Even though chestnuts are nuts just like macadamia or cashews, they taste completely different. When cooked, chestnuts are more like vegetables – they become soft and acquire a slightly sweet taste with hints of nuttiness and are often compared to sweet potatoes. If you have never tried chestnuts and wondering what they taste like, read on. In this article, we will give an in-depth description of the flavor of the chestnuts and what they pair with.
What do chestnuts taste like? Raw chestnuts have an astringent, slightly bitter taste and a crunchy texture, while cooked chestnuts become soft, mild, and slightly sweet and are often compared to sweet potatoes with a spongy texture. Thanks to their versatile taste, chestnuts are used for both sweet and savory dishes.
What do chestnuts smell like? Raw chestnuts have a mild and a subtle nutty flavor, while roasted chesnuts acquire a rich, complex, and pronounced sweet and buttery aroma with hints of earthiness and nuttiness.
Chesnuts Taste Ultimate Guide
Chestnut trees have a long history and were even grown in Ancient Rome and Greece. In China and Japan, chestnuts were cultivated as early as 6,000 years ago! And even now Chinese eat almost 50% of all edible chestnuts and have an 82% share of the global market.
Chestnuts were always valued for their healing properties (chestnuts were used to stop bleeding, heal cough, rheumatism, and treat heart diseases). Chestnuts were cooked on fire and were a popular dish for the soldiers during wars. Now chestnut trees are grown in Europe (France, Italy, Spain), the USA, and Central Asia.
Are chestnuts good tasting? Chestnuts are indeed good tasting thanks to their soft and delicate texture and a slightly sweet, buttery flavor. Chestnuts are called a “wonderful flavor of the season that everyone should try.” Chestnuts are used to make pasta, rice, stuffing, soups, meat and vegetable stews, and even desserts.
Raw Vs. Cooked Chestnuts
The taste of raw and cooked chestnuts is completely different. Let’s dive in.
What do raw chestnuts taste like? Raw chestnuts are slightly bitter, tasteless, and astringent with a crunchy, firm texture. Raw chestnuts are usually not eaten as is since they have a plain flavor and contain tannic acid that can cause health problems, including upset stomach or liver and kidney problems.
Can you eat a raw chestnut? According to Webmd.com, it is safe to eat raw chestnuts. However, you should not do it as chestnuts contain tannic acid that can cause stomach, liver, and kidney problems. Moreover, raw chestnuts do not taste good – they are bitter, crunchy, while boiled or roasted chestnuts are soft and creamy.
What do roasted chestnuts taste like? Roasted chestnuts have a mild, slightly sweet, and starchy taste with buttery and creamy notes. Roasted chestnuts have a delicate spongy texture that can be used for savory dishes as well as desserts. Roasted chestnuts flavor is often compared to that of a sweet potato.
Many gourmets claim that Japanese chestnuts are the most delicious and have the most pronounced sweet and nutty flavor and the most delicate texture. Luckily, you do not need to go to Japan to enjoy the flavor of chestnuts – chestnuts are sold in big food supermarkets all over the US, but it is also possible to order the delicacy online.
Chestnuts taste the best when in season – in the autumn. When in season, chestnuts are so sweet that you do not even need to add sugar or honey to sweet dishes with chestnuts.
Chestnuts and Other Nuts
Do chestnuts taste like hazelnuts? Even though chestnuts are considered a tree nut, chestnuts do not taste like hazelnuts or any other nut. Chestnuts have a very mild, slightly sweet flavor with a delicate, spongy texture similar to sweet potatoes, while hazelnuts are firm, crunchy, musty, and earthy.
Since chestnuts are nuts, you might think they taste similar to cashews, hazelnuts, or almonds. However, it is not true. Cooked chestnuts’ taste is closer to that of sweet potatoes rather than nuts. Also, unlike other nuts, chestnuts are low in fat and have a high moisture content. 100 grams of chesnuts contain only 131 calories, while 100 g of cashews contain 553 calories, and 100 g of hazelnuts contain 628 calories. Chestnuts contain 28 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, so they are more comparable to grains rather than nuts.
Now that you know what raw and cooked chestnuts taste like, let’s dive into how you can use chestnuts in cooking and what food pairs best with them.
Best Way To Eat Chestnuts
How do you eat chestnuts? Chestnuts can be boiled, roasted, baked, grilled, dried, and even canned. Chestnuts are used to make stuffings, soups, sauces, pies, pasta, risotto, meat, and vegetable stews or just pureed like mashed potatoes. Chestnuts are good for sweet dishes like candied chestnuts or chocolate chip chestnut cake.
Chestnuts can be great mashed potatoes, pasta, or rice substitute. Chestnuts can be baked, fried, boiled, canned, jarred, dried, or even ground and turned into flour. Many Americans stuff turkey with chestnuts on Thanksgiving day. Chestnuts go well with duck, turkey, chicken, and goose. Chestnuts also pair well with pork, beef, ham, sausage, rabbit, and prosciutto. In Japan, chestnuts are often added to sushi rolls.
Chestnuts can also be used to make soups. Try this recipe: Prepare meat broth, add sliced onion, garlic, celery, dill, chestnuts and add a cup of cream and 30 grams of butter. Chestnut soup is always creamy, buttery, has a silky texture, and is highly nutritious. Chestnut soup is popular in the Aquitaine area of France.
Chestnuts can be a great snack with beer or apple cider. Chestnuts also go well with fruits, for example, apples. Boil chestnuts, place them on a frying pan, add sliced apples and butter, and stew until apples become soft. You can also add nuts and prunes to the dish. Chestnut flour is used to make aromatic cookies, biscuits, and pies.
What goes well with chestnuts? Chestnuts go well with meat (bacon, pork, beef, prosciutto, sausage), vegetables (carrots, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes), herbs and spices (bay leaf, cloves, sage), fruits (orange, apple, plums, pears), pasta, rice, lentils, crème fraiche, honey, chocolate, caramel, raisins.
Thanks to its mild flavor, chestnuts can be used in sweet and savory dishes, so you can serve chestnuts with meat, vegetables, as well as ice cream and chocolate – there is so much choice! Here are some of the chestnut dishes examples (sweet and savory):
- Roasted chestnuts
- Chestnut soup
- Roast turkey/duck/goose/chicken with chestnut stuffing
- Pork with chestnuts and sweet potatoes
- Chesnut puree
- Chestnut rice
- Chestnut, bacon & cranberry stuffing
- Chestnut and mushroom stew
- Chestnut pasta with cream sauce and sage
- Boiled chestnuts with Brussels sprouts
- Chestnut cookies
- Candied chestnuts
- Chocolate chestnut cake
- Chestnut pies
- Chestnut chocolate truffles
- Chestnut brownies
- Chestnut cheesecake
- Chestnut smoothie
Chestnut Health Benefits
Chestnuts are highly nutritious – they are low in fat but high in moisture and carbs. Chestnuts contain ascorbic acid, potassium and iron, A, B, and C vitamins. Chestnuts are rich in calcium, so they are good for your bone, nail, and teeth health (chestnuts are widely used to treat rheumatism).
Chestnuts are used to treat colds, flu and have anti-inflammatory properties. Chestnuts are good for digestion, kidneys, and liver; they normalize blood pressure and strengthen blood vessels. According to some studies, chestnuts are also effective in treating arthritis, sciatica, and gout. Chestnuts improve blood circulation and reduce anxiety.
Since chestnuts are low in fat and are highly nutritious, they are good for weight loss. Chesnuts remove excess cell fluid, reduce swelling, and have proved to be effective in fighting cellulitis. Chestnuts also have pain-relieving properties.