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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After seeing your easy directions, I'm ready to give these a try (I've been eyeing them at the grocery store for weeks!). But I've never eaten roasted chestnuts, are they similar in taste to almonds or cashews? Are they sweet? I'm wondering how many I should buy per person and whether or not you think kids would like them too.
Thanks for the great directions, I'm going to buy and roast some whether or not the kiddos like them, I'm sure I'll like them : )!
Hi, Jennifer! Oh, I'm so happy you're going to give these a go! It'll be fun! They are different from most nuts in that they are unexpectedly soft and slightly chewy. They are mildly sweet and have an earthy, nutty flavor. Happy holiday season!
My mother LOVES roasted chestnuts, but they're not the top of my list. However, I did discover that I like them as is! When I was in England in October, I tasted them fresh and really liked them! What can I say? I have strange taste buds! haha!
That's awesome, Christina. Ha! As long as there's no cilantro. 😉 xo ~Valentina
I'm so excited to try your method, Valentina! We love chestnuts, but have had mixed results peeling them ourselves and typically buy them in jars already peeled **ahem**. I'd much rather do it your way!
Thanks, Marissa. I hope this method works for you. Happy Holidays! 🙂 ~Valentina
They are my favourite fall treat!
Kelly | Foodtasia
What great information on roasting chestnuts! I've known about them since forever but we've never tried it. A fun project for the family!
I hope you love doing this, Kelly. It's fun, smells delicious and they're so tasty! 🙂 ~Valentina
David Scott Allen
This kind of tutorial is always so useful! I, now wondering where I will be able to find chestnuts in Arizona!
What about Whole Foods? Is there one in Tucson? Here's hoping. Thanks for checking out my tutorial. 🙂 ~Valentina
You know just today we were at a Christmas market and the first thing I went for was the roasted chestnuts. And yes, they still serve them here in a paper cone and they make Christmas, Christmas for me. Well, that and smell and taste of burnt almonds...
Have a great Holiday Season.
Yes!! I love it. Especially in the newspaper "cones!" Thanks for sharing, Ron. Enjoy the season. 🙂 ~Valentina
David @ Spiced
We roasted chestnuts several years ago in the fireplace, and it was a fun activity. I agree that chestnuts taste like a baked potato. I didn't realize that before we embarked on that activity, so I was quite surprised at the flavor/texture. Either way, it was a fun holiday project! Great guide here, Valentina!
Thanks, David. Love that you roasted them in your fireplace. So awesome! 🙂 ~Valentina
Ooh, if I could have my sisters over for the holidays, it would be fun to roast some chestnuts! Not sure I could sell them to the hubby and kids---but I did make a Dorie Greenspan cake with chestnut filling. I think it's buried deep in my blog....going to see if I can find it!! Thanks for all your tips 🙂
Hi Liz. I really like Dori Greenspan's recipes -- I will have to look for that on your site too. 🙂 I hope you can spend the holidays with your sisters, and roast chestnuts, of course. ~Valentina
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
What a great post! I agree with you about the texture seeming sort of like a potato, but denser. The texture is my favorite thing about them. I love them in a turkey stuffing! I bought some in the shells, years ago, and figured that I could just intuit how to work with them ... what a distaster. Wish I'd had your post back then!
Hi Jeff! I love their texture too -- so unique for a nut, and their subtly sweet flavor. I was thinking about using them in stuffing, and now I will. Thanks so much. 🙂 ~Valentina
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
I had kind of given up on chestnut stuffing, because when you buy them canned, they seem to disintigrate into the stuffing, but I'll bet with freshly roasted ones, you wouldn't have that problem.
Hi Jeff. I think they'd work well in stuffing -- they'd totally hold their shape (unlike those in a can) and they'd add so much delicious flavor. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! 🙂 ~Valentina
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
I did have a happy Thanksgiving, thanks for asking. I'm planning to make turkey for Christmas, so perhaps I'll keep my eyes peeled for some chestnuts to put in the stuffing.
Love that you're already menu planning for Christmas. Me too. 🙂 Cheers! Valentina
I would love to make this, however I’ve noticed at times there may be a tiny worm in some of the chestnuts. You don’t know this until raw chestnuts are peeled and broken or cut. Do you have any comments on how to handle this? Thank you for any comments on this and the unique idea.
Hi Melissa, I found some information that might be helpful for you from the American Chestnut Foundation ---> https://patacf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Eating-Chestnuts.pdf
This is not my area of expertise, and I suppose I've been fortunate that I've never happened upon one of these worms (PHEW!)
From my research, it seems action has to take place right after harvest (boiling the nuts) to get rid of them. I do know if there are tiny holes in the shell, that's definitely an indication that they might be there or have been.
I hope the link above is useful and good luck! 🙂 ~Valentina
Since Christmas Market opened it's doors this Sunday, there is smell of roasted chestnuts and castagnole all over the place. Perfect timing to post this one!
Lucky you! sounds like a very dreamy scent to have in the air. 🙂 ~Valentina
This is a great, informative post! Unfortunately I have never been able to get my hands on real fresh chestnuts. My mother told me a horror story about my grandmother, who was dingy anyway, put the chestnuts in her oven without making the X. This was probably in the 1940’s. It sounded like bombs exploding, and she and her husband had to hold skillets up in front of their faces in order to ready the oven and stop the bombing!
Mimi, while I feel for your grandparent having to avoid the "bombing," this is a great chestnut story! 😀 I've heard of a similar, but less dangerous but messier explosion, of an eggplant without being pricked first with a fork. I hope you come across some fresh chestnuts sometime -- they're super fun and tasty to roast and cook with. ~Valentina
What a great tutorial. I remember hunting and hunting for chestnuts a few years ago to make a chestnut mousse. You've given me another excuse to buy some!!
Thanks, Liz. Chestnut mousse sounds fantastic! I'd love to see that recipe. 🙂 ~Valentina