Cooking with herbs is one of the easiest, oldest, and most accessible ways to incorporate herbs into your daily life. Not only does cooking with herbs make taking your herbs a lot more tasty and bioavailable, but you also get to be extra creative in the kitchen by finding unique ways to add herbs to your go-to recipes.
One of my favorite recipes to incorporate herbs into is Khichdi, a childhood recipe that my mom would make for my brother or I whenever we had a cold, the flu, an upset stomach, or just didn’t feel like eating anything else. Khichdi is the Indian household version of chicken soup: a reliable, nourishing, and easy-to-digest staple for any common ailments or for when you want to meal prep but can’t think of what to make. It’s got protein, healthy fats, starches, micronutrients, and it tastes delicious!
Traditional Khichdi does not call for too many complex ingredients. The base is lentils, rice, spices, ghee, and water, but I like to take it to the next level with bone or vegetable broth, nourishing herbs, and cooked vegetables. After watching my mom make her version of Khichdi over and over growing up, I feel confident in adding my own personal twist and tweaking it here and there depending on what herbs I feel like using!
This Nourishing Herbal Khichdi recipe calls for the staple dried spices turmeric, ginger, coriander, and cumin, and a special addition of two more popular herbs, fresh nettles and dandelions!
Kitchen Herbalism: Herbal Khichdi Recipe
This simple, nutritious recipe is a great meal to whip up when you are feeling slightly under the weather or want to give your digestive system a bit of a break after traveling.
I typically make mine in a pressure cooker, but this recipe calls for an Instant Pot, which more people have on hand. Once you get the base recipe down, feel free to experiment with your own additions including herbs, spices, and vegetables! Tip: try sticking to a 1:1 ratio of lentils and rice for the perfect consistency.
The prep time for this recipe is 5–10 minutes, and the cook time is 10 minutes.
Ingredients you’ll need…
- 1 cup basmati rice, washed
- 1 cup yellow moong dal, washed
- ½ cup chopped and cooked vegetables of choice (peas, green beans, carrots, etc.)
- ¼ cup chopped nettles
- ¼ cup chopped dandelion greens
- 2.5 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ¼ tsp hing (asafoetida) or onion powder
- ½ tbsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 3 cups bone broth or vegetable broth
- 5 cups water
- Chopped cilantro
- Rinse the rice and dal thoroughly in cold water.
- Put the Instant Pot in sauté mode and add ghee (or coconut oil), cumin seeds, and hing (asafoetida).
- After cumin seeds begin to sputter and darken, add rice, dal, water, and broth.
- Add vegetables, nettles, and dandelion greens.
- Add remaining powdered spices and salt.
- Change instant pot setting to pressure cook or manual mode at high pressure for 7 minutes.
- After beeping, hit NPR to allow pressure to release naturally.
- Serve khichdi with ghee or coconut oil and chopped cilantro.
Yield: 2 servings
Benefits of the Spice Blend
The dried spices in this recipe include Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), and Cumin (Cuminum cyminum). This blend of spices is deeply synergistic and commonly found in many traditional Indian or Ayurvedic recipes. All of these spices when used together are carminatives, meaning they support proper digestion. They are also anti-inflammatory and support immune system function. An optional addition is hing, or asafoetida, which has a pungent flavor and is a common onion and garlic substitute in Ayurvedic cooking that aids in digestion and has antimicrobial properties.
Benefits of Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Nettles are an herbalist favorite. Considered a weedy medicinal, this plant is rich in an assortment of vital nutrients and medicinal constituents. This recipe calls for fresh nettles — fresh herbs lend bright flavors to this recipe, but you could use dried nettles ground into a powder if need be.
Nettles are rich in chlorophyll, B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, F, and K, many minerals such as iron, potassium, zinc, selenium, calcium, silica, iodine, sulfur, and so much more. They are a nutritive tonic herb, helping us build blood and replenish nutrient stores. I like to use them the way I’d use any leafy green, or make a strong herbal infusion steeped overnight to sip throughout the day.
Benefits of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
This recipe calls for fresh dandelion greens, but like with the nettles, you can use them dried in powder form if need be. Another weedy medicinal herb, dandelions like to grow in disturbed places where the soil needs extra nutrients. This mirrors the way we can use them herbally and culinarily. They are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Dandelion greens have a distinctive bitter flavor, and this bitter quality helps support digestive and liver function. They help stimulate the appetite, promote proper liver detoxification, and even aid the kidneys in producing urine.
Here are some frequently asked questions about cooking with herbs…
What do you use herbs for in cooking?
Adding herbs to your cooking can not only bring stronger flavors to your food but can serve a medicinal purpose as well: fragrant herbs can support digestion and help our bodies more easily absorb nutrients from our foods. You can cook with fresh herbs or dried herbs to take your cooking to the next level and bring more earthy flavors, floral flavors, and peppery flavors to your meals.
In addition to the herbs I’ve used in this recipe, some other wonderful culinary herbs to cook with include basil, parsley, thyme, chives, oregano, mint, bay leaves, and rosemary. Dried herbs tend to lend a stronger, more concentrated flavor to cooking while fresh herbs bring more bright flavors to your food. Some of my favorite herbs to work with fresh include fresh basil, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, fresh oregano, and fresh mint. All of these aromatic herbs will bring their own delicious, distinctive flavor to your cooking.
What is the best way to use herbs?
There are so many wonderful ways to use herbs throughout the cooking process! You can add more herbs to a nourishing meal like Khichdi and to enhance the flavor of a stock or bring more flavor to soup. Or you can make tasty herbal condiments like pesto, salad dressings, infused honeys, and more. The options for adding dried and fresh herbs to your cooking are truly endless.
You can also opt to grow your own herbs in a simple herb garden of culinary herbs, many of which grow easily in pots. Or you can get a bunch of herbs from your local grocery store. If you have an abundance of fresh herbs, you can freeze them and incorporate these frozen herbs into your cooking throughout the year.
What herbs go together in cooking?
Many herbs make a delicious and nutritious combination, and it all depends on what desired flavors or medicinal benefits you are looking for. When making a recipe that calls for lots of warming spices, it can be helpful to add a cooling herb such as cilantro or parsley as a garnish to balance out the heat. Herbs such as rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and marjoram make a versatile combo that go well together in many different recipes. Experiment with various combinations and see how they taste and feel to you!