhibit
themselves in various foods:
1. Heavy: Cream, cheese, kidney beans, rice flakes.
2. Light: Puffed rice, popcorn, wild rice.
3.Cold: Mint, coconut water, water melon, rice.
4.Hot: Peppers, nutmeg, turkey meat.
5.Oily: Nuts, fats and oils, black lentil.
6.Dry: Millets, rye, corn, gram flour.
7.Slow: Yogurt, pork, beef, condensed milk.
8. Sharp: Onion, ginger, garlic, bell peppers, mustard greens.
9. Stable: Ghee, wheat.
10. Mobile: alcohol, sprouts, tobacco.
11. Soft: Puffed rice, tapioca, pasta.
12. Hard: Nuts, bones (small bony fish is eaten in many parts of Asia), jack fruit.
13. Slimy: Colocasia, ladyfinger, full cream yogurt.
14. Rough: Most millets, broccoli, cauliflower, oats.
15. Dense: Cream, tubers.
16. Liquid: All water based beverages, soups, milk.
17. Gross: Roots and tubers, dates, minerals.
18. Subtle: Spices, saffron, oils (oils penetrate in pores by virtue
19. Cloudy: Mayonnaise, butter, sea food.
20. Clear: Clarified butter milk, black eyed peas, bitters.
As stated earlier, every element has specific properties. Foods
can be classified on the basis of five elements and thus can
be used to balance/nourish these elements in the body.
As per their constituent elements, different foods will show the
actions as attributed to the respective element.
A brief list of these actions of elements is as follows:
If you'd like to learn more about the different foods' qualities, tastes, attributes, and their effects on the doshas, check out our comprehensive educational video course "The Ayurveda Experience".
The Quantity and Timing of Food
The time of day that you eat your meals also affects your
Have you ever gone out for a late dinner and
found that it was harder to wake up the next morning or that
it was difficult to be efficient the next day? These are often
the side effects of improperly digested food.
The best way to avoid these problems is to follow nature’s prescription of
suitable times to eat.
When the sun is strongest, between 12
and 2 pm, is when the digestive fire is also strongest. Ayurveda recommends that lunch be the largest meal of the
day since that is the time the digestive fire is working at its
maximum potency. As the sun goes down, so does our digestive fire.
Dinner should be lighter than lunch and should ideally be
eaten before 8 pm.
Ayurveda recommends that the amount of a meal should be no more than one-half the stomach capacity, and up to 1/4th part warm water sipped between mouthfuls to lubricate the food.
Late night meals interfere with sleep
and after 10 pm, the body is working to burn off toxins and
continue to digest food from the day. If you eat after 10 pm, the food may cause toxins to accumulate in the system,
and as a result the next day you wake up tired.
If you are
not able to wake up fresh and clear, then it is important to
analyze the quantity of food and the time you are eating
If you'd like to learn more about the healing wisdom of foods, the traditional and intelligent or nutritious methods of cooking and storing food, check out our educational video course 'Holistic Nutrition' by Todd Caldecott.
The Eating Environment
It’s also important to note that food should be consumed in a proper place. You should be equipped with all the necessary amenities.
Be mindful of yourself and your food and enjoy the process of eating.
Ayurveda offers the following guidelines to those who want to boostagni and improve our digestion:
Sit down while you eat.
Eat in a quiet atmosphere.
Focus on the food; do not read or watch TV as you eat.
Don’t rush through meals or linger over them for too long.
Eat meals at approximately the same times every day.
Stop eating before you are completely full. Ayurveda recommends eating until you're about 75% full.
Allow approximately 3 to 6 hours between meals for digestion.
Eat when you are hungry, when the stomach is empty.
Sip warm water or juice with meals.
Drink milk separately from meals, either alone or with other sweet foods.
Avoid ice-cold food and beverages.
Sit quietly for a few minutes after eating.
There are three factors that make up the properties of a food.
