Chestnuts Boiling in a Covered Pot

SURE, I miss a few things from my New York City days.  I miss walking to restaurants. I miss hopping on the subway to see a Broadway show. And I miss noshing on the warm, fragrant chestnuts offered by street vendors during the holiday season. Whoops. Scratch that last item. Chestnuts are a cinch to prepare at home. Wherever that might be.

These hard-shelled fruits are available from November through December. Most folks roast them in a hot oven. But in my experience, they are infinitely better when boiled. Boiling brings out their succulent, almost supernatural deliciousness. And as an added bonus, boiling makes them incredibly easy to peel.

The boiling procedure:

First, to keep these brown-shelled beauties from slipping and sliding on your work surface,  lay them flat-side down on a towel.

Then, using a sharp paring knife, score a big cross into the top, curved side of each shell. Don’t be afraid to cut, just a little, into the flesh.

Pictured above is my idea of a well-scored chestnut.

Now drop the nuts into a pot of rapidly boiling water. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and then cover the pot.

Twenty minutes later, remove the lid and inspect the produce. Most of the shells will have opened up, revealing the golden nugget within. Go ahead and remove these subjects. Let the others continue to simmer. Their time will arrive in about 10 minutes.

Slip the shells off while the nuts are still warm. Be sure to remove any papery residue, too.

And prepare yourself for an unbelievably delicious snack. A snack you can eat and eat without any degree of guilt. For chestnuts are loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamin C.

If you’ve tried oven-roasting fresh chestnuts in the past, and the results have been less than spectacular, do give the boiling-method a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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  1. OMG I have been roasting and eating chestnuts all my life!! This looks fantastic I shall give it a try today.

  2. Cary Bradley says:

    Have only roasted in oven with score, a la Joy of Cooking instructions and was underwhelmed. Will now nab some of the energy packs and try boiling them. Wonder if salting the water would be smart? (Sorry you miss your NY days. I miss my Cal days, too. Nice to know I’m not alone in bittersweet days. Glad you’re helping me bloom where I’m planted now.) Stay warm, dear boy!

  3. I have to say that I have NEVER eaten a chestnut in any way, shape, or form. Just always thought they were words to a song! I’ll have to give it a try!

  4. Brenda Johnson says:

    I will be giving this a try! I’ve only had chestnuts from a jar I’m sorry to report!!! This certainly looks do-able!!!
    PS- you’re not in the boonies!!!! 🙂

  5. Hi Barb – I’m obsessed with chestnuts!

    Hi Cary – I don’t salt the water. To me, chestnuts are super-delicious in their natural, unseasoned state.

    Vicki – I know the song! Chestnuts boiling in a covered pot/Jack Frost nipping at your nose…

    Brenda – I meant to bring you some of these nuts to taste-test. But they were so delicious that I greedily devoured each one immediately after peeling!

  6. I remember the fragrant chestnuts from vendors on the street corners of downtown Philadelphia during my childhood. It’s been decades but I think I’ll try to find some here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s COLD here today so warm chestnuts would be superfine!

  7. I love chestnuts! People at my local Winco store wonder what I do with that GIANT bag of chestnuts every time I check out!
    Well, I cut the top like you do and then I microwave them on high with a teaspoon of water, in a covered dish until the tops crack open. Same results as you – incredible deliciousness! – but in about two minutes. I discovered this one evening when I just had to have some chestnuts RIGHT NOW!
    Warm chestnuts and a glass of brandy! It does not get any better on a cold evening!

  8. Brigitte – Chestnuts in two minutes, and with brandy to boot — count me in!

  9. Dear everybody 🙂
    I would like smoothly suggest to add a little tiny spoon of cinnamon at the boiling water and it will add something wintering for the smell of the house and for the taste.
    Grandma little treasure.
    I hope you will try.

  10. Linda Stone says:

    I have also been oven roasting chestnuts forever and will try your method this week–it looks so much easier!

  11. Running out right now on this very cold day to buy some chestnuts and making them this way. In the past I baked them and they were quite dry. Looking forward to this method. Will sit by the fireplace and enjoy them. Thanks Kevin.

  12. How many chestnuts for 2 minutes in the microwave?

  13. Janice in Black Creek, BC says:

    The only thing that could improve that, aside from the brandy, is preparing them after going out into the woods–along a small path that I knew, above the vinyards, into a patch of Chestnut trees and filling a basket on a crisp fall day after a good wind had blown a lot down.
    To return to the house from the Schartenberg with rosy cheeks and nose and prepare the chestnuts. A local white wine, or that Brandy, and toes to the cosy Kachelofen, with good company to share it all.
    Now I am homesick.

  14. Howdy!
    I too have never experience the joy of chestnuts. Can’t wait to try this, thanks for the easy instructions. Should the chestnuts be boiled in plain water or what are your thoughts about salt or spices added for a zing? How would you compair boiled chestnuts to boiled peanuts?
    Thanks and looking forward to your thoughts.

  15. Chestnuts…Chestnuts…
    I grew up with chestnuts.
    Wonderful, wonderful memories…
    Roasted chestnuts-Port Wine.
    Cooked chestnuts-add sliced Fennel bulb to the water.
    Have this for your Thanksgiving and everybody will love it! (If you do it right).
    Secret-As soon as the chestnuts are done, they have to be eaten right away. Do not let them cool down.
    Chestnuts…Chestnuts…they have to be fresh!!!
    You will love them.

  16. Thanks for the suggestion. We have a young chestnut orchard about .5 miles from my front door. This yar I picked my own. Yowiee!! Porcupine nuts. Never try that job without thick gloves. But now I have 12 pounds in my fridge, and I welcome the advice. Do you have a favorite recipe for chestnut bisque, or chestnut stuffing? I want to use them some way other than out of hand. Although they are delicious that way.

  17. Kevin – You bring back memories of Paris in the winter and buying hot chestnuts from street vendors. Yum. I’m going to try boiling them: can’t wait. And Lily looks like her old self!

  18. Rose mentioned that chestnuts have to be fresh, and that’s key to enjoying them. Once they’ve fallen they start to dry out so if you can’t use them right away either boil and peel them as Kevin suggests, and then store them in the freezer for later, or put the unpeeled chestnuts in the freezer for whenever you need them. They are delicious and SO worth the effort!

  19. Thanks Kevin! My husband and I have often talked about getting some chestnuts for Christmas. I first experienced roasted ones in NYC with my daughter and very good friend. I can’t wait to make these 🙂 Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  20. Does it change the nutrional value as with boiling vegetables?

  21. Sounds great. I can totally relate because I much prefer peanuts boiled (and salted) than any other way.

  22. wonderful, I can’t wait to try this!

  23. Elizabeth Usher says:

    Wow, this is exciting to see! My mom and I have been preparing Chestnuts this way for, well, decades now to put in our Chestnut stuffing! I never thought about eating them plain though and I will be sure to give them a try this week after I boil some!

  24. Linda Stone says:

    Microwaving is wonderful, they turned out Perfect!

  25. JR in Sammamish says:

    Kevin,,I just made these. I’ve never had chestnuts before. We found these to be really mealy. Is that how chestnuts are? Or maybe I had old ones? The texture was inedible.
    Love your blog!


  26. Anne-Pii Saare says:


    I’m learning a lot of things from my new french boyfriend/partner. You can also put them in jars, sterilize, and keep them for the winter. It is delicious to add them for example to the meat that you do in the oven.

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