Duck with a Persian Sauce of Walnuts and Pomegranate

This is one of the most famous dishes of Persian cuisine, and deservedly so because it is so delicious. Fesenjan is usually served with chelo, Persian-Style Rice. Fresh pomegranate juice will work for this recipe, as will bottled pomegranate juice from the health food store. (Grenadine would not be right as it is much too bland and sweet.) Whichever pomegranate extract or juice you use, you will have to compensate for the sweetness or tartness, and cook the sauce until it is thick. I think the best results come with the molasses rather than the concentrate or the plain juice.


  • 2 ducks, about 5 pounds each, necks, wing tips, and excess fat removed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Cinnamon for duck, plus 2 teaspoons for sauce
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 onions, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • ½ cup pomegranate molasses or cup pomegranate syrup (see note)
  • cup Basic Tomato Sauce
  • cups of Duck Stock or Chicken Stock
  • 3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • Fresh lemon juice and sugar to taste (optional)



Preheat the oven to 450 to 500 degrees. Prick the ducks all over with a fork and rub them inside and out with a little salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Place the ducks on a rack in a large roasting pan and roast until cooked through, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut the ducks into quarters or eighths.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the 2 teaspoons cinnamon and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the pomegranate molasses or syrup, the tomato sauce, duck stock, and the walnuts and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste for balance and add lemon juice if the pomegranate syrup is too sweet, sugar if it is too tart.

Rewarm the ducks in the sauce and serve with Persian-Style Rice.