Persian Pomegranate Chicken (Fesenjan)

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Persian chicken stew made with chicken breasts or thighs, slowly cooked with ground toasted walnuts and pomegranate molasses.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Here is a stew made for fall! This Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce recipe is a classic preparation in Persian cooking, going by the name “Fesenjan”.

Chicken pieces are first browned and then slowly cooked in a sauce with ground toasted walnuts and pomegranate molasses. You might not normally think to make a sauce with walnuts and pomegranates, but it’s a perfect combination!

Fesenjan Persian Chicken Stew

The toasted walnuts are rich and warm and the pomegranate molasses sharp and berry toned. Cooked slowly with the chicken, the sauce is spectacular. Bowl-licking good.

The only ingredient that might be a little unusual is the pomegranate molasses. You can make your own with pomegranate juice (see our recipe for pomegranate molasses), or look for it at Whole Foods or a store that carries Middle Eastern ingredients.

Persian Pomegranate Chicken (Fesenjan) Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Make your own pomegranate molasses by simmering 1 cup of pomegranate juice until it reduces to 5 Tbsp of syrup.

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 large yellow onions, chopped, (3 cups)
  • 2 Tbps unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 pound walnut halves (about 2 cups)
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts, trimmed of excess fat, cut into medium size pieces, patted dry and salted
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate arils for garnish (optional)

Method

1 Toast and grind the walnuts: You can toast the walnuts in one of two ways. You can either spread them out in a single layer in a large skillet, and toast them on medium high heat, stirring frequently until lightly toasted, OR you can spread them out in a single layer in a baking rimmed baking sheet, and toast at 350°F in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

In either case, once toasted, remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground.

2 Brown the chicken pieces on all sides: In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.

When the butter has melted, pat the chicken pieces dry again and place the chicken pieces in the pan, working in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, and cook until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle the chicken with salt while they are cooking.

3 Sauté the onions: Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the chicken from the pan, set aside. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Lower the heat to medium low. Add chopped onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, stirring on occasion to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

4 Add chicken and stock: Return the chicken pieces to the pan with the onions. Pour 2 cups of chicken stock over the chicken and onions. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

5 Add ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, spices, cover and cook: Stir in the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and spices. Cover and cook on very low heat for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to prevent the walnuts from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Remove from heat and adjust sugar/salt to taste. At this point the chicken should be fall apart tender.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve over parsi pulao or other favorite rice.

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Links:

Slow cooker pomegranate chicken salad from Lydia of The Perfect Pantry

Fesenjan Persian Chicken Stew

Showing 4 of 82 Comments

  • Celeste

    I am making this dish for the second time. We loved it the first time and had to have it again. I didn’t have access to fresh pomegranates, so I drizzled some of the pomegranate molasses over the stew when serving. It certainly gave the dish a delicious brightness!

  • Sherry R

    Can you make this in a slow cooker after you brown and sautéed the onions. If so how long should it be cooked on low heat for.

  • Renee Rothschild

    Thank you for the many recipes I have found on your site, along with your charming presentation. Usually they are right on, but cooking boneless chicken parts an additional 1 1/2 hours after browning was too much. Next time, I will brown them first and remove; then return them later in the cooking process. Interesting taste combinations, and I had no trouble finding the pomegranate molasses.

  • Lia

    I’ve been trying to make this dish for over a month now, but all of my usual grocery stores in New York City have been out of pomegranates and say they don’t know when they will get more in. Can you guys get them out there in California? I assume there is a shortage of some sort, but I’ve tried googling the pomegranate crops this year and haven’t found anything.

  • Rekha

    i tried that in Germany in Skyline foodcourt at an Iranian resto . I have never tasted something like that before. It was awesome! thanks for the recipe.I’ll try it at home now.

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