We've already discussed the taste, or rasa. We know that there are six tastes in
Ayurveda, and foods can have one or more of these tastes.
We've also covered if a food has either heating or
cooling energies, this is known as virya. This helps us to know if
a food is balancing to our personal dosha, and if it is good to
eat within the current season as well.
Now, we also need
to consider the food's effect on the body after it is digested – or vipak.
In the western diet, foods are often served together
with different tastes, energies and post-digestive effects.
The problem with this is that our agni, the digestive fire, can get overloaded trying to do too many things at the same time. This results in the production of toxins in the body.
So it is important
for us to pay attention to the foods that we consume together
to make sure that our digestion stays strong. There are many
foods that, when eaten separately, stimulate agni and are
digested easily. But some of those same foods, when eaten
together, slow down agni and cause digestive distress.
Here are a few basic rules for combining food:
Eat fruit on its own, preferably two hours before or after you
have eaten something else.
Fruit should never be combined
with any dairy product, like milk or yogurt. And yet we see
this happening all the time! Yogurt with fruit and granola is
considered a healthy breakfast – but it is one of the worst
things you can eat, it can wreak havoc on digestion. While the
fruit and milk process in the stomach, the fruit can curdle the
milk causing excess acid.
Having a banana smoothie, where banana is blended with milk and/or yogurt, can change the
bacterial mix in the intestines, and may even cause sinus
congestion or allergies. (Try making your smoothie with a plant-based milk instead!)
Milk and melon are particularly to be avoided together because
milk has laxative properties, and melon is a diuretic. Melon
combined with carbohydrates or starchy foods is also bad
for digestion. Melon is digested very quickly, and carbs tend
to take more time. So the fructose in the melon ends up not
getting digested properly.
Fruit and cheese are also often served together as an appetizer
or a dessert - bad idea! Cheese is a dairy product, and will
have the same effect on digestion as milk does in combo with
fruit. Cheese is difficult to digest and can cause constipation,
so cheese in general is to be avoided.
And fruit, even on its
own, is not good for dessert. It's better to eat fruit before a meal,
waiting a bit to digest, or as a snack in between meals.
Ice cream is not great for you anyway, it’s cold and hard to
digest. But add fruit to it and it’s even worse. For dessert, it’s
downright awful. Ice cream will totally put out that digestive
fire that is so needed to help digest your meal.
Though Ayurveda does not recommend meat, if you cannot
do without it, meat and dairy should never be eaten together.
Well, there go the cheeseburgers!
Meat is heating and milk is
cooling so this is a bad combo. They contradict one another,
upsetting agni and producing toxins, or ama.
Fish counts as meat – and is not good to eat with dairy
products. Think of all those cream sauces that are served
over fish. And Tartar sauce is dairy based – we see this served
alongside fish and chips all the time. Avoid this combination!
Uncooked honey, or raw honey, can
be beneficial in Ayurveda for many
conditions. But cook it, and you get the opposite effect. When cooked, honey
digests very slowly and it becomes this
sticky gunk that clings to membranes
and clogs channels producing toxins.
So don’t put honey in your hot tea,
or have a hot drink while you’re eating
something with honey on it.
Ghee and honey are a delicious combo – but they should not
be served in equal proportions. Ghee is cooling and honey is
heating – so pick which one you want more of.
During a meal, water should be served warm or at room
temperature. Small sips can help with digestion.
as is often served in restaurants, puts that digestive fire right
out. You can ask for water, no ice, with lemon - or even hot water with lemon.
When food is fresh, it has a certain intelligence, it knows
where to go and what to do in the body. The longer food sits,
the more it loses that intelligence or vital energy. Plus it gets
cold in the refrigerator, then you end up heating it up in the
microwave, and it’s a pale shadow of what it was when you
started out. So avoid eating leftovers if you can. And if you must eat leftovers, heat them up on the stove and add in
some ghee and spices.
