Roasted chestnuts are one of life’s most simple and most enjoyable seasonal foods. I know we romanticize the song about roasting them over an open fire, but even if it’s just straight from the oven, chestnuts are absolute magic.
I had my first chestnut from a cone in Rome, where it was quite literally roasted over an open fire by a food cart near the Spanish Steps. I had no idea what chestnuts tasted like, but they smelled AMAZING and I impulse bought a bag immediately…well a cone-bag-thing.
The chestnuts were starchy, soft, slightly sweet and nutty, almost like a starchier, firmer sweet potato. And after my first taste, I was hooked. When I came home I immediately taught myself how to roast chestnuts in the oven, how to find a good chestnut and how to make them into something special. I’ll share it all in the post below 🙂
Table of contents
What are chestnuts?
Chestnuts are formally part of the nut family, but I like to think of them as the nutritional equivalent of brown rice or sweet potato. They have less fat and more starch than most nuts, and are almost impossible to eat raw.
Chestnuts are most commonly found in Northern regions due to climate and growing conditions, which is why you find them popularized in Europe and south eastern Asia. Each region has a different way of preparing chestnuts, but they all play off of the nut’s subtle sweetness.
And of course, chestnuts are only really available in November and December, which is why you see such a craze for them around the holidays!
How can I tell if a chestnut is good or rotten?
Unfortunately, grocery stores have no shame in selling old or rotted chestnuts. It’s really difficult to decipher between the two, so it’s largely up to the consumer to make sure you get the good ones!
The best way to tell if a chestnut is good is by squeezing the nut. If you can make any sort of indent with your finger, or if the skin feels soft, that chestnut has slightly molded. If the chestnut rattles, it is most definitely bad and not good for roasting.
A good chestnut has a rich brown color, is slightly shiny on the outside and is firm to the touch. Those are the ones you want!
How do you prepare chestnuts to roast in the oven?
I like to do two things when preparing chestnuts:
- Make a slit across the top called a “clam shell cut.” This is the easiest way to cut and peel a chestnut, so although many blogs tell you to make a criss-cross on the top, I suggest swapping for the clam shell cut!
- Soak them in water for 15 minutes up to an hour before roasting – this helps the nut separate from the the shell and makes peeling even easier after roasting.
How long to roast chestnuts in the oven?
The short answer to this is 15-20 minutes at 400F!
The beauty of chestnuts is you don’t need to prepare them or toss them in anything before baking. Just look for the shells to pop open and expand, that means the chestnuts are soft and ready for eating!
How to eat roasted chestnuts
The beauty of chestnuts is how diverse they are. I suggest serving them in either a sweet or savory way. You can treat them like roasted potatoes and toss them in salads, or with roasted vegetables or in stews! You can also use them on their own to make a soup, dip or appetizer. I have a pretty great maple bourbon chestnut recipe that I’ll be sharing later this week!
Oven Roasted Chestnuts
- 1 lb chestnuts
- 2 quarts water
- Cut a slit around each chestnut, so that only the bottom is intact. You want the chestnut to look like a closed clam shell, so cut around the top as if you are turning the chestnut into a clam.
- Add all the chestnuts to a large bowl of cool water and let them sit for 15 minutes to an hour. Dry them off before adding to a baking sheet.
- While the chestnuts are soaking, preheat an oven to 400F.
- Add the chestnuts to a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until all the chestnuts have popped open and you can see the interior.
- Let the chestnuts cool on a dishtowel for 15-20 minutes before cracking open and serving!