Ayurvedic Protein Recipes
Ayurvedic protein recipes focus primarily on vegetarian sources of protein.
While the Western diet is centered around animal products as protein sources, Ayurveda favors foods that are sattvic (pure and light, promoting happiness, knowledge, peace, and harmony) sources such as beans/legumes, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. Animal products are used in certain depleted and debilitated conditions as medicine while vegetarian staples make up the daily diet.
Many today incorporate vegetarian foods into the diet for better health. Whether you are learning to become a vegetarian or are simply wanting to incorporate more non-meat meals into your diet, these recipes can support you.
Whether you are doing a week-long home cleanse, full Panchakarma cleansing program that Ayurveda offers as a primary protocol for treating dis-ease and illness and restoring optimal health, or simply doing a 1-3 day mini reset after the holidays, kitcharee is the perfect food.
What is kitcharee?
Kitcharee is a healing food made up of equal parts of rice and mung beans with spices. Vegetables can be added while cooking or steamed or stir-fried and served on the side. It is easy to digest dish and can be used therapeutically for healing and cleansing or as a regular weekly meal for maintaining health.
There are many, many different types of kitcharee recipes. If you enjoy this food, I invite you to look through cookbooks and try out new varieties. If you find one you really love, don’t forget to share it with us!
To get you started, this particular recipe is very mild and balancing for all three Doshas.
Tri-doshic Balancing Kitcharee
- ¼ c split mung dal
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ c basmati rice
- salt to taste
- 1-2 tsp. dosha specific spice blend or garam masala* (optional for extra flavor)
- 2 c water
- 2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)
- 3/4 c diced vegetables (optional)
- In a medium pot on high heat, combine all ingredients, except ghee, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover with a lid, and cook for 25-30 minutes. Drizzle with oil or ghee before serving. This can also be made in a rice cooker. If you like the dish soupy, simply add additional water.
- *Dosha specific spice blends such as Pitta spice, Vata spice, or Kapha spice are sold at Ayurveda Wellness. Garam masala is a traditional Indian spice mix found at Indian grocery stores.
Vata Balancing Winter Pot Pie
The vata dosha by nature is cold, dry, light, and mobile and can be aggravated during the vata season of late fall and early winter in central and northern United States. To help bring balance to vata and your body and mind, integrate more heavy, moist, warm foods.
This twist on a pot pie recipe with the nourishing milk sauce, grounding root vegetables, and warm nature can be a great choice on a cold winter night.
- 2 Tbsp. ghee or olive oil
- 2 leeks, sliced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 c. peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 c. turnip, parsnip or rutabaga or combination
- 1/2 c. green beans, cut into 2″ pieces
- 1/2 c. broccoli, cut into small pieces
- optional 2 c. diced chicken
- 5 Tbsp. flour
- 1 1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 1/2 c. milk
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 2 Tbsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 lemon zested
- 6 Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 Tbsp ghee or butter
- 1/4 c. milk or more to the texture of mashed potatoes
- 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese, optional
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Peel potatoes and put in a pot with water to cover by 2″.
- Bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes or until soft.
- While those are cooking, prep all the vegetables, washing the leeks thoroughly after slicing to remove all the dirt and parboiling the green beans and root vegetables (turnip, etc) for a couple of minutes.
- Melt 2 Tbsp ghee or olive oil and saute the leeks and celery for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the root vegetables, green beans, carrots, and broccoli and saute 5-10 minutes until soft then add the peas and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the flour to the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Stir in the broth and milk and bring to a simmer.
- Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly.
- Add the chicken if using, the spices and lemon zest and stir another minute.
- Transfer to a large casserole dish and set aside.
- Drain the potatoes and mash with the butter and milk.
- Spread over the vegetable mix and bake for 30 minutes until warm throughout.
- You can add grated cheddar cheese to the top of the potatoes during the last 10 minutes of cooking if you choose.
Lentil and Rice Chili
This is a great cold-weather day warm-up dish, substantial and high in protein.
