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Chicken Dhansak from Scratch

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Make this chicken dhansak from scratch with or without pineapple.

When if comes to curry house style chicken dhansak, there are two groups of fans… Those who like pineapple in their curry and those that don’t. You can make this chicken dhansak from scratch, just as you like it.

This chicken dhansak from scratch recipe is just like those you get at the best curry houses but you don’t need to prepare a base curry sauce first. You will also find links to popular side dishes to enjoy your chicken dhansak with.

Chicken dhansak from scratch

No base sauce needed! This recipe will get you restaurant quality results.

What is the difference between this chicken dhansak from scratch and curry house cooking?

You will not taste any real difference in the flavour. If anything, this chicken dhansak from scratch will be better than what you get at the best curry houses. 

At curry houses around the UK, the chefs use a base curry sauce to prepare everything from the mildest kormas to the spiciest vindaloos and phaals.

If you would like to try a chicken dhansak done the curry house way, I have you covered. Try this recipe. 

What do you serve chicken dhansak with?

If you’d like to make this curry into a feast, you’ve come to the right place. You could just go for a side of Basmati rice or mushroom fried rice.

If you’d like to make naans, why not try one of these?  Instant naans, Peshwari naans, stove top naans, keema naans, garlic naans, tandoor naans (if you have a tandoor oven), or if you’re cooking outdoors, karahi naans.

Want to start your chicken dhansak meal off with a bang? How about fried shop bought poppadoms or if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own poppadoms from scratch and serve them with coriander chutney, red onion chutney, and/or tamarind chutney.

Which cut of chicken?

At curry houses, pre-cooked tandoori chicken breast or stewed chicken breasts are used. I prefer thigh meat as it has more flavour. 

As with restaurant style cooking, I used pre-cooked tandoori style chicken in this recipe.

You could use raw chicken too. You might need to add a bit more water or chicken stock to help the chicken cook through.

Do I have to use chicken?

Absolutely not! Beef, lamb, game whatever. You could also make this into a vegetarian dhansak but adding seasonal veggies or paneer.

How to get this chicken dhansak just right.

You should taste the sauce as you go adjusting the flavours as you like. Add more tamarind for a tarter flavour. Perhaps more or less chilli powder. You have the recipe for the way I like it but that can easily be adjusted to taste.

Yes or no to pineapple chunks.

Many curry houses add pineapple chunks to their dhansaks. There are a lot, however that don’t.

If you like fruit in your curry, add it. If not, leave it out. The pineapple juice in the sauce, however is a must in my opinion. 


About the lentils…

Use split red lentils for this recipe. They can be soaked and cooked in about 20 minutes.

You could also use leftover dhal if you have any on hand.


If you like this chicken dhansak from scratch, you might like to try some of these too…

Chicken Tikka Masala from Scratch
Chicken Dopiaza from Scratch
Beef Madras from Scratch
Chicken Vindaloo from Scratch
Rogan Josh from Scratch
Chicken Korma from Scratch
Chicken Chilli Garlic Curry From Scratch
Keralan Lamb Stir Fry

Step by step photos…

Ingredients for chicken dhansak from scratch

Get all of your ingredients together before starting. It’s a lot easier.

Frying onions, garlic and ginger in the pan

Fry the onions over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Then stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for a further 30 seconds.

Adding tomatoes, stock and pineapple juice to the pan

Stir in the ground spices and then add the chopped tomatoes, 125ml (1/2 cup) water or stock and the pineapple juice.

Blending sauce

Take off the heat and allow to cool some. Then blend this sauce until smooth.

Simmering the smooth sauce in the pan

Pour the blended sauce back into the pan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.

Adding tamarind sauce and chicken to the pan

Stir in the chicken and tamarind sauce.

Adding cooked lentils to the pan

Now add about a cup of cooked lentils. You could add more or less but the more you add, the thicker the sauce will be.

Adding the optional pineapple to the curry

Add the pineapple chunks if using.

Finishing off the chicken dhansak

Add the chopped coriander and lemon juice. Check for seasoning and add salt to taste.

Chicken dhansak from scratch

Dig in!

Yield: 4

Chicken Dhansak from Scratch

Chicken dhansak from scratch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 4 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp Madras curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ tsp each of paprika, cumin and coriander
  • 200g tinned (canned) chopped tomatoes
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) pineapple juice
  • 3 tinned (canned) pineapple rings, cut into small pieces
  • 700g (1 3/4 lb) cooked or raw chicken
  • 1 tbsp tamarind sauce
  • 180g (1 cup) cooked red split lentils
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • Coriander to garnish


  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and stir in the onions over a medium high heat. Fry the onions until soft and translucent. About 5 minutes should do the job.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger paste and stir it in. Fry for about 30 seconds and then add the ground spices, chopped tomatoes and 125ml (1/2 cup) water or unsalted chicken stock and the pineapple juice.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow to cool some. Then blend this sauce until smooth.
  4. Pour the blended sauce back into the pan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Add the chicken and tamarind sauce. Bring the cooked chicken up to heat or if using raw chicken, simmer in the sauce until cooked through. You might need to add more stock to aid in cooking.
  5. Continue simmering the sauce, only stirring if it is sticking to the pan. If any caramelises to the side of the pan, scrape it back into the sauce for added flavour.
  6. If your sauce is too thick, add more sauce or water. If too thin, cook it down some. Now add the cooked lentils and stir them into the sauce.
  7. To finish, add the chopped pineapple (if using) and the lemon juice and chopped coriander (cilantro). Season with salt to taste.
  8. Serve garnished with more chopped coriander (cilantro) if you like with white rice.

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I hope you enjoy this chicken dhansak from scratch. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. 


Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Just made this for the first time. Really quick and easy. I think I put too many tomatoes in, but still what an amazing recipe! Thanks a lot

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Fantastic! Thanks very much Dan


Monday 31st of October 2022

Hi Dan

you say 1 tps twice in your ingredients so do i read this as 2 or is it a typo

ive made your naga curry twice now it is amazing also itv ordered your curry bible

Kind regards


Dan Toombs

Thursday 3rd of November 2022

Sorry, that is a typo, I will get that changed, thanks for noticing. Thank you for ordering my book too! Dan


Sunday 14th of August 2022

I'm a little confused as to why there is pineapple in Dhansak. This is a traditional Parsi dish and I can assure you there is no pineapple juice or chunks in it.

Ryan B

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

Apologies Dan, couldn’t see it for looking at it! lol . . . Another tremendous recipe, thanks buddy

Ryan B

Thursday 18th of August 2022

@Dan Toombs, I can seem to see in the recipe when you’re meant to put the split red lentils in? . . . A little help buddy? lol

Dan Toombs

Monday 15th of August 2022

Leave the pineapple out if you don't like it but there is pineapple in a Dhansak in most Indian restaurants in the UK. Dan


Monday 8th of August 2022

Hello Dan, Are these recipes from scratch in a book? I have the Bible and love the recipes from base sauce but want to try some of these but would like them in a book. Many thanks Wendy

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

They are not in any of my books yet but will be featuring in my next book out Autumn next year. Thanks Dan

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