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How To Make Chicken Dhansak

Chicken dhansak is a delicious, mildly spiced curry with lentils.

There is a bit of a debate in the UK about how a chicken dhansak should be cooked.

Some insist that it have pineapple chunks in it. Others, of which I am one, prefer to leave the pineapple out.

That said, I developed this chicken dhansak recipe the way it is most often served, with pineapple.

Hey, you’re making this curry so don’t feel like you have to add pineapple just because the recipe tells you too! If you don’t want pineapple in you chicken dhansak, then leave it out. 

chicken dhansak curry

Chicken dhansak is even amazing paired with a good beer or two.

 

What exactly is a dhansak curry?

The chicken dhansak you get when you order at your local curry house is nothing like what you would get in India.

BIR (British Indian restaurant) chicken dhansak is a play on curry that was made popular by the Parsi community around Mumbai.

There, it is usually made with goat meat or mutton and it’s a real party piece. 

Traditionally, it is served with brown rice and also has vegetables like pumpkin, aubergine (eggplant) and potato added to the sauce as well. Often, many different varieties of lentil are used to make the sauce along with a long list of spices. 

Our curry house style dhansak is a lot less complicated, though it is a sweet and sour curry like the original. Cooked red split lentils are added to the sauce, with lemon juice as a souring agent and pineapple juice and pineapple (sometimes) added for sweetness. 

Working ahead.

This chicken dhansak recipe represents the best of curry house style cooking.

In order to get it right, you will need to make a base curry sauce and also pre-cook your chicken. Pre-cooking the chicken not only speeds up the cooking process, it also adds another layer of flavour. 

Curry Sauce
Each of the authentic British Indian restaurant (BIR) recipes on my blog require a base curry sauce. There is a link to the recipe in the recipe below. Once this is made, you can make many different curry house style curries in about ten minutes.

Pre-cooked chicken
I pre-cook chicken in two ways. Most Indian restaurants use this method to prepare their chicken for this curry. In this recipe, the chicken pieces are slow cooked in a spiced broth. You could add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking juices to your curry for extra flavour.

You could also add tandoori style chicken tikka to this recipe if you’d like to create tandoori Chicken Dhansak.

Substitutes for chicken…

This chicken dhansak can be made with other ingredients too. 

Just like when you go out for a curry and see dhansak on the menu, you can choose what goes into the sauce.

King prawns, lamb, keema, paneer are all good substitutes. 

Following are step by step photos of me cooking chicken dhansak…

Preparing ingredients for chicken dhansak

Always prepare your ingredients before starting. This saves time and it also makes the cooking process easier.

Frying turmeric

Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat and stir in the garlic and ginger paste and turmeric. Fry for 30 seconds.

Adding spices and tomato puree to the pan

Add the spices and stir. Then add the tomato puree, stirring again to combine.

Adding base sauce and lentils

Add the lentils and a ladle of the base sauce. Top up the sauce as needed.

adding chicken to pan

Stir in the pre-cooked chicken.

simmering chicken dhansak

Bring to a simmer and add more base sauce if looking dry. If too saucy, cook it down.

simmering chicken dhansak

Stir in the pineapple juice, pineapple pieces (if using) and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste and garnish with the chopped coriander (cilantro).

 

 

 

Here are some more curry house favourites you might like to try!

Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Korma
Chicken Madras
Lamb Rogan Josh
Lamb Vindaloo
Chicken Chilli Garlic
Chicken Patia
Lamb Bhuna

Chicken dhansak curry

Delicious served with Basmati rice.

finished dhansak

Dig in!

Yield: 2

How To Make Chicken Dhansak

Chicken dhansak
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp mixed powder
  • 2 tsp chilli powder (more or less to taste)
  • 70ml (1/4 cup) tomato puree
  • 90g (1/4 cup) red split lentils (rinsed and cook until soft - about 30 minutes)
  • 250ml (1 cup) approx. heated base curry sauce
  • 350g (11oz) pre-cooked chicken
  • 60ml (scant 1/4 cup) pineapple juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 100ml pineapple juice
  • 2 - 3 tinned (canned) pineapple rings - cut into pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro)

Instructions

  1. Heat the ghee/oil over medium heat. Add the turmeric and the ginger and garlic paste and let sizzle for about 30 seconds. The turmeric will darken in colour as it cooks.
  2. Stir in the remaining ground spices and fry for a few seconds in the oil.
  3. Add the tomato puree and stir to combine with the spices. Bring to a simmer and then add about one ladle of base sauce. The base sauce should be added as required. If the curry is looking dry, add more base sauce. If too saucy, cook it down.
  4. Add the cooked lentils and stir it all up. Be careful as lentils will burn to the bottom. Stir often and reduce the heat if necessary.
  5. Now add the chicken pieces and the pineapple juice and pineapple pieces. Remember to add more base as required.
  6. Season with salt to taste and squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 728Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 705mgCarbohydrates: 88gFiber: 17gSugar: 48gProtein: 23g

This data was put together using a program. It may not be correct but is a good guide.

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I hope you enjoy this restaurant style chicken dhansak recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you. 
 

Michael

Sunday 21st of November 2021

Hi Dan, your chicken dhansak says “yield: 4” at the top above the title, but at the bottom, just above the calorie count, it says “yield: 2, serving size: 1”. Which is correct? Thanks!!

Dan Toombs

Monday 22nd of November 2021

It just serves 2 - sorry for the confusion. You can double it easily. Thanks very much. Dan

Peter Levene

Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Hi Dan, really enjoying your recipes, but unclear about one thing that features in all of them - 'tomato puree'. What is this? The only tomato puree I know is a thick paste either in a jar or a tube. Do you water this down or do you use a tin of smashed up chopped tomatoes or passata?

Dan Toombs

Thursday 20th of May 2021

I use passata that is widely available in all supermarkets and I add a tiny bit of water to thin it out. I am glad you are enjoying my recipes and hope this helps. Thanks very much Dan

Russell Barnes

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

When you say 90g of Red Lentils - is this 90g cooked weight or 90g raw weight?

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

This is the cooked weigh but add more or less to taste. Thanks Dan

Lemonie

Tuesday 22nd of December 2020

Hi. I have already made this once and it was the best curry I have ever made. In the recipe it says 1.5 Tbsp of cumin and coriander powder. Is this 1.5 Tbsp of each or .75 Tbso of each ?

Dan Toombs

Wednesday 23rd of December 2020

It 1.5 tbsp combined. Thanks for checking. Dan

Lynne

Wednesday 18th of November 2020

Hi Dan. Love all your recipes I've tried so far over 2 years and only just found out the base sauce is watered down for the Dhansak etc! Have been using 700 neat base sauce which is delicious but a bit wasteful of the base sauce making effort! Can I check please if 250 ml lentils is the same as 250g, or should I use a measuring jug for them?

Dan Toombs

Thursday 19th of November 2020

Hi - I am really glad you are enjoying my recipes. I would say that 250 ml is about the same as 250 g of lentils but feel free to adjust how much you put in toy our own prefereance. Thanks Dan

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