Khoresht fesenjan, pomegranate and walnut stew, is an incredibly flavorful Persian stew with a creamy sauce of tart and sweet pomegranate molasses and roasted ground walnuts. The walnuts, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, give the dish a subtle, nutty flavor and delightful texture. You can control the texture by how fine you grind the walnuts, the finer the walnuts the smoother the sauce. I consider khoresht fesenjan one of the easiest Persian stews to make, especially if you use my recipe :). You can substitute chicken thighs with breast or meatballs made with ground beef or lamb. Turkey and duck work well with this recipe as well. I’ve even tried the vegetarian version with tofu which wasn’t bad. As with all Persian stews, khoresht fesenjan can be prepared in advance, keeps well for days in the fridge, freezes well, and tastes better the next day!
Khoresht Fesenjan (Pomegranate and Walnut Stew)
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 1 hour 30 min
Ready in: 1 hour 45 min
Yields: 6 to 8 servings
3 cups walnuts
4 tablespoons oil
1 large onion peeled and chopped
8 skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2 cups water
1¼ cups pomegranate concentrate/ molasses
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
¼ teaspoon saffron (optional)
Toast the walnuts in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes or until fragrant. Stir frequently to prevent walnuts from burning.
Add the toasted walnuts to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until the walnuts are finely ground. Pulse the machine instead of running it continuously in order to control the texture better. If the walnuts stick to the sides of the bowl, stop the food processor to scrape down the sides.
Heat oil in a medium-sized pot. Add chopped onions and fry over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Add chicken thighs and brown each side 2 to 3 minutes.
To the pot, add ground walnuts, salt, pepper, turmeric, saffron and 2 cups of water. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in pomegranate molasses. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the walnuts from settling at the bottom of the pot and burning. The sauce thickens and darkens in color as it cooks.
Pomegranate molasses can be very sweet, very sour or in-between depending on the brand used. Taste the sauce before using it and balance the sweetness and sourness according to your preference. The way to adjust the flavors is to add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar if the sauce tastes too sour, then stir to blend the flavors. Let it simmer for few minutes before adding more. Conversely, if the sauce tastes too sweet, adjust the balance by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Again, simmer for few minutes and taste before adding more. The thickness of the sauce can also be easily adjusted by simply adding more water to thin it or simmering it uncovered to thicken it.
Skim the excess walnut oil from the surface of the sauce before serving the dish. Serve over white basmati polo.
Dishes with liquid reduce in volume during cooking and their flavors intensify. The longer they cook, the saltier and stronger the flavors will get. Always taste and adjust the seasoning at the end of cooking :).