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Chicken dhansak in a pan with rice and coriander

Chicken Dhansak

  • Author: caroline
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


With tender chicken in a creamy lentil sauce incorporating sweet & sour flavours, Chicken Dhansak is perfect when you need something filling & comforting.

The default recipe serves 4.


Units Scale

for the lentils…

  • 100g red split lentils (see notes 1,2)
  • 350ml water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

for the curry…

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium onions, sliced into quarters
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 tbsp oil (vegetable or rapeseed/canola)
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree (tomato paste in the US)
  • 500g boneless and skinless chicken thigh, chopped (see note 3)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

for the spice mix…

  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp chilli powder


  1. Rinse and drain the lentils 2-3 times to remove any grit. Add to a pan with the water, bay leaves and turmeric. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a low simmer and cover. Cook for around 20 minutes.
  2. While the lentils are cooking start the curry. Add the garlic cloves to a food processor and blitz until chopped. Add the onions and process further until you have a slack paste. Finally, add the ginger paste and give it a final whizz to combine everything. Alternatively, you can grate the onion and garlic and then mix everything together.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. It will splutter a little in the beginning. (see note 4)
  4. Add the spice mix to the pan and stir everything together for 30 seconds, to ‘bloom’ the spices and allow them to release their aroma.
  5. Add the tomato puree to the pan and then add the chicken. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly until the chicken is sealed on all sides.
  6. Add the sugar to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  7. Once the lentils are cooked, use a whisk to stir through them to break them down further. They should be very creamy and soft.
  8. Add the lentils to the pan along with any residual water they were cooking in. Add the lemon juice and let everything simmer for a further 5 minutes. If it looks a little dry add more water. If there is too much liquid in the curry then simmer it more to reduce it down.
  9. Serve with rice or naan bread.


  1. Most of the red lentils you’ll find in supermarkets are split (you’ll be able to see they are flat on one side where they are split in half). However, if you have whole lentils increase the cooking time by 5-10 minutes.
  2. Red lentils don’t need soaking.
  3. While thigh meat gives the most tender result, you can use chicken breast if preferred.
  4. You may notice that the onions turn a bit of a green shade when cooking. This is because of a chemical reaction which is exacerbated by cooking it with garlic. It’s perfectly safe and once you add the spices to the pan is completely unnoticeable!
  5. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating and heat on the hob/stove or in the microwave.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Curry
  • Method: Hob
  • Cuisine: Indian


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 460
  • Fat: 22g
  • Carbohydrates: 34g
  • Protein: 34g

Keywords: indian, curry, spicy, hot, dinner, lentils