Rise of good old khichdi: From grandma's recipe to modern culinary marvel

Some eateries are serving more variants of the humble khichdi now than there are pizzas at Domino's. A look at the comfort food's history and its modern-day culinary twists.

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The khichdi has had a long journey, from grandma's recipe to the menus of 5-star hotels. (Image: Generative AI by Vani Gupta/India Today)

If you were to cook nostalgia, nutrition and comfort in one pot, the result would be khichdi. And in this maddening age, when people look for solace and comfort in their food, it is khichdi they are turning to. So, as the humble khichdi comes of age, it has avatars like the baked khichdi, quinoa khichdi and butter paneer khichdi among dozens of others.


Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor agrees that our good old khichdi has seen a phenomenal rise in recent years.

“Now, restaurants and complete menus are dedicated to khichdi. I have seen khichdi give a tough competition to risotto. I have seen Michelin-star chefs make khichdi and add lots of truffles on top. So yes, khichdi has definitely come of age,” Sanjeev Kapoor tells IndiaToday.In.

It is impossible that there would be any Indian who hasn’t had khichdi, a simple rice-lentil dish. Call it khichdi, khichuri, pongal, bisi bele baath or kedgeree, khichdi is that one-pot meal that people had either when they were unwell or during some festival. Now, people are having khichdi more regularly if the menus at khichdi eateries are anything to go by.

The good old khichdi is rising in new avatars, like the baked khichdi. This is spinach or tomato khichdi, topped with cheese and baked.

The khichdi evolution has seen some restaurants offering more varieties of piping hot khichdi than there are pizzas in Domino’s. This has also given rise to McKhichdis and gourmet khichdi variants.

The Claridges in New Delhi, a 5-star hotel, offers two types of khichdi.

"At Claridges, we essentially offer two types of Khichdi, the plain khichdi and a moong dal khichdi," executive chef at The Claridges, New Delhi, Ankur Gulati, tells IndiaToday.In. Khichdi’s popularity, says Gulati, extends beyond economic boundaries due to its nutritional value and comfort-food appeal.


“Rising health consciousness influences guests to pick up home-style food now,” says Ankur Gulati of The Claridges. He says they end up selling five to six portions of khichdi every day.

According to executive chef Gulati, even if khichdi is not featured prominently on the menus of high-end restaurants, "it is easily available on request in most of the 5-stars".

“Indians have been creating variations of classic recipes by adding different flavours, ingredients and aromas, and one of the dishes being experimented with is khichdi,” says Gulati, whose personal favourite is prawn khichdi cooked by his mother.

Indians have been creating variations of classic recipes and one of the dishes being experimented with is khichdi, says Ankur Gulati, executive chef at The Claridges, New Delhi.


The executive chef at Claridges is right. From celebrity chefs to homemakers, almost everyone has their own take and twist.

“I keep trying khichdi with different flavours, different rice varieties. Sometimes I cook it in a matka, at times on a wood fire. I like to play around with food, and khichdi is no different,” says chef Sanjeev Kapoor.


Madhu Kandoi runs a cloud kitchen, Khichdi Khichri, in Kolkata. It has been operational for the last 8 years and serves 35 types of khichdi and khichuri (the Bengali variant). Twenty of them have been “tweaked or created” by Kandoi herself.

“We sell at least 150 portions of khichdi every day. On festivals like Durga Puja or during Sawan, our sales go through the roof,” Kandoi, who employs eight staffers, tells IndiaToday.In. Her khichdis are priced from Rs 80 to Rs 250.

On the menu of her Khichdi Khichri are baked khichdi, salad khichdi, mushroom khichdi and even a butter paneer khichdi. “The baked khichdi, which comes in spinach and tomato flavours and has cheese on top, is one of my bestsellers,” says Kandoi. She says she uses 10 different varieties of rice and each of her khichdi has a distinct taste.

On the menu of Madhu Kandoi's Kolkata-based Khichdi Khichri are baked khichdi, salad khichdi, mushroom khichdi and even a butter paneer khichdi (in the image above).


People are increasingly having khichdi these days for both lunch and dinner, says the 65-year-old woman, who believes that in this age of maddening rush, they are seeking refuge in this comfort food.

Kandoi says people are also seeking “healthier” khichdis with quinoa and ragi.

The Great India Khichdi in Delhi NCR has a small section dedicated to “healthy” khichdis and serves Brown Rice Masala Dal Khichdi, Millet Dal Khichdi and Quinoa Khichdi.

Cloud kitchens and restaurants like Khichdi Hub, Mom’s Khichdi, Khichdi Heaven, which specialise in age-old food, have mushroomed in recent years. Then there is also Khichdi Express, The Great Indian Khichdi and Khichdi Experiment. They offer Shravan Specials, Navratra Specials, Jain khichdis, homely khichdis, supergrain healthy khichdis and deluxe khichdi thalis.

