Make Ahead

Persian Chicken Stew in Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce (Fesenjan)

May  2, 2014
2 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This dish combines the creamy richness of the slow-cooked ground walnut sauce with a sour-sweet undercurrent of pomegranate molasses. It’s savored on special occasions. I enjoy it so much at Persian restaurants or homemade with love by Persian friends, I had to learn how to make it myself. This recipe is adapted from with additional suggestions from a Persian friend. I like to make it on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of Spring on the Persian calendar.

Pomegranate molasses, sometimes called pomegranate syrup, is available in most Middle Eastern markets. It has the color and consistency of molasses but is simply reduced pomegranate juice, without added sugar. If it is unavailable, you can substitute 2 cups of fresh pomegranate juice and use only 1/2 cup of stock. —Beautiful, Memorable Food

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe has been on my wish list for a while. Pomegranate is a flavor I love, but I've never cooked with the molasses before. The sweet/tart flavor is mellowed by the oils provided by the walnuts and chicken, bringing together a flavor I didn't expect, but absolutely love! The night I made this, we unexpectedly hosted my roommate's Iranian friend for dinner. She was delighted that someone would take the time to learn and prepare the food of her culture and she approved the recipe by cleaning her plate. —sylvie

What You'll Need
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups walnuts, ground in food processor or if you want to be traditional, with a mortar and pestle
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh pomegranate arils, for garnish (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot (like a Dutch oven) and add chicken. Cook until browned on both sides. Then remove browned chicken and reserve on a plate.
  2. Next, add the sliced onions to the pot and sauté until translucent. Stir in the ground walnuts and stock and return the browned chicken to the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Stir in the pomegranate molasses, cardamom, salt, and pepper. Simmer for another hour until the chicken is tender, the sauce is slightly thickened and the walnuts begin to release their oil. Adjust seasoning to taste and simmer for 10 more minutes. Stir so that oil is incorporated into the sauce, and serve over basmati rice. Garnish with pomegranate arils.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • rob
  • Susanna
  • Irene Scali Rutigliano
    Irene Scali Rutigliano
  • Hollie Hoffman
    Hollie Hoffman
  • Beautiful, Memorable Food
    Beautiful, Memorable Food
I'm the author Spicebox Kitchen and a physician and chef who teaches healthy cooking classes in San Francisco at the Thrive Kitchen. Come cook with me! More information on Facebook at TheDoctorsSpicebox. To your health!

9 Reviews

rob August 12, 2021
Found it a little bit too tart and I only had ½ cup of pomegranate instead of ¾ of a cup. I put in about 2 teaspoons of honey and got a nice balance.
aclincol November 8, 2020
We absolutely loved this dish. I was blessed by a gift of pomegranates from friends, and spent part of an afternoon juicing. Added the juice plus a splash of chicken stock in step 2. The only thing I would modify would be to reduce the cardamom a bit. I have a few fruits left, so hoping to make it again this week!
Susanna October 27, 2020
This was delicious, even though I had no walnuts on ha d and used pistachios instead. The pomegranate molasses were a revelation—and not overly sweet.
Irene S. July 24, 2017
I am cooking this now and it tastes amazing. I am using bone-in skin-on thighs and adjusting the cooking time of the chicken a bit but I can not wait to sit down to a plate of this.
Hollie H. October 9, 2015
Should the thighs be boneless?
Beautiful, M. August 30, 2015
Thank you so much for the Community Pick! Sylvie, your review was the loveliest compliment ever!
anka August 8, 2015
I made this for a dinner and it was excellent. It's a keeper.
Beautiful, M. August 13, 2015
Thanks Anka!
gingerroot May 8, 2014
This sounds fabulous, Linda!