Khoresht Fesenjan ~ Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew

by My Persian Kitchen on October 30, 2009

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I think it is only logical for me to conclude the posts for “Pomegranate Week” with one of the most delicious and intriguing Persian dishes: Khoresht Fesenjan.

I can’t honestly say that my love affair with this stew began during my childhood in Iran. Nop. It sure didn’t. The sight of it turned me off.  Let’s be honest here, it is not one of the most good looking of dishes and if you don’t know what is in it, it can totally turn a person off.  Lucky me, the first time I tried it in my adulthood was made by one of my paternal aunts. I firmly believe that she makes it the best. Seriously, she’s got the magic touch.  I have to also say that it is a good thing that she likes to make it on the sour side, because if it was on the sweet side, I would have not loved this stew as much as I do. The fact that my aunt makes the best version of this stew became pretty evident to me as I was trying to make it in order  to post it here. I first cooked based on the directions by two different Persian cookbooks.  The result was just OK.  Then when talking to my mom she reminded me that she had written down the recipe during a conversation with my aunt. Sure enough the second time that I made the recipe it was a mighty success! This goes to show you that technique is an important part of cooking.  Woohoo!

I have to also share with you this story about Fesenjan that I don’t I will ever forget for the rest of my life.  This story always cracks me up. I was at a friend’s house and her mom had offered to make Fesenjan.  She was kind enough to make a vegetarian version since this was during my two year Pesco-Vegetarian stint.  During the same evening my friend’s downstairs neighbors were having a party.  We joined the party for a little while.  I so happened to start a conversation with a guy who turned out to be half Persian and half American.  He introduced me to his wife and we ended up talking about Persian food. We told her  what was being made upstairs and got talking about how some Persian dishes can be converted into vegetarian.

If memory serves me correct the following is give or take the conversation that too place.  Clutching her sleeping baby in her arm, she said: “Well, you could make Fesenjan with fish,” pause “doesn’t that sound good?!”

All I could think was: WHAT? Fish? NOOOOOO! But I chose to be gracious, and simply answered: “Oh, I don’t think that would be a good combination.”

She didn’t give up, “No really, you could add tuna to it.”

Seriously woman, please stop saying such things. All went through my mind in that moment was the image of emptying a can of tuna into Fesenjan. “Oh no, that sounds really  bad. Those flavors don’t even go together, yak!” There were some seriously horrified looks being exchanged between my friend and I as this whole conversation was taking place.

“What I mean is fresh tuna not out of a can. I think it would be good.”

It is during times like these that it is not even worth arguing; you just give up because it is not even worth it.  Seriously, Fesenjan is usually made with chicken. If you want to get fancy, you can even make it with duck. I love tuna, I really do. I love it in a can and I love it even more fresh.  Actually, I REALLY LOVE it fresh. But Fesenjan and fish = not a good combination.  As far as I am concerned it is perfectly nutritional in the vegetarian form, sure the chicken does make it better, but it just fine without it too.

So my vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free friends this recipe is made in such way that you all can enjoy it too!

Ingredients

8 chicken thigh pieces

1 onion

2 bay leaves

4 cups walnuts

1 tbsp flour*

1 cup pomegranate paste**

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Here are our cast of characters: Walnuts and  Pomegranate Paste.  Pomegranate seeds are optional.

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Toast the walnuts.  Make sure they don’t burn. I am a firm believer in always toasting nuts.

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Then place them on a baking sheet and let them cool down.

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Once they have reached room temperature, grind them all up.

Vegetarian and Vegan folks please skip the next three steps. Proceed directly to the empty pot photo without collecting your $200 dollars!

Everyone else, please follow me.

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Sauté onion until translucent.

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Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to onion and cook for a few minutes.

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Turn chicken pieces after a few minutes.  Add bay leaves and 1/2 cup of water.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

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Vegetarian and Vegan folks, please join the group again! Warm up another pot and place 1 tbsp of flour. Toast the flour slightly.

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Add 2 cups of water and mix well until all lumps are gone.

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Add ground walnuts.

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Stir until water and walnuts are thoroughly mixed. Cook on low.

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Make sure you stay on top of it during this process.  As the mixture thickens, it can easily burn.  This process might take a little while. Once you see a layer of oil forming on top of the walnuts the hard work is pretty much done. You can actually see the oil rise through the bubbles.

