Roasting chestnuts at home is easy, fun and fills your house with a delicious aroma. You can roast chestnuts in the oven or on the stovetop in just a few easy steps. It’s a fun activity to do during the holidays or even on a weeknight during fall or winter time.
Who doesn’t love the time when the street vendors are starting to sell roasted chestnuts on various street corners? The smell of the open fire and the wonderful sweet aroma of the roasted chestnuts welcomes you when walking outside. Then you know winter is approaching and Christmas is right around the corner.
I am a huge fan of chestnuts. As soon as autumn starts, I go to the local forests to look for chestnut trees and their beautiful nuts. It requires some effort to get the chestnuts out of their spiny husks, which is best done between the shoes on your feet, but the effort will be worthwhile. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to climb any trees. You will find the nuts scattered all over the ground. If you don’t have chestnut trees nearby, no worries, they are available for purchase in most supermarkets.
Chestnuts are a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen. They can be boiled, roasted, ground into flour, used in both savoury and sweet dishes and some chestnuts can even be delicious when eaten raw. However, I would not recommend eating them raw since it can make some people ill, so be careful doing so.
Which chestnuts are used for roasting?
Did you know it’s easy to roast chestnuts at home? Just make sure to use the right ones for roasting. When buying chestnuts in the shop you know they are edible. When looking for chestnuts in the forest, make sure to look for the right ones. Once you know which are the edible ones, it’s easy to recognise them and differentiate from the non edible ‘horse chestnuts’. For more information I refer to this and this page where the difference is well described.
When buying or looking for chestnuts in the forest make sure to look for the following:
- Glossy peel without damages
- They should feel firm and heavy for their size
- They should be as fresh as possible
Also look for tiny round holes in the shell. When you see a hole, dispose of the nut. The hole is made by the larvae of chestnut weevils who feed on the flesh of the nut. They should not be used for eating anymore.
How to cook chestnuts
The most known way for roasting chestnuts is on an open fire. Admittedly, this is the most fun way, especially during a cold winter evening when the fire is lit and everyone is cosied up around the fire while the chestnuts are being roasted. Now, not everyone has the possibility to have an open fire, so here are some other great ways to prepare chestnuts.
Oven roasted chestnuts
The first option is roasting chestnuts in the oven at home. Preheat the oven to 390°F or 200°C. In the meantime, prepare the nuts. Use a sharp pairing knife to make an incision in the peel of the chestnut to prevent the nut from exploding while roasting. I always make an incision on the round side of the nut. Score the nut either with one long incision or an X shape. Be very careful not to cut yourself.
Place the scored chestnuts on a baking tray and roast for around 20 minutes. The chestnuts are ready when the flesh inside is nice and soft and smells very nutty. To check if they are soft you can use the tip of a knife and slice gently through the incision to check the tenderness of the inside. When done, place the hot chestnuts on a clean dish towel ready to peel.
Roasting chestnuts in a pan
Similar to roasting in the oven, first prepare the chestnuts by scoring each one. Place a skillet on medium heat and dry roast the nuts. Make sure to turn the them every few minutes to avoid burning on one side. Also make sure the pan is large enough to fit all the chestnuts. Each nut should touch the base of the pan, don’t pile them on top of one another.
Roast for around 20 minutes, depending on the size of the nuts. Check if they are soft inside and when roasted, place on a clean dish towel.
How to peel chestnuts
The shell of a chestnut is best removed when hot so don’t let them cool down too long, just enough to be able to handle. The peel should come off easily enough if the nuts are fresh. It’s the older ones where the peel is harder to remove. I just use a small pairing knife to remove the hard outer shell while trying not to burn my finger tips.
If possible, remove the inner thin skin, as that might taste slightly bitter. If it’s difficult to remove, don’t worry too much, it’s perfectly edible.
How to eat chestnuts
I usually eat roasted chestnuts as a snack. I love to sit down, take my time to peel them and eat them while watching a good movie. So if you feel like eating a healthy snack, eat these instead of popcorn, chips or oven baked nachos (well, I do recommend the nachos since they are too delicious not to have).
Usually, chestnuts or chestnut flour is used in sweet dishes, which complements the sweet aroma of the roasted chestnut. However, I usually prefer adding them to savoury dishes, like stews or roasted chicken. They could also be added to this wild boar stew or even to this mushroom risotto.
Did you know they can easily replace pine nuts in a pesto recipe? I made a pesto combining roasted chestnuts and arugula and it came out really nice. It made a great autumn pasta recipe. And how about trying out this roasted chestnuts and mushroom soup? Delicious, if I may say so.
How to roast chestnuts
- ½ pound (or 250 grams) chestnuts raw and unpeeled
- paring knife
- With a sharp paring knife, make an 'X' shape incision in the rounded part of the chestnut.
How to roast chestnuts in the oven
- Preheat the oven to 390°F (or 200°C).
- Place the chestnuts on a baking tray with the scored side up. Roast in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes, depending on the size. The chestnuts are ready when they smell nutty and are soft in the middle. Stick the tip of a knife through the centre of the incision and check if they are soft. Take out of the oven and place on a clean dish towel
How to roast chestnuts on the stove
- Place a skillet on medium heat and add the scored chestnuts in a dry pan. Stir regularly. The chestnuts will be ready in about 20 minutes. They should smell nutty and the inside should be soft. Check with the tip of a knife if the chestnut is soft. When ready place the chestnuts on a clean dish towl
How to peel the roasted chestnuts
- Leave the roasted nuts to cool for a minute or two, then peel them with a sharp knife, both the hard outer shell as well as the thin skin inside. It's easier to peel them when they're hot, so don't let the chestnuts cool down too much, but please, don't burn or cut yourself either.
- Use the quantity you’d actually like to eat, serve or use. The half pound is just because I had to put something in that field.
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