A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken or chickpeas, or both! Earthy, rich and tangy, this luscious stew is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! Vegan adaptable. With a Video. 

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

When we let go of insisting that we are who we think we are and that the world should give us exactly and only what we want, all things shine forth. ~ John Brehm (The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy)

Introducing Fesenjan (pronounced FESEN-joon)- a classic Persian dish made with chicken, ground walnuts and pomegranate -earthy, tangy and deep, Fesejan is soulful and oh so satisfying.

The flavorful sauce is sumptuous and rich from the ground walnuts, with a pleasant tanginess from the pomegranate molasses. The warming spices of turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg add a whisper of the exotic, transporting you away to far-off places.  And if you get the balance just right,  Fesenjan is downright swoon-worthy! This version can be made with either chickpeas or chicken or both, as you see here!

Origin of Fresenjan

Fesenjan originates from Northern Iran where pomegranates grow happily near the Caspian Sea. It is believed that pomegranates originated here and in the Persian culture, represented immortality and fertility.  This traditional Persian stew dates all the way back to the Persian Empire (500 BC) and was often made on the night of winter solstice (called Yalda)  the darkest night of the year. For more info on this beautiful Iranian winter tradition- visit here. 

How to make Fesenjan | Video

Ingredients in Fesejan

  •  walnuts
  •  chicken thighs (boneless, skinless) or sub chickpeas
  •  olive oil 
  •  yellow onion
  • garlic
  • spices: turmeric, cumincinnamon stick (optional), cinnamonnutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • orange zest
  • chicken stock  (or sub veggie broth )
  • pomegranate molasses (or make your own- see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • Garnish- flat-leaf parsley and pomegranate seeds

How to make Fesenjan

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Step One:

It starts with toasting 2 cups of walnuts which will become the base of the sauce. Using fresh walnuts (that are not bitter) is essential here.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Grind the toasted walnuts.

This week I’m partnering with California Walnuts to create this cozy dinner.  The addition of toasted walnuts gives the stew a wonderful richness, not to mention added protein (4 grams/ounce), fiber (2 grams/ounce) and good, plant-based fats (13g/oz polyunsaturated and 2.5g/oz monounsaturated fat)and healthy plant-based fats.Walnuts have zero cholesterol and are the only nut with a significant amount of plant-based omega-3 ALA (2.5 grams/ounce).

TIP: It is important to use really fresh walnuts for this recipe, and I wanted to share how I keep nuts fresh by storing them in the freezer.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Freezing the walnuts keeps them from getting bitter.

Step Two:

If using chicken, cut them into bite-sized pieces and brown and set aside. Keep in mind, you can keep this vegan with chickpeas!A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Step three:

Caramelize the onions and garlic. Take your time here…this is where the flavor is developed.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Step four:

Add the fragrant spices and toast them for a few minutes, intensifying the flavor. Add the orange zest.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Orange zest and Pomegranate Molasses, both give this a tangy brightness.

Step five

Add the Pomegranate Molasses.

Pomegranate Molasses can be found in specialty grocery stores and ethnic markets, and sometimes in the ethnic section of your grocery store, but if you can’t find it, just buy a little bottle of POM, (pomegranate juice) and make some at home – by reducing the juice in a saucepan.

(Just an FYI – it is easiest if you make the Pomegranate molasses ahead, as it takes 45-55 minutes to reduce on the stove. See recipe notes.) 

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Step six

Add the broth, the ground walnuts and the chicken and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

Step seven

Then add the chickpeas.

A quick note-  you can also make this without the chickpeas- just add more chicken. See notes!

Serve over saffron-infused basmati rice, cous cous or herbed quinoa for a hearty flavorful meal. The first time I made this I used chicken thighs, and the second time I used chick peas, and both were terrific. A combo of the two would also work well.  At one point, my meat-loving husband said, "this doesn't really even need chicken, the sauce is so good". Either way it will satisfy.

Step eight

Reduce the stew uncovered, until thickened, and the oil begins to rise and shimmer on the top.