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Add pomegranate paste and mix well.  Season with salt.

Vegetarian and Vegan folks, this is it for you! Just let your Fesenjan cook for a few more minutes.

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Everyone else, please add chicken pieces making sure that each piece is submerged in the stew. Cook for a few minutes longer so that the flavors incorporate and chicken warms through.

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Ya see the that booboo above? That’s what happens if you get distracted and leave the stew alone for too long.  I learned that lesson the first time!

Serve Khoresht Fesenjan over rice. Pomegranate seeds can be added for added flavor and a pretty presentation.   If the stew is too sour, sugar may be added to sweeten it up a bit. Enjoy!

* Gluten-Free folks, please use GF Flour.

** Depending on which brand of Pomegranate Paste you use, the color of the stew may vary from a deep burgundy to brown.  I have noticed that Sadaf’s Pomegranate paste is not dense, but slightly on the liquid side. Add a little more until the color adjusts to a deep burgundy.  If the result is too tart, add more sugar.

Please click on the following links for other recipes featured in the “Pomegranate Week”  2009 edition:

Persian’s Love Affair with Pomegranate

Pomegranate Juice

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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

John March 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I just made this last week and couldn’t believe i made it. This is my kids favorite dish. I never thought i’d be able to make it for them =). They said it was the best they’ve ever had lol(don’t know if thats quite true) but Thanks again for another recipe i will make for years to come.

My Persian Kitchen March 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm

John, so happy to hear that your kinds enjoyed your cooking. Comments like yours fill my heart with happiness and encourage me to keep this website going!!

arsh May 10, 2011 at 5:14 am

hi! i am an iranian and i just can u forgot a delisius drink, it is dough ask your persian chef!it is the best thing i had drunk!try it!thanks…have a nice time

Natascha May 30, 2011 at 4:09 am

Aaaah, that’s exactly how my dad used to make Fesenjan. I’m visiting a number of friends over the next months and they all asked me to cook them something Persian. I’m really glad I found this website and I’m sure I’ll use your recipes (this one in particular) all the time! Thank you sooo much! :)

Kayvon June 11, 2011 at 9:46 am

Thank you very much for this great instruction! It tastes just like my Persian grandmother used to make me! Khalee Mamnoon!

Drew in SF July 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Thank you for posting this!! It was very clear and easy to follow. Only part that wasn’t clear was at the end – I guess you discard the liquid with the bay leaves and onions in it? By the way, I made it with lamb, which turned out great. Tuna?? BLECH!!! :P MERCI!!!

Giselle Bien November 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Hi, I made this today and it turned out great. I’m filipina and this website is really helpful since my boyfriend is Persian…Thanks!!!

isg1997 November 30, 2011 at 8:47 am

Thanks for sharing the recipe, which I am trying out today. I grew up in India, where the pomegranate is much cherished, as a fruit but also as a seasoning (anardana, or dried ground pomegranate seeds). It is a fabulous fruit … I imagine it was the Persian faction of the nobility (the Iranis) at the Mughal court who brought the influence to India and left a deep mark on the fantastic Mughal cuisine. This is the first time I have used the molasses as a seasoning and am delighted at the result!!

djahangir December 25, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I love this site. I come to it often when I don’t remember an ingredient. Really the best site for cooking Iranian food. Thank you.

Sima December 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Hi there,I liked your insturction clear for beginners, i consider myself a very good cook. My suggestion is, try this with duck leg instead chicken, it is absolutly to die for.Cook the duck leg the same methode you cook your ckicken. Also do not make it in cast iron , it will burn your food no matter how carefull you are.You can also use the liquid from cooked duck if there is any.Nousheh jan.

Zee January 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Hi there, thank you soooo much for sharing your aunt’s recipe with us. :) I am in love with Persian food, especially Fasenjan!! The first time I had it, I thought I died and woke up in heaven. No joke… I take my food very seriously. :)

Quick question… do people add cardamom to this recipe? Would it taste any better?

My Persian Kitchen January 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Zee, no spices go in this stew. :)

Sally February 8, 2012 at 6:49 am

I love how you illustrate your instructions with pictures! My husband and I had some very good persian food in Vancouver a few months ago! Can’t wait to make this stew and chicken kebobs this weekend! I just hope I can buy the pomegranate juice in hong kong!