Here’s a list of some of the more common incompatible food
Avoid DAIRY products combined with:
- meat, including fish
- starchy foods
- yeasty breads
Avoid EGGS combined with:
- dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
- meat, including fish
Avoid CORN combined with:
Avoid LEMON combined with:
- dairy products
Avoid NIGHTSHADES (tomato, potato, eggplant, chilies)
- dairy products
If you'd like to learn more about the healing wisdom of foods, the traditional and intelligent or nutritious methods of cooking and storing food, check out our educational video course 'Holistic Nutrition' by Todd Caldecott.
Ayurvedic Cooking For Your Dosha
As we mentioned above, the Ayurvedic diet identifies six tastes that each have different energetic effects on the mind and body. They either aggravate or pacify particular doshas.
For example, consider Ayurveda’s theory of ‘like increases like’. Someone with excess Pitta (the "fiery" dosha) may add fuel to the fire by consuming hot, spicy foods.
The tastes can either alleviate or aggravate the doshas.
For example, a diet of sweet, sour and salty tastes alleviates or reduces Vata. Those having an astringent, bitter and pungent taste would aggravate Vata.
Similarly, Pitta is aggravated by a pungent, sour and salty taste.
Kapha is aggravated by a sweet, sour and salty taste.2
If you want to balance Vata dosha, you have to understand that Vata dosha is a combination of the space and air element, as explained in the first section of this article. These elements are predominant in foods tasting bitter, astringent and pungent. So if you indulge in bitter, astringent and pungent foods, you will aggravate Vata dosha.
To balance Vata, you need to eat foods consisting of the remaining three elements – earth, water and fire. These are foods which are sweet, sour and salty in taste.
Along with the taste of food, other properties of the food like whether it is heavy or light, oily or dry, liquid or solid are also taken into account. The potency of the food, whether it is heating or cooling, and the post digestive effect of the food is also considered.
Rules For The Vata Diet (How To Balance Vata Dosha)
Since Vata is composed of air
and space, it is easy for Vatas to get gas. So, naturally, with
all these things going on, Vatas need to watch what they eat.
The Vata appetite, like everything else about this dosha, is
variable. To stay in balance, Vatas need to keep a regular
routine when it comes to meals. Even when you don’t feel
like eating a lot, you should eat something at regular intervals.
Vatas tend to like to snack, but then they don’t get the
nourishment that they really need from their food. It’s best
to establish good eating habits to promote proper, healthy
A Vata breakfast might be oatmeal (rather than cold cereal) sweetened with some brown sugar and soy milk. Many Vatas
are lactose-intolerant, so soy milk (or rice milk or almond milk)
is a good alternative.
Caffeine is particularly aggravating to
Vata. So, instead of regular coffee, serve up some herb tea
or decaffeinated coffee. Coffee substitutes are often better than coffee because of coffee’s acid content, which may
disturb Vata’s digestion.
Include sweet, salty, and sour tasting foods in your diet.
Avoid bitter, astringent and pungent tasting foods.
Eat warm, cooked (rather than raw), oily or heavy foods.
Avoid cold foods.
Avoid dry foods.
Best oils to be used are almond, ghee and sesame.
Avoid ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Eat boiled or steamed starchy vegetables.
Eat ripe fruits.
Use mild spices like cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, salt, cloves, mustard and black pepper.
Herbal teas of chamomile, fennel, ginger and lemon are good.
Raw honey, jaggery (raw sugar), maple syrup and molasses are good sweeteners.
Avoid using brown sugar and white sugar.
Rules For The Pitta Diet (How To Balance Pitta)
Pittas do best on cool, uncooked foods. So the Pitta couple
can have lots of salads, raw vegetables, and fresh fruits and
be very healthy.
Pitta’s digestion is very good, and especially
so at midday when Pitta is at its peak. It is favorable for the
largest meal of the day to be eaten around noontime.
should never skip meals. Because their digestive fire is so strong, skipping a meal would be like putting an empty pot
over a flame.