Serve over saffron-infused basmati rice, cous cous or herbed quinoa for a hearty flavorful meal. The first time I made this I used chicken thighs, and the second time I used chick peas, and both were terrific. A combo of the two would also work well.  At one point, my meat-loving husband said, "this doesn't really even need chicken, the sauce is so good". Either way it will satisfy.

Step nine: Serve!

Serve this with saffron-infused basmati rice or Tah Dig (Persian Rice).

Garnish with fresh pomegranate and parsley. FYI: Here is the easiest way to cut a pomegranate. 

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

 

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

You could also serve this with quinoa or toasted pita bread.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

I really love the adaptability of this stew. The flavorful toasty walnut base is sumptuous and luscious and really can be paired with many things. For a keto version, just leave out the starch. Or try it over cauliflower rice.

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor! #persianstew #fesenjan #persianrecipes #persiancchicken #middleeastern #chicken #chickpeastew

The perfect way to celebrate winter solstice or delicious any time of year.

Serve over saffron-infused basmati rice, cous cous or herbed quinoa for a hearty flavorful meal. The first time I made this I used chicken thighs, and the second time I used chick peas, and both were terrific. A combo of the two would also work well.  At one point, my meat-loving husband said, "this doesn't really even need chicken, the sauce is so good". Either way it will satisfy.

Hope you love this Fesenjan Recipe as much as we do.

More recipes you may like:

xoxoxo

Sylvia

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Fesenjan -Persian Stew with Walnuts and Pomegranate


Description

A delicious recipe for Fesenjan, a Persian Walnut Pomegranate Stew with chicken and chickpeas. Earthy, rich and tangy, this is bursting with Middle Eastern Flavor!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 11 ½ pounds chicken thighs ( boneless, skinless) or see notes for vegan options
  • generous pinch salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 T butter (divided)
  • 3 cups yellow onion, diced ( 1  1/2 onions)
  • 4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • orange zest- 3  large strips (½-inch x 2-inch slices -see photos!) use a veggie peeler.
  • 2 cups chicken stock or broth ( or sub veggie)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses or syrup (or make your own- see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 ½  teaspoon salt
  • 1 can chickpeas ( drained, rinsed) optional, see notes.
  • serve with saffron infused rice or Tah Dig ( Persian Rice)
  • Garnish- chopped Italian parsley and pomegranate seeds

Instructions

  1. Heat a dutch oven over medium-low heat and toast the walnuts, stirring every couple minutes, until golden, roughly 10 minutes.  At the same time, chop the onions and garlic. Cut the chicken ( if using)  into 1 inch pieces and season with salt and pepper. Drain and rinse chickpeas if using.
  2. Set toasted walnuts on a plate to cool. Then place in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  3. Wipe out the Dutch oven and drizzle with a little oil and sear the chicken until golden. Set aside. Using the same pan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, golden and fragrant, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 3-4 more minutes. When onion garlic mixture is deeply golden, add the cinnamon stick, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin and orange zest, and toast for 1-2 more minutes.
  4. Add the broth, sraping up any browned bits. Add pomegranate molasses, maple syrup,  and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, the seared chicken, ground walnuts and bring to a boil, stirring.
  5. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes, covered, stirring every 15 mins.
  6.  Uncover, add chickpeas, and continue simmering until the stew has thickened and reduced,  10-15 more minutes, stirring.
  7. Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and fresh parsley.
  8. Serve with saffron-infused basmati rice, quinoa, or Persian Rice.

Notes

  •  If you can’t find pomegranate molasses, make your own by pouring 1 cup pomegranate juice, 1 tablespoon maple, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and a pinch salt into a small pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes until reduced to 1/4 of a cup. Set aside to cool.
  • If substituting chickpeas for the chicken: Use 2 cans ( 3 cups) rinsed and drained, and add to the stew, after it cooks for the 45 minutes. Alternatively, you could also use 1 can chickpeas and cauliflower florets.
  • If you don’t want to use chickpeas, increase chicken thighs to 2 -2 ¼ pounds.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 532
  • Sugar: 6.7 g
  • Sodium: 1031.3 mg
  • Fat: 37.2 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 29.8 g
  • Fiber: 5.7 g
  • Protein: 23.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 71 mg

Keywords: Fesenjan, Fesenjan Recipe, Persian Stew, How to make Fesenjan, What is Fesenjan, Fesenjan Chickpeas, Fesenjan with Chicken,

 

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Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

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Comments

  1. I really NEED to make this, but my husband only likes chicken legs. Is it possible to use whole (not chopped up) chicken legs in this recipe and should I adjust the cooking time?

