Khoresh-e Fesenjān is a delicious traditional Persian stew. Rich toasted, ground walnuts, sour from pomegranate molasses, and thick from butternut squash, this dish originated in Northern Iran and is now famous around the world.
This recipe was shared by my guest's Swarnika and Saeid in their episode "Why This Revolution in Iran Can Succeed". Saeid reports that there are as many versions of this dish as families in Iran and they vary from sweet to sour, depending on how much pomegranate molasses you add to the walnut and pomegranate sauce. This particular recipe is Swarnika's favorite and it comes from the authoritative cookbook Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij, which educates us no only in Persian recipes, but Persian culture as well.
About Our Guests Swarnika and Saeid:
Most of us have heard that the current revolution in Iran began with death of Mahsa Amini, who was beaten to death for not wearing the hijab in accordance with the regime’s morality laws.
But did you know her name was Jina?
When Jina was born, her parents were required to seek permission to name her Jina. The name was not allowed. So, they chose Mahsa as her official name and called her Jina at home.
This little nugget of truth tells us that it’s simplistic to say this revolution is to overthrow laws about hijab. The discontent, the anger, the struggle is far greater, deeper, wider.
Only by listening to people like Swarnika and Saeid, can we really understand the struggle and the incredible, awesome courage of Iranians who are truly risking death by protesting against a regime that has weaponized religion to justify their power, bankrupt the country, rule by terror, and rob each citizen of their joy.
And while both are realistic exceptional dangers facing protestors, they also speak eloquently about why this time, Iran may emerge free.
Learn More About Iran and Khoresh-e Fesenjān
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FAQ About Khoresh-e Fesenjān
What does Fesenjān mean?
Fesenjan is a word that translates from Farsi to English as "stew". Therefore, Khoresh is far from the only Fesenjān that there is! Another super popular Iranian stew is Ghormeh Sabzi, where herbs are the star. You can find a version from My Persian Kitchen right here.
What should I serve with Khoresh-e Fesenjan?
This stew is so rich, it's begging to be paired with fresh & sharp sides. Fortunately, Persians have many dishes that fit that description. Swarnika recommends two in particular:
Shirazi salad - A tomato, cucumber, and onion dish (If you don't have access behind the NYT Cooking paywall, there's an identical version here.) and Sabzi Khordan, a traditional salad of herbs that Persians frequently include on the table.
Swarnika also recommends Persian Saffron Rice. Here's an authentic recipe from Saffron & More. Here's another famous Persian rice recipe from Proportional Plate (Candice is Persian herself).
(P.S. Persian food is some of the best in the world. Some more of my favorite Persian dishes (and some I want to try) are listed in this post 22 Things to Eat with Iranian Lamb Kofta)
What can I cook it in?
Traditional recipes (like this one from cookbook Najmieh Batmanglij) call for a large Dutch Oven. I don't really like my Dutch Oven and couldn't leave the stove (or oven) unattended for the day when I mde this. So I followed the exact instructions for roasting the walnuts, browning the chicken pieces, and making the sauce. I placed the chickens in the crockpost and covered them with the sauce, then let it cook on low for a little over 8 hours. There are also Instant Pot recipes out there, but they are controversial. I'd recommend reading the comments and seeking traditional recipes from Persian cooks to inform your own version of this dish.
How do I adjust the sweet/sour ratio?
Swarnika and Saied warned me that Khoresh-e Fesenjān is supposed to be a a sour stew. If your palate isn't used to that, you can always adjust by adding more sugar or grape molasses.
The sour flavor will also be more pronounced if you use an authentic version of Pomegranate Molasses (pomegranate syrup). Swarnika recommended the Cortas brand, which is what I used.
What are the most common mistakes people make or questions people have about this recipe?
In Swarnika's words: "Trying to rush the dish. Every Iranian stew is a labor of love and slow cooked."
I love pomegranate seeds but have such a hard time getting them out! Any tips?
First, you probably know this already, but they're technically called "arils" - they're an outgrowth from the seed. (With that said, I always just say seed also 😉
I'm lucky because my oldest loves to harvest these. He swears by this underwater method.
Any tips on browning the walnuts?
Yes. Lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, put them in the oven for 350 (180) for 10 minutes. I thought that would be too long and they were just on the edge of burnt, so maybe set a timer for 8 minutes and keep an eye. I do urge you to push the time, though - the walnuts were a deep brown and the bite of rawness had given way to a deep, rich flavor.
Can I create a vegetarian version of Khoresh Fesenjan?
Several people have done this. For a recipe from a Persian cook, try this one from Farah at Every Little Bite: Lentil Fesenjan
Swarnika's Memories of Khoresh-e Fesenjān
This was my introduction to the Persian cuisine. We went to a Persian restaurant on our third date and shared Fesenjan. This is also the dish my mother in law makes for me when we visit and it's one of my favorites from the Persian cuisine. It's a very comforting dish and I personally like to make it more sour than sweet (adjust amount of sugar to taste).