Dhansak in eight easy steps

Image Credit: Aneesh Bhasin, Indian WineList

Image Credit: Aneesh Bhasin, Indian WineList

Dhansak is a newly wed bawi’s kryptonite and has been mine for a very long time as well.

It doesn’t help that all the recipes online /in cook-books have enough steps to scare the living daylights out of me. And, since the mom-in-law has so far been chief Dhansak maker, it means that I have to live up to my mom, in-laws and the Mr. standards.

However,  there is no greater joy than facing your fears which is what I exactly did last week and it turned out amazing! So amazing in fact that at a pop-up event I participated in and sold the Dhansak at later, award-winning photographer Aneesh Bhasin asked if we could do a wine-pairing session together. To read more on what wine he recommends with Dhansak, click here.

Trust me, don’t let Dhansak be your kryptonite – it’s much simpler than you think it is and if you’re still in doubt, below is my eight – step recipe for Dhansak:

1 & 2. First, soak the dals and marinate the your meat in salt/ginger-garlic paste either overnight or 4 -5 hours prior to you cooking. This step is crucial to ensure that the dal comes out smooth and the meat becomes tender so don’t cut corners here.

Chicken Marinating

Marinating chicken in salt and ginger-garlic paste

Three Dals for Dhansak

Three Dals for Dhansak

Dals soaking

Soaking the dals until they expand

3. Prepare a step further and before you even switch on the gas, finely chop the pumpkin, onion and capsicum. If you want to use fresh methi (a small handful or your dal will get bitter) rather than methi seeds chop that now too.

Vegetables chopped and prepped

Vegetables chopped and prepped

4. Now you are ready to begin. In a big pressure cooker, saute the onion with oil and a tsp of ginger garlic paste until the onion becomes golden brown. Add in the masalas and the salt. When you start to cough it means the masalas have cooked and you can add in all the veges to stir fry.

Stir frying veges

Stir frying vegetables with the masalas

5. Once all the vegetables are coated in the masala and have become semi-soft add in all the dal with about 3-4 cups of water.

Veges Cooking

Vegetables, Dals and Water – ready to be cooked

6. Close the cooker and let the whole thing cook for about 3 whistles + 10 mins on slow flame. If you would like to eat your Dhansak vegetarian, simply skip the chicken cooking below and proceed to the final step.

7. However, if you are a meat lover, now, in a separate crockpot, heat up a little oil and add in the chicken. If needed add a little water, close the lid and let it steam cook for about 15 – 20 minutes while the dal is cooking in the other pot. I recommend cooking the meat separately so that it doesn’t overcook and become tough.

Raw chicken with some water

Raw chicken with some water

Chicken cooked in about 20 minutes

Chicken cooked in about 20 minutes

8. Once the dal is off the stove, empty it out of the cooker and into a big crockpot. Give it a quick blend using a hand mixer to make the dal smooth. The dal will be quite thick so you can get it to the right consistency using the chicken stock to add that meaty flavour. Add in the chicken, squeeze in juice of one lemon and let the Dhansak simmer on the stove for another 10 minutes while you scrape away at the dal stuck to the bottom of the cooker.

Dhansak LR

When everyone in your home comes sniffing into the kitchen and the dar starts bubbling your Dhansak is ready. Dhansak is served best with some brown rice and bawa kachubar. Make sure you have enough for leftovers because rumour has it that Dhansak tastes even better the day after it is cooked!

To make enough for 6 very hungry people and some leftovers you will need: 

2 cup toor dal
1 cup moong dal
1 cup orange masoor dal
2 small onions
Ginger-garlic paste to marinate the meat
2 teaspoons each of turmeric, red chilli, garam masala, and dry dhansak masala powders
2 tsp of methi seeds
1 small slice pumpkin
1 small capsicum
2 small brinjals (about 1 cup chopped)
1 kg mutton/chicken pieces washed and cleaned
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon

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  1. Ayesha says

    Outstanding!! Bawi Bride, you have earned your chops and my respect.
    Do you have a favourite brand of masala?
    The dhansak looks mouth-watering, needless to say.

      • Shireen Dordi says

        Hi Perzen,

        I really cant thank you enough for this lovely blog, may Ahura Mazda always keep you happy and smiling, my every day agaony of how to cook a particular dish and what to cook finally seems to end, just yesterday I stumbled upon your blog when my friend Shernaz sent me the link.
        Thank You sooooo much for the blog.
        It will finally put an end to my cooking woes.

        • says

          Hi Shireen,

          Thank you so much for stopping by and for your lovely message. It is feedback such as yours that keeps pushing me to try more and more recipes. Happy cooking!

    • Old Monk says

      I usually order Mangal brand Dhanshak Masala from India. Tried one other brand but Mangal was way better (more authentic tasting final product.

      Perzen…love the simplified process. Truly enjoyed your Mawa cake recipe too…got as close as it gets to the Merwan taste.

  2. sangeeta says

    This one got complicated and confused me, as I tried to cook it for 12 people for the first time ever! The end result was good ‘tho, and the guinea pigs were very happy!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    That’s what counts!

  3. francis says

    Your food looks amazing, you must be a real expert for sure. How about laganoo custard?
    Any recipe coming from you has to be the best.