    1. Yes, that should be fine! Give them a really good sear on all sides- then nestle into the stew. They should cook through in the 45 mintues, but use a themometer to be sure. 165F

      1. Thank you! I made it this last weekend and it is absolutely terrific. It’s already become a firm favourite with us!!!

    1. If your saffron is deeply red, a small pinch should suffice, if it is more golden or orange, then a large pinch. 😉

    1. Hi Alex! I have not tried this with pistachios, and can’t really picture it here. The walnuts break down into the sauce, not sure pistachios would do the same?

  2. How ever did you get such a rich, dark, and vibrant color with this recipe? I cooked my version with chickpea and cauliflower–no chicken–slowly for a long time. Did forget to save some pomegranate seeds as garnish.

    Very tasty yet a very dull medium brown color. Even the orange peel strips were dull. For this photo and/or when you serve the fesenjan, did you garnish the dish with fresh orange strips?

    Froze some–also tasty a few weeks afterwards.

      1. I made my own pomegranate molasses…cooked in heavy duty saucepan, stirring, and watching carefully as it reduced.

        1. So when I used store-bought mine seemed more vibrant and then less so when I made my own. Perhaps that is it?

          1. That is probably the cause–the home made produces a lighter color. And my other question: did you use a color filter when taking the photo and in your photo, did you use fresh orange peels as a vibrant garnish…in addition to the orange peels that were part of the Fesenjan cooking process?

          2. I don’t use a filter….but I have may have added extra orange peels at the end- I can’t quite remember but it looks like it. 🙂

  3. Diversifying what I cook. Getting globally inspired by the lovely people and culture that makes up our world our nation. Embracing our melting pot of food and people and cultures. My teen son has made a new friend. She’s a military daughter of a U.S. Navy officer born and raised in Iran. I got my inspiration from their friendship as my son has very few true friends. Just wanted to know more about their customary foods and culture and attempt to show my appreciation by cooking a comfort food they have familiarity with. My sons new friends dad is currently on a six month deployment so I just wanted to show appreciation using food as my passion is cooking.

  4. I’ve been wanting to make this dish for years but thought it was too intimidating. This recipe was very doable and it was delicious!

  5. I made this last night for guests and it was delicious! I ended up using double the amount of pomegranate molasses to get that tangy taste and served it with saffron rice. To start I made roasted cauliflower (was trying for steaks but my cauliflower did not cooperate) with romesco sauce from this site – also a great recipe.

  6. Hello Sylvia,
    I very much enjoy your recipes and have made several of them. I did want to bring up a comment on the importance of cultural credit and appropriation, especially when being inspired by so many world cuisines and dishes, as the case with Fessenjan. It would be great if you could include either more about the history of the dish and ingredients or culturally specific food blogs that share some of these foods. For example, using maple syrup is not a traditional ingredient, so a bit more context on this being your version would be great, while also ensuring that we are being responsible on the origination of these foods and others that have been advocating/publishing such recipes. Thank you!

    1. Hi Mariya- you are absolutely right and I updated the post. Thanks for pointing this out. 🙂

  7. I made a vegan version with 4 portabellos diced up and added after the spices (could also have gone in before that with the garlic but I thought that would make the pan too wet to get a good toasting effect onthe spices). I let them saute a while to get some browning before adding the liquid. For those who want it to look as dark as yours portabello gills help, although it still lightened up when I added the broth and ground walnuts.

    Next time I would grind the walnuts clear to nut butter. There will definitely be a next time–love this.

      1. Yummy! I ended up adding a bit more cumin (< 1/2 t.) and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper–wanted a little more heat. Served on quinoa.