Chestnuts, not to be confused with water chestnuts (a totally different thing) are starchy edible nuts from chestnut trees which are found across Europe, Asia, and America. They are quite a versatile ingredient in that, when they are roasted, they can then be used in a range of recipes, from soup, to sweet treats. When we think of chestnuts, we think of the warm folklore surrounding them – Christmas songs and the delicious smell of roasting chestnuts drifting out from vendors stalls on cobbled streets in winter.
It being the case that these nuts are generally consumed during the holiday season, there is naturally a demand to find a substitute. Chestnuts just aren’t the easiest to get a hold of during the rest of the year. The street vendors disappear, and thus the supply line pretty much dries up.
What is the difference between chestnuts and water chestnuts?
Undeniably, both are delicious in their own regard, but come from entirely different plants! The water chestnut is actually a tuber which has to be dug up to be harvested. The water chestnut is much more associated with Asian savoury cuisine and thus won’t make a good substitute for roasted chestnuts.
What about canned chestnuts?
Though already cooked, canned water chestnuts will have an entirely different texture than their roasted counterparts. This is due to the fact that they are steamed before being canned. We would not recommend these as a substitute for roasted chestnuts.
Substitutes for Chestnuts
But, we’re not here to moan about not being able to get our hands on chestnuts all year round. No, we would rather look at some other viable options. So, whether you are looking to replicate seasonal flavours in the middle of June, or simply just wanted to try cooking with chestnuts out on a whim, we’ve got some solid suggestions for you. Some of these options will be easily available to you and rather predictable. Others will be a little out of left field and a bit rarer. Each has its merits and will replicate most aspects of the roasted chestnut flavor you are looking for.
First on the list is one that we would consider a pretty easy substitute. It is both easy to locate and doesn’t come with any surprises when it is time to prep them. A tree nut, similar to the chestnut, the hazelnut is absolutely delicious when roasted and really packs a punch in terms of its aroma. It is both sweet and yet somehow buttery at the same time.
Hazelnuts are also considered to be an incredibly healthy food. They are crammed full of healthy fats and several vitamins and nutrients, including a high concentration of Vitamin E. Who said that healthy things can’t be tasty?! In terms of substituting for chestnuts, roasted hazelnuts will work at a 1:1 ratio and provide much of the same qualities. Another bonus is that they can be bought pretty much anywhere. W
For the best results, we would always recommend choosing a raw product and roasting it at home. This way, you don’t miss out on that delicious fragrance wafting around your home. The taste is also much better the fresher they are. Don’t worry if you haven’t done it before – it‘s really easy!
- Great aroma
- Really cheap and easily found
- Can fill in for chestnuts in most recipes
- Crunchy in nature, so won’t work in recipes that call for pureed chestnut
2. Jackfruit Seeds
First up of our more unorthodox substitutes for chestnuts is jackfruit seeds. You would be forgiven for not being familiar with this one as it has only really hit worldwide popularity in recent years. The jackfruit, a member of the fig family, is surprisingly versatile and can even be marinated and barbequed. The seeds are also quite useful and so should never be discarded after cooking up the meaty fruit itself.
They are delicious when roasted, and are strikingly similar to chestnuts. This is quite surprising considering the many other obvious differences between the two. Additionally, the jackfruit seeds are rich in antioxidants and have been linked with man potential health benefits.
- Feels exotic to cook with and is quite unusual – a worthwhile experience!
- The roasted seeds taste incredibly similar to roasted chestnuts
- The fruit itself is also delicious!
- Sadly, in some parts of the world, it simply cannot be found
3. Tiger Nuts
Why they decided to call these things ‘nuts’ is beyond us, as they are actually tubers that come from a wild grass variety that grows in Africa. So, I’m sure you have guessed by now that this is another of the more exotic, leftfield suggestions. But, don’t rule them out based on how strange they may seem; they actually have quite a lot to offer!
In terms of appearance and flavour, the tiger nut is about the same size as a chickpea, and possesses a beautiful earthy and buttery taste. These are great for those who have nut allergies but yet want to perhaps have a taste of what they’re missing out on. Admittedly, there is practically zero chance that you have these to hand, but if you ever get the chance, we would highly recommend giving them a go!
· The sheer novelty of using an ingredient like this
· Safe for those with nut allergies
· Lovely flavour
- Hard to come by and not exactly cheap
4. Pecan Nuts
Back down to earth a little for our final suggested substitute, and it is the humble and much under-appreciated pecan nut. Pecans are pretty much guaranteed to be an instant hit when used in place of chestnuts as they have quite a few of the same characteristics. They go great in Christmas style stuffings and can also be pureed.
So, that’s a similar texture AND a similar taste to chestnuts. We’re not going to claim that we left the best until last here as the other suggestions can also be great to cook with. However, these are undeniably a great stand-in. They can be picked up pretty easily almost anywhere, with the raw version being preferable for these purposes.
· Great aroma when roasted at home
· A versatile ingredient to have at your disposal
· Great in both savoury and sweet recipes
- There are no cons!
We hope that you found this guide to substituting for chestnuts to be a valuable and information source as you embarked on a quest for an alternative option. As you can see, there are several decent substitutes out there – one or more of which may already be lurking in your kitchen as you read this!