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Circassian Chicken (Çerkez Tavugu)

  • 45 m
  • 7 h 25 m
Anya von Bremzen
“Circassian cooking is from the North Caucasus, which was at different times part of the Ottoman and Persian empires. This chicken stew recipe is made with a creamy walnut sauce and was originally served as a main dish, but became a mezze somewhere along the way. Serve at room temp along with some bread for dipping.”


    • 2½ pounds bone-in chicken breasts
    • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    • 2 cups walnuts, plus more for garnish
    • 2 large cloves garlic
    • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided, plus more for garnish
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
    • ¾ teaspoon paprika
    • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (see Tips), plus more for garnish
    • ½ teaspoon dried savory or tarragon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • ¼ teaspoon ground fenugreek (see Tips)
    • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads (see Tips)
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 small onion, finely chopped
    • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, divided
    • Chopped red onion & pomegranate seeds for garnish


  • 1 Place chicken, meat-side down, in a large saucepan and add broth. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part without touching bone registers 160°F, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • 2 Meanwhile, process walnuts and garlic in a food processor to a fine-textured paste. Add ¼ cup cilantro; pulse just to combine. Mix salt, coriander, paprika, Aleppo, savory (or tarragon), cinnamon, fenugreek and saffron in a small bowl.
  • 3 Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board to cool. Strain the broth (discard the solids).
  • 4 Wash and dry the pan. Add butter and oil and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add onion and cook, stirring, until very soft but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the broth and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the walnut mixture; whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce starts to thicken, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • 5 Shred the chicken (discard the bones) and place in a large bowl. Add the sauce along with 2 tablespoons vinegar and the remaining ¼ cup cilantro. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until cold, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.
  • 6 Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar into the chicken. Let stand for 30 minutes. Serve topped with more chopped walnuts, cilantro, Aleppo, red onion and pomegranate seeds, if desired.
  • Tips: Aleppo Pepper: Named for the city in northern Syria, these dried chile flakes lend bright fruitiness and gentle heat. Use it up: Sprinkle on roast vegetables, meats or even fresh fruit or your avocado toast.
  • Fenugreek: Both the leaves (fresh or dried) and their mustard-colored seeds (whole or ground) have a complex flavor that's a little nutty and almost maple-y. Use it up: Ground seeds can be used in curry powders, teas, rubs or as a seasoning for cooked vegetables. Add fresh leaves to salads, sauces and curries.
  • Saffron: These crimson-colored threads are the delicate stigmas of the saffron crocus flower. They lend a vivid golden hue and rich floral flavor. About 90 percent of saffron comes from Iran. Use it up: Add to risotto, rice pudding or paella.
  • To make ahead: Prepare through Step 5 and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
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