Roasting chestnuts is a classic holiday tradition that is both fun and delicious, and if you haven’t tried it yet, here’s your sign to add it to your holiday activities this season!
Chestnuts have a slightly sweet, buttery taste that is just delectable, and a delightful aroma that fills your home (or your campsite) when roasting them. They can be used for a variety of different holiday foods and are surprisingly very simple to roast yourself! Read below for step-by-step instructions on where to find them and how to roast chestnuts on an open fire and on the stovetop.
Where to Buy Chestnuts
You can find chestnuts in the produce section of many grocery stores around the holiday season, starting mid-November. You might want to call your local grocer ahead of time to see when exactly they’ll have them in stock, just to be certain. Make sure to ask for raw chestnuts, as opposed to the pre-packaged roasted chestnuts.
Pro Tip: When selecting raw chestnuts, avoid any with small holes, blemishes, or signs of rot. Choose ones that are smooth, shiny, and firm when squeezed slightly. If the shell cracks when lightly squeezed, they may be a little old.
What You’ll Need to Roast Chestnuts
- Raw chestnuts
- Sharp paring or serrated knife
- Cast iron pan
- Fire/heat resistant gloves
How to Roast Chestnuts on an Open Fire
1. Start your fire ahead of time: Once the fire has burned down and there are lots of hot coals, spread the coals out evenly so you can set your cast iron pan right on top. Alternatively, you can use a fire grate on which to place the pan.
2. Score chestnuts: Place the flat side of the chestnut down on a cutting board (round side up). Firmly grasp the chestnut with your thumb and finger, and cut an “X” shape onto the rounded side with a sharp paring or serrated knife. Make sure to cut all the way through the shell. Scoring the chestnuts allows steam to escape from the shell when roasting and makes them easier to peel once they’re roasted.
3. Roast chestnuts: Lay just enough chestnuts to cover the cast iron pan, slit side up. Place on the hot coals (or fire grate) and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning. Remove chestnuts from the heat once they are slightly browned and the shells have started to peel back a little.
4. Peel chestnuts: Allow chestnuts to cool for a few moments (or until you’re able to handle them) and then peel the outer shells away to reveal the yellow nuts inside. Discard any nuts that seem spoiled on the inside.
Enjoy: Eat plain, slightly salted, or add to different holiday dishes (see below for ideas).
How to Roast Chestnuts in the Oven or on Stovetop
Score the chestnuts as indicated above. To roast on the stovetop, you can follow the same instructions for the open-fire method, or you can add ¼ cup water and cover with a lid to allow chestnuts to steam. This can help open the shells and make them easier to peel. Stir occasionally to ensure they don’t burn, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
To bake in the oven, preheat the oven to 350°F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once to ensure even roasting. Remove chestnuts from the oven once the shells curl back a little.
Pro Tip: To aid with peeling, place hot chestnuts straight out of the oven into a damp kitchen towel. Wrap up and squeeze—you should hear them crackle. Let them sit in the towel for a few minutes. This will allow the steam to escape and make them easier to peel.
How to Store Chestnuts
Store chestnuts in a resealable bag for the following durations:
- At room temperature for up to three days
- In the fridge for 4 to 5 days
- In the freezer for 1 to 2 weeks
Make sure to peel the shells away before storing, as it’s easier to peel when the chestnuts are warm. Rewarm in a pan on low heat with a little butter or oil.
What Can Chestnuts Be Used For?
Chestnuts have a wonderfully sweet, nutty flavor that works well in a variety of dishes. You can add them to savory dishes like soups, stews, casseroles, rice dishes, stuffing, and pasta. They also work amazingly well in baked goods like fresh bread, cookies, brownies, cakes, muffins, and more. Try your hand at the popular French candy Marrons Glacé (candied chestnuts), or pair with chocolate to create a decadent chestnut truffle.
However you end up enjoying the holiday season, may it be filled with joyous moments with friends and family, and of course, delicious food (including roasted chestnuts)!
Carlin is a lover of all things outdoors, adventure, and food! She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys activities like camping, hiking, biking, snowboarding, and surfing—especially in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and BC, Canada. She combined her passion for food and the outdoors and decided to start her outdoor food blog, Camp Kitchen, where she shares easy, delicious, and approachable recipes for the outdoors.
Image credit: Carlin Frimmel