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Turkey Dhansak

If you are looking for a way to use up left over turkey, this Indian recipe from the Parsi community is definitely one to turn to. It cooks the meat along with a particularly full flavored masala (or mix of spices) and a range of pre-cooked lentils which help make the dish go further. The dish is traditionally cooked with goat or lamb, but is terrific with fresh poultry, or in this case, left over turkey.

A bowl of Turkey Dhansak garnished with yogurt, cilantro and chili strips by Simon Majumdar

Turkey Dhansak Recipe

(Serves About 4-6)



For the Dhansak:

  • 2 lbs. Cooked Turkey Breast (Cut into Cubes) (You can also use uncooked chicken or turkey meat but the placement in the cooking process will be different. Check instructions below.)

  • 1 Large White Onion (Chopped)

  • 3 Cloves Garlic (Finely Minced)

  • 3 Serrano Chili (Deseeded and Minced)

  • 1 Inch Fresh Ginger (Peeled and Minced)

  • 2 Teaspoons Dhansak Masala (Store Bought or See Recipe Below to Make Your Own)

  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Turmeric

  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Hot Red Chili Powder

  • 1 Teaspoon Salt

  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

  • 2 Teaspoons Sugar

  • ¼ Cup Fenugreek Leaf

  • 2 Bay Leaves

  • 1 Teaspoon Tamarind Paste (or 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice)

  • 1½ Cups Chopped Tomatoes

  • 3 Tablespoons Ghee or Vegetable Oil

  • ¼ Cup Whole Milk Yogurt (For Garnish)

  • 1 Serrano Chili (Deseeded and Sliced for Garnish)

  • ¼ Cup Cilantro (Chopped for Garnish)


For the Lentils:

  • ½ Cup Red Lentils (Soaked for 2 Hours and Drained)

  • ½ Cup Yellow Split Peas (Soaked for 2 Hours and Drained)

  • ½ Cup Urad Dal (Soaked for 2 Hours and Drained)

  • ½ Cup Moong Dal (Soaked for 2 Hours and Drained)

  • 1 ½ Teaspoon Salt

  • 4 Cups Water

For the Dhansak Masala:
You can buy pre ground Dhansak masala from most Indian stores. However, if you want to make your own, which is much more full of flavor, use:

  • 1 Teaspoon Whole White Mustard Seed

  • 1 Teaspoon White Poppy Seeds

  • 1 Cinnamon Stick

  • 3 Dried Kashmiri Chili

  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper Corns

  • ¼ Nutmeg (Grated)

  • 1 Star Anise

  • 1 Teaspoon Coriander Seed

  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin Seed


For the Dhansak:

  1. Sprinkle the cooked meat with ½ teaspoon of Dhansak masala and place to one side.

  2. Take the drained lentils and place in a pan. Add the salt and the water and cook on a gentle heat until the lentils have broken down enough to be blended (usually about 30 minutes). You can do this in a pressure cooker too, if you have one.

  3. When the lentils have cooked, use a blender, an immersion blender or a whisk to mix them to a thick lentil gravy and place to one side.

  4. In a large saucepan or wok, add the ghee or vegetable oil.

  5. Bring to a medium heat and add the onions.

  6. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes.

  7. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

  8. Add the minced ginger and serrano chili and cook for 2 minutes.

  9. Add the tamarind paste or lemon juice.

  10. Add the Dhansak masala, ground turmeric, hot chili powder, salt, black pepper, sugar, and ground ginger and cook for 2 minutes.

  11. Add the fenugreek leaf and bay leaf and combine.

  12. (*If you are using uncooked meat, this is where you would add it to the dish. Make sure to add extra minutes to the cooking time to ensure that the meat is thoroughly cooked.)

  13. Add the chopped tomatoes and combine.

  14. Place a lid on the pot and cook the mixture for 3-4 minutes.

  15. Remove the lid and add the lentil gravy.

  16. Place the lid back on the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes.

  17. Remove the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes. Or until the gravy reaches your preferred thickness. I like to leave mine with some of the lentils slightly unbroken to give extra texture.

  18. Add in the cooked turkey meat and cook on a gentle heat until the meat is warmed through.

  19. Drizzle the top of the dish with whole milk yogurt, and top with the sliced green serrano chili and cilantro before serving.


For the Dhansak Masala:

  1. Dry toast all the ingredients in a pan on a low heat.

  2. Grind and store in an airtight container.

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