turmeric chicken with almonds and raisins

turmeric chicken with almonds and raisins

This turmeric chicken with almonds and raisins is a riff on a Persian classic, zereshk polo ba morgh. My mom makes the best zereshk polo ba morgh (barberry rice with chicken). She prepares fragrant basmati rice, cooks perfectly juicy chicken thighs and tops the dish with buttered currants and slivered almonds. My mom masters any meal she prepares but her zereshk polo is something to behold.

turmeric chicken with almonds and raisins

Before moving to New York, I had never lived farther than 20 minutes away from my family. Most people might miss the Cali sunshine or the Pacific ocean but the only thing I miss about the West Coast is my family and friends. Living far away from my parents has been especially difficult. Facetime has made the distance somewhat bearable. Our near daily conversations have brought us even closer than when we lived nearby.

Battling an especially strong bout of homesickness this week, I decided to cook something Persian-ish to remind me of home. I’m still discovering specialty grocery stores nearby so I didn’t have access to Persian barberries or saffron. Golden raisins and Spanish saffron from Trader Joe’s provided a suitable stand in and this meal was delicious and heartwarming.

Mom will definitely chide me for the overpriced, subpar saffron (she gets her precious stash delivered from Iran). But she’ll be glad to know that her cooking has inspired our meals on this coast.

I hope this turmeric chicken with almonds and raisins brings some comfort into your home very soon. Serve this with shirazi salad for a real feast.

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turmeric chicken with almonds and raisins

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  • Author: Sepideh Esmaili Campos


  • 1.5 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • Scant ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ cup dry white vermouth
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • Juice of half a fresh lemon
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup blanched, slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup hot water, just off the boil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground saffron threads (you can omit this ingredient if you wish)
  • 2 cups basmati rice, cooked per instructions on the package
  • 2 cups of plain greek yogurt for serving (optional)
  • Side dish suggestion: shirazi salad


  1. Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs. Blot the thighs dry with paper towels.
  2. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with ¼ teaspoon salt and fresh cracked pepper.
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  4. Press each chicken thigh into the flour and coat lightly. Shake off the excess flour and place the dusted chicken on a plate.
  5. Once all of the chicken is dredged in flour, heat the olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of butter over medium high heat in a large dutch oven.
  6. Once the butter is melted and the foam subsides, add the chicken to the pan (skinned side down) in a single layer. If the chicken doesn’t sizzle when it hits the pan, continue heating the oil before adding the chicken.
  7. Cook the chicken on both sides until lightly golden, 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer the browned chicken to a bowl (note: it’s not fully cooked yet) but leave the oil and coagulated chicken bits in the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the sliced onion to the now empty pan, sauté until the onions are soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes.
  9. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the bits of chicken stuck to the bottom of the pan while you saute the onion.
  10. Add the turmeric, coriander, and cardamom to the pan. Cook and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  11. Add the vermouth and chicken broth to the pan, bring to a boil.
  12. Add the browned chicken back to the pan along with any juices that have accumulated in the bowl.
  13. Bring the liquid back up to boil then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.
  14. Let the chicken simmer, covered, until fully cooked, 20-30 minutes.
  15. While the chicken is simmering, prepare the raisins and almonds.
  16. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.
  17. Add the raisins and almonds, cook over medium low heat until the raisins are plumped and the almonds lightly toasted, 2-3 minutes. Take care not to burn the raisins, their high sugar content makes them burn easily. Set the raisins and almonds aside.
  18. Once the chicken is cooked and has reached 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer, transfer the cooked chicken to a clean plate, leaving the onions and sauce in the pan.
  19. Increase the heat to high and boil down the sauce until it’s reached the desired thickness, 2-3 minutes.
  20. Add the lemon juice to the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt if necessary.
  21. Off the heat, add the chicken back to the pan with the sauce to keep it warm.
  22. Pour the hot water in a measuring cup, scatter the ground saffron over the water and stir to combine.
  23. Serving directions:
  24. Scatter the cooked rice into your serving platter, drizzle half of the saffron water over the rice.
  25. Scatter half of the raisin and almond mixture over the rice and top with the chicken thighs and onion sauce.
  26. Drizzle the rest of the saffron liquid over the chicken and top with the rest of the raisin and almond mixture.
  27. Serve with yogurt and shirazi salad.
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