What do you do with Chestnuts?

Here’s an easy way to prepare those delicious chestnuts and have your house smelling like heaven.

Yes, we all know the song:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire……

I think lots of people see chestnuts but don’t want to bring them home because they don’t know exactly what to do with them.  Well lucky for you, I’m here to help you with your nut preparation.  I’m sure there are other ways to prepare them, but this way seems to render the softest, most flavorful chestnuts with the best aroma.

Nutritionally, chestnuts are lower in fat that most other nuts (only 2 grams in 10 nuts) and are high in Vitamin C and minerals.  The high fiber and soft dense consistency makes them very satisfying.

Unlike other nuts that you can eat raw, chestnuts are best cooked.  Chestnuts come from a tree like all other nuts. (What about peanuts you ask?  They aren’t nuts, they’re legumes)

When picking your perfect chestnut look for a rounded shape, (it may be flat on one side, that’s OK) with no holes (holes may mean visitors) and no black areas (that may mean mold).  If you’re buying them to eat in a few days, store them in the fridge in a paper bag, not plastic, and out of moisture. You can store in the fridge 2-3 weeks.   If you’re going to eat them in a day or two leave them out, loosely, giving them lots of air.

This is how chestnuts start out from the tree. At the market, I try to pick the outer rounded nuts and leave that flat middle one for someone who doesn’t know how to pick them. Photo from http://www.chestnutsonline.com

A good chestnut should be  that beautiful brown color that can only be “chestnut brown”.

I recommend you to choose each one rather than use a scoop to gather them at the market.  You really want to make sure that each one is a keeper and that each one will yield that soft nugget of golden flesh.  You will always have some duds in the bunch.  Sometimes moisture will get into an area and cause mold and sometimes the nut is just old.  If any area of the nut is discolored black or dark after cooking, don’t eat it.

To get started, fill a pot with about 4 inches of water and add 1-2 tablespoons of salt, I like to use sea salt.  You’ll use this pot for soaking the nuts before baking them.

Rinse the nuts well.  Then, taking a pairing knife, cut an “X” in the flat part or any side part of the chestnut, and drop it in the salted water.

A little suit of armor for your thumb would be great if you have one….

It’s tricky to cut the “X”, but hopefully there won’t be any significant bloodshed while you get the hang of it.  Poke the point in the nut first, then angle the knife it so it makes a cut rather than dragging the knife over the shell.

When you have all your nuts cut, let them soak for about 15 minutes.

I think room temperature water works best, but I’ve never done a scientific study on the subject.

After the soak, place them on a foil lined or parchment lined baking sheet with the “X” facing up.

Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 25 minutes.

If you’ve never smelled chestnuts being gently tenderized by soft steady heat, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise.  The aroma is like none other.  I suggest you sit in the kitchen with a warm cup of tea and bask in the heavenly scent.

Maybe I’m hooked on that smell because of what I remember as a kid.  Living on Long Island meant that New York City was just a one hour train ride away.  During the holidays, a parent or older sister (I had plenty) would take me into the city to see the Rockefeller Center show, or to see the tree…ya know…THE tree, or to see Ice Capades.  Coming out of the hole in the ground that is Penn Station up into the city was like emerging from the ground into another world.  Sights, sounds, and smells filled the air.  Just like the pretzel and hot dog vendors, there were also chestnut vendors.  The smell of those chestnuts, met my nose first…even before the sound of  the honking taxicabs.  I haven’t been back to New York in a while so I’m not sure if they still have the chestnut carts…

Thanks for allowing that little flashback.  Now, back to the recipe…

After 25 minutes of baking, peek in the oven to see that the little “X”‘s have opened and the four corners of that “X” have folded back to reveal the golden nugget.

Who would ever think that tender golden nugget is hidden inside that hard dark shell…

If you know what these taste like, you’ll want to crack these right open as soon as they come out and eat them, so you’ll inevitably burn your fingers and mouth trying.  Give them a few minutes to cool so you can handle them.  Then squeeze them so they crack open and take out the tender nut inside.

