Çerkez Tavugu (Circassian Chicken)

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.

Prep Time:
45 mins
Additional Time:
6 hrs 40 mins
Total Time:
7 hrs 25 mins
18 servings


  • 2 ½ 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 degrees F, 25 to 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, process walnuts and garlic in a food processor to a fine-textured paste. Add 1/4 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 1/4 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.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

190 Calories
13g Fat
3g Carbs
16g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 18
Calories 190
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 3g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 16g 32%
Total Fat 13g 17%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 40mg 13%
Vitamin A 163IU 3%
Vitamin C 1mg 1%
Folate 14mcg 3%
Sodium 178mg 8%
Calcium 24mg 2%
Iron 1mg 6%
Magnesium 31mg 7%
Potassium 217mg 5%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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