Our best chestnut recipes

  • By BBC Good Food team

Roast chestnuts are a festive favourite, but they're not just for Christmas. Read our tips on buying and cooking them, then discover our favourite chestnut recipes.

Scattered chestnuts

We have the Romans to thank for Britain's abundance of Sweet Chestnut trees – they highly rated chestnuts as a cookery ingredient and rightly so. These beautiful, shiny nuts are wonderfully versatile and, in spite of what the name may suggest, they are equally at home in sweet or savoury dishes.

For those who enjoy gathering their food from the wild, you can find them throughout autumn. A good technique for freeing the nuts from their sharp-needled shells is to use your foot (with shoe!) to 'press and roll' over the nuts and they should pop out easily. 

Get more tips in our beginner's guide to foraging.
 

Where to buy chestnuts

The chestnut season is brief, but whole peeled chestnuts, either canned or vacuum-packed, are available from major supermarkets.

Dried chestnuts are also available from health food stores, but must be soaked in water overnight then simmered before use. 450g fresh chestnuts (weighed in their shells) are equivalent to 175g dried, reconstituted chestnuts, or 350g tinned or vacuum-packed nuts.

Canned chestnut purée, plain or sweetened, is a godsend as it saves hours of preparation. You can make an unusual (but very easy) ice cream by stirring together whipping cream, icing sugar and a tin of sweetened chestnut purée. 

Chestnut flour, made from dried ground chestnuts, is worth seeking out from larger supermarkets, specialist food shops and delicatessens. The pale brown flour has an unusual but pleasant smoky flavour and is gluten-free and nutritious. You can use it as a thickener for soups and stews or to make tasty breads, pancakes, fritters and cakes. Chestnut flour doesn't keep well, but can be frozen, well wrapped, until needed.

How to cook chestnuts

Roast chestnuts on a baking tray with drink

Fresh chestnuts must always be cooked before use and are never eaten raw, owing to their tannic acid content. 

You need to remove the chestnuts from their skins by either boiling or roasting them. For both options, first make a small incision in the skin or you'll have a house full of chestnut shrapnel as they will explode. If cooking over an open fire, keep one whole as when this explodes you know the others are done (not a method for the overly house proud!).

Once cooked, peel off the tough shell and the papery thin skin underneath. Peel the nuts whilst hot (it's impossible to peel a cold chestnut!) to ensure the complete removal of the inner brown furry skin, called the 'tan', which is bitter.

Read this guide for more information on how to roast chestnuts and see our recipe for roast chestnuts.

We've got plenty of inspiration for cooking chestnuts in a range of sweet and savoury meals...
 

Top 10 chestnut recipe ideas

Savoury

In savoury dishes, chestnuts are the epitome of earthy, rustic cooking and can be used in a variety of ways to provide a deep, nutty flavour. Cook them in stuffing, pasta and rice dishes, soups and stews, or as a purée instead of mashed potato.


1. Chestnut stuffing

Chestnut stuffing roll cut into pieces

There is the traditional chestnut, bacon & cranberry stuffing, or for an impressive centrepiece, serve the stuffing in a roll, wrapped in flavourful bacon rashers. If you're short on space in the oven, this other chestnut stuffing roll is conveniently designed to fit in alongside a roasting tin.


2. Roast dinners

Roast guinea fowl wrapped in bacon, with chestnut stuffing balls

Chestnuts are a very welcome accompaniment to a roast dinner. They can be cooked whole alongside meat, as with our roast guinea fowl dish and they pair perfectly with Christmas sprouts. For a vegetarian alternative, team chestnuts with parsnips in this modern take on a nut loaf or serve them in a stunning savoury cake packed with butternut squash and lentils. To make an impressive Christmas main, we also recommend combining them with kale into a thick purée and stuffing the centre of a whole roast cauliflower.


3. Veggie pastries

Chestnut parcels in pastry

Bulk up your veggie centrepieces with soft and crumbly chestnuts. They provide some festive flavour alongside butternut squash in these pretty pastry crackers. They also make up a mouth-watering meat-free filling in our picnic-perfect vegetarian sausage rolls, alongside mushrooms, leeks and cheese. Or combine with tangy cranberry sauce, sweet potato and sage in this vegan filo parcel which is super easy to make and packs in lots of flavour.