The foods that Pittas should avoid are the ones
that are too spicy or too salty. Pittas can be at risk for ulcers,
and should avoid anything too acidic.
Alcohol and smoking
are two of the most Pitta-aggravating things and should be
avoided at all costs.
Pittas are frequently thirsty and should always have water or
fruit juice handy. Cool drinks are good, especially during the
Include sweet, bitter and astringent tastes in your diet.
Avoid pungent (hot), sour and salty foods.
Eat boiled, steamed and raw vegetables.
Eat sweet foods to reduce Pitta.
Drink warm milk with a small amount of cardamom and ginger in it.
Avoid buttermilk, salted cheeses, sour cream and yogurt.
Ghee and olive oil are best to use for cooking.
Use mild, cooling spices like coriander, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cumin, curry leaves and mint.
Avoid jaggery (raw sugar) and molasses if your Pitta is aggravated. Use honey instead.
Rules For The Kapha Diet (How To Balance Kapha)
Food is Kapha’s biggest weakness. Kaphas love food and love
They have a strong, constant appetite and especially
love sweet foods, though these are the worst for them. One
of the big reasons that sweets are so bad for Kaphas is that
they tend to be the higher calorie foods, and Kapha is prone
to weight gain.
The Kapha digestion is slow and heavy.
Include pungent, bitter and astringent tasting foods into your diet.
Avoid sweet, sour and salty foods.
Eat warm foods rather than cold foods.
Eat more boiled, steamed and raw vegetables.
Eating ripe fruits will be good to balance Kapha, except for banana.
Minimize the intake of heavy foods, salt and dairy products.
Eat smaller portions of food.
Do not eat in between meals.
Do not eat because of your emotional state, whether to celebrate or to soothe.
Use raw honey instead of other sweeteners like sugar, brown sugar and maple syrup.
Use oils in small amounts only. Even the best oil, if overused, will aggravate Kapha.
Strong spices like pepper, paprika, garlic, basil, cloves, fennel, mustard, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper will stimulate digestion, improve appetite, clear sinuses and stimulate blood circulation. This is very helpful for balancing Kapha dosha.
Before starting with Ayurvedic cooking, you will need to have some basic foods, spices and utensils on hand.
Use the list below as a guideline to slowly establish an Ayurvedic kitchen. Most of the ingredients you will use in your Ayurvedic kitchen are dried and can be stored in your kitchen shelves or counter top.
Every act you perform around food should be loving, honoring and sacred in manner. Whether it is growing your food or buying it from the supermarket, selecting and preparing the food should be in a loving, mindful way.
Food that is cooked with love and pure consciousness brings healing.13
Utensils that will be useful for Ayurvedic cooking:
A heavy cast iron frying pan
A flat skillet without high borders
2-3 medium sized pots with lids (stainless steel)
A soup pot with lid
A deep pot for frying (preferably cast iron)
2-3 mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons
Hand egg beater
A large metal spoon with soup ladle
A rolling pin
A chopping board
If you'd like to learn more about cooking utensils for optimal nutrition preservation, or nutritious methods of cooking and storing food, check out our educational video course 'Holistic Nutrition' by Todd Caldecott.
Stocking Your Pantry For Ayurvedic Cooking
An Ayurvedic kitchen must have a few staples.
The first is ahigh-quality cooking oil. Ayurveda suggests cooking with pure ghee instead of cooking with canola oil, vegetable oil or peanut oil.
During warmer seasons, coconut oil is a good option for cooking because it is cooling in nature.
Next, a very important ingredient of your Ayurvedic kitchen is basmati rice. Basmati rice is easier to digest than other grains.
Stock up on spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
Ayurvedic Cooking For Groups
So how do you create a meal for a group of people or your whole family, everyone having different doshas?
Here, the key is to have a moderately spicy main dish, and then ingredients or spices that people can add on top.
Avocado, yogurt or a chutney sauce like coriander chutney work well.
