(Nugget) Dhansak with Caramelized Pilaf & Kachumber

(Nugget) Dhansak with Caramelized Pilaf & Kachumber

This quintessential Parsi dish is a spiced puree of lentils and vegetables, often cooked with mutton or chicken and served with an aromatic, caramelized pilaf and kachumbar (which is typically a roughly chopped blend of fresh cucumber, tomatoes and red onion, seasoned with salt and generous amounts of lime juice.)

This is not a recipe for traditional dhansak! As the title suggests, this is Nugget Dhansak, an adapted version using Zing's Smoki Seasoning Salt and though not traditional, is really fun and takes a fraction of the time. At Zing, as you may know - we're all about smart kitchen hacks, and this recipe is no different. What would otherwise take several hours, has been tweaked to help you get a delicious meal on the table in ~30min. 


Serves 3-4

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1 hour


For the Dhansak Daal (Lentil & Vegetable Purée)

  • ¼ cup split pigeon peas
  • ¼ cup red lentils
  • ¼ cup split chickpeas
  • 1 red pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 cup spinach 
  • ½ cup scallion greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato roughly chopped
  • 1 green serrano chilli or a jalapeño
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder (use cayenne pepper as a substitute)
  • ½ tsp of turmeric powder (skip, if you don’t have it!)  
  • ½ white onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp Smoki Seasoning Salt
  • 1-2 Ghee tbsp (use butter as a substitute)
  • 1 tsp tamarind pulp or juice of 1 lime as an alternative
  • A handful of roughly chopped cilantro leaves (optional)

For the Chicken Nuggets

  • A box of your favorite kind, found in the freezer aisle at the grocery store

For the Kachumber (optional, but recommended)

  • ½ a tomato roughly chopped
  • ½ a shallot roughly chopped
  • A small fistful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ a cucumber, diced fine
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime

 For the Caramelized Pilaf (optional - steamed rice is OK too! But try this!) 

  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • 1.5 Tbsp Smoki Seasoning Salt
  • 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste, if needed
  • 1-2 Tbsp of Ghee or Butter
  • 4 cups of water 


For the Dhansak Daal (Lentil & Vegetable Purée)

  1. Wash and soak the combination of lentils in a bowl with water. Let it soak for about 15-20 min as you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Drain and combine with spinach, red pepper, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro leaves & chilies and add it to your Instapot. Add ½ tsp of turmeric powder and 4 cups of water. Turn your settings on high and set the timer for about 10-12 mins. Remember to let the steam escape naturally (about another ~10min) before following through with the next step 
  3. If you don't have an Instapot, but have more time - that’ll work as well. Add to a large pot and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, partly covered until the lentils have softened and become almost mushy. (Can take about ~45 min!)
  4. Now that the lentils & vegetables have cooked, use your favourite method of turning it into a purée. We recommend using an immersion blender if you have one! 
  5. Add ghee (or butter if you don't have ghee) to a pan and take the heat up to medium. Wait for it to shimmer, and add the finely chopped white onion & garlic from your prep earlier.
  6. Add 2-3 tbsp of Smoki Seasoning Salt and cook the onions until the oil from the ghee separates. As is typical with cooking from the region, you want to brown your onions to the point where you’re starting to worry that it’s going to burn. If you notice the spices sticking to the pan, add a tsp of water as you go. With the Smoki Seasoning salt, if you’re using it for the first time, we recommend adding 2 Tbsp and tasting for seasoning before adding more. How salty you want things is subjective, and you can always add more if you need to later!
  7. Add your browned, spiced onions to the lentil puree and simmer the concoction in a pot on low for about ~10 min. Add a splash of water if you need to - the consistency you’re aiming for should resemble a thick soup. 
  8. Add 2 tbsp of water to a bowl and combine with the tamarind pulp. Top your Dhansak dal with a spoonful at a time, to your desired level of sourness. If you don’t have tamarind, squeeze the juice of half a lime.
  9. Taste for seasoning - if you feel like it needs a bit more salt, add a touch more Smoki and set aside!

For the chicken nuggets

  1. Follow the instructions on the box! 3-4 nuggets per serving should do!

For the kachumber

  1.  Combine in a bowl and mix well!

For the carmelized pilaf

If you’ve decided to take this step, and go through the extra effort - YEAH! good for you! We won't lie - most days, we just serve this with regular white or brown rice, which you can also do. We won't say this step is not worth it, because it totally is and what's great is you’ll now have a recipe for a tasty accompaniment that pairs well with a bunch of things, from protein to vegetables.

  1. Heat a flat bottomed saucepan on medium, and add 1-2 tbsp of ghee or butter. Add the onions and let it brown.
  2. Add Smoki Seasoning Salt and Sugar and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves, and starts to bubble. 
  3. Add the rice and water, mix well and taste for salt. You may want to add a touch more if you feel like it.
  4. Wait for the rice to come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.
  5. Your rice should be done in about 10-12min. Take it off the heat and it's ready to serve!

 To Serve

  1. Serve your dhansak dal on a bed of caramelized rice pilaf and chicken nuggets. Top with kachumber. Eat and prepare for a wonderful Sunday nap. 


To make it vegan, skip the nuggets (or maybe try a plant-based nugget?). Also, replace the ghee or butter with any vegetable oil.