- ½ c. raw lentils – brown, green, or beluga
- ½ c. raw brown rice
- 2 ½ c. water or vegetable broth (ideally freshly made)
- 1 bay leave
- 1 Tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil or ghee
- 1 leek (optional), washed well and sliced
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 1 carrot, quartered
- ¼ sweet red pepper or other vegetables for your dosha, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ½ tsp. natural sweetener (sucanat, agave nectar)
- ½ – 1 tsp. chili powder, to taste
- ½ tsp. cumin
- ½ tsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. oregano
- 1/8 tsp. dry mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium pot, add the oil or ghee and warm for a minute. Add all the vegetables (adding softer ones like zucchini after a couple of minutes) and sauté for 3-4 minutes until soft. Rinse the lentils and rice then add to the vegetables along with the bay leaf and Bragg’s. Sauté together for one minute then add the water or broth, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat. Check after 30 minutes, add the remaining spices and continue to simmer uncovered until the lentils and rice are done, adding a little more water for consistency you want.
You can add cheese or sour cream on top. These are both aggravating to Pitta and Kapha but good for Vata. Do not add these if doing the cleansing program.
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Vaidyagram Recipe: Pongal
I spent two lovely weeks at an Ayurvedic Healing Center in India in March 2013. While there, I got fed a steady, simple diet of nourishing, healing foods. And the best part is that I came home with many of the recipes. I am trying them out and converting them to American measurement standards to be able to share some here for you to experience some of the same healing power of food. Enjoy!
- 1/2 cup white basmati rice
- 1/4 cup split moong beans
- 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 3 whole black peppercorns
- 1/4″ fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 2 curry leaves (available at Indian grocery stores)
- 1/8 tsp. Asafetida powder (available at Indian grocery stores)
- salt, to taste
- 1 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter, recipe here)
- small handful of raw cashews (optional)
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water
- Heat a cast-iron or solid cookware pan and dry roast the rice and moong beans separately until lightly brown.
- Cook the rice and beans in the water with salt for 20-30 minutes depending on if you’re using 1 1/2 or 2 cups water. The more water will give the dish a mushier texture; the less water creates more like a soft pilaf.
- Heat pan and dry roast the peppercorns and cumin seeds then crush them. If you don’t have a whole, you can use powdered spice substitutes.
- Heat 1 tsp. ghee in a pan and fry cashews until golden brown. Set aside.
- In the same pan add ginger, the pepper and cumin mix, asafetida powder and curry leaves with a tad more of the ghee and fry for a minute.
- Add all the fried items along with the remaining ghee to the cooked rice and bean mix, mashing well.
- Serve along with chutney or vegetable side dish and chapatis. I added a little fresh baby spinach to mine at the end when adding in the other fried items.
Coconut, Tomato and Lentil Dal
A lovely curried legume dish. Serve over rice or with toasted whole wheat chapatis. To make more pitta-pacifying, leave out the garlic, use leek instead of an onion, decrease the chili powder to 1/4 or 1/2 tsp, and decrease the mustard seeds to 1/2 tsp.
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1” piece fresh ginger root, grated
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp mild chili powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 cup split red lentils (pre-cooked for 15 minutes)
- 1 2/3 cup boiling vegetable stock
- 1 2/3 cup coconut milk
- 14 oz diced tomatoes
- 2 limes, juiced
- 4 T fresh cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until softened, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic, carrot, cumin, mustard seeds, and ginger to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring until the seeds begin to pop, the aromas are released and the carrot softens slightly.
- Add the turmeric, chili powder, and garam masala to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the flavors begin to mingle.
- Tip the mixture into the crockpot. Add the lentils, stock, coconut milk and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and cover the pot with the lid. Cook on high for 2 hours or until the lentils are soft, stirring halfway through the cooking time to prevent the lentils from sticking.
- Stir the lime juice and 3 T of fresh cilantro into the dal. Check the seasoning and cook for another 30 minutes.
- To serve, sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and toasted almonds.
