Slow cooker chicken with walnuts and pomegranate
Inspired by a medieval Persian duck, pomegranate and walnut stew
The inspiration for this slow cooker chicken comes from an ancient Persian stew called Fesenjoon that was originally made from wild duck. Traditionally the duck is slowly simmered in a sauce made from toasted ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. It is an incredibly flavorful slow cooker chicken stew that balances sweet, sour and savory.
My interpretation uses chicken and a slow-cooker
My version uses skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs and I cook it in a slow cooker. I also add a few nontraditional ingredients, including rosemary, whole garlic cloves and carrots. My version is less of a stew and more of a fork-tender chicken dish with an abundance of delicious sauce.
Pomegranates and pomegranate molasses
One of the treats of the fall season are big juicy pomegranates with their jewel-like seeds. I use pomegranate seeds to garnish almost everything: meat, salads, dips and vegetables. You name it and there is a good chance it is better with pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranate molasses is a wonderful sweet-sour ingredient made from reduced pomegranate juice. I use it in sauces, dressings and cocktails. See my post on pomegranates for everything you need to know about this delicious fruit, including nutrition, health benefits, the best way to remove the seeds and how to store.
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Slow cookers have generally not been my thing, but I am trying to change that. The concept of throwing ingredients into a pot and returning hours later to a wonderful meal is so enticing and practical that I really want to crack the slow cooker code.
My biggest concern with many slow cooker recipes is that everything is thrown in the pot without sautéing the aromatics (onions, garlic, carrots, celery, peppers) or searing the meat, two crucial steps in building flavor.
My other problem is that many slow cookers are tiny, and I am a believer in cooking up a big batch and freezing half for a future meal.
So to address my concerns, I invested in this large 6-quart, 3-in-1 slow cooker. You can sear and saute in this slow cooker and it is big enough to cook up a couple meals at once.
I have written the recipe assuming most people's slow cookers do not have the ability to saute and sear. If that is the case, you will require an extra skillet. If, however, you have the good fortune to have a 3-in-1 slow cooker, you can do everything in this one pot.
Toasting the walnuts is an important step in building the flavor of this dish. Walnuts and for that matter, all nuts are better after they have been toasted. When I buy a bag of nuts, I toast the whole bag and store them in the freezer, so I have a stash of toasted nuts whenever I need them. Freezing also extends the shelf life of nuts.
Food processors are your friend
I use a food processor to chop the onions and grind the walnuts. Food processors are incredible time savers for a recipe like this.
This slow cooker chicken can be made in advance and served the next day. In fact, it may be better on the second day after the flavors have had a chance to meld.
Add veggies for a one-dish meal
I use carrots in this dish, but you can also add butternut squash, mushrooms or potatoes to make this a one-pot-meal. Simply add them to the slow cooker for the last hour.
- 2 cups toasted walnuts
- 3T butter or olive oil, divided
- 2 onions, chopped
- ⅓ cup pomegranate molasses
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 T lemon juice
- 1½ t cinnamon
- 1 t turmeric
- 2 T brown sugar
- 1 t kosher salt
- ½ t ground pepper
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 10 whole peeled garlic cloves
- 4 stems of fresh rosemary
- 4 carrots, chopped into 1" pieces
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- Put the toasted walnuts in a food processor or Mini-Prep and blitz until they look like coarse meal. Set aside.
- Saute the onions in 2 T of butter or olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add toasted walnuts and cook for another 2 or three minutes, stirring. Add pomegranate molasses, chicken stock and lemon juice and stir to combine. Remove from heat, put into a bowl and set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix cinnamon, turmeric, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Using your hands, coat each piece of chicken with the spice mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil to the pan you sauteed the onions in. Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides.
- Put the chicken in the slow cooker and top with the onion and walnut sauce. Scatter garlic cloves and rosemary stems over the sauce. Start slow cooker on high, until sauce begins to bubble then turn down to low and cook for 3½ hours. Add carrots to slow cooker and stir to combine with sauce. Continue cooking on low for another hour.
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley. Serve over herbed basmati rice.
Disclaimer: I do not have any financial agreement with Cuisinart. I am an Amazon affiliate and if you purchase a slow cooker or any product through my Amazon links I do make a small commission on your purchase. I don't want you to buy anything you don't need, but I do appreciate your support when you purchase through my links.
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