Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos."
While roasting them on an open fire would be lovely, it's easy and fun to learn how to roast chestnuts in the oven.
First, what are chestnuts?
- Chestnuts are a group of eight or nine species of deciduous trees and shrubs. Oak trees are in the same family, which is why the nuts look similar to acorns.
- The trees are native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
- Chestnuts are considered to be an ancient nut, and are said to be one of the first foods consumed by humankind.
- Uncooked, chestnuts are covered in a hard shell and are about the size of a walnut in its shell. They are referred to as “true nuts” which means they must be cooked before using.
- In stores — mostly during the holiday season — you can find chestnuts steamed and jarred, or puréed and canned, and shelled and roasted in the refrigerated, produce section of most markets.
- You can also buy chestnut flour which does not rise, but is delicious in various baked goods, like these Chestnut Chocolate Chip Cookies.
- Chestnuts are one of the lowest fat nuts, with less than 2% fat!
What do chestnuts taste like?
- Fresh chestnuts are different from most nuts in that they are unexpectedly soft and slightly chewy. Some people think the texture is similar to a baked potato.
- When chestnuts are cooked, their flavor is rich, buttery, subtly sweet and earthy. (Do not eat them raw!)
- Their texture and flavor makes them delicious in both sweet and savory recipes.
How to Roast Chestnuts
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Use a chestnut knife (or sharp paring knife) to make a large X through the shell and inner skin on the flat side of the chestnuts. This is called scoring.
- Place them on a baking sheet as you go.
- Roast them in the preheated oven until all of the skins peel back, away from the chestnut. This will take about 25 minutes, and there will always be a few that don’t cooperate.
- Remove them from the oven and cover them with a kitchen towel for about 5 minutes before peeling. (They must still be warm to peel them.)
How to Peel Chestnuts
- Use your hands to peel the shell and skin off each nut, away from the X. (If the inner skin doesn’t come off with the shell, use the tip of your knife to help work it off the nut.) If some of the nuts become too cool before you’re able to peel them, simply pop them back in oven for a couple of minutes to loosen the skins again.
How to Use Oven Roasted Chestnuts
In addition to being fabulous to munch on as they are, roasted chestnuts can be used in all sorts of both sweet and savory recipes. You make soups, stews, stuffings, cakes, cookies, and then some.
Tips for Roasting Chestnuts
- I've had my Italian chestnut knife for over ten years, and though it doesn't get used but a few times a year, I love having it in my knife drawer. Ideally, you will use one for your chestnuts, but if you don't have one, a sharp paring knife works too.
- Chestnuts have an outer shell and inner skin. When you’re scoring them with the knife, the idea is to cut through these -- not the nut itself. If you do cut into the actual nut a bit, that’s okay!
- Many people find they're even easier to peel if they're soaked in hot water for a minute or so, and patted dry, before they're roasted.
- They must still be warm when you peel them. The cooler they become, the harder they'll be to peel.
How long will they keep?
- Before they're roasted, chestnuts should be refrigerated. Unlike most nuts, they do not have a high oil content so they can go bad quickly if left out.
- To eat them on their own, roasted chestnuts are at their best right after they're roasted. If you're planning to use them in recipes, they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
Once you know how to roast and peel chestnuts, they're the perfect winter afternoon, weekend cooking project.
And it will lead you to many wonderful chestnut-filled dishes!
Recipes with chestnuts:
- Chestnut Butter
- Chocolate Chestnut Cake
- Chocolate Chip Chestnut Cookies
- Braised Chestnuts and Pearl Onions
- Cream of Chestnut Potato Soup
How To Roast And Peel Chestnuts
- 1 pound whole, raw chestnuts
- Set oven and prepare nuts. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Use a chestnut knife (or sharp paring knife) to make a large X through the shell and inner skin on the flat side of the chestnuts. Place them on a baking sheet as you go.
- Roast. Roast them in the preheated 400°F oven until all of the skins have peeled back, away from the chestnut, about 25 minutes. (There will always be a few that don’t cooperate.) Remove them from the oven and cover them with a kitchen towel for about 5 minutes before peeling. (They must still be warm to peel them.)
- Peel. Use your hands to peel the shell and skin off each nut, away from the X. (If the inner skin doesn’t come off with the shell, use the tip of your knife to help work it off the nut.) If some of the nuts become too cool before you’re able to peel them, simply pop them back in oven for a couple of minutes to loosen the skins again.
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