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Member recipe

Meat or Tofu Dhansak

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(9 ratings)

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Serves 4

Dhansak is a hot, sweet, and sour Bangladeshi Dish.

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  • 125 ml uncooked red lentils
  • 3 tbsp oil (I use olive oil)
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 600 g chicken, beef, or tofu cut into cubes
  • 65 ml tomato paste or 125 ml crushed ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp crushed dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
  • 250 ml chicken or meat stock (175 ml, if crushed tomatoes used)
  • 125 ml yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar (I use a sugar substitute)
  • salt taste (I do not use salt)
  • -------------------------------------------------
  • Spice Mix:
  • 4 tsp *Dhansak Masala (see below)
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp of ground ginger (mixed with water to a paste)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
  • (Mix these spice spices together, add a little water, and make into a thin paste)
  • -------------------------------------------------
  • *Dhansak Masala Mix:
  • 20 tsp cumin (ground)
  • 12 tsp coriander (ground)
  • 8 tsp turmeric (ground)
  • 8 tsp garam masala
  • 8 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 tsp chili (ground)
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (ground)
  • 1 tsp cardamom (ground)


    1. In a small thick bottomed saucepan (with a lid), rinse and cover the lentils with water to twice their depth. Bring to a simmer, and cook on very low heat until all the water has been absorbed and the lentils can be crushed into a paste.
    2. After starting off the lentils, place the oil in a large heated frying pan (with a lid). Add and fry the onion on medium-high for 5 minutes, stirring frequently until glassy. Add the spice mix, stirring it into the onion, and continue to fry until the oil is seeping out of the spices (add a little water if sticking).
    3. Add chicken, lamb, or (partially pre-fried) tofu pieces and fry until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste or crushed tomatoes, and stock, and stir them in. Put the lid on the pan, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes.
    4. Now add and stir in the mashed lentils and the yoghurt, and continue to simmer with lid on for 10 minutes.
    5. Finally, add the lemon juice, sugar (or sugar substitute), and crushed fenugreek, mix in well and simmer for 15 more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving with boiled Basmati Rice.

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Comments (12)

housey's picture

Best Dhansak that I have made so easy and I have tried a few recipes. BUT I have a large pot of Dhansak masala mix left worth cutting down.

MosCorp's picture

This. Is. Awesome. I've been trying to find a fail safe Chicken Dhansak recipe for years. Sadly you've probably just put most of our local Indian Restaurants out of business.


Billoo's picture

Very good recipe, but it is a tradional Parsee dish, not Bangladeshi. Some of the best I have had served in the Parsee restaurants in Mumbai.

misterenglish's picture

I appreciate what you say, and agree. I said that it was Bangladeshi, because I have understood for a while that a lot of Restaurant Owners in the UK are from Bangladesh, and that the dish was a variation (to fit British tastes) of the traditional Parsee one made in India. It was my understanding, right or wrong, that the Parsee Dish was a Vegetarian one.
However, I bow to your knowledge, as mine may well be incorrect.

charana's picture

Took us a while but was very nice. I was glad to find a recipe which used powdered spices as we don't cook from scratch often and these will keep. we now have a big bag of the base spice mix for next time. I don't like spicy food so we left out all the chilli powder and then near the end split it and added it into half.

misterenglish's picture

Fact is that I generally use fresh ginger and garlic. But I developed the recipe for the powdered variety to make it when I couldn't find those fresh ingredients. I also make Shrimp Dhansak now, and it's very nice.
Also, don't tell anyone, but I ran out of my very large jar of ready made Dhansak Masala about a year ago, and instead of buying all the individual spices to mix, I now use any old Indian Curry Powder, and it's just as good!
As long as you have the Onion, garlic and ginger (preferably the real thing), tomato puree (or similar), lemon juice and yoghurt, to go with it, I find (from practice) you can make a great tasting Dhansak.
Good luck all.
Mister English (Came to Toronto from Brighton in 1982).

