How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts

How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Simple Tutorial

Who needs an open fire to roast chestnuts? You can do it yourself using your oven! It’s a relatively simple process, though peeling them does take some time and patience.

Did you know that chestnuts are sometimes referred to as the “bread of the mountain”? This is because, unlike other fatty tree nuts, chestnuts are much higher in carbohydrates. In northern Italy, before the arrival of corn, ground chestnuts were a key component in making polenta. In early 19th century America chestnuts were very common; so common, in fact, that farmers would allow their pigs to fatten up by eating the extra chestnuts that had fallen to the forest floor. The high quality lumber produced from chestnut trees was often used in furniture making and construction. During the first half of the 1800s a blight that arrived with Asian-imported trees nearly wiped out the American chestnut. Those trees were eventually replaced with heartier and more resistant chestnut trees, which are the type we see most often today. Chestnuts are now viewed as more of a seasonal holiday luxury. If you’ve ever traveled to New York City, you’ve surely noticed the sweet smell of chestnuts being roasted and sold by street vendors. It’s intoxicating!

Nowadays, you can generally find pre-roasted and shelled chestnuts at most major supermarkets. If you’d rather take on the task of making them at home, I’ve created the following step-by-step tutorial that will help you along the way. The delicious aroma that will fill your kitchen is an added bonus! Keep in mind that roasted chestnuts are best eaten right away, as they mold and spoil fairly quickly.

How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Easy Recipe Tutorial

How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts

You will need

  • 1 lb raw chestnuts, in shell
  • Serrated bread knife
  • Cutting board
  • Saucepan
  • Mesh strainer or slotted spoon
  • Baking sheet
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Servings: 1 lb roasted chestnuts
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. To prepare your chestnuts, grasp them firmly between your thumb and index finger and carefully make a long slice across the rounded top of the chestnut with a sharp serrated bread knife. Careful, the shell is slippery. You should be able to slice it in one motion. If you have trouble cutting through, use gentle sawing motions, don't force the blade down or you run the risk of cutting your hand.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Simple Step by Step TutorialBe sure to cut all the way through the shell.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Step by Step TutorialOnce all of your chestnuts have been cut, place them into a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Step by Step TutorialOnce the water begins to simmer, remove the chestnuts from the water using a mesh strainer or slotted spoon and transfer them to a baking sheet.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Step by Step TutorialRoast for 15 minutes, or until the shells begin to peel back where you cut into them.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Step by Step TutorialRemove the chestnuts from the oven. Place them into a bowl and cover with a towel for 15 minutes. Allowing them to steam a bit will make them easier to peel.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Step by Step TutorialOnce the 15 minutes have passed, simply pull on the shell and slip the chestnut out. Some will be easier to peel than others. Both the outer shell and the tough brown skin around the chestnuts should be peeled off. If you run into any nuts that seem gooey or disintegrated inside, it means that they have spoiled. Chestnuts tend to have a short shelf life, spoiled nuts should be tossed.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Step by Step TutorialVoila! You now have freshly roasted and peeled chestnuts. They're not the easiest things to peel, but these tender, sweet and fragrant nuts are a welcome treat during the winter months.
  • How to Roast and Peel Chestnuts - Simple Tutorial

Comments (25)Post a Comment

  1. Please make sure you pierce them first — either the way listed here or by cutting an X in the bottom. A good friend (and gourmet cook) forgot to do it once — the blew up all over her oven. She sent me an email that was so funny it circulated through 2 cars of the commuter train!!!!

  2. We always cut an X on the chestnut and boiled them, pealed them (I helped as a kid, eating as many as I peeled!), broke them into pieces and added them to our cornbread dressing! It was delicious, although good chestnuts were often hard to find and took effort to peel once cooked. They were worth the effort!

  3. If you don’t buy them while they are still fresh, you will find that many are bad or molded when you crack them. If they feel very hard or the shell is loose, they tend to be spoiled. I got to bad batches at two different stores this season.

  4. I have never tasted a chestnut! The next time I go grocery shopping I am going to pick up a pound and roast them. Thanks for the information.

  5. Roasted Chestnuts were my #1 favorite street food when I lived in NYC. Soft pretzels ran a very close second and were available all the time. I’m looking forward to recreating this delicious treat with its fond memories.

  6. Interesting way to do it; I’ll try it to see if they’re easier to peel this way than the way we’ve done it for decades. We’ve always cut an “x” on the flatter side of the shell, oiled a rimmed cookie sheet, & baked at 375 or 400 for maybe 10 or so minutes (when we smell them cooking, we check them), until the shells peel back. Then as soon as they aren’t too hot to handle, we peel & eat.
    A couple of years ago, I bought a gadget I’d read about called the chesnutter. It cuts the “x” and now my nephew loves to do the job! So much easier than when my parents used to use a paring knife.

  7. Hi Tori!
    Like other who commented, we’ve always cut an “x” on the side. We never boiled them. Is that to help open up the shells or does the boiling serve another purpose?

    Putting them in the oven always did a great job opening up the shells. As a kid I remember my dad rigging up an old coffee can…punching holes in the bottom, and roasting the chestnuts in the fireplace.

    Also, like a few of the others who left comments, I have fond memories of my parents buying me the chestnuts from the carts in NYC.

    Dave

    1. Hi Dave, the quick boil helps to create steam and separation inside the shell, making some of the nuts with stickier shells easier to peel. I prefer the cross cut to the X because it’s less fussy and produces the same result, without as much risk of slipping and hurting your hand.

  8. Thanks for the simmering trick. I soak them in water but I don’t think I kept them long enough or I cut them deep enough as well. Last batch we made ended up exploding in the oven. Will try simmering next time.

  9. Worked perfectly! When I made them before I just roasted (never thought I’d have to boil first) and it was almost impossible to peel.

    How should these be stored and for how long? Thanks!

  10. It’s snowing in Atlanta! A rare treat which I compounded with some chestnuts I picked up at a Korean market. I found your post and will poach and toast them this evening. As a New York transplant, I miss the street vendors like the Dickens.

  11. I just bought a large bag of chestnuts yesterday and searched online for a few ways to cook them. This is simple and effective (I liked the butter suggestion too). Thanks a lot!

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