Make Ahead

Iranian/Persian Fesenjoon (walnut and pomegranate dish) with Rice

September 23, 2012
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

Khoresh-e fesenjoon is one of the most well known and loved Iranian dishes and is served over a bed of steamed rice. It is made during the fall and winter months because of the richness of the flavors and its seasonal main ingredients; walnuts, pomegranate molasses and pumpkins. It is a very nutritious food that gets its anti-oxidants from the pomegranates, its beneficial oils from the walnuts, and its beta-carotene from the pumpkin.
My recipe is made with chicken. Two other popular variations use duck legs or meatballs made from ground beef infused with saffron and grated onions. —cookingProf

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups Walnuts
  • 1 Packed cup of grated (raw) or pureed (cooked) butternut squash or pumpkin
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 10-12 Dried golden plums (optional)
  • 6 pieces Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (all visible fat trimmed)
  • 1 Medium onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Pomegranate molasses
  • 2-3 tablespoons Brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes or until they start to change color. Let cool. This can be done ahead of time.
  2. Finely chop the walnuts to a coarse meal in a food processor.
  3. Put the walnuts, grated squash or pumpkin, dried plums (optional), and water in a medium pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Stir once or twice.
  4. Put the minced onions and olive oil in a small pot. Roll the chicken thighs and place them seam-side down on the bed of minced onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until the onions start to caramelize.
  5. Add the pomegranate molasses to the walnut sauce. Add brown sugar, one tablespoon at a time, to the desired sweetness. Remove the chicken thighs to a side plate and scrape off the caramelized onions into the walnut sauce. Stir and adjust for the desired saltiness and sweetness. Place the pieces of chicken in the sauce. Cover the pot and simmer over medium low heat for another sixty minutes. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water. Note: The sauce should not be too thin. If it is thinner than desired, leave the cover off during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking.
  6. Serve over parboiled and steamed Basmati rice. Left over khoresht (stew) freezes well.
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  • Kami Luke
    Kami Luke
  • Jaxmccaff
  • sheila356
  • ZombieCupcake
  • cookingProf

Recipe by: cookingProf

I was gifted with the love for cooking as a very young girl growing up in Tehran. I would follow my grandmother to the fresh produce market every day in summer days and help carry her basket home. I would then stand around at her foot in the kitchen and she would reward me with delicious morsels of the food she was cooking. My two prominent occupations/preoccupations are cooking and teaching computer science/writing computer programs. I find both equally rewarding.

18 Reviews

Kami L. February 7, 2021
It's okay, probably won't make it again. Reminds me of a chicken mole. Not a lot of flavor. It's my first time having this dish, probably personal preference, but not a fan.
molly January 12, 2016
OMG this is amazing. I used chicken breasts instead of thighs, and it was phenomenal! Such a unique flavor! It's sweet, tart, hearty and absolutely delicious. It made a lot more sauce than I was anticipating, but it is so good that I put it over plain rice. I was really unsure about this recipe, as I've never made persian food before, but I can't wait to try new recipes. Definitely give this one a try!
A May 10, 2015
smonfor January 7, 2015
Fariba - If you garnish with pomegranate seeds you can add the bright jems of contrast -also think about your sides and make them more attractive/colorful. You could also take the dried plums and sliver them to make a garnish as well - black and red against the brown.
fariba January 5, 2015
I am trying to cook for my German boyfriend, but I am a little bit afraid about the meal appearance! maybe degusting in brown colour but it is so tasty and I like he taste it! what should I do?
Barb168 November 11, 2015
Fariba, you can add some chopped parsley right before you serve it.
Jaxmccaff March 13, 2014
My boyfriend is Iranian and so I wanted to make this for him since I'm Irish and have yet to try cooking Iranian food for him. It was excellent and my boyfriend loved it too. I used chicken breast instead of thighs which cut down on the cooking time. The meat was tender and the 'gravy' was rich, thick and delicious. I will make this again!
cookingProf March 14, 2014
Ginja Ninja, Glad you enjoyed it. You can also try it with meatballs (ground beef, grated onion, saffron, and salt and pepper) instead of chicken.
kpcricket February 17, 2014
I impulsively bought a jar of pomegranate molasses and found this recipe while looking for ideas to use it. It looks delicious. Have you ever made a crock-pot version of it? We like to come home to something already done.
cookingProf March 5, 2014
KPcricket, I am glad you asked. In fact, the truly traditional method for making fesenjoon is to make it SLOWLY simmer for a LONG time. The crock-pot method would be perfect for this dish.
donna1963 October 23, 2013
Where would I find dried golden plums? I live in Manhattan on the Upper West Side.
sheila356 October 14, 2013
Made this last night for the first time. We all said it is a keeper. It is so good. And lucky for us, our walnut tree is loaded this year. I can see this often throughout the winter. Also, I had some leftover sauce and I have it in the freezer to see how it does for future use.
ZombieCupcake April 6, 2013
Wouldn't call them improvements I made. More like MacGyver'd it lol. Look in my cupboard and saw I was out of a lot of stuff. Used canned pumpkin, dried pomegranates, and honey instead of brown sugar, still turned out great but next time I really want to stick to the original. Thank you for the recipe.
cookingProf April 7, 2013
Very creative, ZombieCupcake! I like the can-do attitude. Canned pumpkins, pun intended, would totally work for this, as will peeled and pureed apples in place of pumpkin. I have used both in the past.
smonfor January 29, 2013
Very tasty. I've never had this before, so not sure how it was supposed to turn out. I made as directed and would make some changes. 1) it makes a lot of sauce. Would add more meat. 2) I would brown the meat on high with a quarter of the onion, add remaining onion and cover a few minutes. Or remove meat and sauté onion separately. Then add all to large saucepan to simmer on low an hour.
I used half black plums and half apricots. I think I would mince them if I made again.
Also, my molasses came in a bottle and was very difficult to get out. I heated the bottle and then used half of it, about 120ml which is maybe a bit more than half a cup. I garnished with fresh pomegranate, but mint would have been a nice accent flavour too.
cookingProf January 30, 2013
Glad you liked it, smonfor. Sauteing the onions until it caramelizes is a good way of adding even more depth of flavor. Traditional Persian foods do not go heavy on meat. After all, walnuts serve as a good source of plant-based protein in their own right. But, adjusting the amount of meat to taste is OK and does not alter the character of the dish itself.
Black plums and apricots hydrate back to big chunks. Cutting them to smaller bite sizes pieces sounds like a good idea.
st B. October 12, 2012
Oh, I love fesenjan. we make it differently than this recipe - no butternut squash or plums, and with tieeny-tiny ground beef/lamb+onion meatballs, and we let it slooowly simmer for about 4 hours. we make a huge amount at a time and freeze 2-person portions so we can eat it all winter and only have to make it once!
Atria May 17, 2014
St banoo, or anyone, how do you make the meatballs? Thanks.