Persian Chicken with Pistachios

Diana Henry

"A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood"

"I read about a khoresh in Najmieh Batmanglij’s wonderful book Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies. It was mostly made from pistachios—one whole pound of them—with the same amount of chicken, no vegetables, and a pretty hefty swig of rosewater. This is based on that but I’ve messed around with the dish. It uses ingredients I love (and that are common in Moroccan cuisine, too), such as saffron and flower water, producing a dish that is scented and unusual to European and American taste buds.

I have also made this with dill instead of mint and that works very well (it’s different, but just as good), while cooked fava beans (whose skins you’ve slipped off) are a lovely addition, too." —Diana Henry


  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock 
  • 1 cup verjuice
  • Salt
  • Good pinch of saffron strands
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon rosewater (be careful as you are adding this!)
  • 9 ounces spinach, washed, tough stalks removed, and leaves torn
  • About 40 mint leaves, torn
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • Rose petals, to serve (optional)


Cut the chicken thighs in half, so that you are left with 2 pieces that are rough rectangles. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and fry the chicken in batches so it takes a good golden color on both sides. You don’t want to cook the chicken through, just color it. When the chicken is ready, transfer it to a dish.

When all the chicken is done, add the onions to the pan and fry over medium-low heat until they are golden and starting to soften. Add the turmeric and pepper and cook for another minute, then pour in the stock and verjuice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer and return the chicken—and any juices that have run out of it—to the pan.

Season with salt, cover, and cook for 25 minutes, removing the lid for the final 10 minutes. Add the saffron, stir it around in the juices to help it dissolve, and add the rosewater (you don’t want to overdo this and different brands have varying strengths, so add it slowly and taste as you do so).

Add the spinach gradually, adding each amount when the rest has wilted. Stir in the mint, taste to check for seasoning, then add the pistachios and rose petals (if using). Serve with rice. I also like a bowl of yogurt with some crushed garlic and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil stirred into it.


Recipe reprinted from A BIRD IN THE HAND: Chicken recipes for every day and every mood by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley 2015.


4 servings