Nutritious Veggie Dhansak

Dhansak is an Indian mixed lentil curry loaded with a lot of vegetables. Non-veg dhansak masala is a more popular dish where chicken or goat meat is also cooked in vegetable infused mixed lentil curry. Today I’m going to share a vegetarian dhansak recipe that is loaded with veggies.


  • 1/4th cup of split pigeon peas (toor daal), 1/4th cup of split red lentils (masoor daal) and 1 tablespoon of spilt black lentils (ural daal).
  • 1 cup fenugreek leaves and 1 tbsp of kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves).
  • 1 cup of cut bottle gourd (calabash) and red pumpkin.
  • 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth and 1 cup water to boil lentils and vegetables together.
  • 1 tablespoon of tamarind and jaggery pulp/paste (reduced like a chutney)
    (I leveraged the tamarind chutney I had in my refrigerator.)
  • 2 tbsp of ghee (clarified butter).
  • 1 green chili.
  • 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 inch peeled ginger.
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric.
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder.
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp of dhansak masala.
    (I found it in Berkeley’s Indian store, Vik’s. You can also prepare it at home. I’II share the recipe of the masala sometime later next month.)
  • 1 tsp of cilantro powder.
    (Ensure that it’s made after roasting cilantro seeds. If you’ve store bought cilantro powder, please roast it before using it.)
  • 1 tbsp of oil.
  • 1/4th tsp of mustard seeds.
  • Salt as per your taste.
  • 3/4th cup of thick curry base (Ingredients and recipe follows soon.)

Curry base Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes cut into big cubes.
  • 1 medium-sized red onion cut into slices.
  • 4 large garlic cloves.
  • 1 inch of ginger.
  • Handful of cilantro.
  • 3 tbsp of non-polished sesame seeds.
  • 1 tbsp of white poppy seeds.
  • 3 tbsp of Kashmiri red chili powder.
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg powder.
  • 1 star anise (optional).
  • 2 tbsp of oil.

Note: This curry base can also be used in many other Indians curries. There is another variation to this base, which is adding freshly grated coconut (after dry roasting) in the above curry base ingredients. I make a few different types of curry bases and freeze them in small-sized pouches.


Curry base preparation:

  • Dry roast sesame seeds, poppy seeds, nutmeg and star anise.
  • Heat oil in a pan.
  • Add sliced onion and fry until it’s golden brown.
  • Put the garlic cloves, cilantro and ginger in it and stir well.
  • Sprinkle some salt, add tomatoes and mix it.
  • Cook the curry base till tomatoes get pulpy.
  • Mix dry roasted sesame seeds and other roasted ingredients.
  • Add Kashmiri red chili powder.
  • Let the mixture cool down and then put it in a blender.
    (Don’t add any water while blending. I used Vitamix blender, nob set to 9 for fine blending.)
  • Blend it to a very fine paste.

Dhansak preparation:

  • Wash all lentils together. Add lentils, bottle gourd, squash, some salt, vegetable stock and water in a pressure cooker.
    (Some people also add potatoes and eggplant, but I skipped it. I just used broiled potatoes and eggplant for garnishing.)
  • Cook mixed daal and veggies till they are mushy.
  • Mash ginger and garlic into a paste.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds once the oil is hot.
  • Add green chili, ginger, and garlic paste after mustard seeds start spluttering.
    (I prefer to use fresh ginger garlic paste instead of using bottled one. Fresh paste is more flavorful and free of preservatives.)
  • Let it cook for a minute or two on a medium flame.
  • Then add turmeric, cilantro powder, red chili powder and dhansak masala.
  • Mix all spices and add cut fenugreek leaves.
  • Stir fry a minute and add the curry base.
  • Sprinkle salt and cook everything together till the oil oozes out.
  • Mash cooked daal and veggies together.
  • Pour the daal veggie mixture in the cooked masala and add some water.
  • Add tamarind jaggery pulp and salt. Stir well.
  • Let it cook on a medium flame, until it boils.
  • Crush Kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves powder) and sprinkle it on the daal.
  • Add ghee and let boil for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove it from the stove and leave it in the pan for 2 minutes.
  • Pour the curry in a serving pot.
  • Add broiled potato and eggplant cubes on the top (an optional step).
  • Garnish dhansak curry with fried onion and fresh cilantro leaves.
  • Dhansak usually goes well with berry pulao. It can be eaten with plane rice too.
  • I tried it with millet pulao to keep the GI low for dinner.

Chicken dhansak preparation is similar to a vegetarian recipe except that there are a couple of extra steps. Chicken is marinated with ginger, garlic, salt, red chili powder and lemon juice for 2 hrs. Pre-cook the chicken and then add it in the lentil curry. Let lentil and chicken cook together for a few minutes after adding fenugreek leaves powder.

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