Cashew gravy with chestnuts is spiced with thyme and rosemary. Pour this velvety gravy over mashed potatoes for a festive addition to your holiday dinner. I recommend using chestnuts that are already cooked & peeled. Vegan, gluten-free, and flour-free.
This time of year, it’s fun to buy seasonal ingredients that are quintessential of the holidays. One of those ingredients – chestnuts.
Is it even possible to buy them without singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire?”
And while I have had them roasted on an open fire (in Switzerland on our honeymoon), it’s a heck of a lot easier to buy them already peeled and cooked.
When we went on our honeymoon, it was fall. There were sellers out on the street in stalls cooking them.
Then they’d hand you a paper bag with warm chestnuts. The bags had a pocket. And you could discard the shells into the pocket while you walked.
But closer to home, I buy peeled and cooked chestnuts in vacuum-packed boxes at Trader Joe’s. You can also find them elsewhere in jars.
I have cooked chestnuts from scratch in their shells in the oven, and that’s fun to do. But for recipes like the one I’m sharing today where you’re using a lot of them, it’s a lot easier to buy them cooked and peeled, ready to go into any recipe.
They can be eaten right out of the package, or used in hot dishes.
How to use chestnuts
What do chestnuts taste like?
Chestnuts are very mild in flavor with a subtle sweetness. The texture is between a walnut and a cooked chickpea, and the taste is muted like an almond.
Are chestnuts the same as water chestnuts?
Chestnuts are NOT the same as water chestnuts, like you’d find in a Chinese stir-fry. They are totally different things with completely different flavors.
Chestnuts grow on trees, while water chestnuts are aquatic tubers that grow in freshwater marshes. Water chestnuts have very little flavor & a crispness like a raw potato slice.
(Water chestnuts have chestnut in the name, because they resemble chestnuts in appearance before they are processed.)
Cashew gravy with chestnuts
This cashew gravy recipe came about when I was looking for new ways to use chestnuts – outside of just chopping them and folding them into other things. I’d heard of chestnut bisque, and that sounded like a delicious holiday starter.
I sautéed onions and garlic, added spices, water, no-chicken flavored bouillon, chestnuts, and cashew cream. Then I blended them until they were beautifully smooth.
But when I took a taste, I thought, “This would make a great gravy!”
It was nice right out of the pot, but it would be even lovelier on top of a pillowy mound of mashed potatoes. And so cashew gravy with chestnuts was born!
As a bonus, this cashew gravy is gluten-free and flour-free.
(Depending on your gluten sensitivity, though, you may want to use vegetable broth instead of Better Than Bouillon. Better Than Bouillon doesn’t make any claims that their products are gluten-free. Two of their other bouillon bases contain gluten in the ingredients. So there’s cross contamination potential. If that’s a concern for you, use broth instead.)
Afterwards, I googled it to see if people make chestnut gravy, and they do. But it seems like more often wine is added to chestnut gravy, and the gravy is thinner.
Because of the cashew cream in my recipe, it has a thick, velvety body that feels very rich and indulgent. And the chestnuts add an undertone of mild sweetness that is a nice surprise.
How to make cashew gravy with chestnuts
Start by making cashew cream. It’s thicker than cashew milk, and it gives the gravy luxurious body.
Add water and raw cashews to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth. (Stop once and scrape down the sides, if necessary.) Then set the cashew cream aside to use later.
(If you don’t have a high-speed blender, I give alternatives in the notes section of the recipe box below.)
Bring a medium-sized pot to a medium heat with oil. Sauté onions and garlic for a few minutes, until translucent and fragrant.
Then add cooked chestnuts to the pot. If you’re using vacuum-packed chestnuts, they will be stuck together. Break them apart with your hands as you add them to the pot.
Sprinkle in dried rosemary and dried thyme as well. Then give everything a stir.
Deglaze the pot with water, Better Than bouillon no chicken base, salt, and a dash of pepper.
If you’d rather, you can use vegetable broth instead of water + bouillon.
Stir everything to combine, and cook for a couple minutes.
Add cashew cream to the pot, and cook a couple minutes more.
Then blend everything until smooth with an immersion blender. As the chestnuts break up, the gravy will thicken.
If it’s not thick enough after everything has blended, cook for a little bit longer, so that it can cook down. (But in my experience, it’s plenty thick by the time everything has blended.)
Don’t have an immersion blender? Carefully move the contents of the pot back into your standalone blender. Blend until smooth. After blending, if it’s not thick enough or hot enough, pour it back into the pot to heat until it has condensed/warmed.
If it gets too thick, add a splash of water.
What to serve with cashew gravy with chestnuts
Can cashew gravy be made ahead of time?
Yes, cashew gravy can be made a day or two ahead of time.
Just keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator. Then warm it in a pot on the stove or in the microwave, stirring it occasionally.
If it gets too thick, add a splash of water.
Creamy cashew gravy with chestnuts
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
Make cashew cream
- Put water and raw cashews into a high speed blender.** Blend until smooth. (Stop once and scrape down the sides, if necessary.)
Make the chestnut gravy
- Bring a medium-sized pot to a medium heat with organic canola oil, or other neutral-flavored oil. Add chopped onions and minced garlic. Saute a few minutes, until translucent and fragrant.
- Add cooked chestnuts, dried rosemary, and dried thyme to the pot. (If the chestnuts are stuck together, break them apart with your hands as you put them into the pot.) Saute for about a minute.
- Add water, Better Than Bouillon no chicken base, pinch of salt, and dash of pepper. Stir to evenly incorporate everything. Cook for a couple minutes.
- Add cashew cream to the pot, and stir to evenly combine everything. Cook for a couple minutes more.
- Now it's time to blend the soup until creamy. If you have an immersion blender, I recommend using that, so that you're not moving hot liquid. Blend until completely smooth with a stick blender. If necessary, continue cooking for a minute or so more, until the gravy is the thickness you like. (If it's not thick enough or warm enough, keep letting it cook until it condenses more. If it's too thick, add a splash of water.)If you don't have an immersion blender, carefully put the soup into a standard blender, and blend until smooth. If it's not thick enough or warm enough, put the soup back into the pot, and continue cooking until it's reached your preferred thickness/warmth.
- Grind the dry, raw cashews in a clean coffee grinder until they're like flour. Then add them to the blender with the water.
- Soak the raw cashews for several hours in water until they have softened before making this recipe. Then drain the cashews and add them to the blender.