Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Khoresh-e Fesenjān or Fesenjoon is a globally loved Persian (Irani) stew prepared with meat or poultry in ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses sauce! 
Fesenjoon | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Ingredients used in Chicken Fesenjan Recipe

  • Chicken: Use skinless thighs or drumsticks. Avoid using breasts.  You may use duck or your favourite meatballs.
  • Onion
  • Walnuts
  • Pomegranate molasses or concentrate ( you may use grenadine)
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Water 
  • Spices: turmeric powder and black pepper powder
  • Sugar
  • Salt
What is a good substitute for walnuts? 
Walnuts in this Persian Chicken Stew recipe are a mandatory ingredient but if for some reason you want to replace walnuts with an alternative option, then my best guess would be to use pine nuts or pecans and lastly maybe hazelnuts. But I have not tested these options.

What does Fesenjen taste like?

It is sour and tangy with a hint of sweetness, both flavours coming from tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses. The walnut paste adds a wonderful nutty taste and makes a rich sauce adding body and texture to the chicken stew. And the slow-cooked chicken gets soft soaking up all the flavour while rendering stock into the stew making it finger-licking good! 

What is the best substitute for Pomegranate Molasses?

Pomegranate molasses also called dibis Ramman is a syrup derived from the reduced pomegranate juice with or without sugar, into a thick, intensely flavoured syrup. You can easily use grenadine molasses instead. It is tangy and sweet like tamarind. Yes, Tamarind is the closest best alternative I can recommend but if you can only find grape molasses, then you can use that too. Always start adding a little and adjust as per taste. You may also make it at home by cooking down and reducing pomegranate juice or even cranberry juice. 

How do you make Fesenjoon?

Khoresh-e Fesenjān, Fesenjan, and Fesenjoon are all the same dish - Persian Stew with walnut and pomegranate molasses. I adapted this recipe for Fesenjan from The Unmanly Chef. From what I read, Fesenjan needs love and care and cannot be rushed through for quick dinners. So resolve to make this only when you have ample time and know you will be serving hungry tummies!
  1. prepare the walnut paste
  2. use only butter and olive oil 
  3. brown the chicken or duck pieces
  4. fry the onion slices
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients 
  6. Slow cook stirring until chicken is soft and stew is browned (almost 45 minutes to an hour)
  7. Serve with Persian rice (saffron or turmeric rice)
Slow cooking is the key to developing the colour and taste of this stew. The walnut paste and molasses tend to stick or burn quickly, so stir the stew every 10 minutes. The end result is a sweet and sour concoction that goes well with rice or bread! But rice is recommended! These pictures are from my recent recreation of this dish and I have tweaked the recipe technique. With this, my bottle of molasses is over!

If any of you have a bottle of molasses and thinking about how to use it up, just add them in place of tamarind pulp - I have made south Indian tomato rasam, tamarind chutney, thakkali mulagittathu and even in marinades. There are ample ways to incorporate the pomegranate molasses into our Indian dishes so it is not a buy once and never use again thing.

More Pomegranate Molasses recipes?

So, next time you go to the supermarket, pick a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses and make Fesenjan! If you can't locate molasses, you can try using Pomegranate Concentrate which is less sour and more diluted than Molasses so you may have to use more quantity.

Fesenjoon | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Fesenjān Recipe | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts


For the walnut paste:
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 2 tablespoons of water
For the chicken stew:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • 550gms boneless chicken thighs, pat dried 
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely 
  • Prepared walnut paste
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1 cup of water 
  • 1/4 teaspoon  turmeric powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • to 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • Salt to taste
For garnish:
  • Fresh pomegranate arils 


Prepare the Walnut paste:
  1. Toast the walnuts until fragrant and let them cool.
  2. Transfer the walnuts into a mixie or food processor and pulse a few times until it resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Add some water and grind the paste until it lightens in colour. Keep this aside for later.
Prepare the Fesenjoon stew:
  1. Heat some butter and olive oil in a thick-bottomed pot.
  2. Roast the chicken thighs until golden brown on all sides.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep it aside.
  4. Add the chopped onions and sauté until golden brown with a dash of salt.
  5. Add the walnut paste, pomegranate molasses, water, turmeric powder, salt and pepper.
  6. Drop the chicken pieces into the stew and season with salt.
  7. Add the sugar and bring the stew to boil on medium to high flame.
  8. Reduce the flame to low once it boils. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour stirring every 10 minutes until the stew develops a dark colour.
  9. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with pomegranate arils. Serve with saffron/turmeric rice or any bread.
  • Do not add too much more water 
  • You may add a pinch of saffron to the finished Fesenjan stew. 
  • If making saffron rice, you may add a pinch of turmeric just enough to enhance the colour of the dish naturally without altering the taste. Saffron is expensive and it is better to use natural colouring than chemicals. It is totally okay to take saffron and turmeric together.
Fesenjoon | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

I love the fact that this dish involves just one chopping task - onions. By the time the stew is done,  the chicken melts so easily that it becomes a thick gravy. We enjoyed our dinner with an "unbelievable" face! Like how can something taste so good?
Fesenjān | Persian Chicken Stew With Pomegranate and Walnuts

Images and Recipe updated in Jan 2020. 


Have you tried my chicken mandi recipe yet?


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