Persian Chicken Stew (Fesenjan)
I love fesenjan and always get it on those rare occasions we are able to make it to Persian restaurants. So I thought I would learn to make it myself. I’m not sure how authentic this version is, but it is super tasty.
The stew is rich with a walnut base and tart with pomegranate with some freshness added with pomegranate arils and some chopped parsley.
It is super easy to convert this to a vegan recipe: swap the chicken broth for veggie broth or water and swap the chicken for chickpeas or lentils. Also delicious – half chicken half chickpeas!
Start by preheating a wide-based cast iron (preferably) pot over medium heat. When warmed, add 8 ounces of plain walnuts and toast for about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove and set aside to cool, but keep the pot on the heat. When cooled, add to a food processor and pulse until they look like fine breadcrumbs.
Next, add a glug of neutral oil (I used grapeseed) to the pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cut about 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs into bite-size chunks. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and then brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
While the chicken is browning, finely chop a medium-sized onion (or half of a large onion, you want about a cup and a half of chopped onion). After removing the chicken from the pot, reduce the heat to medium to medium-low. Add another glug of oil if needed and the onions. You want to get those onions good and carmelized without becoming too dark, so adjust the heat as necessary to prevent the onions from burning. This will take up to a good 20 minutes. Then, add the chicken and the walnuts back in and stir in half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a few grinds of pepper.
Pour in 3/4 cup of pomegranate molasses, 1/2 a cup of orange juice, and 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a gentle boil then cover and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes.
Remove the lid and let it continue simmering for another 30 minutes or so. This will allow the sauce to reduce and concentrate those wonderful flavors you’ve been developing. When the sauce is reduced to your preference, taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve over rice and sprinkle with some fresh pomegranate arils and a little fresh chopped parsley. Enjoy!
Persian Chicken Stew (Fesenjan)
- 8 oz plain walnut pieces
- 1 ½ cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 – 1 onion depending on the size)
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
- ¾ cup pomegranate molasses
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- neutral oil (I used grapeseed, but use whatever you'd like)
- fresh pomegranate arils and fresh chopped parsley for garnish
- Preheat a wide, heavy-bottomed (such as cast iron) pot over medium heat. Toast the walnut pieces for about 5 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove the walnut pieces from the pot and set aside to cool. When cool, pulse in a food processor until the walnuts resemble fine bread crumbs.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add a glug of oil. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Add another glug of oil if needed and the onions. Cook until well caramelized, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the browned chicken and ground walnuts to the pot with the onions. Stir in the cinnamon.
- Add the pomegranate molasses, orange juice, and chicken stock. Bring to a gentle boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the lid and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes to reduce the sauce.
- Serve over rice and top with fresh pomegranate arils and chopped parsley. Enjoy!