Fesenjan (Persian Pomegranate And Walnut Chicken Stew) Photos courtesy The Mediterranean Dish

Fesenjan (Persian Pomegranate And Walnut Chicken Stew)


This recipe at The Mediterranean Dish by Persian-British recipe developer Mersedeh Prewer is for a traditional Persian stew, with fall-off-the-bone tender chicken cooked in a rich, sweet and sour pomegranate molasses and walnut sauce. Mersedeh was born and raised in the United Kingdom, where she still lives. She is passionate about all cuisines but her writing primarily focuses on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. She is a contributor to both The Kitchn and Simply Recipes. Finish this recipe with a sprinkle of fresh pomegranate seeds and serve over rice or bulgur pilaf.

“The use of pomegranate and walnuts in Persian cuisine goes back to the Sassanid period (224 to 651 AD), where they were used to flavor and thicken stews. It is believed that Khoresh-e Fesenjoon evolved from these earlier stews and became popular in the northern regions of Iran, where the climate is more suitable for growing pomegranates and walnuts.”

“My family eats fesenjan (fesenjoon) on the night of the Winter Solstice or Shabe Yaldā as we call it. Taking place on the longest night of the year, Yaldā translated from Persian to English means ‘birth,’ which ultimately underpins the essence of this festival,” says Suzy Karadsheh, creator of The Mediterranean Dish. “The festival dates to ancient times when a majority of Persians were followers of Zoroastrianism. From its Zoroastrian roots, Shab-e Yaldā celebrates the renewal of the sun and the victory of light over darkness — the winter solstice marking the lengthening of days, shortening of nights and the advancement towards spring. Pomegranates are a symbol of this festival so fesenjan is a perfect stew to cook on this special occasion.”

“Fesenjan is a stew made with chicken simmered in a pomegranate molasses and walnut sauce. This isn’t something you’d throw together on a Tuesday night after work. It requires time for the flavors to meld in a memorable way. Save this recipe for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when you can take your time and enjoy the process.”

“The recipe combines two super foods whose nutritional benefits have come to light in recent years — pomegranates and walnuts. The flavor is like no other, it is tangy with a hint of sweet. The walnuts add a nutty taste to make the flavors come together in a rich sauce. Fesenjan originates from Gilan province in northern Iran — a beautiful, lush area near where pomegranate and walnut trees grow in abundance. In fact, due to this abundance of walnuts and pomegranates several dishes from Gilan use the fruit and nut combination. It is used in recipes for Kal Kabab, an eggplant, garlic, walnut and pomegranate molasses dip, and Kabab Torsh, chicken or lamb kebabs coated in a walnut and pomegranate paste before cooking over charcoal.”

“When we serve this dish at our family functions everyone gathers around the table waiting to spoon this incredible stew onto their plates. There is nothing quite like the combination of meltingly tender chicken, nutty, earthy walnuts and sweet and sour pomegranate molasses. Don’t be intimidated by this recipe, it is actually remarkably easy to produce this famous dish. All you need is time and patience — and hopefully a good food processor for the walnuts.”

Fesenjan (Persian Pomegranate And Walnut Chicken Stew) Photos courtesy The Mediterranean Dish

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3 1/2 cups walnuts

1 tablespoon olive oil, or a little more

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

8 (2 pounds) bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, ground

3/4 cup pomegranate molasses, more as needed

2 tablespoons sugar, more as needed

Fine sea salt, to taste

Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste

Pomegranate seeds, for garnish



Grind the walnuts: Finely grind 3 1/2 cups of walnuts in a food processor until they start to look like sand that clumps together. Do not over process. You don’t want to end up with walnut butter.

Toast the walnuts: Place a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat. Lightly toast walnuts, stirring continuously for a few minutes until you can smell the aroma from the ground nuts, making sure not to burn them. Pour toasted ground walnuts into a bowl and set aside until ready to use.

Cook onions: Take a large stockpot or Dutch oven with a lid and set over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When olive oil glistens, add 1 finely diced onion. Cook onions until they start to caramelize and turn golden brown. Then add 1 teaspoon turmeric and stir into onion mixture.

Cook chicken thighs: Add chicken thighs and sear for a few minutes on each side. Pour in 3 cups water and add 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low to allow stew to simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove chicken and set aside.

Add the ground walnuts: Pour ground walnuts into the simmering cooking liquid and stir. Place the lid back on the pot and simmer the walnut mixture for 1 hour. Stir occasionally throughout to make sure walnuts don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. After the cooking time the walnut sauce should have thickened, darkened in color until its deeply golden like tahini or honey, and there will be a layer of walnut oil on top.

Bloom saffron, add pomegranate molasses, sugar: In a small bowl add 1 tablespoon of water. Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder add the 1/2 teaspoon of saffron threads and grind. You should end up with about 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron. Add the 1/4 teaspoon of ground saffron to the 1 tablespoon of water. Into the pot with the walnut mixture, add 3/4 cup of pomegranate molasses, 2 tablespoons sugar and bloomed saffron. Stir to combine.

Add chicken back into stew and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the meat is falling off the bone. The stew will be a rich dark brown and the oil from the walnuts will form a layer on the stew. Stir, season and taste. Adjust seasoning to taste. Ladle the stew into a serving dish and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve with rice, Greek yogurt, and a side salad.

To freeze: Once the fesenjan has cooled down, place it in an airtight container but leave about an inch of space to allow for expansion. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost completely before reheating.

To reheat: Pour the stew into a saucepan and place over low heat on the stove. You can reheat in the microwave using the appropriate microwave dish.


Order today at: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/cookbooks/

For step by step instructions, see: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/fesenjan-persian-pomegranate-walnut-stew/

For this website, go to: https://www.themediterraneandish.com/cookbooks/

See “Mersedeh Prewer – Founder of Saffron & Herbs”: https://saffronandherbs.com/about/

See: Khoresh-e Fesenjoon Full Recipe: https://herayspice.com/blogs/blog-and-recipes/khoresh-e-fesenjoon-full-recipe#:~:text=Khoresh%2De%20Fesenjoon%20is%20a%20traditional%20Persian%20stew%20that%20has,and%20%22fesenj%C4%81n%22%20meaning%20walnut

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