Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grandma's Khichri

One pot dishes serve many purposes, but the real beauty of a one-pot dish is the share number of people it can feed.  This was the principle my grandmother followed when she made this dish at our Mandir (temple) on Sundays.  She is a wonderful cook and usually her cooking is even better when prepared for the masses. Many devotees at our temple knew when auntie Shelia was making khichri, you were guaranteed to go home after temple feeling satisfied and filled with a healthy meal that was cooked with love and devotion.  My mom made this for us at home, but it was usually at the end of the week before we went to the grocery store to replenish our kitchen.  The minimal ingredients in this dish contributed to it being a balanced and healthy meal  that fed the whole house. 

The foundation of this dish is generally made with very simple ingredients, split peas and rice.  Khichri is one of those dishes that everyone has their own "way" of preparing and no one way is the right way.  I have seen many different versions that have contained various vegetables like spinach or ochroes.  Some versions even served with a side of fried fish or coconut choka.  It is simply a versatile dish that you can customize to your liking.  There are also various spices like curry powder or turmeric which are added based on preference.  Many people also choose to chunkay their khichri, which simply means to separately fry a few slices of garlic in oil, then add it to the finished dish.  Chunkaying really adds another layer of flavor that is intense and delicious, but again, this is all about preference. 

My auntie Savi, my mom, and grandmother all make this differently by adding more or less of the ingredients they prefer.  This dish can be served in a soupier texture, much like jambalaya; or a drier texture, like Jamaican rice and peas.  My grandmother's khichri was more of a soupy texture and it always tasted so wonderful with a teaspoon of mango achar (a spicy condiment made with shredded mangoes) and a side salad.  When my mom made this dish for us, she would top it with a side of fried fish, if we had any, other times we just ate it by itself which was just as delicious.  This is my grandmother's khichri recipe, it's filling, hearty, and full of soul.  It is highly customizable and will feed more people than you planned for.  How does this recipe differ from how your family makes khichri?

To learn more about the history of this dish, take a look at this article written by a good friend, Cynthia Nelson, author of the book, Tastes Like HomeKhichri & Kedgeree - Good at breakfast, lunch, or dinner

These are the ingredients you will need 

Saute the onions, pepper and spices in the oil.  Once onions are tender, add split peas, water, and salt

Cook until peas are almost soft, but still have a give to them.  

How to extract fresh coconut milk:
Above photo of coconut taken from Google Images

Squeeze milk out of grated coconut.  You can use a cheesecloth, or press the coconut through a fine colander.  

After the first squeeze, place grated coconut in 1/3 cup of warm water and let it steep for 15 minutes.  Squeeze milk out of coconut again until you have 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk. 

Next add the rice, a dash of turmeric, and handful of freshly chopped spinach

Add to the pot with peas along with coconut milk.  Let mixture boil on low until rice is soft.  I prefer my khichri a little soupy, if you would like yours drier, then  let the mixture continue to cook until most liquid has evaporated. 

Serves 4-6
  • 3 tbsp canola oil 
  • 1/3 cup split peas
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 wiri wiri pepper or 1 scotch bonnet
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin (geera)
  • Dash of ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • handful of chopped spinach
  • 2 cups water 
  • 1 small dry coconut (to extract coconut milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh coconut milk from grated coconut
  • 1 cup parboiled rice 

  • Chunkay - Adding fried garlic to the rice after it is done cooking (this is optional)
  • If using coconut milk in a can - use 1/2 cup coconut milk, plus 1 cup water, (1 1/2 cups of canned coconut milk is really too thick for this dish)

  1. Rinse split peas, set aside. Chop onion and garlic, set aside. 
  2. In a pot, heat canola oil to a medium heat, add onion, garlic, wiri wiri pepper, curry powder, cumin, and split peas.  Fry until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add two cups of water to boil split peas.  Boil until peas are slightly soft on low-medium heat.
  4. Grate coconut and squeeze milk from coconut through a cheesecloth, strainer, or with bare hands.  A second time, place grated coconut in 1/3 cup warm water, let it steep for 15 minutes.  Squeeze to extract more milk.  Continue this process until you have about 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk. (I only had to do this twice)
  5. Add rice, turmeric, salt, chopped spinach, and fresh coconut milk to the pot.  Let boil until rice is soft.  If you prefer a more soupy texture, remove from heat once rice is done cooking.  If you prefer your khichri a little drier, let the mixture continue to cook until most liquid has evaporated. 
  6. If you would like to chunkay this dish: slice 2 garlic cloves and fry in 2 tbsp of oil.  Once garlic turns brown, add oil and garlic to the khichri covering the pot immediately to prevent oil from pitching. Stir to develop flavor. 

This is how khichri should look once dried down.  Can you can see the difference in texture from the first picture?


  1. Great healthy comfort food, Alicia. Love the family connections, and the description of this food as integral to a positive community spirit.

    And, as always, excellent presentation!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Food starts with the family connections! Thanks for stopping by :)

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Which mandir did your grandmother used to go to ? I know a sheila who moved to india.Im wondering if its the same person.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Yes I am sure it is the same person! She went to the America Sevashram Sangha.

  3. Love that this has coconut in it! Sounds delicious!

  4. OMG! I want some of this right this very minute. Love your touch of adding coconut milk. Making this this very week!

  5. just stumbled on your blog and i must say i love it!!can you please do a recipe for curry crab. thank you

  6. That would be pretty awesome actually! I second that request Alica!
    Curry crab! Curry crab! Curry crab!

    P.s. I say crab curry but this curry crab chant has a better ring to it, lol ;)

  7. Hey Alica,

    I made this today, well my mom did actually, hehe.

    Have you ever thought of blending your coconut instead of grating? I always blend mine with a bit of water and the result is a nice, rich and creamy milk. It always feels like I get the most out of my coconuts that way and it takes very little effort, just be sure to cut the kernel into smaller pieces before putting them into the blender.