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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Here are some more curry house favourites you might like to try!
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- Stir in the remaining ground spices and fry for a few seconds in the oil.
- 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.
- 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.
- Now add the chicken pieces and the pineapple juice and pineapple pieces. Remember to add more base as required.
- Season with salt to taste and squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve.
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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.