Lightly salted, these chestnuts are delicious served warm and straight from the shell. They’re perfect for Thanksgiving stuffing and soups too!
Autumn is the time of year when the American Chestnut Trees in the northeast drop the nuts from their prickly burrs. As an interesting bit of trivia, there are typically three chestnuts per burr.
Gathering the chestnuts can be a fun activity. My kids love to do it at their grandparents’ farm every fall. Just be careful not to prick your hands on the burrs.
There is also the slight chance of being rained on by an occasional falling nut, bringing back thoughts of Chicken Little!
Growing up, my grandmother occasionally added chestnuts to her Thanksgiving Day stuffing. That was the extent of my chestnut consumption. These days, because we live near my husband’s parents, we are lucky enough to get our fill each fall.
Fresh chestnuts are plentiful at farmers markets and grocery stores too. We enjoy simply roasted chestnuts as a satisfying side dish. With a hint of saltiness, they also make a delicious snack!
The following technique is an updated version of how we have always done it. A family friend and fellow chestnut lover recently told us of his preferred method for scoring the chestnut along with a simple tea towel trick that made the technique we already used even better. I hope you agree!
- Kosher or sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil, optional for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Score each chestnut on the round side (see note above). Using a bread knife or another sharp, serrated knife, apply gentle pressure until you break the surface, then slash all the way across and through the round side of the shell. Cut deep enough to penetrate the hard shell but not too deep as to cut well into the chestnut. Place the scored chestnuts in a pot filled with enough cold water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, add a big pinch of salt, and allow to simmer for one minute.
Drain the chestnuts and place on a baking sheet with sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. You will be able to tell that the chestnuts are ready to be shelled if the outer shell starts to peel back from the score mark and you can see the golden chestnut within.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately cover with a tea towel for 15 minutes. This will allow the chestnuts to steam slightly, making them easier to peel. (Occasionally, there will be a chestnut that is hard to peel. It is the chestnut, not you!)
After 15 minutes, remove the towel, peel, and enjoy warm. You may also refrigerate or freeze for later use.
If enjoying right away, we like to brush the warm chestnuts with just enough olive oil to allow a light sprinkling of sea or kosher salt to stick.
If a person wants to roast chestnuts to put into a fire so they pop pop pop!! Do you just dry them out or do you need to roast them also?
Hi Jane, If you’d like to roast the chestnuts in the fireplace, I’d follow the directions as is, and then wrap them in heavy duty foil (or two layers of regular foil) and place them in the coals where they will get plenty hot but not burn. Since it’s hard to gauge the precise heat in the fireplace, you’ll want to check a couple of times to throughly roast without overdoing it. I hope this answers your question!
Hi, I didn’t have much experience with chestnuts and these did not turn out that great. The chestnuts gave me problems when trying to take the peel off of all of them. Maybe it was my chestnuts, I purchased them from Whole Foods last December but some also tasted very dry. I recently heard chestnuts can be boiled as well…do you have any suggestions for the boiling method? I tried them from a jar recently and fell in love with them…would like to find a different cooking method.
Hi Mrs. E., Did you follow the boiling instructions in the first step by chance? My father-in-law has lots of chestnut trees, so we’ve cooked them many ways over the years and this has been our preferred method. My guess is that your chestnuts may have been old and somewhat dry. I find they are very hard to peel when dry. That said, if you wanted to boil them in an effort to replicate what you had from the jar, I’d boil them in salted water (salty like the ocean). Boiling won’t make the chestnuts as aromatic or flavorful, so the salted water would help impart good flavor. I hope this helps!
Would this work with walnuts too. I have a lot to shell and I need to make sure I don’t get the shells in the nuts. I want to make keeflies and I wouldn’t want to bit into a shell. any help would be appreciated
That is a great question, Mary. I would say no, however, as all the walnut shells I have cracked are too hard to score. English walnuts are particularly hard to crack!
I grew up in New England eating chestnuts every year. We never boiled them first… just sliced the “X” and baked them. I am going to try this method. It sounds like it will help with the peels! Thanks!
I did them the same way before I met my husband, Barbara! I think boiling the chestnuts does make them easier to remove from the shell, and I hope you agree!
Never knew how to roast them. My son bought a house that has chestnuts. I like to go the NYC and see them roasting them on the streets.
We may have met by chance…but we become friends by choice.
There is definitely something special about the smell of chestnuts roasting on the streets of NYC! Enjoy the chestnuts from your son’s tree, Sue!
Thanks for linking to Thursdays Treasures. Roasted chestnuts always remind me of Christmas. What a nice way to feel jolly.
You are very welcome, Christie! And, I agree, chestnuts make me think of the holidays, too!
Ours usually have worms inside. After you boil and peel them, are they safe to eat?
Try freezing them if you don’t use them right away. Since we started doing this we have not had that problem. Good luck!