Fesenjoon is a Persian stew made with ground walnuts and pomegranates. It can be made with chicken or duck, or you can leave the meat out and keep it vegan.
If you didn’t know, it’s pomegranate season. I mean, HALLELUJAH! IT’S POMEGRANATE SEASON! And if you have been following me on Instagram, then you know that we have been seeding pomegranates by the dozen in our house.
My kids are thrilled because they are inhaling a bowl of pomegranate seeds every single day. I’m a happy mom because I know they are getting a fantastic dose of fiber, vitamins and anti-oxins that is oozing out of this bejeweled fruit.
This year, our friend’s tree which gave us 200 pomegranates to take home last year, was attacked by mutant squirrels.
Well, not really. Critters and birds got to the fruit before we could. Bummer for us. But, luckily we are able to find pomegranates everywhere: in our grocery store, in the middle eastern markets and even Costco.
Middle-easterners have always loved their pomegranates. They are used in all aspects of cooking. It’s taken some time, but I’m happy to see Westerners enjoy this stunning fruit. Give a kid a bowl of pomegranate seeds and see their faces light up!
A few years back, I wrote about this stew, Fesenjoon, which is made with ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup. You can make it all vegan, too, without the addition of chicken. It is typically served over white basmati rice (recipe here), but I think it tastes even better with BROWN basmati.
I learned how to make fesenjoon from my hubby’s aunt Sholeh. My husband told me that her stew was the best. Sholeh’s secret to making the best tasting fesenjoon is to brown the ground walnut-onion mixture, which makes the base of the stew. And when I say brown the mixture, I mean cook until that mixture turns brown, like roux.
This is done slowly because you do NOT want to burn the walnuts. If you do it will taste horrible and you will have to throw it away and start again.
So be patient, it is so worth the wait. This dish is rich and so full of amazing flavors.
Once the walnut mixture is browned, you add in the saffron and pomegranate concentrate. Now here is where some people disagree with me.
I prefer to use straight up pomegranate concentrate, without any added sugar. It’s different from pomegranate syrup or molasses, which does contain sugar and has muted pomegranate flavor. I like to control how much sugar is in my meal. I like things minimally sweet, so I only add a couple tablespoons of sugar for this dish.
If you can’t find pomegranate concentrate in the stores, you can make your own concentrate. Just reduce every cup of pomegranate juice down to a 1/4 cup of liquid. Easy peasy.
Then add in the browned chicken or duck meat. This dish is traditional served with duck, and my very American dad insists that it should ONLY be served with duck. I’m more practical. I use chicken. Most Persians now use chicken. And my vegan friends can enjoy this meal without any meat at all.
Although fresh pomegranate arils are not required for this dish, I like to garnish my fesenjoon with some fresh arils.
Intimidated with seeding a pomegranate? Sure, you can buy packages of pomegranate seeds at the store, but it’s really not that hard to seed a pomegranate. Watch the video above or read detailed instructions here.
- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground saffron
- 1 1/2 cup pomegranate concentrate
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 TBS granulated sugar, if needed
- 3 TBS pomegranate arils
- Purée onions until smooth in a food processor.
- Add in walnuts and purée with the onions.
- Scrape down sides of the bowl and pulse in the food processor until onions and walnuts are completely blended and a thick paste is formed.
- In a large non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat scrape out the walnut-onion mixture and smooth it evenly on to the bottom of the skillet.
- When it starts to brown, stir and remix the paste and smooth it again evenly on to the bottom of the skillet.
- Reduce heat to low and repeat step 5 every 10-15 minutes.
- Cook until walnut-onion mixture is deep brown in color and crumbly, about 2 hours.
- In the mean time, wash and pat dry with paper towels:
- 1 1/2 lb chicken breast, boneless skinless
- Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.
- In a different non-stick skillet heat over medium-high and add olive oil.
- When oil is hot, add seasoned chicken.
- Cook until browned, approximately 5-7 minutes.
- Turn chicken breast over and brown the other side.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet and cook until chicken breasts are almost completely done, approximately 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Cut chicken breast into strips.
- Stir saffron and pomegranate concentrate into walnut-onion mixture.
- Add chicken breast strips and simmer until color darkens, about 20 minutes.
- If sauce needs thinning, drizzle in water as needed.
- Different brands of pomegranate concentrate vary in flavor and sweetness. If your pomegranate concentrate is too sour, stir in a little sugar until desired sweetness. If you are using pomegranate molasses, it is already sweetened with sugar, so no additional sugar is needed.
- Pour stew into serving dish.
- Garnish with pomegranate arils.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with basmati rice.
Cooking Tips: You can also shred the chicken and then add it to stew. This is a very rich and filling dish that your guests will love! For a vegetarian version, do not add chicken.
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Serving Size:1 1/2 cups
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 673 Total Fat: 27.7g Saturated Fat: 3.5g Cholesterol: 101mg Sodium: 324mg Carbohydrates: 69.3g Fiber: 2.8g Sugar: 49.4g Protein: 40.6g