We’ve been big fans of Fesenjān for years now—ever since John’s aunt introduced us to it at a Persian restaurant in San Diego. Traditionally prepared for special occasions, Fesenjān is perfect for colder months. It’s hearty, comforting, savory-sweet, and so simple to make. Let us show you how!
Origin of Fesenjān
Fesenjān (also called fesenjoon) is an Iranian stew traditionally made with meat, pomegranate molasses or paste, and walnuts. It’s believed that during the Sassanian empire (224 -651 AD), it was served to celebrate the new year.
Our version is not traditional, but is our plant-based take made with similar ingredients and flavors, such as walnuts and pomegranate molasses. You can find a more traditional recipe from Rozina’s Persian Kitchen.
How to Make Vegan Fesenjān
This recipe is simple to make, requiring just 9 ingredients.
It starts with toasting walnuts and sautéing onions to create a rich and hearty base for the stew. The walnuts are blended into a fine meal and are almost undetectable in the final dish, but add a nuttiness that I just love.
The flavor comes from plenty of warming spices like cinnamon and turmeric as well as vegetable broth and a somewhat uncommon ingredient—pomegranate molasses.
You can find pomegranate molasses at most specialty stores, or—good news—you can make your own (which is what I do). Simply cook down pomegranate juice until thickened and reduced and you’ve got a great homemade substitute.
Though this dish is traditionally cooked with meat, I first began cooking it at home with chickpeas (a recipe you’ll find in our cookbook!). But I must say, lentils and Fesenjān belong together. They become tender in the broth and take on the flavors so incredibly well. I’m hooked!
We hope you LOVE this recipe! It’s:
& So delicious
This would make the perfect meal for holidays, hosting, weeknight dinners, and beyond. We love preparing it in the winter months when pomegranates are abundant. Serve over rice and top with pomegranate arils and parsley for the ultimate festive dish.
More Hearty Stews
If you’re into hearty stews, also be sure to check out our 1-Pot Red Lentil Chili, Moroccan-Spiced Eggplant & Tomato Stew, Lentil Mushroom Stew Over Mashed Potatoes, and Easy Chana Masala. Mmm, comfort food.
If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!
Hearty Lentil Fesenjān (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- 2-4 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (or pomegranate juice // see instructions to make your own)
- 1/4 cup water (or sub 1/2 the amount in olive or avocado oil)
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp each sea salt and black pepper (plus more to taste)
- 2 ½ cups vegetable broth (or store-bought)
- 1 cup rinsed uncooked brown or green lentils*
- 1-2 Tbsp maple syrup (or sub coconut sugar // plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (plus more to taste)
FOR TOPPING/SERVING optional
- 1 cup uncooked jasmine rice* (or sub cauliflower rice*)
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Add walnuts to bare baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, being careful not to burn, just toast. Set aside.
- In the meantime, if making pomegranate molasses from pomegranate juice, add 1 cup (240 ml) pomegranate juice (adjust amount if adjusting serving size) to small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, or until darkened in color and reduced to roughly 1/4 cup (60 ml // amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Reduce heat to medium-low if bubbling too vigorously. Once reduced, turn off heat and set aside.
- Once walnuts are done roasting, let cool slightly then add to food processor or high-speed blender and pulse into a fine meal (see photo). Set aside.
- Heat an extra-large rimmed skillet or pot over medium heat and add water (or oil) and onions. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper and stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
- Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer (starting with the lesser amount and adding more later as needed). Add lentils and stir.
- Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are just tender, stirring occasionally. Add more vegetable broth as needed to keep the lentils submerged.
- Once the lentils are just tender, add walnut meal, pomegranate molasses (start with the lesser amount and work your way up – store-bought can be more intense in flavor), maple syrup, and spices (see photo). Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low and continue simmering for 10 minutes, or until thickened and fragrant. Stir occasionally.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more maple syrup or pomegranate molasses for sweetness, salt for saltiness, turmeric for earthiness, or cinnamon for warmth. You can also add more vegetable broth at this time if it’s become too thick.
- Serve over cooked rice (see notes for instructions) and garnish with pomegranate arils and fresh chopped parsley (optional), or enjoy alone as a hearty stew.
- Leftovers keep well covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 1 month, though best when fresh. Reheat on the stovetop until warm, adding vegetable broth to rehydrate as needed.
*Prepare jasmine rice while walnuts are roasting: Bring 1 cup (180 g) rice and 2 cups (480 ml) water to a boil in large saucepan. Then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. Check package to verify instructions, which can vary depending on type of rice.
*Our version is not traditional, but is our plant-based take on this Persian dish. You can find a more traditional recipe from Rozina’s Persian Kitchen.
*A green salad makes an excellent side to this flavorful dish, as does pita.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate for one 3/4-cup serving calculated with pomegranate juice, lesser amount of maple syrup, and without optional serving ingredients (like rice).
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