We are all looking for fun indoor activates this fall and winter. Roasting chestnuts is a long-forgotten activity that is tasty and fun! Chestnuts are in season roughly from September through January and are particularly popular around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.
Used to be a native tree in the Midwest
Tree chestnuts, genus Castanea, belong to the beech tree family. Both tree and water chestnuts are delicious, but they are entirely unrelated and belong to two different plant families. Midwest American Chestnuts were wiped out by the chestnut blight in the early 20th century
The Ozark Chinquapin is native to southern Missouri, and its nut is small and typically has one nut. Chinese chestnut is an emerging new tree crop for Missouri. Not all chestnut species are edible, however, so the safest bet is to purchase them from a local grocery store or a farmer.
Beloved in Italy starting in autumn, some would argue that the best way to roast chestnuts is over hot coals, either in a fireplace or an outdoor roasting pit. But no special equipment is necessary to roast them in your oven. Bitter when raw, roasted chestnuts have a delicate and slightly sweet flavor with a soft texture similar to sweet potato.
They are healthy
Chestnuts are high in insoluble fiber. They are a good source of antioxidants, even after cooking. They’re rich in gallic acid and ellagic acid—two antioxidants that increase in concentration when cooked. Chestnuts contain antioxidants and minerals like magnesium and potassium that help reduce your risk of cardiovascular issues.
Creative Serving Ideas
Roasted chestnuts aren’t just for snacking. For added crunch and nutrients in salads, top your leafy greens with chopped roasted chestnuts. You can also stir them into vegetables as you sauté them. For a more crumb-like texture, blend them in a food processor beforehand and use them as breading. Enjoy chestnuts in sweet and savory dishes. They bring a caramelized nutty flavor to turkey stuffing, desserts, and more.
Homemade roasted chestnuts
- 1/2 pound chestnuts (unpeeled, unroasted)
Using a sharp paring knife, make an X-shaped cut on the round side of each chestnut. This critical step keeps them from exploding from internal pressure when heated and makes peeling easier after roasting.
Arrange chestnuts on a baking rack or a baking sheet. Transfer the chestnuts to the oven and roast them until the skins have pulled back from the cuts and the nutmeats have softened. The actual time required will depend on the chestnuts but will be at least 15 to 20 minutes. When you start smelling a sweet smell, it is most likely done. Do NOT burn!
Remove the nuts from the oven and pile them into a mound in an old towel. Wrap them up, squeeze hard—the chestnuts should crackle—and let them sit for a few minutes.
Pull and snap off the dark shells to reveal the yellowish-white chestnuts. While peeling, make sure to also remove the papery skin between the shell and the chestnut.
You can even serve them in a classic paper cone. There are youtube videos showing how to make them. Just remember to eat them warm, because they get very hard overnight. But, no harm done if that happens, you can still use them in other dishes if you grind them up.
Please contact me for any questions or resources
Community Services Librarian
Kansas City, Kansas Public Library
625 Minnesota Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66101
913-295-8250 ext 1103