Parsi Dhansak Recipe. (Also spelt as  Dhansaak, Dhanshak,  Dhunsak, Thansak)

By Rita 22 comments

Dhansak is a popular  Parsi dish, originating among  the community centuries back. This is served with caramelized brown rice, which is rice cooked in caramel water to give it a typical taste and color. The dal cooked with mutton and vegetables served with brown rice, altogether is called dhansak.

In Parsi homes, dhansak is traditionally made on Sundays owing to the long preparation time required to cook the lentils and vegetables into a mush (in the days before pressure cooking was employed).

Dhansak is also always had on the fourth day after the death of a near one. There is no meat consumed for three days after the death of a near one. And dhansak is used to break this abstinence on the fourth day. Thus, dhansak is never prepared on auspicious occasions like festivals and weddings.

Dhansak is made by cooking mutton cubes with a mixture of various lentils and vegetables. Traditionally, four lentils Toovar dal, Bengal gram or chana dal, red masoor dal and brown masoor dal are used, but one or more of the lentils may be omitted or substituted. I make my dhansak with Lamb, Goat meat (mutton ) or Chicken. I use Toover Dal only.

The vegetables include potato, eggplant,  tomato, pumpkin and coriander, fenugreek leaves: again, substitutions, such as squash for pumpkin, and sweet potato for potato, may be employed: it depends on what vegetables are conveniently at hand. After prolonged cooking in the traditional recipe (or the use of a pressure cooker), the vegetables are more or less homogenized with the lentils, which are also broken down, so that the result is a thick stew rather than a curry.

The dhansak is flavored with a spice mixture called “dhansak masala”, which is similar to “garam masala” except that the spices chosen are more aromatic and sweet rather than pungent. Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, dried ginger, coriander seed and cumin seed, as well as a pinch of asafetida, are among the spices employed.

Onion and garlic are browned to serve as the stew’s base, and coriander leaves, green chilli and mint leaves are employed as garnish. While “dhansak masala” is sold as a ready-made mixture, the individual cook may make the spice mixture from scratch, altering the combination and proportion of spices based on personal preference. See recipe in this book.

Within the Parsi community, dhansak usually contains goat meat or mutton; it is rarely made with other meats, such as chicken, or without meat, but I use Chicken or Lamb often since my children prefer these meats.

International recipe variants for the dhansak sometimes call for pineapple chunks to provide a sweet flavour, but traditional Indian recipes prefer the use of pumpkin, squash or gourd.

Vegetarians can leave the meat out and make the dal, it comes out very good IMO.


For the Dhansak dal

  • 1 lb. Chicken skinned and washed. (Or Lamb, Goat Meat. Vegetarians can leave the meat out and make the dal, it comes out very good)

  • 1 1/2 cups Tuvar Dal washed and soaked for 30 minutes.

  • 1 large onion chopped.

  • 1 Tomato chopped.

  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves chopped.(optional)

  • 1/2 cup fresh methi leaves chopped.(optional)

  • 5 leaves of fresh mint.


  • 3 inch piece of yellow/orange pumpkin.

  • 2 Potatoes peeled and quartered.

  • 2 tsp. salt.

  • 1 tsp.Turmeric.

  • Water enough to cover the contents.

For the Vaghar

  • 1 small onion finely chopped.

  • 2 tbsp.oil.

  • 2 tsp. Ginger/Garlic/Chili Paste. Make paste by grinding 1 inch piece of gingerroot,

  • 4 cloves garlic and 2 hot Jalapeno chilies.

  • 2 tsp. Dhansak Masala. (See Recipe)

  • 2 tsp. Dhana Jeera (Cumin and Coriander)

  • Salt and Black Pepper powder to taste.


  • Put all of the above in a Pressure cooker and cook for 10 minutes only.

  • Open cooker and remove meat and potatoes.

  • Mash the dal with electric blender or by hand. Put in a large pot and bring to a simmer.

  • Next do the “Vaghar”. Fry the onion in hot oil till brown. Lower heat and add the paste. Fry till aroma comes out.