Mexican-style Chicken or Tempeh
These ayurvedic protein recipes provide a medley of flavors to give your cooking a boost. The original recipe uses chicken but when I choose to become vegetarian again after many years of having eaten chicken, I didn’t want to give up the yummy tastes in this dish. So I tried it with tempeh. If you use the tempeh, you don’t have to cook this dish as long since it doesn’t take as long as chicken to cook (2-3 hours on low just to allow the flavors to mingle). I would also pre-cook any additional vegetables until semi-soft.
- ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 3# chicken pieces (skin on breasts, removed from leg and thigh) or 2 # tempeh
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1-2 serrano chilies, chopped
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 2 c cilantro leaves
- 1 T lemon zest
- 2 T lemon juice
- ½ c chicken or vegetable broth
- ½ c additional vegetables such as zucchini or corn (optional)
- finely chopped cilantro and scallions, extra lemon zest
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast pumpkin and cumin seeds until pumpkin seeds are popping and cumin has released its flavor. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown in batches. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker. Reduce pain and heat to medium.
- Add onions to pan and cook, stirring, until softened. Add garlic, tomato paste, salt, pepper, oregano, chili pepper, cinnamon, and chicken broth and cook, stirring, for one minute. Transfer contents of the pan into a food processor. Add lemon zest and juice, chicken broth, pumpkin and cumin seeds, and process until smooth.
- Add the vegetables to the chicken then pour the sauce over and cook on low for five to six hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with. When ready to serve, garnish with cilantro, scallions, and lemon zest.
White Bean Pasta Sauce
First, I love this ayurvedic protein recipe because it is very easy, quick, tasty, and healthy! That’s always a keeper in my book. Secondly, as a vegetarian, I enjoy pasta dishes but am always looking for more ways to add protein into the dish. My good friend Sarah introduced the basics of this dish to me years ago and I have refined it to my tastes and Ayurvedic needs. Traditionally this recipe included garlic which, in Ayurveda, is aggravating to pitta and is rajasic by nature. I have substituted the use of hing instead to add flavor and help with the bean processing.
For the ingredients, as always, it is ideal to use organic, fresh, home-made items. However, this is not always possible – especially in terms of making the beans from dry beans or the pesto fresh when basil isn’t growing locally. In a pinch, I use organic white beans and pesto in the deli section from Trader Joe’s or my local natural foods store.
When cooking the beans from a dry bean, add 1/2 inch piece of Kombu seaweed and a pinch of hing or asafoetida (found in Indian groceries) which decrease the gas-producing effect of beans.
- 1 Tbsp. ghee or olive oil (use olive oil for kapha needs)
- 2 cups or 1 can cook white beans (great northern or navy beans are my preference as they are smaller than cannellini and in Ayurveda the smaller the bean the easier to digest)
- 1 cup vegetable broth or water
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 cup pesto (without parmesan cheese for kapha needs)
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (omit for pitta needs)
- pinch hing (also called asafoetida)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (decrease for pitta needs)
- extra parmesan cheese (optional)
- sun-dried tomato pieces (optional)
- In a medium-sized saute pan, add the ghee and when warm add the beans, pepper, hing, and cayenne/red pepper flakes.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes to flavor and soften.
- Add the broth or water and cook for another 5 minutes, gently stirring and mushing the beans against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon so it makes a thick paste.
- As this cooks, it will become thick – increase the liquid to the desired consistency for your sauce needs and tastes.
- After cooking and warming for 5 minutes, add the lemon juice and pesto, and extra cheese if you’re using.
- Mix until the sauce is warmed through.
- Add the sun-dried tomato pieces at the end if they have been soaked in oil; add them along with the pesto and lemon juice if they are drier.
- Serve over pasta noodles or another grain. You can also add sautéed vegetables to the sauce or serve on the side.
Curried Yellow Dal Soup with Cilantro Cream
This VPK balancing soup is a tasty bowl of nourishment. Be sure to use real coconut milk, unsweetened, not a “coconut cream” product. Serve over your favorite whole grain or with a nice whole wheat tortilla or chapati.
