Make Ahead

Persian Chicken Stew in Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce (Fesenjan)

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

  • Serves 8
  • 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)
In This Recipe
  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.

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I'm a physician and chef and teach healthy cooking classes in San Francisco at the Thrive Kitchen. Come cook with me! More information on Facebook at TheDoctorsSpicebox. To your health!