  • Add the rest of and fry 1 minute on very low heat. Immediately add this Vaghar to the simmering dhansak dal.

  • Add water if needed.

  • Taste and add salt/spices to your taste.

  • Add the meat and potatoes and simmer 5 more minutes.

Serve Dhansak with Hot Brown Rice, Kebab and Kachumber.


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Jan 1, 2019, 9:09 am

Hi Goody, Thanks for dropping a line. Yes, I have seen the same, water is needed for the dhansak dar, since it soaks up the water while cooking.

The old parsi adage of having water to a depth of 1 inch over this dhansak dar/s works for the Instant Pot / Slow Cookers and Pressure cookers.


Gordafreed Gardin

Jan 1, 2019, 10:26 pm

Hello. For the person who asked about the slow cooker idea… I have made dhansak this way. I first do the Vaghar and then add in the dar, veggies, and meat (if using). Cook only for few min. Transfer to slow cooker and cook low for about 6 hrs or high for 4 hrs. I usually put it on at night and your next days lunch is ready in the morning.

V IMPT!!! Make sure you have enough water. A good rule is enough water to cover everything plus about an inch or so more.


Dec 12, 2018, 10:01 am

Pressure settings and Instant Pot settings with recipe is here –>


Dec 12, 2018, 1:15 am

What setting in the instant pot? Pressure – normal or high? Quick or natural release (how long?)? Thanks


Dec 12, 2018, 9:35 am

Deedee, I suppose you can cook/boil the dal in a slow cooker till it is cooked, will take a looong time. I usually do not have the patience! I have used my Instant Pot and it comes out delicious.


Dec 12, 2018, 7:27 pm

Can dhanshak be made in slow cooker. If so, can you help with recipe. Thanks.

Sandhya Nadkarni

Aug 8, 2017, 4:25 pm

Thanks Rita!

Rita Jamshed Kapadia

Aug 8, 2017, 2:53 pm

I usually buy readymde dhanshak masala for Ahmedabad Parsi Stores or Mumbai stores. Here in USA you can use “Mangals”, “Badshah” boxes.

Sandhya Nadkarni

Aug 8, 2017, 2:44 pm

I love dhansak! Thanks for sharing this recipe. Is there a readymade dhansak masala that you like?

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Jun 6, 2015, 1:43 pm

Yes thats correct. Use the ginger garlic and chillies paste mentioned in the vaghar ingredients. You can mix all of the vaghar ingredients and make a total paste or saute the wet paste first and then the dry powders. You choice, use low heat while sauting and roast them well (in hindi we say bhunao). Hope this helps.


Jun 6, 2015, 8:44 am

Could you please explain : In step 4 of the recipe you have asked to add the paste. It is the paste of the ingredients of Vaghar ? Once I know this I am sure to try this…

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Dec 12, 2014, 4:42 pm

Hi Meher,
Here is a recipe for dhanshak masala. It is from my cookbook, enjoy.

Dhansaak Masala Powder Recipe
1 Kg. Coriander seeds (Dhanya seeds)
200 grms Cumin (Jeera Seeds)
100 grms Black Pepper (Kali Mirchi)
100 grms Fenugreek seeds (Methi seeds)
100 grms Black Mustard seeds (Rai)
300 grms Red Chilies
200 grms Haldi (Turmeric powder)
50 grms Tej Patta (Tamal Patta)
20 grms Badyan (Black Flower shaped anise pods)
20 grms Lavang (Cloves)
20 grms Dalchini (Cinnamon sticks)
20 grms Dry Soonth (Ginger powder)
20 grms Elaichi (Cardamom powder)

1. Check and clean all ingredients for debris and keep in sunlight for 1 day.
2. Roast on Tava taking care to prevent scorching.
3. Cool. Then grind into a powder in a Ninja Machine or Masala chakki.
4. Let the Masala cool. Sieve and fill in airtight containers.


Dec 12, 2014, 12:24 am

Hi I usually buy readymade dhanshak masala but would live to make it at home. Could u pls help me with this. Thanks. Meher. . Frm Mumbai.