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Chicken Dhansak Delicious Indian Lentil Curry

Chicken Dhansak is an Indian curry that features a boldly spiced lentil sauce and is considered to be the ultimate Parsi comfort food.

There are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but aside from the time, it is very easy to cook and requires no chefy skills and it will elevate your curry game!

Chicken dhansak lentil curry with kachumber salad.

Chicken and Lentil Curry

I have used the phrase many times here on krumpli, a curry is never just a curry! This chicken dhansak recipe is another one that demonstrates the diversity of that simple name.

Regular readers will know I am somewhat of an Indian food fiend with more than 50 “curry” recipes here already.

Everything from the well known chicken tikka masala and chicken rogan josh to the lesser-known chicken pathia gets a look in.

The Dhansak curry is a Parsi dish from North West India and Pakistan, fusing Gujarati food with Persian ideas.

It is essentially a dhal, cooked with meat and it is traditionally made with mutton or lamb.

Although the chicken variant is also an exceptionally popular dish in both homes and restaurants.

Whilst I was tucking into to a roast chicken for my Sunday Lunch many of my friends with families from Pakistan and Northern Indian were chowing down on a dhansak.

Ovehead chicken dhansak lentil curry with kachumber salad.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to use different types of lentil?

For me, yes because the different lentils all bring different textures, flavours and properties to this recipe.

Can I make this a smooth sauce?

Yes, you can blend the sauce before adding in the chicken and spinach. It makes a very thick almost paste-like sauce.

I prefer to crush some of the lentils with the back of a spoon or ladle against the side of the pan in much the same way I do with my rajma masala curry.

Can this be made in advance?

Yes definitely! It is great sat in the fridge for 2 or 3 days and the flavours will develop over time, and as a result, make this curry even better.

It will thicken up when you reheat it as the lentils break down more, just add a little water or stock to let it down.

Can you freeze a dhansak curry?

Technically it will freeze and be fine to eat for up to 3 months. The flavours may dull a little when it is reheated and the lentils will break down a lot.

I am not keen on freezing this dish, but it is perfectly safe to do so.

Can I turn down the heat?

This is an unashamedly spicy dish, it can be toned down by reducing the number of chilli peppers used or even the type of chilli pepper.

Close up chicken dhansak lentil curry with kachumber salad.

Serving Suggestions.

I often see chicken dhansak curries served with rice, invariably brown rice, however, for me the dish does not need rice, the lentils add more than enough body.

I do however usually add a simple kachumber salad.

The bite of the vegetables and the sharp sweet flavour are the perfect contrast to the thick curry sauce.

The sauce also screams for naan bread which will help get the bowls squeaky clean when you are finished.

But this is a big hearty recipe, so the slightly less filling chapati may be a more prudent choice.

Northern Indian Chicken dhansak lentil curry with kachumber salad.

Equipment Used

I only recommend specific brands of equipment if I believe it makes a material difference to a recipe. If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop.
  • 20cm or 8″ saucepan with a lid.
  • 28cm or 11″ frying pan.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring cups and spoons.
  • Chopping board.
  • Sharp kitchen knife.
  • Mini blender or pestle and mortar.
Northern Indian Chicken dhansak lentil curry with kachumber salad.
Yield: 2 Servings

Chicken Dhansak Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes

A chicken Dhansak is a perennial family and restaurant favourite curry. A Parsi recipe from North West India it features a rich boldly spiced lentil sauce.

Ingredients

  • 40g (¼ Cup) Red Lentils
  • 50g (¼ Cup) Toor Dal
  • 75 g (⅓ Cup) Mung Beans
  • 2 Chicken Thighs (Bone-in, Skin on)
  • ½ Tsp Salt
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 200g (1⅓ Cup) Onion
  • 125g (1 medium) Tomato
  • 80g (2 Cups) Spinach
  • 50g (3 Tbsp) Ghee

Wet Masala:

  • 2 Green Chilli Peppers
  • 3 Dried Red Chilli Pepper
  • 30g (Thumb Sized Piece) Ginger
  • 3 Cloves Garlic

Dry Masala:

  • 1 Tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Ground Turmeric
  • ½ Tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ Tsp Asafoetida
  • ½ Tsp Black Mustard Seeds
  • ½ Tsp Ground Cardamom
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ Tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves

Instructions

Start the Lentils:

  1. Wash the lentils, toor dal and mung beans, then add them to a medium (20cm or 8") saucepan.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and bay leaf.
  3. Add enough cold water to cover and season half of a teaspoon of salt.
  4. Bring to a boil.
  5. Whilst this is happening, peel and slice half of the onion into 1cm thick half-moons.
  6. Roughly chop your tomato into 1.5-2cm (½"-¾") chunks .
  7. Add the onion and tomato to the lentils, add a lid, reduce the temperature to low, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.

