chicken dhansak – bengali style

Chicken dhansak is a timeless Indian dish where the humble lentil is transformed into something wonderful. Overlay some big Bengali flavours and it might become a new classic.

Heresy? Maybe. But I like it. A lot. Because it’s just tasty. And it’s way easier than the original. That’s a dish meant for Sunday dinner. For special occasions. Serious business.

This is an easier version of dhansak

This is easy. Chicken dhansak for weeknights. Takes a while to get the lentils cooked. But other than it’s a snap. Make the lentils one evening. Set them aside. Finish it the next night. No rush. No pressure.

Or make it in a single evening. Totally doable if you start early enough. This chicken dhansak is a hurry up and wait kind of recipe. Most of the time is spent watching it cook.

Or doing other stuff. Lentils take a while to get to mush. And mush is where the magic is.

Chicken dhansak in a black bowl with paratha.

That mush is the sauce. The creamy coating that wraps every bite of chicken. Perfect for dipping Indian flatbreads into. Mush into magic. That’s what this is about.

Chicken dhansak with a bengali twist

The flavour profile is different from classic chicken dhansak. Bengali flavours. Mustard seed. Cumin seed. Panch phoran. I think the only thing that could make this more Bengali is if you put potatoes into it.

Panch phoran is going to take a trip to an Indian grocer. Count on that. But that’s always the case with Indian recipes. There are lots of other things to get. If you are getting into Indian cooking you will need to start collecting spices anyway.

Panch phoran is Bengali five spice. A blend of whole spices. Cumin. Mustard seed. Fenugreek. Nigella. Fennel.

Somehow these five spices come together into something that just works. Perfectly. Once you try it you’ll understand. It comes pre-mixed so just pick up the package labeled panch phoran and you are golden.

chicken dhansak from above with rice and parathas.

Bone-in chicken cooks in the lentils

Bone-in chicken makes a difference. And dark meat is always better for braised dishes. Two things you really need to stick to. Play with the spices. Try different things. But make sure that you use dark meat. On the bone.

The chicken cooks in the lentils. The juices from the chicken become part of the sauce. That’s important. Really brings it together. Puts the chicken into chicken dhansak. Boneless chicken breast just cannot compete.

Try the lentils after you add the tomato mixture. Then try it once the chicken is cooked. You’ll see. Before – lentil dish. After –  chicken dhansak – Bengali style.

chicken dhansak in a black bowl close up.

This is homestyle cooking. Not what you get in restaurants. What people cook for family. For good friends. There are lots of flashy restaurant style dishes on this blog – including a dhansak curry.

But sometimes comfort food is what you need. And this is comfort food. If you like Indian. And you like lentils. This chicken dhansak could be just what you need. Easy. And really tasty. How can you go wrong?

Chicken dhansak in a black bowl from above - close up.
Chicken dhansak in a karai - from above.
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4.95 from 19 votes

chicken dhansak – bengali style

Chicken dhansak bengali style is a different take on a Parsi classic. It’s less work and just as tasty. 
Course Main
Cuisine Indian
Keyword chicken curry, dhansak, indian chicken curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 573kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The dal

  • 1 1/2 cups masoor dal – red split lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

The chicken dhansak

  • 1 two inch piece of cinnamon bark – also known as cassia bark
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp panch phoran – bengali whole spice mix
  • 1-2 tsp kashmiri chili powder – depending how hot you like it
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic ginger paste – make your own following the link below. It’s so much better than store bought.
  • 2 medium tomatoes about 12 oz, diced
  • 2 green finger hot chilies seeded and diced. Or one jalapeño, seeded and diced.
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 8 chicken thighs or 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks, skinless
  • 1 tsp kosher salt to start – you will need more.


Prepare the lentils

  • Combine the lentils, water and turmeric in a pot large enough to hold the final curry. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are mushy. You want to bring them to a boil uncovered and then cover when you reduce to a simmer. I’ve had lentils boil over more times than I care to mention. Messy stuff.
  • Give them a stir every now and then while they cook. Sometimes they stick to the bottom a bit right when they get to the mush stage. Keep an eye on them. They will cook more with the chicken. Ultimately you want the lentils to fully disintegrate. A little thick at this stage is OK. The chicken will throw some liquid as it cooks.