For the Soup
- 1 1/2 cups chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large)
- 1 cup chopped leeks
- 1 cup diced carrot (about 1 large)
- 1 tsp finely chopped, peeled ginger root
- 1 tsp red chili flakes (leave out to lower pitta)
- 1 TBL coconut oil or ghee 2 cups split yellow mung beans 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 TBL curry powder – vary from sweet to hot, savory to pungent for different tastes. I like a savory, sweet yellow curry (decrease to lower pitta)
- 1/2 tsp salt, ideally Soma salt
- 2 large sweet potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes.
- 1 can of coconut milk (15 oz)
For the Cilantro Cream
- 1 cup plain whole milk organic yogurt
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tsp grated lime or lemon zest
- Cook the bell pepper, onion, carrot, ginger root, garlic, and jalapenos in oil, until the onion is tender.
- Stir in the remaining soup ingredients (not the cilantro cream items).
- Heat everything to a boil then reduce heat.
- Cover and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes, be sure the dal and potatoes are tender.
- Top each serving with cilantro cream (decrease amount on top to lower kapha).
Ayurvedic Benefits of Yogurt & How To Make It
With all the availability of yogurt in the stores, you might ask “why even bother making yogurt from scratch?”
My simple answer is…
- It is so easy
- You can control what goes in it, especially the added sugar
- It’s cheaper, especially when making organic
- If you have access to it you can use non-homogenized or raw milk, both of which are closer to nature’s design.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, yogurt is considered sweet and sour in taste and slightly warm in energy, making it best for the vata dosha. The more sour it is, the more warm and acidic and imbalancing to pitta. Despite these sour and acidic aspects, when used in small amounts it is nutritive for all seven tissue layers, aids in the digestion of other foods replenishes the positive flora in the body and can even decrease diarrhea.
Notice the “use in small amounts” disclaimer. Because this dairy product is heavy, sour and often eaten cold, in large amounts it is imbalancing for all three doshas or life forces and in excess will cause constipation, clog the body’s channels and increase kapha and mucous. To get the benefits without the negatives, Ayurveda uses yogurt primarily in condiments or as a digestive drink called a lassi. Lassis are made by mixing a small amount of yogurt with different amounts of water (the water to yogurt ratio varies per one’s doshic needs) and spices. Using yogurt this way counters its natural clogging properties. This use of yogurt is very different than the way it is generally consumed today – larger amounts of heavily sweetened yogurt as meal, snack or dessert.
So now onto the steps of making this probiotic-filled food. To make 1 quart of yogurt you will need:
- 2-3 Tbsp yogurt from a previous batch or good quality commercial plain yogurt
- 1-quart whole milk, ideally non-homogenized milk
- a candy thermometer
- a towel
- 1 quart-size glass jar
Gently heat the milk in a large pot to 180 degrees then remove from the heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees. Stir in the 2-3 Tbsp. yogurt to your quart jar and add the cooled milk. With the lid on, gently shake the jar. You can also add the yogurt to the milk in the pot and stir thoroughly before pouring into your jar.
Put the lid on the jar, wrap the towel around it, and set by your stove (or in a warm oven at 150 degrees) overnight. I make my yogurt in the evening and set it by my stove in its towel wrap. When I wake up in the morning, the yogurt is ready!
For a thicker, Greek-style yogurt you simply pour the now-ready yogurt into a strainer placed over a pot and let it sit for an hour or so. Excess whey will drain off during this time leaving a thicker consistency.
I make plain yogurt to use with lassis, dressings, or condiments. If you want a fruited or flavored yogurt simply add your natural sweetener, vanilla, or fruit after it has cooled to 110 degrees. Shake and mix thoroughly then let sit overnight.
Let me know how your process goes and what your favorite use or flavor is.
Baked Tofu Ayurvedic Protein Recipes
As a vegetarian, I am always mindful of protein and having a balanced amount throughout my day. Tofu is a food that I enjoy in moderation due to the presence of phytoestrogens in soy. I only buy organic since soybeans are one of the most common GMO foods in commercial farming.
This simple way of fixing tofu is one of my favorites with much versatility in how it can be used. I even eat it simply by itself as a snack sometimes!
