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Khoresht-e-Fesenjoon (Persian Walnut Stew with Meatballs)

Khoresht-e-Fesenjoon is a beloved Persian dish that has found its way into the hearts and homes of many families across Iran and beyond. This rich and hearty walnut stew is a testament to the beauty and diversity of Persian cuisine, as each household has its unique take on this classic recipe. From using different proteins like chicken, duck, or even vegetarian alternatives, to adjusting the balance of sweet and sour flavours, Fesenjoon offers a delightful culinary experience that can be tailored to suit individual tastes.

In my family, the secret to a scrumptious Fesenjoon lies in the cherished recipe passed down by my grandmother. Our version features tender meatballs made from minced beef, which perfectly complement the luscious blend of sweet and sour flavours in the stew. I invite you to embark on this culinary journey with me as we explore the delicious world of Khoresh Fesenjoon.

Basic Ingredients for Khoresh Fesenjoon

Khoresh Fesenjoon:

Minced Meat: Used either minced beef or lamb for the meatball.  The minced meat adds a rich and savoury flavour to the dish. It should have a 20-30% fat content to ensure the meatballs remain moist and tender.

Onion: A staple in many cuisines, onions provide a base flavour and aroma for both the meatballs and the stew.

Salt and Spices (Black Pepper, Cardamom Powder, Turmeric Powder, Ground Saffron): These seasonings enhance the flavours of the meatballs, adding depth and complexity to the dish.

Vegetable Oil: Used for sautéing vegetables and frying meatballs, vegetable oil is a versatile and neutral cooking fat.

Finely Ground Walnuts: The star ingredient in Fesenjoon, walnuts provide a rich and creamy texture to the stew and a subtle nutty flavour.

Red Onion and Carrot: These vegetables add sweetness and added depth of flavour to the Fesenjoon.

Pomegranate Juice and Molasses: These ingredients give Fesenjoon its distinctive sweet and sour flavour profile and deep reddish-brown colour.

Sugar: Sugar is used to adjust the sweetness of the stew to your liking.

alternative ingredients

Chicken or Duck: As alternative proteins for Khoresh Fesenjoon, duck and chicken can be used instead of minced beef or meatballs. Both duck and chicken will add a distinct flavour and texture to the stew. Duck provides a richer, slightly gamey taste, while chicken offers a milder and more delicate flavour. You can use boneless, skinless chicken or duck breast, or thighs, cut into small pieces, and cook them in the walnut and pomegranate sauce until tender.

Shallots or Yellow Onions: As alternatives to onions, shallots, and yellow onions can provide a milder, slightly sweeter flavour to the meatballs and stew. They can add a unique twist to the dish while maintaining its overall character.

Olive or Canola Oil: These alternative cooking oils can be used for sautéing vegetables and frying meatballs. Olive oil imparts a fruity flavour, while canola oil is a heart-healthy option with a neutral taste.

Honey or Agave Syrup: Honey or agave syrup can be used instead of sugar for more natural sweetness. Both options offer a slightly different flavour, with honey imparting a floral note and agave syrup providing a mild, neutral sweetness.

Tempeh or Seitan: For a vegetarian or vegan Fesenjoon, tempeh or seitan can be used in place of meat to make the “meatballs.” These plant-based protein sources will alter the texture and flavour of the dish but can still create a satisfying and hearty meal.

Preparation Tips for Khoresh Fesenjoon

  • Make sure to use finely ground walnuts to create a smooth and velvety texture.
  • Continuously stir the stew while it simmers to prevent sticking or burning.
  • Don’t cover the pot while cooking the stew, this ensures the stew doesn’t emulsify and allows the stew to develop that natural layer of oil.
  • Add the pomegranate molasses toward the end of the cooking process.
  • Adjust the sweetness or sourness of the stew by adding more sugar or pomegranate molasses, respectively.

Serving Tips for Khoresh Fesenjoon

  • Serve Khoresh Fesenjoon with steamed Persian rice, topped with saffron and a sprinkling of barberries for a burst of colour and flavour
  • A fresh plate of mixed herb s salad or a side of Parsley and pomegranate salad.

storage tips

  • Store leftover Fesenjoon in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • For longer storage, freeze the stew in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. To reheat, simply defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and warm it up on the stovetop before serving.

Khoresh Fesenjoon

Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours


Meat balls

  • 500 g minced beef (20-30%fat)
  • 1 onion, finely minced excess liquid drained
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cardamom powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • pinch of ground saffron


  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 400 g finely ground walnuts
  • 1 large red onion, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, finely grated
  • 8 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 tsp salt , (optional)
  • 1 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp sugar


  • In a large pot, add vegetable oil, onion and carrot; sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the ground walnut and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 8 cups of pomegranate juice and salt (optional). Allow the mixture to simmer on medium-low heat for 3-4. Continuously stir to avoid the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • Once the water has reduced, the oil of the walnut should be visible on the top. Add the pomegranate and sugar; stir and adjust the sweetness by adding more sugar. If you want it to be more sour, add more pomegranate molasses. Allow to simmer for addition 45 to 60 minutes.
  • To prepare the meatballs, in a medium sized bowl combine the minced beef, onion, salt, black pepper, cardamom powder, turmeric powder and saffron; thoroughly knead together. Mould the beef mixture into small 2cm diametre meatballs and place on a large frying pan. On medium-high heat, fry meatballs until the meat has browned; remove and keep to the side.
  • Add the fried meatballs to the walnut stew and cook on low heat for an additional 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Serve with Persian rice.

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @cookingwithzahra on Instagram and hashtag it #cookingwithzahra so we can see all the deliciousness!

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