Fesenjoon is a rich and flavorful Persian stew made with ground fresh walnuts and concentrated pomegranate juice. The walnuts add a rich nutty flavor to this stew, while the pomegranate molasses adds a tart and sweet flavor. It is a traditional Persian stew that is served over a plate of Persian rice.
Persian cuisine is not only about providing nutrients, but also about creating a healthy balance of hot and cold foods in our bodies. Pomegranates, prunes, and rice are all considered cold foods, while walnuts, onions and turmeric are considered hot. When these ingredients are combined, they balance each other out and create a harmonious flavor profile that is both delicious and nutritious.
Watch the Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew Video Below!
Fesenjoon stew, also known as khoresh fesenjoon, is a classic Persian dish that is full of flavor. The ground walnuts are nutty, warm and high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats, while the pomegranate molasses is tangy and sweet, and rich in antioxidants.
Here is a list of the main ingredients you'll need:
- boneless chicken thighs
- red onions
- ground saffron
- pomegranate molasses
- black prunes
- chicken or bone broth
- olive oil, canola oil, or other neutral oil
- pinch of salt and black pepper
Saffron is a beautiful spice, used in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes. Saffron brings a floral aroma and a vibrant color to this dish. To make the saffron water used in this recipe, ground the saffron, then add some warm water and let it steep for at least 15 minutes.
You can make pomegranate molasses by reducing pomegranate juice over several hours on low heat until it is about 75% reduced, but I prefer to buy it. It has the consistency of maple syrup, and tastes similar to a thick and sweet balsamic vinegar, without the acidity. Look for bottles that have no added sugar.
Please refer to recipe card below for quantities.
Recipe instructions for cooking Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew
In a food processor, grind the walnuts until they resemble sand. Then transfer to a large pan and dry toast them on low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure they do not burn at the bottom of the pot. They should be just under golden brown in color. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Heat the cooking oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft.
Add the turmeric, pepper, and toasted walnuts. Sauté for a few additional minutes, and then add the 2.5 cups of chicken broth. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, season the chicken pieces with salt and black pepper. In a large pan, heat some oil on medium-high heat and brown chicken on both sides, and then set aside.
In the large Dutch oven or pot, add the pomegranate molasses, saffron water, chopped or puréed prunes, and the remaining chicken broth, and give it a good stir. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, checking the stew periodically to make sure it has enough liquid and adding more if needed.
Add the browned chicken to the pot and cook for a minimum of 20 minutes, or more, on low heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt if needed. If your broth is salted, you may not need additional salt. At this stage, you can also add 1-2 tablespoons of additional pomegranate molasses if your stew needs more tang.
The stew will turn a dark brown color when it is ready. If desired, remove the excess oil from the top before serving. Serve with fresh saffron-infused basmati rice and enjoy!
Chicken thighs: chicken breasts, meatballs, turkey breasts, or duck can be substituted in this recipe. You may have to adjust the cooking time based on the different proteins that you choose.
Saffron: if saffron is not available, increase the turmeric to 1 ½ teaspoons, and add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon.
Pomegranate molasses: pomegranate juice can be used as a substitute for pomegranate molasses, but it must be cooked first. To do this, reduce 3 cups of pomegranate juice by 75%, or until you are left with ¾ cup. This will take approximately 2-3 hours on a low simmer. Pomegranate syrup is not a good substitute, as it is cooked with added sugars and is often reserved for desserts.
Variations of Fesenjoon
Vegan or Vegetarian Option
Chicken: Use tofu, pumpkin, or butternut squash in place of chicken. Cut into cubes and lightly sauté, then add to the stew in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Chicken or bone broth: Use Vegetable broth or hot water in place of chicken or bone broth.
Persian stews are great make ahead meals. You can make Fesenjoon up to 2 days in advance. On the day you plan to serve, add the chicken and cook for an additional 30 minutes on a low simmer. If the stew appears too thick, add more broth as needed. Taste and season with salt or add 1-2 more tablespoons of pomegranate molasses. Fesenjoon also freezes beautifully.
This dish is adaptable, and you can substitute the walnuts with a combination of finely ground pecans and almonds.
There are many regional variations in Persian food, and fesenjoon is one that varies significantly in how sweet the flavors of the dish should be. In my recipe, your fesenjoon will have a hint of sweetness and a sour tang from the pomegranate. If you prefer your stew on the sweeter side, add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar after tasting it.
Yes, fesenjoon is a nutrient-rich dish that is also delicious without any meat. The walnut paste gives it a rich and creamy texture, while the pomegranate molasses adds a sweet and tart flavor. Eaten over rice, it is a complete meal.
Toasting the walnuts enhances the flavor and is essential to the overall flavor of this fesenjoon recipe. As an alternative to pan toasting, the ground up walnuts can be placed on a baking sheet, and placed in a 350 heated oven for 10-15 minutes to achieve the same results. The walnuts should not burn, as they will taste bitter and cannot be used for this recipe.
Yes, you can add more pomegranate molasses after taste testing the stew. My recipe calls for ¾ of a cup, then adding 1 tablespoon at a time near the end of cooking, until you reach your desired taste. Allow the molasses to cook for 10 minutes, as the flavors and color develop with heat. Additionally, ½ tablespoon of lemon juice can be added for additional sour flavor.
Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew (Fesenjoon)
- 1 ½ lbs chicken thighs bone and skin removed
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 red onions medium sized
- 16 oz walnuts
- ½ teaspoon ground saffron mixed in ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup pomegranate molasses plus 2 tablespoon more if needed
- 6 black prunes finely chopped or pureed
- 3 ½ cups broth chicken or bone
- oil for sautéing
- salt and pepper
- In a food processor, grind the walnuts until they resemble sand. Then transfer to a large pan and dry toast them for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure they do not burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Heat the cooking oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the turmeric, pepper, and toasted walnuts. Saute for a few minutes, then add the 2.5 cups of chicken broth. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally while you prepare the chicken. If the stew starts to look dry, add ¼ cup hot water or broth.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken on both sides. Set aside.
- To the walnut mixture, add the pomegranate molasses, saffron water, prunes, and the remaining chicken broth, adding more than the recipe suggests if the stew appears too dry. Keep the heat on low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the pot and cook for a minimum of 20 minutes, or more, making sure that that the bottom of the pan does not stick. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding an additional 1-2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses and salt if needed.
- Serve with fresh basmati rice and enjoy.