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Adjust Servings:
1 large yellow onion chopped
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
12 oz walnuts
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken I used a combination of breast and thigh, but would probably recommend thighs if you're picking one
2 cups chicken stock
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp black pepper
to taste Kosher Salt
from 1 pomegranate pomegranate arils

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Iran: Fesenjān

Persian Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce





Fesenjān (also fesenjoon) is famous Persian dish, a festive dish often served for important occasions in Iran.  Its importance has something to do with the amount of walnuts used to make the rich, flavorful sauce – which are often very costly.  Popular in the fall when pomegranates are in season, Persian Jews often served this dish to extended family during Rosh Hashanah.  Fesenjān is believed to have originated in the province of Gilan, bordering the Caspian Sea.  The area is renowned for its wild duck population, and fesenjān was likely to have originally been made with duck.  Now chicken is more common, although you may also find recipes that use lamb.  

Pomegranate is both the base of the sauce and as a garnish, although I ironically forgot the bowl of pomegranate arils in the fridge and served it without at supper club!  Pomegranate molasses is both sweet and tart, and the ground nuts give the sauce a rich flavor and texture.  Almost every recipe I read said this dish is better if left to sit for several hours or even over night.  Fesenjān is phenomenal served with chelow – rice prepared with a golden crust created at the bottom of the pot called tadig, infused with lots of saffron and lots of butter (the method is somewhat similar to plov, but with yogurt or sour cream rather than egg).  Between the saffron, pomegranate and walnuts, this is  definitely a luxury dish – but one that will be sure to please your guests!

Recipe Source: Simply Recipes



Toast and grind the walnuts

Toast the walnuts in a large skillet over medium high heat, stirring frequently until lightly toasted. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground.


Brown the chicken

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. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the chicken from the pan, set aside.


Sauté the onions

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.


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.


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.


Serve over rice, preferably chelow, and garnish with pomegranate seeds.


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Poland: Bialy Barszcz
Syria: Ma’amoul
Poland: Bialy Barszcz
Syria: Ma’amoul

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