Almost A One Pot – Parsi Chicken Dhansak

Chaalo ji, Jamva Chalo Baddha!

Navroze Mubarak to all my dear Parsi and Irani friends all over the world. Jamshedi Navroze (new day) is celebrated as Parsi New Year the world over & officially marks the beginning of Spring and also the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. Named after the ancient legendary King Jamshed of the Peshdadian dynasty in Iran, it is celebrated in India each year on 20th March.

A customary visit to the fire temple to offer prayers, offerings of fruit, sweets & flowers at home amongst others before the lord Zarathustra, and most definitely a family gathering to feast and celebrate together is what usually marks this special day.

Alas, after moving out of Bombay post marriage and having little to no choice of restaurants serving Parsi cuisine where I live, I promptly got down to honing my skills on the various recipes and versions of Dhansak that I had accumulated through my high school and college years. You see, each home makes a different version of the same dish, some with Chicken, others with Mutton and some going the traditional elaborate way, others adopting quick n easy shortcuts to adapt to their hectic schedules. Today I am sharing a quick n easy version. The vegetarians can use the same recipe, skipping out the meat.

Coming back to my most favourite comfort food, for which I can travel to almost anywhere, Dhansak is a delightful, delectable & wholesome curry prepared with a combination of lentils, specific vegetables and meat spiced up with a unique, specially roasted & ground masala and a few other aromatic condiments. Pairs perfectly with caramelized Brown Rice and some tangy onion-tomato salad or Kachumber. Often served with some mince meat balls or cutlets as a side.

Ananda, the cook at my some-day future inlaws ancestral home in Panchgani made the bestest ever Dhansak that I had tasted!! I first sampled it in my middle school years when I visited their beautiful home with my parents. No one thereafter could come close to that flavour, but the Café Ideal in Fort, Bombay even today makes a mean Dhansak. Though I would long to attend Parsi weddings for their delicious Bhonu and Veg Dhansak, unfortunately being a vegetarian, I would have to sit by myself in the vegetarian area with separately catered Gujarati food which was also tasty.

I can go on about my Parsi association from school days, my Parsi nose and accent and even an elderly Parsi lady who gave us Bharat Natyam dance tuitions at home, but let’s keep that for another day, another Parsi food post.

The Parsi zest for life and celebration is legendary and there are several delicacies that make this cuisine stand out and popular today everywhere. Dhansak with Brown Rice & Kachumber, Berry Pulao & Dar, Masoor ma Gosht, Mutton Sali Boti, Kheema Pav, Patra ni Machhi, Jardaloo Chicken, Dhan Dar-Kolmi no Patio, are few of the them that come to mind immediately, all gulped down with the inimitable Pallonji’s Raspberry Soda & some Lagan nu Custard to end your feast.

Bombay has a sizeable population of Parsis and hence plenty of eateries, restaurants & cafes that serve this delicious food, with the Rippon Club, Britannia & Co, Sassanian Bakery, Kyani & Co, Café Colony & Café Ideal being the more popular places.

O Khodaai! Sorry for jabbering on so long about Bhonu!

Recipe for Almost A One Pot – Parsi Chicken Dhansak

Ingredients for Dhansak dal

  • 1 cup Toor Dal / Pigeon Pea Lentil
  • ½ cup red lentil / masoor dal
  • ½ kilo chicken or mutton, cut in curry pieces & cleaned
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 green chillies chopped
  • 100 gms red pumpkin / lal kaddu / bhopla, cubed
  • 1 small potato /carrot, cubed (optional)
  • 3 small brinjals, sliced
  • ½ cup spring onion greens (optional)
  • ½ cup fenugreek leaves / methi leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves /pudina, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons oil / ghee
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 green cardamoms /elaichi
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder /haldi
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder / dhania powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder / jeera powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Dhansak masala
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp (as per your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon jaggery
  • Water for cooking


  1. Clean, wash and soak toor dal and masoor dal together for 30 mins in two cups water. Make a paste with 1.5inch ginger, 5-6 cloves garlic & 2 green chillies.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pressure cooker/pan, add pumpkin, brinjals, potatoes, meat pieces, the two soaked & drained dals, tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon ginger garlic paste, salt & 3 cups of water.
  3. Add methi leaves, mint leaves, spring onion greens(optional), ¼ tsp haldi, ½ teaspoon chilli powder & ½ teaspoon dhania-jeera powder. Mix well.
  4. Close the lid of the cooker & pressure cook on a high flame for 2 whistles, then lower the flame & cook for another 1 whistle. Turn off the flame.
  5. In the meanwhile, in another kadhai, add in the bay leaf, peppercorns, cinnamon stick & 2 cardamoms & saute for a minute till they darken.
  6. Add chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Add the remaining ginger-garlic paste & stir for 2-3 minutes until the raw aroma disappears.
  7. Add 2 teaspoons Dhansak masala powder, ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and ½ teaspoon red chilli powder and saute on a low flame for a minute.
  8. Add ½ cup water & and cook covered on a low flame for 2-3 minutes.  
  9. Now open the cooker, remove the meat pieces aside & mash the lentil-vegetable mixture well with the back of a spoon or strain it through a sieve to get a smooth puree.
  10. Add in the lentil puree & give it a good stir. Add in the meat pieces, tamarind pulp & check for salt.
  11. Add more water if too thick. Add the jaggery if needed to balance the tamarind.
  12. Cook to mix for a few minutes, sprinkle chopped coriander leaves.
  13. Serve hot with brown rice & onion -tomato kachumber.

Parsi Brown Rice

Ingredients (Serves 4 Persons)

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 inch cinnamon / dalchini
  • 2-3 cloves /laung
  • 2-3 green cardamoms / elaichi
  • 1 medium sized onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar to caramelise
  • 1 tablespoon oil or ghee /clarified butter
  • 1 handful cashew nuts and raisins (optional)
  • 4 cups water or as required
  • salt as required


  1. Soak the basmati rice in water for 10 mins. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Heat oil or ghee in a thick bottomed pan. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and fry until fragrant.
  3. Add the sliced onions, fry till translucent.
  4. Now add sugar and stir. Continue frying the onions till they caramelize or get browned.
  5. The sugar will also caramelize. Keep on stirring in between to ensure even browning.
  6. Add the raisins & cashews & saute for a second.
  7. When the onions have got browned, quickly remove some onions for garnishing. They will be a little sticky from caramelization of sugar.
  8. Add the water and salt and stir until it comes to a boil.
  9. Add in the rice & mix well.
  10. Close the lid of the pan & let the rice cook on a low flame till fully done (about 5 minutes).
  11. Serve hot with Dhansak & kachumber.

Kachumber is made with finely chopped onions, tomatoes, green chilli, salt, and tamarind pulp mixed with a little jaggery & water (see brown rice video).


  • The same recipe can be used by vegetarians, simply skipping out the meat.
  • This is a quick n easy version that skips out elaborate steps & grinding fresh masalas.
  • Dhansak masala is easily available on Amazon. Mangal, A1 and Ahura are popular brands.
  • As chicken tends to cook faster, you could avoid pressure cooking it with the lentil-veggies. Instead cook it with the Onion & spice powders and add the lentil puree on top.
  • The method shown in the video (cooking meat with lentil & veggies) works better with Mutton which takes a little longer to cook.
  • Red pumpkin & fenugreek leaves are essential vegetables to this recipe, make sure to add them for a more authentic flavour.

Making of Dhansak

Making of Brown Rice

6 thoughts on “Almost A One Pot – Parsi Chicken Dhansak

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