You can eat them as you crack them, or you can crack them all, put them in a bowl, and eat them one by one.  You will adopt your  own eating style.  Chestnuts can, of course, be used in recipes like chestnut stuffing.  Cooked this way, they don’t need any seasoning at all.  That would be a crime.

Feel free to post your favorite chestnut recipe in the comments!


Nutrition: 10 nuts

Calories: 206,  Fat: 2 grams, Fiber: 4 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Vitamin C: 36% RDA, Potassium: 14% RDA, Manganese: 50% RDA, Vitamin B6: 21%, vitamin K 8%  RDA

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Categories: cooking, health, healthy cooking, vegan recipes, vegetarian recipes

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52 replies

  1. *edited*
    Great article and beautiful memory. I tried chestnuts for the first time last night, roasted on an open fire, at a Charles Dickens Christmas Fair. To my dismay, I didn’t like them very much. But I’m determined to give them another try, so I’m going to try your method here and I hope I take to them more. Thanks so much!

    Reply ↓

  2. Great article and beautiful memory. I tried chestnuts for the first time last night, roasting on an open fire, any Charles Dickens Christmas Fair. To my dismay, I didn’t like them very much. But I’m determined to give them another try, so I’m going to try your method here and I hope I take to them more. Thanks so much!

  3. I have had a bag of chestnuts in the freezer for a few weeks, I plan on using them for decorative purposes. But IM afraid once I put them in a fancy dish they will go bad quickly or the worms will come out! YUCK!!!! Did freezing the chestnuts kill the weevil larvae or do I still need to cook them? I would love to preserve them for as long as possible…. How long are they good for once I put them in a dish as decoration?

  4. Thank you for the instructions. I’ve never tried chestnuts before today. I know live in Germany and the largest chestnut tree in the village is in my yard! So I gathered up what my scrub pants pockets could hold and tried roasting them tonight. They remind me a lot of boiled peanuts (a southern fall tradition). The only issue that I had was the inner fuzzy skin didn’t always want to peel off (some did…some didn’t). Once I realized that the fuzzy skin didn’t have a flavor or change the taste of the chestnut, I quit fighting to get it off.
    The spiny balls are just now opening to release the chestnuts…so I’ll have lots of chances to perfect the technique. Any suggestions on why the skin isn’t releasing?

  5. You seem like such a lovely person… Your post reminds me of a poem I once read. Merry Christmas :)…

  6. I bought 5 chestnuts at the store tonight. I’ve never had them before. Thank you for explaining how to cook them. The first ones I tried to open were brown because the hard shell came off but not the skin. I put the other back in for 5-10 minutes and they came out just like you said.

    They were… interesting. I plan to take some home to Indiana for Christmas. I lived there most of my life and never saw them available for purchase.

    • Glad I was able to help! They have been in short supply here in the southeast US. My supermarket had chestnuts that came all the way from Italy! I used them to make a yeast-free, gluten-free stuffing for Thanksgiving and it was amazing! Thanks for your comment!

  7. Can I freeze rotated chestnuts in shells and for how long?

  8. Thank You, Susan……I grew up in Brooklyn, living in Seattle……was walking a trail and chestnuts were falling from a tree………so I took a bunch home……..found your way…..))) The real authentic Charcol Pretzel dosent exist anymore…….(( I went back there on tour and could find the ones I had as a kid…….

  9. I thought the prickly spikes were the ones that you eat. And that horse chestnut s were commonly called buckeye s Which you can’t eat.

  10. Sounds good but how can you tell if you got horse chestnuts or regular chestnuts.. My husband just brought home his lunch bucket full he picked up in a yard where he worked today.

  11. Thanks for the New York minute – I too lived about an hour from the city and enjoyed those Radio City Hall trips and ‘The Tree’ and skating rink at Rockefeller Center!

