Pistachio chicken (Fustukiyyeh)


You are unlikely to find this dish in a contemporary Middle-Eastern cookbook; the recipe goes back to the 10th century. I read about it in La cuisine de Ziryab (Ziryab’s kitchen) by Farouk Mardam-BeyThe book is a collection of essays on traditional Arab ingredients such as figs, dates, olive, bulgur, chickpeas, artichoke, fava bean or saffron with recipes for each taken from the tradition of both Arab and non-Arab countries of the region, such as Iran, Turkey or Spain. 

The recipe is  simple: Chicken breasts are briefly cooked then shredded;  covered in water, pistachio and almond powder and a pinch of sugar and cooked gently for a little while longer. The pistachios and almonds turn into a paste and coat the chicken with their delicate flavor. 

I was reading that the Arabs of the medieval courts produced at least a dozen cookbooks and this is the simplest version of the fustukiyyeh (word meaning made of pistachios). 

Original recipe calls for shredding the chicken breasts as fine as possible.

INGREDIENTS: 2 servings

  • 1 whole chicken breast, cut in 2 or 3 pieces
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup pistachio flour
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • salt to taste


  1.  Place the chicken breasts in a saucepan; add 1 1/2 cups of water and a dash of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook the breasts for 7 minutes. Remove the breasts and shred them using 2 forks; place them back in the saucepan and  add the butter, almond, pistachio flour and sugar and simmer a few minutes longer covering the pan until the breasts are thoroughly cooked. Serve. 

NOTE: Pistachio and almond flour can be made by drying the peeled nuts in a 300 oven first for 5 to 10 minutes; cool then transfer to a food processor or coffee grinder and reduce to a powder. To peel the nuts, boil them in water for 2 minutes, drain and peel; spread them  on kitchen towels for one hour or longer.


This man sells rolls (called kaak) topped with sesame seeds; the rolls get stuffed with cheese (similar to mozzarella, called akkawi). Then he roasts the roll in a little furnace, flipping it every few minutes until the cheese is melted. Cost US$1.

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  1. Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Impressive that this from so long ago…good things remain timeless.

  2. Posted March 27, 2013 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    Veeery interesting… I just happen to have some pistachios lying around that I need to use up…

  3. Posted March 27, 2013 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    That looks delicous, I’ve never heard of this dish before.

  4. Posted March 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    This sounds good – reminds me of the flavourings of b’stilla.

  5. Posted March 27, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    YUM! This looks great, can’t believe how old the recipe is! xx

  6. Posted March 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Pistachio and chicken goes really well together. I made a chicken roll with pistachio on new year’s eve too.

  7. Posted March 27, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Oohhh…I can taste the nutty sweetness from here, so interesting!

  8. Posted March 28, 2013 at 4:00 am | Permalink

    Wow! Love that nutty flavor combined with chicken! Not sure if we have such a dish in Turkish cuisine. We use pistachio(fıstık in Turkish) mostly in desserts, and rarely in kebabs.
    Love the picture of the man selling rolls, like the ones here! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  9. Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Wow! Now this is some impressive and intriguing dish! And I actually have both ground almonds and pistachios! What I love about many Middle Eastern and North African dishes is the mix of savory, nutty and sweet.

  10. Posted March 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    I always have pistachios in the house I love them so much. This sounds like such a delicious meal, Joumana.

  11. Mette
    Posted April 4, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this recipe – looks absolutely delicious! Just one question, are you adding the shredded chicken back to the water, for sauce, or disregarding it after boiling the chicken breasts?

  12. Joumana
    Posted April 4, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    @Mette: I cooked the chicken halfway, then added the ground nuts, butter and sugar and finished cooking the chicken breasts; the entire operation took less than 15 minutes.

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