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Member recipe

Meat or Tofu Dhansak

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(14 ratings)

Member recipe by


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.

Comments, questions and tips

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Alison Donnelly
22nd May, 2017
Delicious but I added a tsp sea salt and an extra 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder for a bit more flavour.
3rd Feb, 2017
Tried posting this as a question but nothing seemed to happen so.... If you were using fresh Ginger and Garlic what quantities would you use?
9th Mar, 2017
Hello Nigel, You're lucky to get a response within little more than a month, since this is the first time I've been on site in over a year. I came on here today in response to a BBC Goodfood email relating to curries (From that, it seems they don't recognize Dhansak as a curry ;). However, when I use fresh, I imagine it would be equivalent to about a 1" cube of Ginger, and half a head of garlic (say 6 or so cloves), chopped or grated. However, I specifically kept the recipe to dried ingredients as far as possible, because when I was there (originally in south-east London), unless one was in one of the big cities in the UK, it was not always easy to find an Indo/Pakistani grocery store. We now have lots in Toronto. Anyway, I'm pleased to find most people like my recipe. As I believe I said on this site somewhere, it only took me about 35 to 40 years to develop it :). I started when my ex. was in London during the week at 'School,' and I had to cook for myself - we lived in Brighton - and it ONLY took me until perhaps 8 years ago to virtually reproduce the flavour that I remembered from 1982, when I left the UK. ;) My first attempt in 1971 (I believe) was terrible. I used turkey drumsticks (which were very fatty) and it tasted awful. I buried it at the bottom of my garden. Next day, my next door neighbour's cat Suki (a Siamese) gave the burial site his seal of approval as a toilet, before covering it up again. You can imagine, it was very disheartening - as were my hundreds of further attempts over the years ;). Thus, it is nice for actual human beings to approve of it now. Well, I'm getting old, but better late than never, don't you think? My regards, Nigel. Graham
18th Nov, 2016
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.
15th Jun, 2016
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. Thanks!
9th Jun, 2015
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.
7th Dec, 2015
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.
3rd May, 2015
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.
10th Mar, 2016
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).
13th Feb, 2015
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!


3rd Feb, 2017
Hi - If you were using fresh Ginger and Garlic, what quantities would you use. Thanks, Nigel
3rd Feb, 2017
Looking forward to trying this recipe. If you were using fresh Garlic and Garlic what quantities would you use?
10th May, 2014
Hi, 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