Sabina February 18, 2012 at 10:37 am

Hello,
If I would like to make a duck not chicken.Do I have to follow the same way?
Thanks
Sabina

Alice February 20, 2012 at 8:31 am

Do I dare try this with peanuts instead of walnuts? One of the people I cook for is allergic to tree nuts :(

My Persian Kitchen February 21, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Sabina, you can make this recipe with Duck. But you’ll have to made the duck separately and then add it the same way you would with the chicken.

Sabina February 23, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Do you mean I need to bake a duck first? Help!
I want to do it for My husband 40 Birthday this Saturday .
Thank you,
Sabina
Do you think is a good idea ? My Persian friend told me his mom used different kind of birds for fasonjon.

My Persian Kitchen February 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Sabina, I love duck, but I have never made it myself before. I have only had it at restaurants. I have seen people make Fesenjan and Ghormeh Sabzi with duck, so I am assuming that it must be good. Sorry I can’t be much of help.

Sabina February 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Thank you anyway. I hope will be good.
Best,
Sabina

SZ March 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm

OK, quick question: do you leave the chicken in whole pieces or shred it up after it is cooked? I seem to always see it with shredded chicken. What do you think?

My Persian Kitchen March 8, 2012 at 8:44 pm

SZ, either way is fine.

Masi April 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I love your site and appreciate all the recipes. I just made fesenjan; however, I did add cinnamon, cardammom, lemon juice and white vinegar and a bit of tomatoe paste to it and surprisingly it turned out really good. Just the color wasn’t as dark; but my family LOVED it.

Azin May 8, 2012 at 12:32 am

Thanks for your lovely method. The pictures are so helpfull ,specially the last one !:))
I have a big party comming up and promissed to make Fesenjoon, but just between us had no experience !
Now having found your website I feel confedent about it:)))
Will let you know about the results:)
Many thanks
Azin

David May 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Sanam, thanks for posting this recipe. My wife and I had it once at a Persian family birthday and have been trying to recreate it ever since, with not much success. The issue is that I can’t seem to get the oil out of the nuts. I followed your recipe, the water evaporated completely, but still no oil. I also added another cup of water but still nothing changes. What am I doing wrong? How long should this process take? Are the nuts supposed to get softer and blend with the sauce at the end? Please help…

Christine Dawson May 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I have pomegranate concentrate….could not find paste, owner of deli told me it is the same consistency of the syrup, how much should I use, still a cup??

My Persian Kitchen May 17, 2012 at 1:26 am

Christine, same amount!

My Persian Kitchen May 17, 2012 at 1:27 am

David, it might take a while, but yes, eventually the walnuts get softer and the oil comes out. You just have to be patient.

Niewsha July 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Just wanted to say thank you for your Recipes , one of the best websites for persian food, the pictures help a lot , i made your kalam polo few weeks ago as my husbands from shiraz , khily khub shod , my next challange is your fesenjun

Any chance you could add koofte and dolme ?
Bazam mercy

My Persian Kitchen July 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Niewsha, so glad to hear that your Kalam polow was a success!!! I do have recipes for both Koofteh and Dolmeh. Here they are: http://mypersiankitchen.com/category/all-recipes/dolmeh/
http://mypersiankitchen.com/koofteh-tabrizi/ or http://mypersiankitchen.com/koofteh-hulu/

Phyllis August 3, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I LOVE reading all these recipes!
Just got done making this for tomorrow’s dinner. I looks and smells so good I want to eat it now!

Janice Mazidi December 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm

My son (half Persian) was home from college for the holidays and he and I made this together. It is amazingly good. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe and the pictures helped so much.

Do you have a recipe for Gormet Sabzi? That’s our favorite dish and our attempts to make it have been disappointing.