Reb35's picture

Delicious! Added chilli flakes to my taste and it was fantastic. I made this for the first time last week and I enjoyed it so much that I made it again this week. Added a tin of pineapple because although I know this isn't the authentic Indian way to make it, I like it with pineapple chunks. Did not add the juice to the sauce though because I didn't want to ruin the flavour of the sauce. Takes quite a long time to cook this dish but it isn't a huge amount of effort as most of this is simmering time. Well worth the wait when it's ready!

Lynee's picture

This is the best Dhansak I have had since leaving the UK 4yrs ago - looks difficult but is really easy to follow. I only made a quarter of the masala mix this is enough for two to three curries - so good it promoted me to join, I look forward to trying other recipe.

Look forward to making it next week with the left over masala mix - will be even easier.

Queenie75's picture

Cooked this yesterday - it was so lovely it prompted me to create an account and leave a review. Dhansak is my favourite takeaway choice and there seem to be very few recipes for it on the main cookery sites. Thank you to whoever contributed this one!
Don't be put off by the "for a keen cook" tag, although the ingredients list initially looks long, it's actually very simple to make. Like another poster I made a smaller amount of the masala powder (approx 1/4) - and there's enough left for another 2 or 3 curries. We also didn't have some of the dried spices to hand so swapped ground ginger for fresh, chilli powder for dried flakes and ground cardamon for lemon salt. I also ended up using toddler fromage frais instead of yoghurt and had no fenugreek so omitted that entirely! Despite all our improvisations, it was lovely, with a thick texture and very tasty with a nice warm "afterburn" - will definitely be making again soon!

liferiley's picture

One of the tastiest curries I've ever made!! Loved it, but as mentioned, could do with a touch more heat for me. The flavour is amazing though. I reduced the quantities of the Dhansak Massala Mix that I made, as this makes an awful lot, and you only need 4 tsp's of it, but will definitely be making again, soon.

misterenglish's picture

Hope you do have the life of Riley ... ;) Note that this recipe was devised for Canadians mainly, who unlike me have never eaten hot curries. Even my family (wife's family) who came originally from Trinidad, found my food too hot when I came here in 1982, so now I keep the curries pretty mild. I used to eat Vindaloo and Phal in the UK, in addition to the Dhansak, but I've gradually wound down to my wife's tastes.
Incidentally, after I ran out of my large stock of Dhansak Masala, I decided to try using simple ready made West Indian or India curry powder, and found that it still produces pretty good Dhansaks.
Incidentally, I'm also the family's main Trini curry cook ... ;)

suemumd's picture

This was a simple dish to prepare and cook. It was delicious, and the cooking smells were delightful. I would add a little more chilli powder, or some fresh chilli, to make it a hotter dish. It was loved by all the family and I will definitely be cooking it again, especially as I now have the Dhansak Masala ready prepared in the cupboard.

I didn't have any fenugreek leaves, but it was still very tasty.

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Tips (1)

misterenglish's picture

This is my recipe, and because I haven't the slightest idea of how to add to it or make changes, I would just like to say that it was written as is, with just ground spices, for the benefit of those who might not have fresh ginger or garlic available, to show that it can be made solely with ground spices. Fact is that I live in a large city, with a little India, amongst other ethnic markets, and nearly always use fresh ginger and garlic myself. Also, I adjusted the recipe for those who cannot deal with very hot curry, when the fact is that I will often use very hot chilies, or a lot more ground chili powder, or both. My favourites when I lived in the UK were Chicken or Lamb Dhansak, Chicken Vindaloo, and sometimes chicken Paal - or whatever the correct spelling is - which is like fire on the tongue. I've moderated my recipes to mild to moderate for the benefit of my wife and my wife's family, who found my chile-con-carne and then curries a little too hot when I first started cooking food for them ...
Regards from an Ex Pat Englishman.
Mister English