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.

How to make Persian Pomegranate Chicken Stew

Persian Pomegranate Chicken (Fesenjan) Recipe

  • 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 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 pound walnut halves (about 2 cups)
  • 2 pounds 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 tablespoons 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

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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129 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sian

    Lovely, however I added 1 tblsp of flour to frying pan. Cooked it until lightly browned and added ground walnuts to the flour, cooking it for 2 minutes. Then added the liquid ingredients. It thickened it beautifully.

  2. Peggy

    Absolutely delicious!

    To be honest, it doesn’t look too appetizing. If it weren’t for the pomegranate seeds which add some colors, my husband wouldn’t even want to try it, but glad he did. It was very flavorful and tasty! I made the pomegranate molasses from scratch and it was easy. Love this recipe!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Rachel

    Fantastic! I’ve been using this recipe for years. I usually double the sauce without quite doubling the amount of chicken (maybe 1.5 times) because we love it saucy. I find it doesn’t need the full 30 min of simmering before adding the walnuts. If you’re short on time, add the ground walnuts & pom molasses a bit sooner, bc it does need the full hour of simmering after that point. This is a family favorite.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Asha

    This was delicious and pretty simple to make! My pomegranate molasses never turned into molasses (I used the recipe on the site) but it still added the sweet and tangy taste to the chicken. My meal did turn dark but stayed a bit more runny that I would have liked it. Next time I make this stew I’ll be sure to make saffron rice on the side.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Paris

    Great recipe

    xxxxxyyyyy

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