Fesenjan (Pomegranate Chicken)

Easy Fesenjan | minimalistbaker.com #glutenfree

When John and I went to visit family in San Diego a few months ago, John’s aunt Nadia was shocked to hear we had never had Persian food. Growing up in the Middle East it was all she knew in her younger years and still loves it today. So for our remaining few hours in California before jetting back to the Midwest, Nadia treated us to a traditional Persian meal that left quite the impression on me.

Toasted Walnuts

Fesejan (prounced fesenjoon). This dish a must. If not for Thanksgiving then today, tomorrow or the next. The combinations of ingredients is pure genius; and its the flavors, textures and complexity are absolutely stunning. One bite in and I knew I had to try this at home.

After Nadia treated us to an appetizer of Creamy Eggplant Dip (bademjoon) and pita that blew my mind, this was the one-two punch to totally knock my taste buds off their tiny taste bud feet. This dish all starts with walnuts and pomegranates. Hello superfoods much?

Walnut Meal

First, walnuts are toasted and finely ground while simmering down pomegranate juice into a reduction, also known as pomegranate molasses (or you can just buy the stuff). In the meantime, onion and chicken are browning to create a hearty, flavorful base. Vegetarians can simply omit the chicken or sub in more whole toasted walnuts or even chickpeas. It really is versatile in that way since the sauce is really where it’s at.

Fesenjan | Minimalist Baker

Fesenjun Simplified | Minimalist Baker

While the rest of your ingredients are simmering along, chop up some parsley and de-seed a pomegranate. A quick 15 minutes of simmering and it’s all ready. Serve over rice or with naan with pomegranate arils and parsley and go straight to Persian food heaven.

Fesenjan Recipe | MinimalistBaker.com

This dish is my absolute new favorite. It’s a no brainer.

Soft, fluffy rice
Tender, flavorful chicken
A lucious pomegranate-walnut stew-like sauce
Topped with pomegranate arils & fresh parsley

This dish will knock you off your feet it’s so good. I shared it with friends last week and they agreed, adding “incredible” “mmmmm” and “sooooo goood.”

Though this recipe takes more than an hour to prepare, the stew itself requires just 10 ingredients (including spices you likely have on hand) and is very simple to throw together. You could also shave off a little more time by roasting your walnuts and de-seeding your pomegranate ahead of time.

Fesenjan Pomegranate Chicken | minimalistbaker.com

I vote you make this for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas, New Years and everything in between. The flavors and the textures just don’t stop.

The recipe below is for a somewhat small batch, feeding 3-4. But double or triple it for a crowd. No one will complain about more food and the leftovers are nothing to whine about. Here’s to exploring new cultures, crazy new foods and exciting new traditions. Cheers!

How to make Fesenjan | minimalistbaker

Fesenjan (Pomegranate Chicken)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A classic Persian dish made simple with a few time-saving techniques. Vegan optional and naturally gluten free. Plus, healthy and filling and perfect for gatherings or everyday weeknight meals.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Persian
Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (or 1 8-oz. bottle pom juice)
  • 1.5 cups walnut halves
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1.5-inch cubes*
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock*
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • pinch each cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper
  • Optional: 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (I used jasmine) for serving
  • Optional: 1 cup pomegranate arils and fresh parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. If you don't have pomegranate molasses, make your own by pouring pomegranate juice into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add a pinch of salt and a little lime juice and simmer for 45 minutes until reduced. Set aside to cool. You will have leftovers.
  2. Next, toast walnuts in a shallow pan over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Once cooled, transfer to a food processor or blender and blend into a fine meal. Set aside.
  3. Next, if you're serving with rice, start by rinsing 1 cup rice in a fine mesh strainer. Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add rice and a pinch of salt. Cover and turn to low. White rice should take 18-25 minutes; brown rice 30-40. Don't open lid until it's done. Fluff and set aside, covered.
  4. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot add 1 Tbsp olive oil and onions. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a separate pan over medium heat, cook the chicken in two batches in a bit of olive oil. Once browned, add it directly to the pot with the onions. Salt chicken while browning.
  6. Once all the chicken is in the pot, add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat and add pomegranate molasses, honey, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and walnuts. Simmer for 15-25 minutes or more, until desired thickness is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  8. Serve over rice or with naan. Garnish with pomegranate arils and parsley. Store leftovers covered in the fridge. Should keep for several days.
Notes
*Nutritional information reflects 1 of 4 servings with rice.
*Pomegranate molasses method from Javaneh's Kitchen.
*Fesenjan adapted from Simply Recipes.
*Rice cooking method from The Kitchn.
*Keep this recipe vegetarian-friendly by subbing veggie stock for chicken stock and chickpeas or additional whole, roasted walnuts for the chicken. Keep it vegan by subbing agave nectar or maple syrup for honey.
*For a lighter version of this meal, sub cauliflower rice for regular rice.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2/3 cup with rice Calories: 672 Fat: 33 g Saturated fat: 3 g Carbohydrates: 67 g Sugar: 21 g Sodium: 234 mg Fiber: 3 g Protein: 28 g

 

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Comments

  1. says

    That rice looks sticky and perfect and I love the color combinations of these photos! Slash peeling a pom is such a pain….but so worth it for the color!

  2. says

    Wow – I’m so intrigued, Dana. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after being in Asia for a few years, it’s that there is such depth to so many different cuisines – flavors and combinations I might never have dreamed up on my own. This is such a good example!

    • says

      Yep, they use Photoshop to add text. Dana and John were invited to address a group of students at their local university, and that was one of the questions one of the students asked.

  3. says

    I love fesenjan chicken, brings back a lot of memories. Your dish looks as gorgeous as something I used to enjoy eating at this fancy place back in India. The chef there said that they left the curry sit in the sauces overnight for the flavors to develop. Aaah, I so need to make this now.

  4. says

    Hi Dana- Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I will be making it soon. As a personal chef, the dishes I make need to be able to freeze and thaw well. With the exception of the pomegranates, do you think the fesenjan chicken meets the freeze and thaw well criteria?

  5. says

    This looks amazing. Love that aside from the pom juice it doesn’t require anything that I don’t generally have on hand. Your photos are perfection too. Can’t wait to try this.

  6. Nina says

    Half Persian here – and although not my favorite dish on the persian menu, I love how you’ve simplified this. Looks delicious!

    I’m up for a kashk-e badamjan (the eggplant dip) recipe!!

  7. Amanda says

    Half-Persian here too! Was surprised to see this up on this website, how fun! As a veggie-Persian, I add butternut squash in (pre-baked, and more pureed than diced) while simmering. I bring this to parties, honestly many people don’t think it looks appetizing on a first glance but basically anyone loves it once they try it. Nice work, guys.

  8. Amanda says

    I made this for my boyfriend and I’s one year anniversary, along with deconstructed samosas. He loved it. I loved it. Our taste buds fainted. The heavens parted.

    Needless to say, it was a hit :] And surprisingly easy to make!

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