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.

Recommended Products:

Serrated Knife

Sauce Pan

Baking Sheet

Affiliate links help to support my website and the free recipe content I provide. A percentage of any purchase you make via these links will go towards buying ingredients, photography supplies and server space, as well as all the other expenses involved in running a large cooking website. Thank you very much for browsing!

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 (63)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. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    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.


    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. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    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!

  12. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Took five or six look-sees on Google search for ‘roasting chestnuts’ to get this which is close to the “recipe” I remember from when I was much younger. Thanks so much! And esp. thanks for warning on how perishable chestnuts are — unlike other nuts which have a little longer shelf life!

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Wow! This worked great. I love chestnuts and have 5 very productive trees. I always gathered them and then gave most of them away because they were so hard to peel. Now my neighbors and family will have to get them somewhere else. I gathered my chestnuts and took them out of the burrs about 3 weeks ago. Then I put them in chip baskets and left them in my unheated sun room. It has been warm here in northwest PA. I did not have one rotten chestnut. Now I am going to use my Seal-A-Meal and freeze them.

    1. I was just thinking the other day if chestnuts could be frozen. Do you freeze them before you cook them or after they have been cooked and peeled? I am excited to try this method of cooking chestnuts. My husband has always boiled them and my father roasted them. I think this combo will be perfect!

  14. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    As the chestnuts season has started so i was browsing to check the bet and easy ways to roast & peel the very difficult of the nuts.

    Found one and its very simple and surely helpful. Today i will try the same method and am confident to succeed.

  15. I have wondering for years now, how the ny venders get there chesnuts so rich and creamy. Thanks to your post, it has to be the simmer step, cause like everybody else I baked for 30 min or so and most were good, but never like New Yorks. Can’t wait to try this way tomorrow…cheers

  16. Since finding Tyler Florence’s Chestnut Sausage Sage Dressing, chestnuts are a staple at Thanksgiving. Trying out the water thing since we have had bleeding fingers from trying to shell these bad boys in the past! (Not to mention the scratches all over your fingertips. The shells hurt so much!) MY tip?! Score them with a wine bottle opener tip. You can hold it like a paring knife and once you pierce the skin there is nothing exposed to cut you. Just drag it through the length of the shell. So easy. Thanks for the recipe. Crossing my fingers!

  17. .Like many others before me, I have fond memories of the chestnut vendors in NYC. They always came in a tiny brown paper bag that could only fit oh seven or eight. But, they were soooo good. Living in Florida now for years but always try to roast some chestnuts around Xmas for old times sake and cause i still miss NY after all this time. Thanks for the simmering tip, Tori. It definitely makes them easier to,peel! Happy holidays, everybody.

  18. Okay, what did I do wrong? Raw chestnuts seemed optimal as you describe (I collected them from the ground around a tree myself, so I know they’re fresh); could barely knife thru the shells before simmering, but succeeded after. Roasting only resulted in very bitter nuts, and shells do not peel back as you describe or show in the image. Hard to carve away from the nutmeat. Maybe different variety of chestnut, not intended to be edible? Thx for any tips you might suggest.

    1. Jana:

      Some chestnuts are edible and some (Horse Chestnuts) are not. Without seeing them and the tree from which they fell, I can’t say. You can do an internet search for a picture of each and maybe you can figure it out.

    2. Jana, it does sound like maybe you had horse chestnuts, unless you specifically were by a tree you know has edible ones. Where I grew up in northern NJ, there were horse chestnut trees everywhere. I always wished we could roast them! I played with them instead. :)

  19. It was the first half of the 19th century, guess that was a typo on the 8. Some people still alive have tasted American chestnuts. Also they were different and special, both the timber–taller–and the nut, so it’s not just la-di-da and replaced with something better. That’s why many people are working to restore the American chestnut. The Oriental ones aren’t as tall and can’t take its place in the forest. It was once 1 of every 4 trees in the main Eastern woodlands, and there was something like 10 times the game because of that. The woods must’ve been way more alive! One last thing–others, like Martha Stewart, said 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the time may vary accordingly. Only saying it matters to not blow a lot of energy without even knowing it.

