Khoresh-e Fesenjan (Pomegranate & Walnut Stew)




30 min


1 hr


  • 1 lbs ‏walnuts, toasted and ground
  • 2 tbsp ‏butter
  • olive oil ‏2 tbsp
  • 1 large ‏onion, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs ‏chicken thigh and breast, boneless
  • 2 cups ‏pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp ‏brown sugar
  • ½ tsp ‏turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ‏salt
  • ½ tsp ‏nutmeg powder
  • ¼ tsp ‏cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ‏black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 cups ‏warm water

Khoresh-e Fesenjan is a thick chicken stew packed with walnuts and rich, tangy sweetness of pomegranate molasses. The dish is most commonly made with chicken, although traditionally in northern Iran, where the dish is said to have originated, people used wild ducks. I’ve made it with duck legs a few times — it’s extra flavorful and takes slightly longer, but very much worth it.

Soak the walnuts in cold water for about half an hour and then set them aside to dry. Then toast them by spreading them on a skillet on medium heat, stirring regularly. You can also use the oven to toast them — set them on a baking sheet and toast for about 5-8 minutes at 350°F. Set them aside to cool. Then gently rub the walnuts between your palms to shed the skin — the more skin you can get off the better. Then use a food processor — or a wide mortar and pestle — to finely chop the walnut pieces. Make sure its consistency is ground, not paste.

In a Dutch oven or a wide pot, heat the butter and a tablespoon of olive oil and brown the chicken pieces for about 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle some salt as the chicken is cooking. Set them aside on a plate. Add the remaining oil to the pot and saute the onions until they turn golden brown. Add salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, black pepper and stir. Put in the ground walnut and stir. Add warm water and keep it at a lively simmer. Pour in the pomegranate molasses while gently stirring the mix — you will see it turn to a heavy brownish red stew. You can do a taste test at this point. Add more sugar if it is too sour. If it doesn’t have a tangy kick, that means you may need one more tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, before transferring the chicken pieces into the pot. Stir and then cook with the cover slightly open for about 30-45 minutes, until the sauce is thick — but not dry — and dark, with a layer of walnut oil floating on the surface. The chicken pieces should look like they will pull apart. Stir well to evenly mix the oil.

Pour the Fesenjan into a serving bowl and garnish with some fresh pomegranate seeds. Enjoy with saffron rice.

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