For decades, sabudana khichdi has been the mainstay of devotees fasting during the Navratras.


Though different regions of India had their own versions of the rice-lentil superfood, the addition of khichdi variants to restaurant menus is a recent phenomenon.

Khichdi - The Global Food, which has four branches in and around Mumbai and one in Nashik, serves over 100 varieties of khichdi.


One of the first tweaks to khichdi resulted in the kedgeree, an Anglo-Indian dish.

"During the British Raj, this rice and lentil dish was modified by the British to suit their tastes. The lentils were replaced by smoked fish and hard-boiled eggs came into the picture," writes British culinary historian Helen Saberi.

She says kedgeree became a favourite breakfast dish not just for the British serving in India but went on to be a staple of English country house breakfasts during Victorian and Edwardian times.

Kedgeree isn’t the only popular non-vegetarian khichdi – there are Bohra keema khichdi and prawn khichdi too.

The first written reference to khichri was by the 14th-century Arab explorer Ibn Battuta, food historian and author Colleen Taylor Sen tells IndiaToday.In.

Ibn Battuta described khichdi as “The mung (moong dal) is boiled with rice and then buttered. This is what they call Kishri, and on this they breakfast every day.”

Khichdi found great patrons in the Mughal emperors.

"Akbar led an austere existence, ate only once a day, cared little for meat and frequently fasted, but khichdi was one of his favourite dishes. A version of khichri from Gujarat, called lazizan, containing spices and nuts, was Jahangir’s favourite food on his days of abstinence from meat," says Sen.

But Akbar’s khichdi was loaded with ghee. A recipe given by Abu’l-Fazl, Akbar’s prime minister, who was also a great gourmet and kept meticulous records of food eaten at the court, called for equal parts of rice, lentils and ghee, according to Sen. She says khichdi was prepared in vast quantities for the Mughal armies on the move.

Khichdi has had a long journey and has inspired cuisine in other countries.

Egypt's koshari, a rice and brown lentil dish topped with chickpeas and crispy onions, originated from the khichdi. It is likely that Indian soldiers who were in the region during World War I had a role in the origins of koshari, now considered Egypt's national dish.

But the influence it has had on kitchens and businesses in India is stupendous.


It’s not just cloud kitchens and restaurants that are going big on the nostalgic comfort food, big brands too have dived into the instant ready-to-cook khichdi mix business.

Tata Sampann offers a six-grain khichdi mix, whose recipe has been crafted by chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Adani Wilmar’s Fortune brand has followed fusion cuisine trends and gone a step ahead. Apart from grain mixes for Punjabi khichdi, Bengali bhog khichuri and Gujarati khichdi, it also sells Mexican salsa khichdi and pav bhaji khichdi.

Apart from grain mixes for Punjabi khichdi, Bengali bhog khichuri and Gujarati khichdi, Adani Wimar's Fortune also sells pav bhaji khichdi and Mexican salsa khichdi.

In 2017, chef Kapoor created a Guinness World Record by preparing 900 kg of khichdi at one go. Among others who stirred the pot was celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, who calls khichdi an “emotional Nirvana”. For Ranveer Brar, “khichdi paired with a Kathiawadi-style kadhi is the perfect soul food.”

That’s exactly why the humble khichdi is such a good business proposition. It’s a perfect mix of nutrition and nostalgia now topped with some culinary innovation.

“My favourite khichdi is one with fresh pureed spinach and loads of garlic. My mom loves it and we make it at least once a week for the whole family. We make it in a matka with ghee and hing (asofetida). So, if people drop in unannounced at lunch time, there is a likelihood that we will treat him with palak khichdi. And no matter which part they come from, they all love it,” reveals chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Here are four khichdi recipes from four corners of the country. Savour them piping hot.

The khichuri is a hot favorite of Bengalis, especially when it is raining. The Bengali khichuri is generally paired with labra (a mixed vegetable dish), brinjal fry or fish fry. Here's the Bengali khichuri recipe.

The most popular Rajasthani khichdi is made of bajra and served with curd. Below is the recipe for the Rajasthani bajra khichdi, which is eaten across the state. Curd and pickle are its best companions.

The moong dal khichdi has been a caring friend for people in the north whenever anyone is unwell. Easy to digest and nutritious, it tastes best served hot with pickle and papad.

The king of the South! Ven pongal is the savoury version of the famous pongal. Curry leaves and cashews, it is one dish no one can say no to. It is one of the popular Naivedyam foods offered to the Gods. Find ven pongal recipe below.

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Published On:
Aug 13, 2023