Pomegranate chicken is known for a bold, tangy, and savory flavor. Juicy chicken cooked in pomegranate juice makes this Persian classic a family favorite!
Chicken is probably the most common protein worldwide. What makes it so versatile is that each cuisine has its own way of preparing it. From chicken shawarma and Greek souvlaki to harissa chicken and, of course, zereshk polo morgh, we have no shortage of delicious Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Persian chicken recipes on the blog. This post has been in the works for a while, but I'm so happy to finally share it with you. It's a simple dish with big flavors!
Table Of Contents:
Chicken cooked in pomegranate sauce
First of all, keep in mind that although this dish, known as morgh-e nardooni, might look similar to fesenjan (Persian pomegranate walnut stew), it's not the same since this recipe doesn't contain walnuts. However, both dishes originated in the northern region of Iran where pomegranate is used in a variety of dishes including zeytoon parvardeh.
For this recipe the chicken is cooked with 3 different pomegranate products: pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice and pomegranate arils. It can't get any better!
What does pomegranate chicken taste like? Every bite of this dish is packed with complex flavor: simultaneously tangy and savory with a hint of sweetness.
- Saffron: To enhance the flavor and aroma of saffron, it's best to use ground saffron and sprinkle it on a couple of ice cubes. This process is known as blooming saffron and it's a basic part of Persian cooking.
- Chicken thighs: I recommend using bone-in skinless chicken thighs for this recipe because they're juicy and very flavorful.
- Spices: You need turmeric, salt and black pepper to season this dish.
- Onions and garlic: You need to grate the onion and discard the excess liquid. Grated onion makes the pomegranate sauce a bit thicker and gives it a nice consistency.
- Tomato paste: For depth of color and flavor.
- Pomegranate molasses: The main flavor of this recipe comes from pomegranate molasses so make sure you're using a quality one. I get mine from Persian or Mediterranean stores. Make sure the pomegranate molasses doesn't contain added sugar or if it does, it's not too much.
- Pomegranate arils: I like to cut the pomegranate myself and use the arils. However, these days you can find pre-packaged pomegranate arils in many supermarkets.
How to make pomegranate chicken
- Marinate the chicken: Mix the chicken pieces with olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Let it marinate for 30 minutes up to 6 hours in the fridge.
- Sear the chicken: Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat and sear the chicken for 3 minutes on each side until golden but not fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
- Make the pomegranate sauce: Lower the heat to medium and saute the grated onion in the same pan for a few minutes so it softens and then add the garlic followed by the turmeric, salt and pepper. Add in the tomato paste and pomegranate molasses. Stir and cook for a few minutes so all is combines.
- Cook the chicken: Place the chicken back into the pan and add the pomegranate juice and water. Bring to a simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the chicken is fully cooked and deep brown in color. Braise every 15 minutes for more flavor.
- Final touches: Once the chicken is cooked, add the pomegranate arils and bloomed saffron. Cook for a few more minutes and serve.
Tips for an outstanding pomegranate chicken
- Pure pomegranate juice: Make sure the pomegranate juice is 100% natural and doesn't contain added sugar.
- Quality pomegranate molasses: The pomegranate molasses should be thick and sour, with minimum added sugar (if any).
- Braise: It's important to braise the chicken every 15 minutes for maximum flavor. The cooking process can't be rushed.
This dish is usually served with Persian rice and tahdig. However, you can also serve it with saffron rice, instant pot white rice or even brown rice. A side of salad shirazi, zeytoon parvardeh (marinated olives) or mast o khiar (yogurt and cucumber) would turn this into a complete meal.
Turn it into a holiday meal! Start with saffron caramelized onion dip, pomegranate cheese ball and pomegranate guacamole and serve morgh-e nardooni as the main dish with rice followed by pomegranate parfaits for dessert!
Storage and reheating
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat in a sauce pan over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes until warm and heated through.
Frequently asked questions
Bone-in skinless chicken thighs work best in this recipe. However, you can also use boneless skinless chicken breast or skinless drumsticks as well. It's important to make sure any piece of chicken you're using is skinless since the skin will be rubbery when cooked in the sauce.
This dish is best served fresh. However, to freeze pomegranate chicken make sure it's at room temperature, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in a saucepan over medium heat.
Yes, you can easily double this pomegranate chicken recipe. Make sure to double all the ingredients for the best result.
More Delicious Chicken Recipes
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Pomegranate Chicken, Persian Style (Morgh Nardooni)
- ¼ tsp ground saffron
- 8 pieces chicken thighs bone-in skinless
- 3 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt divided
- ¾ tsp black pepper divided
- 1 ½ tsp turmeric divided
- 1 large onion grated and excess liquid discareded
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- Sprinkle the ground saffron on 2 cubes of ice and let it melt at room temperature. This will be your bloomed saffron.
- Place the chicken thighs in a bowl and top with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Using a pair of tongs, move the chicken pieces round to make sure they are all well coated. Let the chicken thighs marinate for 30 minutes.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat and sear the chicken thighs for 3 minutes on each side until golden but not cooked through. Remove the chicken thighs from the pan and set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium. Add the grated onion to the same pan and sauté for 2 to 4 minutes until it softens. Add in the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon turmeric and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Add the tomato paste and pomegranate molasses to the onion and garlic. Stir to combine. Place the chicken back in the pan and add the pomegranate juice and ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook for 1 hour until the chicken is fully cooked and has turned deep brown in color. Braise the chicken every 15 minutes for maximum flavor and better color.
- Add the pomegranate arils followed by the bloomed saffron you made earlier. Cook for 5 minutes and then serve.
- Bone-in skinless chicken thighs work best for this recipe, however, you can also use boneless skinless chicken breast or skinless drumsticks. Any piece of chicken used in this recipe should be skinless since the skin would become rubbery after cooking in the pomegranate juice.
- Make sure the pomegranate juice is 100% natural and doesn't contain any added sugar.
- Serve this dish with any kind of rice you prefer. Some of our suggestions are Persian rice and tahdig, saffron rice, instant pot white rice or brown rice.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To serve, reheat in a saucepan over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
- This dish is best served fresh. However, to freeze pomegranate chicken, make sure it's at room temperature, transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Keep in mind that this dish is different from the Persian classic Fesenjan since it doesn't contain walnuts.