Individual small dishes can contain extra powdered spices to sprinkle on top. Lime wedges, freshly grated coconut and salt and pepper are also nice to have on hand.
Kitchari made with rice and lentils and anti-inflammatory spices is the one moderately spicy main meal recipe every single member of your family can relish. This staple of Ayurvedic cooking is important to know how to make. It’s healthy, delicious and can feed a whole family. Plus, it’s a complete meal!
Ayurvedic Cooking: Making Kitchari
3 Tbsp clarified butter (or a blend of ghee and oil)
½ tsp each of turmeric, cumin, cardamom and black pepper
1/4 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup split mung beans (or any lentil)
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Small knob of freshly grated ginger
3 cups water or stock
2 cups of your favorite vegetables
Topping Ideas: sliced avocado, spinach or chard, cilantro, onion slices, Greek yogurt
Thoroughly wash the basmati rice and split mung beans or other lentil substitutes.
In a heavy pot or deep saucepan, melt two tablespoons of clarified butter or your homemade blend of ghee and oil. Add a half-cup of chopped cilantro, carrots, celery, and freshly grated ginger, covering all in the melted ghee. Sauté this veggie mixture for two minutes.
Add washed rice and mung beans into the veggie mixture, continuing to evenly coat all the ingredients in the ghee or oil blend. Saute this for another couple of minutes. Next add in the water, vegetable stock or bone broth.
Let the ingredients come to a soft simmer, then turn down and cook on low for 30 to 40 minutes with the lid off, stirring occasionally. Once cooking is done, turn off the heat and stir in another tablespoon of ghee and a handful of greens. Cover with a lid and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
Serve with your favorite toppings.
Ayurvedic Cooking With Ghee
You can prepare ghee in your kitchen or you can purchase it in many supermarkets.
Ghee is clarified butter. This means the butter has been processed to remove the milk solids. It is basically butter oil.
There are many splendid uses for ghee. You can use it in place of almost any cooking oil and it will add that beautiful butter flavor without the fear of burning.
Here’s how to prepare ghee at home.
How To Make Ghee
Place butter in a heavy-bottomed pan.
Melt over medium-low heat.
While melting, the whey will float to the top. Skim it off and reserve for future use or compost the whey.
When the milk fat sinks to the bottom and the butter turns clear, you’ve made clarified butter. The milk fat will brown and become fragrant.
Allow to cool slightly and strain through cheesecloth into a very clean jar.
Store at room temperature.
Ghee making is a simple process. It requires very little equipment and the results are fantastic with a wide range of health benefits.
Health Benefits Of Ghee
Ghee refers to cow’s ghee. Ghee is also called clarified butter in the U.S.
Ghee is ideal in people with Vata and Pitta body types and those suffering from Vata and/or Pitta dosha imbalance. Ghee balances Pitta dosha and improves digestion. It is perhaps the most beneficial of all the types of fats, according to Ayurvedic cooking.
Good digestion is the key to good health. If you’re dealing with any sort of digestive issues, healing your gut lining is an important first step. Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that nourishes the cells of the intestines.
The ancient Ayurvedic sage Charaka mentioned the qualities of ghee. He said that ghee balances Pitta and Vata. It is conducive (hitakara) to rasa dhatu (the first nutrient formed after proper digestion of food), Shukra dhatu (the reproductive system) and ojas (immunity).
It relieves burning sensations of the body, brings softness to the body parts and gives clarity to the complexion and voice.14
Vagbhata, another ancient Ayurvedic scholar, described ghee to be the best among all the fats. It is a coolant, postpones the onset of old age and possesses a thousand good qualities when used in a proper way.15
Ayurvedic Properties Of Ghee
According to the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India (Part 1, Vol IV), the Ayurvedic properties of cow’s ghee are as follows.
