British Indian Restaurant Recipes – How To Make Chicken Dhansak

British Indian restaurant (BIR) style Chicken Dhansak can be made in minutes

British Indian Restaurant (BIR) style chicken dhansak

This chicken dhansak just gets it!

Over the past few years, I have been shown so many nice chicken dhansak recipes by top curry house chefs all around the UK. This recipe is about as authentic as they get.

As with all of my British Indian restaurant (BIR) curries, it is a good idea to make the base curry sauce ahead of time. You may also want to pre-cook your chicken. These are both time saving methods used in curry houses and also add a lot to the flavour of the end dish.

Both the curry sauce and the chicken keep well in the fridge for a few days and also freeze well.

Many curry house chicken dhansak curries have pineapple in them. My daughter loves this but I’m not that keen. I’ll let you decide whether you include the fruit or not.

Forward Planning

Curry Sauce
I’ve written a large and small version of my curry sauce recipe which will need to me made before cooking this recipe. The large version is made just like they do in the best curry houses. Make a large batch for best results. It keeps in the fridge for three days and freezes well. The small batch version works well too though it’s not as authentic.

I pre-cook chicken in two ways. Most Indian restaurants use this method to prepare their chicken for this curry. In this recipe, the chicken pieces are slow cooked in a spiced broth. You could add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking juices to your curry for extra flavour.

You could also add tandoori style chicken tikka to this recipe if you’d like to create tandoori Chicken Dhansak.

How to make british indian restaurant style meals

Illustrated with photographs of each recipe!

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British Indian Restaurant Recipes - How To Make Chicken Dhansak
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 4 chicken breasts pre-cooked as above
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 tablespoons garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon good quality curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon chilli powder (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 250ml (1 cup) red split lentils (rinsed and cook until soft - about 30 minutes)
  • 750ml (3 cups) base curry sauce - See links to my recipes above.
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander
  • salt and pepper
  • 100ml pineapple juice (optional)
  • 3 pineapple rings - cut into pieces (optional)
  1. Heat the ghee/oil over medium heat.
  2. Throw in the ginger and garlic pastes along with the turmeric and let sizzle for about 30 seconds. The turmeric will become darker as you do this.
  3. Now add the cumin, curry powder, chilli powder and tomato paste.
  4. Stir to combine before adding the base curry sauce, cooked lentils and chicken pieces and heat through.
  5. Stir in the pineapple juice and/or pineapple pieces if using.
  6. Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve immediately.


  1. says

    This is my favorite curry and this recipe was great. I’ve never made it before, in fear of it not being as good as it is in restaurants, but it was!! All my friends loved it too.

  2. Ken says

    Made this for the first time this evening and I was very pleased with the results and just how fast it was to make.

    My local takeaway produces a Dhansak that has a distinct fruity taste but no fruit pieces so I was interested to see the mention of pineapple juice in your recipe.

    The taste and texture of your recipe is almost identical to my local which is what I wanted but its clearly not pineapple juice they are using. I suspect they are using orange juice so I will give that a try next.

    Thanks for your hard work.

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Ken

      I’ve found that a lot of the better restaurants mix in papaya pulp or juice. This works really well. I’ve never tried orange juice with a dhansak so I look forward to hearing what you think.


  3. says

    Please feel free to join us on Facebook/UK Loves Curry! We are a friendly forum dedicated to promoting, chatting about and enjoying Indian food.

    Get to chat with lots of fellow curry lovers, other restaurants, chefs, suppliers, trade journals and curry bloggers from all over the UK and the rest of the world.

    Just type UK Loves Curry! Into Facebook from a personal account and click “Join Group”

    We look forward to seeing you there.

    Regards, Adrian

  4. Noel says

    I moved to CANADA 3 tears ago and miss my favourite Chicken Dansak. Will try this but my cooking skills are very limited hope my BIR curry sauce is as good as hours to complete the Dansak…

  5. Lauren says

    I have been looking for a recipe for this for ages and am keen to try it, I have been cooking curry fir a long time but have never come across curry gravy?!

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Lauren

      It’s often called a curry sauce or base sauce. Base sauces aren’t used in authentic Indian cookery so if you purchased an Indian cookbook, you wouldn’t have seen it. This recipe is for British Indian restaurant style food. The recipe is very close to what you’ll find at a curry house.

      Hope you get a chance to try it.


  6. Dave says

    Will try this. Just curious about the pineapple juice though, is this the type of pineapple juice that you would use as a drink mixer, or the juice from a tin of pineapple rings? Two different things or does it matter?


    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Dave

      Use fresh pineapple juice. The juice in the tin of pineapple rings will do the job just fine. :-)


  7. Adam says

    Could you clarify something for me please? Is it one cup of cooked lentils or one cup of raw lentils, cooked? One cup of raw lentils once cooked, seems an awful lot.

    Love the BIR recipes, by the way. Garlic chilli chicken is a favourite!

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Adam

      I better have a look at my wording. It is a cup full of pre-cooked lentils. As with more curry house food, the food is almost always pre-cooked and then assembled again when ordered.


  8. Ryan says

    I have seen Dhansak described as Sweet, Sour and Hot.

    I made this recipe and followed it exactly but it seemed to be lacking sweet and sour. It was plenty hot with the 1 TBSP of Chili Powder.

    I did add more pineapple juice but the heat still over powered the dish.

    Do you have any advice how to add more sweetness? And should it have a bit of sour?

    Thanks for this great website.

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Ryan

      If you want the curry to be sweeter, add more pineapple juice. That will work fine. For the sour, add lemon juice or even a little citric acid or tamarind.

      Hope this helps.

  9. julian says

    Hi You say 3 cardaman pods how many seeds is that can’t get whole pods in Cyprus.
    is there a substitute for fenugreek in sauce

  10. Terry says

    Hi dan , just a quick query if you use the chicken from the ” pre cooked method ” do you use the WHOLE of the broth as well and combine that into the. Base sauce or just the chicken from the broth ? and would you blend that broth mixture as you do with the base sauce cheers terry

    • Dan Toombs says

      Hi Terry

      I usually add just a little bit of the broth for flavour. There is no need to blend it. Perhaps a tablespoon or two of the broth. Hope this helps. I’m updating this recipe soon with step by step photographs.


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