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The Pungent Taste: Spicing It Up With Ayurveda

In this blog we are heating things up with pungent, the hottest of Ayurveda’s six tastes.

Think spicy.  Pungent spices like chili peppers and wasabi titillate the taste buds while heating up the body—and the mind. The pungent taste is found in the following,

  • Peppers (green and red, habaneros, jalapenos)
  • Wasabi
  • Pungent Spices (tumeric, cayenne, sage, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, peppercorn)
  • Horseradish
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Ginger
  • Garlic

Pungent and the Doshas

Pungent increases vata and pitta, and decreases kapha.

The most heat producing of all the rasas (tastes),  pungent improves appetite, clears the sinuses and stimulates blood circulation. A pungent spice, like a cayenne pepper, will taste hot and stay hot from start to finish. It is sure to balance wet, heavy kapha, but it can be too hot and dry for vata, especially when taken in excess or paired with too many other drying foods. Vata does best when the pungent taste is combined with sour, sweet, or salty foods. Too much spicy can quickly aggravate pitta (and vata) in the form of excessive dryness and inflammation.

Recipe For Pungent

Need to boost your metabolism? Feed your inner fire today with the pungent taste. Try this amazing pungent soup, ideal for an Ayurvedic detox.

RECIPE: Spicy Mung Dhal Soup
Makes 5 generous portions.

400g (1 lb.)  mung beans (whole green or split green) *Sweet*
2 quarts water
½ tsp. turmeric powder   *Pungent*
2 pinch asafoetida   *Pungent*
lime or lemon juice   *Sour*
fresh root ginger   *Pungent*
2–3 cloves garlic   *Pungent*
an inch of fresh root ginger   *Pungent*
1 tsp. cumin seeds   *Pungent*
1 tsp. coriander seeds   *Pungent*
rock salt   *Salty*


  1. Wash the mung beans and soak for at least four hours or overnight.
  2. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan and add teaspoon of turmeric and 2 pinches asafoetida (to prevent gas).
  3. Sauté for a few seconds then add the beans, fresh water and fresh root ginger. For one part soaked mung you need about four parts of water.
  4. Simmer for 30–40 minutes adding more water if necessary, until beans are soft. In a pressure cooker this takes 8 minutes once the vessel has come to pressure. You can then turn off the heat and leave the pot to cool for a further 10 minutes before opening it.
  5. Once the beans are cooked, heat ghee or olive oil in another pan, add 2–3 cloves chopped garlic (if you wish) and sauté lightly for a minute until soft.
  6. Add chopped fresh root ginger, then one teaspoon of cumin and coriander seeds, plus any other herbs or spices (except chillies) eg: cardamom, black pepper, cumin seeds and briefly sauté.
  7. Add these sautéed spices plus some rock salt into the beans and simmer for a further few minutes.
  8. Serve soup warm with a squeeze of lime juice and some fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped.


Ayurveda teaches that combining the six tastes helps us to feel satisfied and to ensure that all major food groups and nutrients are represented. As you eat your food mindfully, become aware of the spices of life—including the heating taste of pungent.

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