4. Chestnut pasta 

Sausage and chestnut pasta shells on a plate with fork

These delicious nuts are not only suitable for festive occasions, but make a welcome addition to hearty pasta dishes which you can whip up for a midweek family meal, such as Italian sausage & chestnut pasta or for a weekend project try pappardelle with rabbit & chestnut ragu. They also pair well with mushrooms and herbs in this simple veggie pasta recipe.


5. Chestnut risotto

A bowl of chestnut and mushroom risotto topped with herbs

Chestnuts are great for adding texture to risottos. Our indulgent mushroom & chestnut pearl barley risotto is the definition of comfort in a bowl, with creamy ricotta cheese. Or, if you want something lighter, try this healthy roasted squash, pancetta & chestnut risotto.


6. Soups and stews

Cauliflower and chestnut soup in a bowl, topped with cheese shavings

Chilly winter nights are always improved with a bowl of comfort food. This venison sausage & chestnut casserole is the perfect make-ahead dinner party main, enriched with a red wine sauce and served with creamy mash. Or for something simpler, blitz together roasted chestnuts with cauliflower to make a luxurious veggie soup – the perfect starter or lunch.


Sweet

The texture of the cooked nuts means they can be a very useful alternative to flour in desserts as they can be blitzed in a food processor into a fine crumb, or used to make smooth purées.


7. Chocolate & chestnut torte

Chocolate and chestnut truffle torte on a plate

Chocolate and chestnuts are a heavenly combination; the French celebrate this with bûche de Noël, a chocolate log filled with a chestnut purée served at Christmas. Mary Cadogan's chestnut truffle cake and our chocolate & chestnut truffle torte make satisfyingly silky and indulgent centrepieces for a festive gathering. 


8. Mont Blanc

Layered chocolate, cream and meringue Mont Blanc cake on a plate

To make an impressive Mont Blanc cake, thick chestnut purée cream is piped between alternating layers of chocolate sponge and meringue. This towering dessert is the ultimate festive showstopper. However, if you are short on time you could also make these mini Mont Blancs for easy bite-sized finger food.


9. Chestnut roulade

Chestnut and amaretto roulade on a board with a knife

Stun your guests with this easy, make-ahead chestnut & amaretto roulade. Chestnut purée is incorporated into the sponge which is wrapped around a boozy cream centre, flavoured with amaretto liqueur. Don’t worry if it cracks – it’s part of the charm!


10. Frozen chestnut parfait

Frozen chocolate and chestnut parfait topped with chocolate shards

This freeze-ahead chocolate & chestnut parfait is simply packed with festive flavours and makes a stress-free Christmas dessert. The rich, silky chestnut purée and chocolate balance well with zingy orange, while amaretti biscuits provide a crunchy texture in this irresistible frozen dessert.

Try these other delicious chestnut desserts:

Chestnut & amaretto roulade
Chocolate & chestnut cupcakes
Iced chestnut ripple cheesecake
Chestnut fool
Lemon, crème fraîche & chestnut cake
Chestnuts in Cointreau & orange syrup

You can also find plenty more recipes in our chestnut collection.

How often do you include chestnuts in your cooking? Leave a comment below...

Comments, questions and tips

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一铭 隋's picture
一铭 隋
5th Dec, 2019
canned chestnut
Jeanette Leuers's picture
Jeanette Leuers
7th Oct, 2018
From France..lots of sweet chestnut trees... Not excited about squashing the nuts underfoot to remove the prickly painful husk...can anyone tell me what happens if you bake them instead, with the prickles still in place? My dream is of a row of nuts spiked on skewers..roasting over an open fire...Then, when everything looks charred..just shaking them off..and finding extra tasty nuts, well cooked..inside..all ready to drop into cream and brandy..
Keith Hide's picture
Keith Hide
4th Feb, 2018
To say they are 'never eaten raw' is untrue. I love raw chestnuts! I've been eating them raw since I was a young child and they've never done me any harm. I cut them in half lengthways and then the halves are easy to peel. I live in England, but remember reading somewhere that the American variety should not be eaten raw.
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