Hot, tangy and slightly sweet, this homemade chicken dhansak curry is a great curry recipe to make at home. I love recreating our favourite takeaways at home and this dhansak recipe is perfect for an Indian curry night and healthier than a takeaway too! The sauce is packed full of flavour and deliciously thick from the lentils.
Dhansak is one of my husband's favourite curries and when we first met it was the one he used to order the most from our local curry house. So, when I realised this site was missing a great dhansak recipe I knew I had to fix that.
Dhansak is a great curry for anyone who likes lentils and slightly sweet and sour flavours. It's also a versatile curry. You can make it with chicken, lamb or keep it vegetarian.
If dhansak is one of your favourite takeaway choices and you want to recreate it at home then I promise you it's not hard. Like most homemade curries, it's a little bit healthier than a takeaway but still full of flavour. Just like my chicken korma recipe!
This recipe is for chicken dhansak but you can adapt it to use other meats or keep it vegetarian.
So, what ingredients do you need for chicken dhansak?
To make it you'll need:
- Chicken - Skinless thighs or breast meat. My family usually prefer breast but it's completely up to you. Sometimes I use my homemade chicken tikka too.
- Red lentils - These break down as they are cooking. If you like a bit of texture from lentils you can add just a few green lentils as well.
- Onions - I use ordinary brown or red onions. They both work in this dhansak.
- Garlic - You can use fresh garlic cloves or garlic paste
- Ginger - Like with the garlic, you can use fresh root ginger and blend it in a food processor or use a ready made paste.
- Spices: chilli powder, coriander, turmeric, garam masala and fenugreek - Use more or less chilli powder to adjust the heat. You can also add some fresh chillies if you want a really hot dhansak!
- Tinned tomatoes - I always have tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and they are brilliant in recipes like this. If you dont' have tinned tomatoes you can use finely diced fresh tomatoes.
- Tamarind paste - Most large supermarkets sell tamarind paste these days but if you can't get it, just add some extra lemon juice at the end.
- Sugar - Dhansak can be quite a sweet curry. I just add a little sugar but if you really like the sweetness then add a bit more. It can also be replaced by honey or jaggery.
- Stock - I usually use chicken stock but vegetable stock also works. If you don't have any stock you can even use water.
- Lemon - This is for squeezing over when serving. It really adds to this curry's sweet and sour tang!
- Coriander leaf (cilantro) - Again, this is just for serving and you can miss it out if the people you are serving the curry to are not huge fans of coriander.
What to serve with this chicken dhansak curry?
I usually serve this curry with plain basmati rice and sometimes my nigella seed flatbreads. If you are looking for other side dish idea to go with it why not try:
How can you adapt this curry?
If you want to use a different meat instead of chicken then this dhansak is great with lamb too. I usually use lamb neck or shoulder
You can also make it vegetarian by missing out the meat altogether and just adding extra lentils, vegetables or chickpeas.
How hot is a dhansak?
Dhansak is normally a medium spiced curry and this one is not especially hot. It's a great family friendly recipe as long as your family like a bit of heat!
However, if you prefer really hot curries then it is easy to spice it up. You can add some whole chilli peppers to the sauce or a couple of diced chilli peppers along with the ginger and garlic.
Storing and reheating
I love making enough so there are leftovers the next day. I think this chicken dhansak curry tastes just as good if not better after a night in the fridge! You can store it for up to three days in the fridge.
You can reheat it in a saucepan, in the microwave or in the oven. You may need to add a splash of water to stop it from sticking.
Can you freeze it?
Yes of course. If you have any leftovers that you don't want to eat up in the next few days then you can keep it in the freezer for up to three months. I usually store leftover curries in individual containers so it's easy to take out individual portions.
You can defrost it in the fridge overnight or on the kitchen counter at room temperature.
More curry recipes
I love making homemade curries and recreating Indian takeaways at home. Why not check out my chicken Madras too? Or my chicken patia which also has tamarind in? All these recipes are inspired by curry house favourites:
For more curry recipes do check out my easy homemade curries from scratch post!
Chicken Dhansak Curry
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 onion finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 10 g ginger grated
- 2 teaspoon chilli powder use less if you want less heat
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- ¾ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek
- 2 teaspoon garam masala
- 500 g chicken diced
- 70 g red lentils rinsed well
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 400 g chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 lemon
- handful fresh coriander leaf optional
- Pinch salt adjust to suit your tastes
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan
- Cook the chopped onion gently for about 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for a minute, stirring and then stir in the ground spices. Add a tablespoon of water if the pan is too dry.
- Add the chicken pieces. Stir so they get coated in the spices and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the lentils, tomatoes, stock, tamarind and sugar. Bring up to the boil and then immediately cover with a lid and lower to a simmer.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Check the consistency. Simmer for a little longer if there is too much liquid.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You may want to add a little extra sugar or salt. Squeeze on some lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped coriander.
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