Taste (Rasa): Sweet (Madhura)
Quality (Guna): heavy (guru), unctuous (snigdha), soft (mrdu)
Potency (Veerya): Cold (sita)
Post Digestive Effect (Vipaka): Sweet (Madhura)
Action (Karma): Agni Deepana, Anabhisyyandi, Ayushya, Balya, Cakshushya, Deepana, Hidya, Kaantiprada, Medhya, Ojovardhaka, Rasayana, Ruchya, Shleshma Vardhana, Snehana, Shukravardhaka, Tejobalakara, Tvacya, Vatapittaprashamana, Vayaasthapna, Vishahara, Virsya.
Cow’s ghee is known to be digested 96% which is the highest compared to all other vegetable or animal sources of fats. It contains antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene (600IU) and other nutrients like phospholipids, diglycerides and triglycerides.16
Cow’s ghee is an integral part of Ayurvedic cooking. It is considered a premier rasayana, a food that helps maintain good health, vitality and longevity. Cow’s ghee is excellent for balancing Vata (air) and Pitta (fire) related doshas. It is a sattvic food, which has a pure influence on mind, body and spirit.
Vata type people can enjoy more ghee than Pitta types who in turn can enjoy more ghee than Kapha types.
Cow’s ghee brings out the aroma and flavor of many foods. It contains no water so it does not spoil easily. It preserves the original freshness and potency of the herbs and foods it is cooked in. No refrigeration is required.16
In the wise world of Ayurveda, you really are what you eat - so eat for your dosha to restore your health.
Use Ayurvedic Cooking to to create equilibrium in your doshas.
1. Susruta Samhita, Sutra Sthana, Chapter 1, verse 28 (54).
2. Dr. Shashi Rekha H.K., Dr. Bargela SushantSukumarr, Charaka Samhita, vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Publication, 2017, chapter-27, Verse 3, pg-473]3. C. Hotz, R.S. Gibson Traditional food-processing and preparation practices to enhance the bioavailability of micronutrients in plant-based diets J Nutr, 137 (2007), pp. 1097-1100
4. K.R. Srikanth Murthy, Sushruta Samhita, Vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, Verse-41, pg no. 110
5. Prof. P.V. Sharma, Astanga Samgraha of Vagbhata, Vol 1 Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Orientalia, Varanasi, 2017chapter 9, verse 18, pg 203.
6. Dr. Bargale Sushant Sukumar, Dr. Shashirekha H.K., Charaka Samhita Vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi, 2017, chapter 5, verse 3, pg 86
7. Dr. Bargale Sushant Sukumar, Dr. Shashirekha H.K., Charaka Samhita Vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi, 2017, chapter 5, verse 4, pg 86
8. Dr. Bargale Sushant Sukumar, Dr. Shashirekha H.K, Charaka Samhita, Vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi, 2017, verse 32-35, pg 390-391
9. K.R. Srikantha Murthy Vagbhata’s Astanga Hrdayam. 5th ed (Vol. 1). Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia; (2001). p. 53–7.
10. Tripathi B. Pathya Apathya Nirnaya. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan; (1998). p. 2–4,39.
11. Sharma PV, editor. , editor. Charaka Samhita. (Vol. 1). Varanasi: Chaukhambha Orientalia; (2001). p. 5–9,190,228,375–6. ] Charaka Samhita Vimana Sthana
12. Dr Bargale Sushant Sukumar, Dr. Shashirekha H.K., Charaka Samhita, Vol 2, Vimana Sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi, 2017, Chapter 1, verse 2 page-166
13. Ayurvedic Cooking For Self Healing, Usha Lad, Vasant Lad, 2nd edition.
14. Dr. Bargale Sushant Sukumar, Dr. Shashi rekha H.K, Charaka Samhita, Vol 1, Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba Publications, New Delhi, 2017, Chapter 13, Verse- 14, page 207
15. K.R. Srikantha Murthy, Astanga Samgraha of Vagbhata, Vol 1 Sutra Sthana, Chaukhamba orientalia, Varanasi, 2017, chapter 6, verse-68-71, page 98-99