Prepare the seasoning masala or tempering

  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the cinnamon and cook until little bubbles form around it. This takes 20-30 seconds.
  • Now add the mustard seed, panch phoran and cumin seed. Cook until they start to sizzle. Again, this takes only a few seconds.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and add the diced green chili.  Cook for 30-45 seconds.
  • Stir in the garlic ginger paste and cook until it stops sputtering – around one minute. Now add the kashmiri chili powder and salt and cook for 20-30 seconds, stirring continuously. 
  • Mix in the diced tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. You want to get them to where they are just starting to lose their shape. 
  • Add the tomato mixture to the lentils. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt. It’s easier now than when the chicken is in your way.
  • Add the chicken to the lentil mixture. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. An instant read thermometer is good for this. You are going for about 170F in the middle of the thigh.
  • Let stand for about 5 minutes. Taste for salt. Serve with rice and/or Indian flatbread like naan or chapatis or best of all parathas. Mmm… parathas.


This recipe works with fresh tomatoes. If you use canned tomatoes think about adding a little bit of lemon or tamarind to the dish to brighten it.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 573kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 57g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 193mg | Sodium: 873mg | Potassium: 1326mg | Fiber: 22g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 790IU | Vitamin C: 14.1mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 7.8mg
This Bengali style chicken dhansak packs a whole lot of big Indian curry flavours.

23 thoughts on “chicken dhansak – bengali style”

  1. 5 stars
    It’s simmering away as we speak. Hubby is hooked on dhansak and while in London we ventured an hours ride on the bus to a Bangladeshi restaurant that had the best dhansak yet. The only patrons in the Islington eatery, the owner catered to our needs. I can’t wait to give this a go tonight.

  2. 5 stars
    Another wonderful recipe Romain. I followed the recipe this afternoon, there was no need to fiddle with it like some people seem to do, and it was perfect, thank you. I posted a photo on my Facebook page, as I have done with all your dishes I’ve made, and I always add your website…

  3. I would love to make some lamb dhansak, and have some raw lamb cubed. Can I add the cubed lamb, instead of chicken to this recipe?

    • I’ve never tried that so no guarantees what I say here is correct. I would be worried that the lentils start to stick before the lamb throws enough liquid (the chicken throws a lot of liquid fairly quickly). Maybe think about poaching the lamb at least part way in a bit of salted water. Drain the lamb and use the liquid (made up with additional water as required) to cook the lentils and then add the lamb into the dish as you would chicken. You will need to add a bit of additional liquid as well as you need to compensate for the liquid the chicken would have otherwise thrown.

      So 1) cook the lamb in liquid. 2) Use that liquid plus water to cook the lentils. 3) Make the dish per the recipe up the point the chicken is added. 4) Add the lamb and a bit more water. Keep an eye out so it doesn’t stick. Tweak the consistency at the end with water or stock as required.

    • Thank you! I ended up using chicken due to the lamb being so expensive and was I was too nervous! Was so yummy! Making it again for supper tonight. Can’t wait to try your other recipes!

  4. Hi Romain,
    Anxious to try this but I only have toor dal in the pantry at the moment. Any adjustments in order to use that or will I end up with something entirely different? If masoor is what it really needs then I’ll hold fire until the weekend. Or I’ll try to, anyway.

    • I haven’t tried it with toor dal but I bet it will be great. Toor dal breaks down really well and that’s what you are after. A big delicious creamy mess.

  5. 5 stars
    Made this last night – I am really enjoying a “new” style of cooking using lentils – masoor dal in this case. I am quite intrigued with panch phoran as well. In short, once more a great recipe from Glebe Kitchen.

  6. Hey Romain,
    This is yet another one of your recipes on my list. No list to the grocery store because I’ve made my own panch phoran. Is the Bengali spice profile home base for you, as opposed to any other region of India? Cheers, Alonna

    • Hope you like it as much as I do! I am half Bengali and I’m pretty sure I have mustard seed and cinnamon in my blood:-)

  7. Can you please link to a panch phoran recipe in your recipes? I have found it once on your site and can’t find it again, I need to know the proportions as I can’t find the premade powder locally, thanks. Perhaps put it in your “primer” section?

    • Good idea. I don’t have a recipe to link post (although perhaps I should get to that). I have updated the Indian restaurant at home post to include panch phoran as you have suggested.

      To save you a trip it is equal portions of cumin seed, brown mustard seed, nigella seed, fenugreek seed and fennel seed. It’s not a powder. It’s a mix of whole spices.

  8. 4 stars
    This is a really lovely recipe. I added a little tamarind and jaggery as I like a slight sweet/sourness in a Dhansak and some some yellow split peas for body and it really delivered on all levels. Certainly one of the better recipes out there.


4.95 from 19 votes (12 ratings without comment)

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