  12. Thanks so much. My brother took me to a park with two large chestnut trees that he and his kids visited when they were growing up. The trees must be around three hundred or more years old, he told me this is the most the tree has produced since twenty years ago. I was rather shocked that so many people living close by didn’t know they were there. We had a good time sharing what we knew with the people that came by to ask what we were doing, they will be visiting with their kids to gather all the nuts. We gathered at least 60 pounds each & will be going back for more, what fun we had today. :}

  13. I’ve got about 5 pounds collected from our 4 Chestnut trees in the yard (this over about a weeks’ time). I have them in a paper bag. As it’s only late September, do you know how best to keep these chestnuts till closer to the holiday season? Thank you!

    • I’m pretty sure you can freeze them as you can all nuts. that’s what I would do. Damn! 5 pounds! My mouth is watering!

      • Thank you so much. I roasted my first pound EVER tonight. Not bad at all! Soaked in sea salt water (after a slit was made) for about an hour then baked at 425 degrees for 15 minutes then let them sit in a bowl covered with a towel. Shelled them easily and then hubby and I enjoyed several while warm. I really appreciate the advice I’ve gotten from your blog. Will probably freeze a couple of pounds tomorrow. 🙂

  14. This post was so helpful. I’ve never roasted chestnuts before and am excited to try it this year!
    I just started peeling them and am wondering what the texture is supposed to be like. Mine are rather soft, and the center of the first three is brown. Does that sound right, or do you think they are duds?
    Thank you for posting such a useful detailed guide 🙂

    • After cooking they should be soft but firm. I am trying to compare the consistency with something and I really can’t! It has its own texture. The best I can think of is a firm boiled peanut (can you tell I’m living in the south USA y’all?)
      It should not be black at all. Sometimes if you cook them too long, the exposed area of the nut will turn black with cooking, but black ro green usually means mold. Toss it.
      It really makes a difference where you buy them. Sometimes the nuts sit out at a supermarket for weeks and weeks, and you just don’t know it. If you can find a farmers market, that’ your best bet, because they usually know exactly how fresh they are.
      Good luck and happy eating!

  15. Such a good informative post and actually just what I needed to know, thank you!

  16. Something I learned long ago; if you put store bought Chestnuts in a bucket of water, the ones that float are rotten and the ones that sink will be good. Do this before you cut them. I have always been tempted to bring a bucket of water to the store with me as I have had times that 1/2 the Chestnuts I have bought were bad.

    • Never knew this!! At the farmers market where I bought these, they gave me “extras” because they said a few might be bad. I will most definitely be using this trick to weed them out when I get them home! Thank you!

  17. We ‘do’ chestnuts here in Edinburgh. If I ever get out of the house (my family keeps me chained to the stove) I might just go up town and track down a chestnut cart and get a chance to scald the hell out of my tongue. I’m greedy when it comes to chestnuts…

  18. Ahh I can’t wait for chestnut time. This is an awesome how to thanks for sharing, I had the hardest time with these nuts last year!

  19. This post was so helpful! When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we spent some time in Switzerland, where they roast chestnuts on the street like you described in New York. It was such a wonderful experience, walking down the road eating hot chestnuts and throwing the shells into the pocket of the little paper bag they came in.

    I’ve roasted my own chestnuts several times since, but I always have a hard time making the X on the outside. I like your advice about how to make that easier. I’ve also never soaked mine before roasting, and they can get a little dry. I’m sure this would make them a lot more moist! Anyway, I look forward to trying out your ideas! 🙂

  20. I gotta try this one for Christmas….

  21. Not a big thing here in Australia, but I’ll be in NYC next March, and I am so hoping it will still be chestnut season.

    I ate my first chestnuts in Italy, as part of a cake filling. Oh my! Something to look forward to in New York 😀

  22. Thanks for the little aroma flashback — chestnuts=NYC and always will!


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