Persian walnut pomegranate chicken (Fesenjan)

By Linda Shiue
Published March 8, 2011 1:30AM (EST)

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'll be making it again on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring, which falls this year on March 20. Recipe adapted from

Serves 6 to 8.


  • ¼ cup butter or oil
  • 2 pounds chicken legs or thighs, bone-in, cut into serving-size pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups walnuts, finely ground with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock or water
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate molasses *
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • optional: sugar to taste


  1. Heat butter or oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium flame. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Remove browned chicken and reserve on a plate.
  2. Add the onions to the pot and sauté until translucent.
  3. Stir in the ground walnuts and stock or water and return the browned chicken pieces to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  4. 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, adding sugar if desired, and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve with plain white basmati rice.

* Pomegranate molasses, sometimes called pomegranate syrup, is available in most Middle Eastern and health food stores. 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 or water.

Linda Shiue

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