Karla December 25, 2012 at 6:33 pm

The orange and poagermnates salad looks EXCELLENT!on the labor intensive, poagermnates have you watched Jamie Oliver remove the fruit from a pomegranate? Wow! It made me wonder why I didn’t know that. In like 2 minutes, he has removed all the fruit and sprinkled it on his salad.Gosh, I can’t find the video I watched from his Ministry of Food Australia Ipswich. Let’s see if I can describe what he did. Take the pomegranate and cut it in half make sure that you cut it horizontally not from stem to stem. Cut it like you would a grapefruit. Then, this is the cool part. Place a half of the fruit in your hand really across your fingers with the fruit peeking through your open fingers, so the fruit can fall out through your fingers. Take a wooden or large metal spoon, and hit the back of the fruit skin side. Give it a few whacks and watch the fruit fall out. Amazing! then of course, you do the other half of the fruit. In less than 2 minutes (maybe a minute) he had all the fruit out of the membrane or whatever it is called an don his salad. Hope that made some sense to you.

sima December 27, 2012 at 10:40 pm

well fesenjoon lovers i made it with duck legs, it is the leciooous, leave some of the skin on the duck legs, brown the duck legs in a pan on both sides, add salt and cayenne pepper. Next, add it to the walnut mixture. By the way do not use duch oven for this use a none stick or a regular pan .Simmer it on very low heat for two hours.
By the way if you have piece of lavashakeh aloo or few pieces of pitted pruns, it will add more flavour to it, somehow brings this dish together. I think. I gave up all my secrets about fesenjoon. Nosheh joon.

Janice Mazidi December 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

I found it. I had to click the link for older recipes. Can’t wait to try that one.

MrsHmmz January 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

Might be a silly question, but is pomegranate paste the same as pomegranate molasses? And if not, would the molasses work as a substitute? I have started using pomegranate molasses in my cooking over the past year or so & usually have some in my cupboard, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything labelled “pomegranate paste” (or similar) in any shops I’ve been in (I have several international shops I visit often which stock quite a good range of middle eastern foods but I’ve only ever seen the molasses).

Randa January 13, 2013 at 10:17 am

hi, thanks for recipe. I wanted to ask you if Pomegranate concentrate is the same as the pomegranate molasses? or is it something else?

Sherri January 13, 2013 at 4:48 pm

This recipe is easy and amazing! Growing up I thought fesenjoon was a mystery… You get my Iranian stamp of approval! Amazing!!!

behnaz K January 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Thank you so much for introducing persian recipes so beautifully I am persian decent and do cook but time to time I need to look up a recipe and I found your site very resourceful! I looked up Fesenjun and it was very helpful just like how my mom thought me for the first time. Thank you again for your dedication!
Best wishes,
Behnaz K.

My Persian Kitchen March 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Randa, yes, they are similar.

My Persian Kitchen March 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm

MrsHmmz, yes, they are pretty much the same thing.

Alexis April 26, 2013 at 7:26 am

Hi there! I love this recipe and I’ve made it for my family more than a few times. It usually turns out pretty well…however…I am not Persian and I had never tasted this before making it so I don’t have a reference. And now I got myself in a situation where, in an inebriated state, I promised to make this dish for a Persian woman I met at a party. Yikes! Sort of worried.

I am making it tonight. If you get this in time I would love any tips you’ve got for me. Also, I’ve only ever made it with breast meat. I have thighs this time but I don’t really know how people will eat it. Do I take the meat off the bones after it’s cooked and return it to the sauce?

Anyway, thank you. And thanks for a great blog.

My Persian Kitchen April 28, 2013 at 9:32 am

Alexis, you can keep the bone on the chicken. Trust your cooking skills! I am sure it’ll turn out just great!!

Barbara April 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I love your sense of humor!!! I laughed when I saw Trader Joe walnuts that I am roasting at this minute– I always toast my nuts also. (That didn’t come out right) Can’t wait to taste YOUR recipe tonight.
Barbara (West Los Angeles)

Teresa July 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

This is one of my favorite foods. I learned to make with meatballs. After seeing this I really need to try with chicken.

Thanks for the yummy recipes :)

Sunny August 25, 2013 at 2:26 am

Thanks for the recipe! Why do you add bay leaves to chicken? Is it common to use bay leaf in Persian cooking?

My Persian Kitchen August 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Sunny, bay leaves add a nice flavor to poultry. Yes, my grandmother often used bay leaves when cooking chicken.

Kumar September 8, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Anyone tried this recipe using any vegetables please ?Thanks

Greg November 18, 2013 at 11:04 am

Why does your veggie/vegan version leave out the onions? I want to know because I plan on making it soon, it sounds delicious!

My Persian Kitchen November 25, 2013 at 10:36 am

Greg,
the onion is used to cook the chicken and it’s there as a flavoring agent.

rezza January 8, 2014 at 11:50 am

whether there is another recipes for fesenjo0o0on ?

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