The wet masala:

  1. Deseed the chillies, you can leave the seeds in but it will be a very hot curry!
  2. Peel the ginger and garlic.
  3. Now add all of the ingredients for the wet masala into a mini blender or pestle and mortar.
  4. Add just enough hot water to get it to come together as a smooth paste and set aside.

The dry masala:

  1. Place all of the ground ingredients in a bowl and mix.

Returning to the lentils:

  1. Remove the chicken drumsticks from the pan and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Check the lentils if the mung beans need another 5 or 10 minutes then simmer for a little longer.
  3. Once cooked strain the lentil pan and reserve the liquid.
  4. Strip the chicken from the bone discarding both the skin and bone.
  5. Cut the remaining half of the onion into a 1cm (½") cubes.
  6. Heat the ghee in a wide-based (28cm or 11") frying pan over a medium-high heat.
  7. Cook the diced onion for 10 minutes until it begins to take on a colour.
  8. Add the wet masala and cook for 2 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle in the dry masala and cook for 60 seconds.
  10. Pour in the lentil mix crushing it gently with the back of a lentil until you get a nice rough textured dal.
  11. Add as much of the cooking liquid as you like to form a consistency that you like.
  12. Add the shredded chicken and spinach.
  13. Stir for long enough to warm the chicken and wilt the spinach.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 707Total Fat: 42gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 295mgSodium: 312mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 9gSugar: 8gProtein: 53g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!

Karen

Friday 10th of September 2021

Hi Brian, I've made quite a few of your curries and they have been fantastic . I've been reading through your dhansak recipe and I think I'm missing something! Do you add all the onion to the lentils? Later on you say add the remaining onion. Also does the tomato go in the water with the lentils? Making this tonight.

Karen

Friday 10th of September 2021

@Brian Jones, Thank you Brian for editing your recipe. It makes perfect sense now. Really looking forward to this tonight. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipes. Friday night is homemade curry night.

Brian Jones

Friday 10th of September 2021

Hi Karen... I've had a read through the recipe and you are right it is not as clear as it could be, I have rewritten it so that it should clear up the questions.

Half of the onion and the tomato goes in with the lentils, the other half get fried later and cooked with the wet and dry masalas, before you bring it all together.

I hope that is better, thanks for taking the time to ask the question, it helps me make my site better :)

Brian

Tom

Monday 15th of April 2019

Hi Brian, Dhansak is a big favourite in my house and I'll definitely give this a go. I like to leave a smattering of whole lentils for a bit of texture. Just one query, the calories quoted per serving at the bottom state 2411 per serving? Hope this is a typo?

Brian Jones

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

Holy crap, I missed that one... I changed to a different nutrition calculator a short while ago as my old one was massively inaccurate. This one proves to be a bit more accurate although it seems to have an issue with the use of the word 'chili', I've updated and slashed the calories by almost 1,400 per serving, I am a diet god ;) Enjoy and thanks for the heads up :)

paul edwards

Monday 19th of November 2018

Bit nervous about the colour Brian. Also I Think I'd take your advice at step 3. Coarse for me. I'll certainly give it a try. I've been thinking of hunting out a lentil recipe for some time. Dhansak would be a good start for the spices I acquired in UK last week. Keep them coming. Monday treat.

Paul in Thailand.

Brian Jones

Thursday 22nd of November 2018

Cheers Paul... The colour comes from the Spinach, you can omit that and you will get the more familiar 'golden tones', you could also leave the spinach in and not blend to leave chunky as you mention. But I hate the waytat the flecks of spinach look so it is as much about presentation for me ;)

I need to make a trip to fill up my store cupboard soon, fortunately, my round trip is only a 5-600km and not 1,000's. Enjoy!

kim

Monday 12th of November 2018

I've never had anything like this before, but it sounds absolutely fabulous! I cannot wait to give this a try!

Brian Jones

Thursday 15th of November 2018

Enjoy!

sue | the view from great island

Monday 12th of November 2018

All your food is stunning ~ and we spend far too much on Indian take out in this house! I love how you've styled this curry, I can't take my eyes off it :)

Brian Jones

Thursday 15th of November 2018

Thank you Sue :)

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