Fessenjan, Persian Walnut and Pomegranate Chicken Stew

(Recipe slightly modified from “King Solomon’s Table” by Joan Nathan)

As an alternative to brisket, or perhaps an option on your holiday table, here is Nathan’s recipe for Fessenjan, a Persian walnut and pomegranate chicken stew. On Rosh Hashanah, it is customary to partake in foods that are symbols for a sweet year, such as honey (derived from dates) and pomegranates. This delicious stew uses both of these.

Note: Both the pomegranate molasses and date molasses (or honey) are available at Global Foods in Kirkwood and United Provisions in the University City Loop. 



1 3-4 lb. whole chicken

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1 medium onion, peeled and quartered

1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 tsp. ground turmeric

4 c. walnuts, coarsely ground in a food processor

3 c. pomegranate juice

3 tbsp. pomegranate molasses, or to taste 

1 c. plus 2 tbsp. dates, pitted and roughly chopped

½ c. dried apricots, roughly chopped, plus more for 


1-2 tbsp. date molasses or sugar, or to taste 

Fresh chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems 

(for garnish)

Pomegranate seeds (for garnish)

3-4 c. cooked white rice, brown rice, or faro, for serving



Put chicken in a large pot and pour water over until almost covered, about 8-9 cups. Add the onion, 1 tsp. of salt, black pepper, and turmeric; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook mixture for about 40 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.

Using tongs, transfer chicken to a large plate. Carefully strain broth into a large bowl; discard remaining onion pieces. Reserve broth.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bones from chicken and discard. Shred remaining chicken into chunks and place into pot used to cook chicken.

Add ground walnuts, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, dates, ½ c. dried chopped apricots, and additional salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in 2 c. of reserved chicken broth and bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover pan, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding more reserved broth as necessary to prevent sticking. 

Taste, adding more pomegranate or date molasses, or even a pinch of sugar, to reach the desired balance of sweet and tart. (The leftover chicken broth can be frozen for other uses.)

Serve stew over cooked white rice, brown rice, or faro.

Makes 6-8 servings.