  20. Hi, I’m from New Zealand. You may be interested in my method of cooking my chestnuts in a Microwave. First remove the hard outer shell with a knife (Its easier than it sounds) you will be left with the furry bit still on the nut, discard any that are soft or going black or smell off. Place about 10 nuts in a microwave proof dish with a cup of water’ cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and add cold water to cool them down so you can handle them, peel off the furry bit (some species of chestnut are easier to peel than others, I found a potato peeler works quite well). Return nuts to the dish with a fresh cup of water and add a teaspoon of salt. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stir, then another 3 minutes. Remove from oven poor off the water. (Caution they will be hot) add a nob of butter if you like. That’s it .Note.. the dish tends to take on a bit of stain from the chestnuts which is hard to remove so I have a special chestnut only dish. Hope you try my method, Oh I forgot you will have to wait until autumn to get your chestnuts but we are in autumn right now, yummy.

  21. I pick my chestnuts from a tree on a property I just purchased. However, many of them had worms. Does anyone know how to tell if a nut has worms before it is roasted and opened?

  22. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    So much help…trying for the first time… One they are pealed how to store if I am doing a large bunch…
    Can they be frozen after roasting & pealing ?

  23. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Truly helpful and easy instructions …..
    I had just ruined a bunch of (two batches) of chestnuts i bought yesterday, as i could peeled none of them after raosting…..
    Therefore i googleed for instructions before i ruin the remaining batch.
    It’s getting increasingly cold up here in Toronto, and I’m looking forward to roast my other batch tomorrow night, as i’m sure i will succseed this time, as most people on this form report that they did, thanks to Tori!

  24. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    OMG !!!
    Took dog for a walk in our local woods ( Kent England) picked up a bag full of chestnuts , just tried this method worked perfectly


  26. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    It’s chestnut season here again in Greece and, as happens every year at this time, people we know often give us a bag of these delicious nuts. I did not have a good recipe for cooking them and my husband usually just boils them and there is always the problem of getting the inner skin off. And I do prefer them roasted. So last night I followed your instructions and the result was absolutely great. The instructions were easy to follow and the whole process was quick. The chestnuts were delicious and I have never seen the inner skinn come off so eaily. This is the perfect recipe and I will be using it from now on. Thank you so much.

  27. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Best method ever! Try to cut the shells half way around. It may take a few tries to get the depth just right. Once you get it, this method works like magic! For me 200 degrees was a good temp for the simmer. I had a ton of nuts to go through, so I had time to experiment. :)

  28. Candied chestnuts are an old fashioned German Christmas specialty. Melt 4 ounces of salted butter in a saucepan with a half cup of brown sugar and a tablespoon of water. Add a pound of chestnuts, peeled. We serve as a side dish with a roasted goose, but it’s great with any holiday meal.

  29. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Wonderful directions!! I just did this with some chestnuts I picked up at the store and they were so EASY to peel!! And I didn’t have any explode like the last time when I tried a different method! Thank you very much!

  30. I followed the directions given and the chestnuts turned out hard. When I tried to peel them the shell came off but the covering wouldn’t come off. I think the nuts must of been too small to cook for 15 minutes.

  31. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    We have been roasting chestnuts for several years and always experienced some peeling difficulties. This year, I decided that I would find an alternate method to solve peeling problems. This recipe is by far the best I have ever used! Not only has the peeling been greatly improved, the overall texture and moisture balance is spot on. Thanks for what I consider to be the ultimate and simplest chestnut roasting method I have ever used. I don’t think it can be improved on. I recommend it to all holiday chefs!

Leave a Comment

Please rate recipe if you had a chance to try it: 5 4 3 2 1

Please read through the entire post and comments section before asking a question, as it may have already been answered. First time commenting? Read the comment policy.