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Indian Chicken Dhansak Curry

A Parsi recipe from Northwest India and Pakistan, chicken dhansak is a curry as popular in Indian homes as it is in Indian Restaurants.

Portrait image of a chicken dhansak curry served with kachumber salad in a white bowl

Lentil and Chicken Curry.

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

Regular readers will know I am somewhat of a curry fiend with more than 3 dozen Indian curry recipes here already.

Everything from the ubiquitous chicken tikka masala 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 exceptionally popular chicken curry recipe.

It is also very similar to rajma masala, a kidney bean curry from the same region.

Many of my Indian friends in the UK would consider a dhansak curry a traditional “Sunday Lunch”.

Portrait overhead image of a chicken dhansak curry served with kachumber salad in a white bowl

How To Cook A Dhansak Curry.

The first thing to do is not to panic! Yes, that ingredient list is long… Really, really long!

If you break this recipe down you have four parts.

  • The “Dhal”.
  • The Meat.
  • A Dry Massala.
  • A Wet Massala.

Taking each of the parts separately makes the dish far less intimidating to make.

You can use any lentil you like for the dhal, I prefer to use a mix, but if you only have one type then so be it.

The same thing goes for the vegetables, use whatever you have. Everything from regular potatoes to carrots and aubergine (eww) to pumpkin are all good.

Chuck em all in the pan with the meat and vegetables, the meat stays beautifully moist. You pick the meat from the bone later and return to the curry.

It is up to you whether you blend or mash your dhal.

I prefer to blitz mine to a smooth paste, but if you want to stay chunky then feel free to do so!

Finally there are two masalas one, wet and one dry.

There are a lot of ingredients in them, but in reality there is very little skill involved in preparing them.

Portrait close up image of a chunky kachumber salad with a dhansak curry in the background

Serving Suggestions.

I often see 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 smooth curry.

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

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

Square image of a chicken dhansak curry served with kachumber salad in a white bowl
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 lentil sauce.


  • 30 g (1 oz) Red Lentils
  • 30 g (1 oz) Split Yellow Lentils
  • 30 g (1 oz) Mung Beans
  • 400 g (14 oz) Bone in Skin on Chicken Thighs
  • 125 g (4.5 oz) Sweet Potato
  • 200 g (7 oz) Onion
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) Tomato
  • 50 g (1.75 oz) Spinach
  • 50 g (1.75 oz) Ghee

Wet Masala:

  • 2 Green Chilli Pepper
  • 3 Dried Red Chilli Pepper
  • 30 g (1 oz) Ginger
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp Dried Mint

Dry Masala:

  • 1 Tsp Ground Coriander
  • 3/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 3/4 Tsp Ground Turmeric
  • 1/8 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 Tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/8 Tsp Ground Fenugreek
  • 1/8 Tsp Ground Cloves
  • 2 Green Cardamom
  • 1/2 Tsp Black Mustard Seeds


Start the Lentils:

  1. Soak your red lentils, yellow lentils and mung beans for a minimum of 4 hours.
  2. Drain the lentils and place in a pan with the chicken thighs.
  3. Add enough cold water to cover and season generously with salt.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce the temperature to low, add a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Whilst this is happening, slice the onion into 1cm thick half moons.
  6. Dice your sweet potato into 1cm dice and roughly chop your tomato.
  7. After 15 minutes add the half the onion, all of the sweet potato and tomato to the pan.
  8. Add a lid and cook for another 30 minutes.

The wet masala:

  1. Deseed the chillies, you can leave the seeds in but it will be a very hot curry, this way we get maximum flavour with a pleasant heat!
  2. Peel the ginger and garlic.
  3. Now add all of the ingredients for the wet masala into a mini blender.
  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.
  2. Crush the cardamom pods and remove the shells and add the seeds to the bowl.
  3. Lightly crush the mustard seeds and add to the bowl and set aside.

Returning to the lentils:

  1. By now the lentil, vegetable and meat mix should have had 30 minutes, check the sweet potato is soft and then fish out the chicken thighs and set aside.
  2. Strain the remaining lentil and vegetable mix reserving some of the liquid.
  3. Add this to a blender with the spinach.
  4. Blend to a paste using the cooking liquid to get the desired texture. Make it as smooth or chunky as you wish!
  5. Strip the chicken from the bone discarding both the skin and bone.
  6. Heat the ghee in a wide based frying pan over a medium high heat.
  7. Add the remaining onion and cook until golden.
  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 pureed lentils and shredded chicken.
  11. Reduce to low, have a taste and add salt as required, then cook for another 15 minutes.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 866Total Fat: 54gSaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 320mgSodium: 476mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 11gSugar: 14gProtein: 57g

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!

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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!


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


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 :)


Monday 12th of November 2018

This is one of my husbands favourite curries and we make it every couple of weeks. So much flavour!

Brian Jones

Thursday 15th of November 2018

It certainly does pack a big old punch of flavour!