Love curry and lentils (who doesn’t?), then our take on vegan dhansak is for you! Dhansak is a lentil based, sweet and sour curry, usually quite hot. Delicious, healthy and packed with flavour – I am sure it will become a firm favourite if you haven’t tried it before.
Dhansak is a popular dish in Indian and Parsi cuisine, and its history dates back several centuries. The dish has its roots in Persian cuisine, and it was brought to India by the Parsi community, who fled Iran in the 8th century to avoid religious persecution.
Traditionally this dish uses several different types of lentils, but to keep things simple I have used just two – red lentils and yellow split peas, and it works fine with just red lentils too. There are quite a few spices, but that really helps to create the complex flavour, it will be worth it, I promise! The dish also usually contains meat, but you can either replace with a vegan substitute such as our seitan ‘chicken’ or other plant based meat replacement or leave as a vegetable curry – it works beautifully either way.
Tamarind adds a wonderful, complex, sweet and sour tang to the dish, but if you can’t get hold of it, pineapple juice works well instead and is often added in Indian takeaway versions of this dish here in the UK.
First the vegetables, which are chopped quite small, are slow cooked down with the lentils and then this mixture is mashed to create a lovely thick sauce. Then you fry the spice paste and the onions together and add this to the vegetable and lentil mixture and finally finish off with the tamarind or pineapple juice.
Serve the vegan dhansak with fluffy rice and Indian breads. Enjoy!
- ½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground fenugreek
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
Vegetable and lentil sauce
- 1.25 litre vegan stock we used Oxo meat free chicken stock
- 50g yellow split peas (optional, if not using, add extra 50g red lentils)
- 150g red lentils
- 1 medium (approx 250g) aubergine diced
- ½ medium (approx 300g) butternut squash or pumpkin peeled and diced
- 2 large carrots (approx 300g) peel and diced
- 2 medium potatoes (approx 250g) diced
- 1 tbsp plain flavoured oil
- 1 medium brown onion finely diced
- 4 garlic cloves finely diced
- ½ inch fresh ginger finely chopped
- 1 green chilli deseeded and finely chopped
- 3 tsp tamarind paste or 150ml pineapple juice
- 200g seitan chicken torn into pieces
- If using the yellow split peas, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water first. Leave to soak for at least an hour.
- Mix all the spices together and grind to a fine powder.
- In a separate pan cook the lentils and vegetables apart from the onion together with the vegetable stock, for around 30 – 40 mins or until completely cooked through and soft.
- Mash the vegetable and lentil mixture with a potato masher. You can make it completely smooth at this stage, but I like to leave it a little chunky. Set aside.
- Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and fresh chilli in a little plain flavoured oil until the onion starts to soften.
- Add the spice mix and sauté for 3-4 mins on a gentle heat. Stir occasionally.
- Add the lentil and vegetable mash and stir. Simmer for 5 mins, adding a little more water if it looks a bit dry.
- Add the tamarind paste or pineapple juice, stir and season to taste.
- Serve with fluffy rice or Indian breads.