Chicken Dhansak Recipe – Sweet and Tasty With Lentils

chicken dhansak I thought I’d kick off with a chicken dhansak recipe, as I wanted to try out the Misty Ricardo curry base sauce I made. I’ve got loads of it in the freezer, so this is going to be the first of several blog posts on how to make BIR curries.

A dhansak is a tasty medium hot curry, popular in Indian restuarants in the UK. It contains red split lentils – or daal – which is pre-cooked and then added directly during the cooking process. It’s not one I’ve ever tried in the past, as I was never really a fan of lentils. That despite never having tried them. They’re fine!

The first thing to say is that I’m using Misty Ricardo’s recipe here, with a few modifications. I’ll note what I changed, so you can choose either his or mine. Whichever is no problem.

BIR cookery is all about building up those layers of flavour, so Misty often goes the extra mile, creating spicy onion pastes from scratch, and adding ingredients that I didn’t want to add (or didn’t have to hand!)

Misty Ricardo’s Chicken Dhansak Recipe

Let’s jump straight in to his Youtube video, for those of you who would rather watch instead of read. You can find other great BIR recipes on his channel.

Learn how to make the base gravy for BIR curries HERE.

Modifications to the Recipe

I didn’t tinker with this too much, using ordinary white sugar instead of jaggery. And pineapple isn’t something I normally add to main course dishes. I don’t know, it just feels a bit, weird? So no sweet and sour Chinese recipes on this site yet either!

Anyway, I’m blathering. So no pineapple. There’s also no onion paste in my version as I didn’t have time. If you want to push the boat out, here’s Misty’s onion paste recipe.

And obviously, if you love the sound of pineapple in this recipe, go ahead. I promise not to stop you!


  • cooking oil, 45 ml
  • garlic ginger paste, 1 tbsp
  • methi (dried fenugreek leaves), 1 tsp
  • blended tomatoes, 5 tbsp
  • chili powder, 0.5 tsp
  • Mix Powder, 1.25 tsp
  • 2 green cardamom pods, split open
  • salt, pinch (about 0.25 tsp)
  • 1 chicken breast, diced and pre-cooked
  • Base Gravy, approx 300-330 ml
  • pre-cooked split red lentils, 6 tbsp
  • (optional) pineapple chunks
  • lime juice, 2 tsp
  • sugar, 1 tbsp
  • (optional) onion paste, 1 tbsp

I used Misty Ricardo’s base curry sauce and mix powder for this recipe. If you already have batches using my own recipes, those are fine to use too.

I’ve linked to the Base Gravy recipes (his and mine) under the video. You can find the recipes for making Mix Powder HERE.

Prepare the Pre-Cooked Ingredients

For this dhansak recipe, it is common (like with all takeaway cooking) to prepare a batch of pre-cooked chicken as well as pre-cooked lentils.

Since I was using Misty Ricardo’s recipe, I also went ahead and used his method for making pre-cooked chicken. But I didn’t bother with the sauce as I was using the chicken straight away. So I followed the process just for the first two minutes of the video.

For the split red lentils, there’s probably a load of different ways of cooking them in the BIR style. I just followed the pack instructions, cooking 6 tbsp of raw lentils in water. Don’t add any salt to the water. This often causes them to go hard, certainly with larger green lentils.

Then drain them and keep them ready for the dhansak.

How to Cook the Recipe

I’ll keep this description fairly brief as you have the video to use as a reference too.

First, add your cooking oil to a hot pan or wok and get it nice and hot. Then add your garlic ginger paste. In my case here, I ran out of pre-made garlic ginger paste, so I chopped fresh garlic cloves (4-5 small ones) and a 1 inch piece of fresh root ginger.

frying garlic ginger paste

Next, add the dried fenugreek leaves (methi), stir them through the garlic and ginger until fragrant and then add the blended tomatoes.

making tomato curry base

After cooking out the tomatoes for a minute add a small amount of Base Gravy to keep the heat under control and prevent any burning.

Then it’s time for those all important spices. So add the chili powder, Mix Powder, cardamom pods and salt. Stir it all together and cook for a little while before adding the pre-cooked chicken pieces.

adding precooked chicken to curry sauce

Begin gradually adding your Base Gravy in portions. I generally use three equal sized ladles, but you’ll notice that Misty Ricardo starts off with two consecutive 75ml portions, followed at the end by a larger 150ml dose. Seems just fine. Again, you decide how you want to do it, as long as it all gets added eventually.

Cook vigorously, and with minimal stirring after each addition. Obviously don’t let it burn, but a little caramelization is good – actually preferred for the right flavour.

finishing cooking chicken dhansak

Immediately after addition of the final amount of gravy, then add the pre-cooked lentils and stir them through the sauce. This is the time to add the pineapple pieces if you are including them.

Continue cooking hard to reduce the sauce to the right consistency. You’ll see the red oil begin to rise to the surface when it is done. Add the lime juice and sugar, followed by the onion paste (if using). Stir everything together and keep it cooking for a minute or so.

And that’s it! A lovely medium hot chicken dhansak with lentils. Just serve it with rice or Indian breads, garnished with a small sprinkle of garam masala and some fresh chopped coriander.

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