This Fesenjan recipe must be the easiest Persian recipe I have discovered. A few minor adaptions as suggested by some friends over time makes this recipe a culmination of knowledge. Only three ingredients, walnut, pomegranate syrup and our secret ingredient.
This sauce recipe is equally delicious over chicken or mushrooms, served with jeweled Persian rice and some lovely thick home-made yogurt on the side. Sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds for decoration.
Traditional Fesenjan is extremely rich, but our secret ingredient reduces the richness and adds additional nutrients to the dish (I am a self confessed vegie smuggler).
The main thing to remember when cooking Fesenjan is that walnut oil has a very low smoke point (the point that they will burn) 320 F (160 C), compare this to safflower oil which has a smoke point of between 475 F (245 C) and 500F. (260 C). So you need a low heat for a long time. We usually leave it on 2 on our induction cook top for around 6 – 8 hours to develop this lovely deep rich color letting the flavors fully develop.
Process the walnuts in a food processor. Using a food processor makes this recipe quite quick. If you don’t have a food processor, then the easiest way to make the ground walnuts is to place then in a zip-lock bag and smash them with the back of a large heavy knife, or roll then with a heavy rolling pin.
You need to make sure that you don’t over process the nuts. They still need to be of a granular consistency. Over processing the walnuts will form a paste, and won’t give the same result.
Add the ground walnuts to a heavy based saucepan on low heat, and gently fry the walnuts. The oil will start to come out of the ground toasted walnuts and the walnuts will start to change color.
When the ground walnuts mixture starts to turn white, then you can slowly start adding water. Mixing as you proceed. You will need enough water to create a thin watery soup consistency. Don’t be too concerned if the walnut sauce is a bit too watery as this will reduce over the length of the cooking.
Add in the pomegranate molasses (Rob-e Anar) to the ground walnuts and stir through thoroughly.
From scouring middle eastern grocery stores where ever I go I have noticed that not all pomegranate syrups (Rob-e Anar) are the same. Some are sweet and some are quite sour. Once you use a specific brand, then you will get to adjust the recipe according to taste.
The fesenjan sauce should be a light golder brown, and quite watery at this stage. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 3-4 hours. That all the hard work done, and we pass the cooking over to father time. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.Jump to Recipe
Now for the secret ingredient. A dear Friend Izzat, makes amazing fesenjan, and when I asked her what was different about her fesenjan recipe, she looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said “Kadu”. Kadu is pumpkin in farsi, and the addition of pumpkin to fesenjan adds a completely different dimension to this traditional dish.
We usually use grilled pumpkin. Another favorite recipe is a pumpkin, rocket and spinach salad, so we usually grill the entire pumpkin at a time and leave it in the fridge for other recipes.
Stir the pumpkin through and continue cooking on a low heat, maybe another 2 hours, depending on your cook top. Stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
The sauce will thicken and turn into a beautiful rich brown. At this stage, taste it and either add some sugar of lemon juice, depending on your taste and the flavor of the pomegranate molasses you use.
Fesenjan with Chicken
You can use this fesenjan recipe with chicken, just fry some onions and diced boneless chicken thighs in olive oil until mostly cooked. Add some sauce to cover, and gently cook till the chicken is cooked thoroughly and covered in sauce.
Fesenjan with Mushrooms
To create a vegan fesenjan dish, gently saute an onion and button mushrooms. Stir through a generous amount of fesenjan sauce and heat through.
Fesenjan Sauce Recipe
- Process the Walnuts in a food processor till fairly fine
- Add to a heavy frying pan and gently stir over a low to medium heat
- As the mixture changes color and releases oil, slowly add in water to cover
- Simmer on low for about 4 hours
- Add cooked pumpkin
- Add sugar or lemon juice to taste (usually not needed, depending on the pomegranate molasses)
- Continue to cook on low until a rich brown color has developed and the sauce of thick enough to coat the back of a spoon
Pomegranate molasses (Rob-e Anar) is made by reducing pomegranate juice into a thick sauce or molasses. It is becoming a lot more available in the west, making it easier to find pomegranate molasses. I used to scour the continental grocery stores for this delectable sauce, but, now in some cities in Australia you can even buy it in the middle eastern section of Woolworths.
The bought Rob-e Anar varies in sweetness and sourness, so you may need to add either sugar of lemon juice to this recipe, depending on your taste.
You can make your own pomegranate molasses if you have a supply of fresh pomegranate juice. Simply add to a saucepan and simmer. Add sugar of you like it sweeter. Easy to make, but again, takes time.