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Chicken dhansak in a karai - from above.
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4.92 from 12 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. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: chicken curry, dhansak, indian chicken curry
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