- 1# extra firm organic tofu, cut into ½” slices
- 2 Tbsp. Bragg’s Amino Acids, tamari or shoyu (more natural forms of soy sauce)
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Blend all ingredients together, adding a little more liquid as needed. You can also add or substitute spices to your tastes.
- Dip each slice of tofu into the marinade, turning to get both sides, then place on a baking tray. When all slices are dipped, pour the remaining liquid over the slices and put the tray in the oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes then flip the tofu and bake another 10 minutes.
- Enjoy in sandwiches, salads, stir-fries, or as the main protein within a meal.
Paneer is a soft milk cheese and makes a nice vegetarian protein. It is very easy to make and versatile in recipes. My favorite way of using it is to make it then sauté the curds in ghee with Mum’s masala spice mix and add it to my grain and vegetables. I have served this at many of my classes and it is always a bit hit.
Since this is a dairy product, it is considered heavier. As such, it is best for vata and pitta pacifying but can be used by kapha constitutions in small amounts.
- 1 quart whole organic milk, ideally non-homogenized
- 1 juice of organic lime
- Gather your milk and your lime.
- Juice the lime and set aside.
- In a heavy bottom pot, bring milk to a light boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn.
- Once the milk is gently bubbling, add in the lime juice while stirring. The curds will separate from the whey while doing this for about a minute.
- Remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl if you wish to save the whey.
- To aid in the removal of the whey to create a firm texture, put a small plate over the curds and put a can on the plate and place it in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Once the curd or cheese is to the desired texture, simply cut and use.
- You can also use the curd right away in a crumble.
This makes one serving. For larger amounts to feed more people, double the recipe.
Lentil Patty Ayurvedic Protein Recipes
As a vegetarian, sometimes I have a craving for a “burger” or sandwich option but I don’t really like the pre-made options with all their additives and soy products. As such, I’ve been on a quest to find my own easy home options. This recipe, a modification from one in the “Vegan Planet” cookbook, is one of my keepers. I made a batch that gave me about 10 small patties. I use a couple on a bun with sweet potato fries for the “burger” experience. I use another 3 in a whole wheat pita bread with cilantro chutney that was truly delicious!
Let me know what you think and if you have some of your own favorites.
This recipe is fairly tri-doshic. Vatas need to soak and cook the lentils a little more but the spicing helps to digest and the sweet potato provides a nice grounding element for the lighter aspect of vata. Kapha would do best just eating the patties alone without the extra bread or putting in a corn tortilla instead of wheat. These dosha notes are for those with imbalances. Balanced digestion and system should be able to eat healthy, whole meals like this as long as foods are rotated so no one grain or food component is over-emphasized.
- 3 Tbsp. ghee or oil, split
- 1-2 tsp. Mum’s Masala or curry powder
- 1/2 tsp. Soma salt or sea salt
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne (omit to decrease pitta)
- 1 c. cooked lentils, I prefer Beluga lentils
- 1 c. cooked sweet potato
- 1/2 c. finely chopped, unsalted cashews
- 2/3 c. dry bread crumbs (or enough to bind filling together to form patties); can use a gluten free type
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
- Roti Indian flatbread, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat pita bread, or sprouted grain buns are my favorite holders for the patties
- Chutney to your taste
- Cook 1/3 c. raw, rinsed lentils in about 1 c. water. Bring to a boil then turn to simmer for about 20-25 minutes until well cooked and soft.
- Cook one medium sweet potato. I like to do mine in a toaster oven at 425 degrees for about 30-40 minutes until soft.
- The potato and lentils can be made ahead of time.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. ghee in a small saucepan and add the spices. Add the lentils and potatoes and parsley and mix together to blend the flavor.
- Transfer the lentil mix to a food processor and add the cashews and bread crumbs. Process until well blended.
- Shape the mixture into patties about 1/4″ thick. If you make them too thick, I find that the inside stays too mushy.
- Heat the other 2 Tbsp. of ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the patties and cook until browned on both sides, about 5-7 minutes per side.
- Place 2-3 patties, depending on the size, end to end on the lower third of the flatbread or in a pita pocket, spread with chutney, roll up and serve warm/hot.
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