Don’t wait until the holidays to roast chestnuts on an open fire. The annual chestnut harvest begins the first week in September and runs until the end of October. So if you wait until November or December, you might not be able to find them. (Don’t worry, you can freeze them ahead for festive recipes like these turducken bundles.)
If you’re lucky enough to get fresh chestnuts at your grocery store or specialty market, Sandy Harrison of Harrison’s California Chestnuts has some suggestions for preparing and enjoying them.
How to Buy Chestnuts
“Buy at least 3 pounds,” Sandy advises. “And if chestnuts rattle when you pick them up, they’re not fresh.” Set some aside to roast some right away and freeze the rest, thawing in the fridge overnight before using them. This is because, unlike other nuts, chestnuts are perishable. As a result, they must be refrigerated or frozen if you’re not going to eat them right away. Make sure you never buy these other items in bulk, either.
How to Roast Chestnuts
- 1 lb. fresh chestnuts
- Chestnut knife or paring knife
- Cutting board
- Chestnut pan
- Kitchen towel
Step 1: Prepare the chestnuts
Rinse the chestnuts in cool water. Place each chestnut flat side down on your cutting board. Score a small “X” into the round side with a chestnut knife like this, just deep enough to pierce the shell. This prevents the chestnut from bursting while cooking. Be careful not to cut through the nutmeat.
Step 2: Roast
Place scored chestnuts in a chestnut pan like this (it has holes in the flat bottom). Cook over a lighted gas stove, grill or fireplace for about 15-20 minutes or until the shells start to peel open or split, occasionally moving the pan back and forth to rotate the nuts.
Step 3: Cool and peel
Wrap the roasted chestnuts in a clean kitchen towel to cool for 10 minutes. Then peel off and discard the shell and the pellicle (a thin fibrous inner skin) while they’re still warm. Store them covered in the fridge for up to a week.
What to Eat with Roasted Chestnuts
Here are a few delicious ideas:
- For a cozy fall side dish, try this Herbed Chestnut Stuffing recipe. Use your roasted nuts instead of boiling them.
- Add fresh roasted chestnuts to a cheese or charcuterie board at your next party. “Use chestnuts as a cracker substitute,” Sandy says. “It slows down the eating and opens up the conversation.”
- Sit down with a favorite beverage—Sandy likes to pair them with a chardonnay (these are our favorite white wines under $20).
What to Make with Roasted Chestnuts
Here’s one of Sandy’s favorite ways to eat these roasty-toasty beauties: She makes roasted chestnut hummus (aka chummus).
- 12 oz. roasted chestnuts, chopped
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp. tahini
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/3 tsp. sea salt
- Dash of cayenne pepper, optional
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
- Pita bread, cut into wedges
In a food processor, combine chestnuts, water, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and cayenne (if desired). Cover and process until smooth. Add a little extra water for desired consistency. Transfer to a small bowl. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the hummus and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with pita wedges.
So head to the store and buy some chestnuts—don’t wait until Jack Frost is nipping at your nose!