    • says

      Roda – thank you for stopping by and for your feedback. I agree that the dal is meant to be brown in colour and it is brown. Unfortunately, the picture I took while making it makes the dal look yellow due to the lighting. I will try to take a better picture the next time around – I can assure you it does taste like the original thing though 🙂

  4. Shanta Kanjilal says

    Hi Perzen, thanks for sharing the recipe.Tho’ I am not a new bride but want to try this recipe. Please if you can help me with how to make Dhansak Masala. I am from Delhi an not sure if we get it here somewhere.

    • says

      Shanta, thanks for stopping by. I still have to learn how to make it myself. Please do check out Motilal Masalawala-s website though as I believe they can ship to Delhi. Otherwise look for the Mangal brand of Dhansak masala. Stay tuned on the blog – I am planning on experimenting with the masala soon and will post it then.

  5. Jacinto fernandes says

    Hi Perzen,
    Thanks for the recipe. I tried it for Independence day and it was really simple and yes very tasty. Myy first experience of having Chicken Dhansak. I used Mangal Dhansak Masala.
    Any idea how I can prepare my own Dhansak Masala.
    Thanls again and Congrats on your great blog.
    Jacinto F.

    • says

      Hi Jacinto – glad to know that the Dhansak came out great and that you enjoyed eating it. The Mangal Dhansak Masala is a good brand to use for that authentic flavour. I am still in the process of testing a recipe for the home-made masala. Will definitely share it once I’ve tried it out a couple of times. Thanks also for all your wishes 🙂

  6. meenakshi says

    Hi, really want to make this and i have never tasted before so i dont know how does it tastes but in some other sites bloggers have used jaggery, tamarind , why havent you used tamarind and jaggery or sugar? Please reply.

    • says

      Hi Meenakshi,

      Generally the jaggery and sugar will have been mentioned for the caramelised brown rice that is served with Dhansak. I have done the post about the brown rice separately and hence not mentioned these ingredients. Hope this answers your questions.

      • meenakshi says

        Hi , i read jaggery and tamarind in Hildas Touch Of Spice and My Diverse Kitchen, i watched a video vahrevah ,even that chef has used both the ingredients. Please do check these sites .

        • says

          Hi Meenakshi,

          Most people have their own versions of cooking Dhansak – there are probably as many versions as there are Parsis. My recipe is a tried and tested one that my family has used but that’s not to say that the others are wrong. Best is you try both and go with what suits your palate 🙂

  7. Neha says

    Hi Perzen.. Made chicken dhansaak by following your recipe and it was a hit. The easiest recipe I have ever come across of dhansaak and the most delicious one too.. Thanks a lot.

  8. Yvonne Bulsara says

    At last a proper dhansak! Show it to Mary Berry. I hate seeing dishes labelled as something they are not. However jaggeryand tamarind as well as spinach or bindi should be added to dhansak. I use concentrated tamarind and it is added near the end. It should not be added to the rice. I am not a new bride celebrated 55 th anniversary this year 🙂

  9. Thrity Ghadialy says

    Your 8 step recipe for Dhansak was really easy specially for a beginner and the dhansak turned out to be awesome delicious.

    • avesta says


      I’ve always wanted to try Dhansak style chicken.. Finally made it at home & it was just like the one I had at a Parsi joint 🙂

  10. Chitrita Mukherjee says

    I made this Dhansak with your Grandpa’s Kheema Kababs for a full Parsi dinner for my friends and it was soooo good. One of the best I’ve had if I say so myself. My friends were major impressed. Dying to try out the Dhandar Patio now 😀

  11. Sunita Pradhan says

    HI Perzen,
    Will try your recipe tmrw. I saw another recipe for dhansak which used regular masoor instead of the orange one. Confused here. Will let you know how it .turned out.

    Sunita Pradhan

  12. says

    Hi Perzan, Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe. I made dhansak n brown rice as per your recipe and it turned out so yummy.. My son is a fussy eater but this time he also enjoyed it..

  13. Shridevi Karkera says

    Hi Perzen!
    I’m gonna try this out for Saturday lunch. Since,I don’t have a crocpot,what can I use to cook my chicken?
    Also,my Parsi friend used to make dhansak using mutton only. So I’m wondering how will it taste with chicken.
    P.S. Your green chutney recipe was such a hit, my very,very fussy eater(6year old gal) loved it!

  14. Shridevi Karkera says

    You have mentioned methi seeds in the recipe and the ingredients list but it’s not in a he step by step recipe. When do you add methi seeds?
    I’m guessing post onions and ginger garlic paste.
    Let me know if anyone else knows.
    Thanks a lot in advance!

  15. Daisy says

    For someone that does not have a pressure cooker, do you know of an alternative method? Will a slow cooker work for cooking the dal part? Thanks. My son wants to learn.

    • says

      yes you can cook dal both in a slow cooker or on open flame. In both these instances Id recommend that you first soak the dal for a long while at least 4-5 hours or preferably overnight. In the slow cooker, I don’t know the timings but on the high speed I think it takes about 6-7 hours WITH the meat. On open flame you’re looking at about 1 – 2 hours.


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