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Fessenjan: Persian Walnut and Pomegranate Chicken Stew

March 26, 2021
Daniel AllenDaniel Allen

In the vast Persian community of Los Angeles, Farrokh Maddahi is known as the “champion” of fessenjan, a traditional chicken-and-walnut stew. Likely named for an old Persian town called Fisinjan (according to historian and author Nawal Nasrallah), the dish—a delightful combination of sweet, savory, and tart, blending pomegranates, onions, and turmeric—is one of the glories of the old Silk Road. Today it is often served at weddings or special occasions, always over basmati rice.

Featured in: How To Make Fessenjan, a Sweet and Savory Persian Stew


  • One 5-pound chicken
  • 1medium onion, quartered
  • 1teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste
  • ½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2pounds walnuts, ground in a food processor
  • 4cups (one 32-ounce bottle) pomegranate juice
  • ¼cup pomegranate molasses, or to taste
  • ¾pound dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ½pound dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1to 2 tablespoons date jam or sugar, or to taste (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro, to garnish
  • Pomegranate seeds, to garnish
Yield: 8 to 10 servings


  • Step 1

    Put the chicken in a large pot and pour water over top to almost cover, about 8 to 9 cups. Add the quartered onion, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the black pepper, and turmeric, then bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer, then cook the chicken until done, about 40 minutes.

  • Step 2

    Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and let it cool on a plate. Strain the broth into a large bowl and discard the onion pieces. You should have about 8 cups of broth. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use a fork and knife or your clean fingers to remove and discard the skin, then tear off bite-size pieces of chicken, putting the chicken pieces back into the empty pot. Discard the bones.

  • Step 3

    Add the ground walnuts, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, dates, apricots, salt, and pepper to the chicken, then stir in 1 cup of the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then lower the heat and cook, covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding more broth as necessary to prevent sticking. Taste and add more pomegranate molasses and/or the date jam or sugar to reach the desired balance of sweet and tart. (Refrigerate or freeze any remaining broth for another use.)

  • Step 4

    Serve over rice, sprinkled with cilantro and pomegranate seeds, if you like.