Persian Pomegranate Chicken (Fesenjan)

Soup and StewPersianGluten-FreeChicken

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

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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 Tbsp 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

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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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111 Comments / Reviews

No ImagePersian Pomegranate Chicken (Fesenjan)

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Jessica

    Made this tonight with vegan chicken/vegan chicken broth and it was incredible. The key is definitely cooking for a long time. Used Ichiza chicken (an amazing vegan restaurant in Portland, OR that sells their faux meats) as well as vegan smoked drumsticks on sugarcane bones. I used them the same way you said to use traditional chicken (although I was worried they would get too soft) and it was perfect. Based on some other recipes I saw, I cooked much longer (somewhere between 2-3 hours) and it was very rich and flavorful. Loved it!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Michael

    I should also add, the comment about the finished product being light brown; my guess is, you didn’t let it cook down long enough. Every time I make this, I think I’ve done something wrong, because it takes a while for all of the ingredients to blend together, thicken, and look and taste right. Don’t rush it!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Michael

    I like to add fresh garlic to the onions while they’re sauteing. I also use more molasses than the recipe calls for. I use brown sugar, but less than the recipe calls for, and replace it with chopped dried apricots, golden raisins, and tart dried cherries. Absolutely delicious!

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Casie

    I made this dish for some Persian friends and they were so happy and surprised with the flavor that they asked me for the recipe. They said it was exactly like the Fesenjan they used to eat back in Iran …

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. dizzy

    Recipe as is was ok but needed quite a bit more seasoning, mine was a very light tan color. I added probably another 1/2 tsp cinnamon, another tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp extra pepper, plus used about 1.5 cups pomegranate arils (vs 1/2 cup) and another tbsp or so of pom molasses. Still didn’t taste as I remembered it as restaurants but with this it came out really nice.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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