How to roast chestnuts in the oven? It’s fun & easy to do. Plus, it only takes about a half an hour.
Serve roasted nuts as a snack on their own. Or add them to your holiday appetizer platter.
For many of us, roasting chestnuts is something that only occurs in Christmas carols.
But there’s no reason that has to be the case! Once you know how to roast them in the oven, there’s something uniquely festive about it.
In just a half an hour, the house is filled with their nutty scent. While they’re still warm, you can peel away the shell to the warm chestnut inside.
Sure, you could buy them in a vacuum packed container, and leave the cooking to someone else. (And there’s a place for that when you’re using a lot of them in a recipe.)
But it’s the difference between cracking warm peanuts in the shell like they sing about at baseball games, or grabbing a handful of nuts on your way to the gym. Still delicious, but decidedly more perfunctory.
And if there’s one thing we could use at this time of year, it’s an excuse to slow down. Roast them in the oven, and enjoy with a glass of red wine or hot cider.
Hot chestnuts & warm memories
The first time I tried chestnuts, it was on our honeymoon. David and I were in Switzerland. It was fall in the Alps, before ski season but still coat weather.
On the trees, the nuts were ripening and falling to the sidewalks below. Street-side vendors scented the air by roasting them in hot pans until they were breaking open.
Vendors scooped them into paper sacks with two pockets. One pocket held the nuts themselves, and the other side was ready for discarded shells.
It was a perfect snack, warming our hands as we walked, while peeking in windows of stores selling cuckoo clocks, wooden wine toppers, and ornaments.
Once we returned from our honeymoon, I started looking for chestnuts in stores, so that I could learn how to roast them in the oven at home.
What do they taste like?
Chestnuts have a mild flavor in the general wheelhouse of a walnut. Their texture is similar to chickpeas or boiled potatoes. They’re dense and slightly chewy.
They are higher in starch than most nuts and very filling.
Where can you find them?
Outside of Switzerland, of course, I have occasionally seen chestnuts at my local farmers market.
They are also sold at natural grocery stores & Trader Joe’s in the weeks before Christmas. At my natural grocery store, they typically start selling them in November. At Trader Joe’s this year they didn’t arrive until December.
They are usually sold in plastic clamshells or mesh bags.
For best results, look for nuts that are even in color with a bit of a shine. Avoid them if they are dingy or cracked.
How to store uncooked chestnuts
Since most chestnuts have been shipped from Italy or China, they have already made a significant dip into their shelf life. So I recommend using them as soon as possible after picking them up from the grocery store.
If you can’t use them right away, keep them in a dry, cool place. Or freeze them in their whole shells for up to four months.
How to know if they have gone bad
Start by giving a chestnut a shake. If you hear a jiggling inside, it’s most likely dried up and no longer good.
The other way to know if they are past their prime is by cooking them. As you’re opening the nut, keep an eye out for any moldy spots. If a chestnut contains mold, you’ll want to throw that one away.
Do I need to soak them before cooking?
Many people recommend soaking scored chestnuts for anywhere from a minute or two to over an hour before cooking.
The peel comes off of them a little bit easier if they are soaked first, and they’re a little more moist. However, I’ve found the difference to be minimal. So it’s up to you if you want to take the extra time or not.
How to roast them in the oven
Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
Lay the flat side of a chestnut on a cutting board. Then use a sharp knife to score an X into each of the shells. I find it easiest to cut into them using a serrated knife.
The reason for scoring them is to ensure that they won’t explode in the oven. It gives them a place to release building pressure & steam. (It’s the same reason you poke holes in an air fryer baked potato.)
They come out of their shell a little bit easier & are a little more moist if they are soaked first. However, you can easily skip this step, and the chestnuts will be fine.
If you’d like to soak them, add the scored nuts to a bowl of warm water. Soak for a few minutes or up to an hour. Then remove them from the bowl and dry them.
Now it’s time to roast them
Put the chestnuts on a baking sheet. Roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. If yours are especially large, you may need to cook them about five minutes longer.
As they cook, their peels will spread slightly. This will make them easier to break open. Before eating them, you’ll want to remove both the shells and the papery peel inside.
To find out if they are done, open one & bite into the chestnut. If it is still hard or there’s a feeling of a waxy coating, it’s not done yet. Once fully cooked, the texture should be a similar to a walnut or cooked chickpea.
If they aren’t done yet, pop the chestnuts back into the oven and continue cooking for about five minutes more.
Can you roast them in the air fryer?
Yes! You can easily cook chestnuts in the air fryer instead of the oven.
After you cut X’s into the shells, put them into the air fryer basket. Then air fry at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
How to store leftovers
Chestnuts are a little easier to peel when they are still warm. So I recommend peeling all of the nuts before storing.
Then put the cooked chestnuts in a sealed container, and refrigerate them. They should be used within three or four days.
Ways to use them
My favorite way to use freshly roasted chestnuts is eating them right out of the shell while they are still warm. They are also really nice with a vegan cheeseboard.
When I’m using a lot of them in a recipe, I prefer to buy the kind that are already cooked & peeled. It saves several steps not having to score them, roast them, and then shell them before continuing on with the recipe.
Here are some of my favorite recipes with chestnuts:
Roasted chestnuts in the oven
- 1 pound chestnuts in shell
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Lay the flat side of a chestnut on a cutting board. Then use a sharp knife to score an X into each of the chestnut shells. I find it easiest to cut into chestnuts using a serrated knife. This is to ensure that the chestnuts won’t explode in the oven.
- Optional step*: Chestnuts come out of their shell a little bit easier & are a little more moist if they are soaked first. However, you can easily skip this step, and the chestnuts will be fine.If you’d like to soak them, add the scored chestnuts to a bowl of warm water that's deep enough to cover them. Soak for a few minutes or up to an hour. Then remove them from the bowl and dry them.
- Put the chestnuts on a baking sheet. Roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. If your chestnuts are especially large, you may need to cook them about five minutes longer.As the chestnuts cook, their peels will spread slightly. This will make them easier to break open. Before eating them, you’ll want to remove both the shells and the papery peel inside.To find out if the chestnuts are done, open one & bite into the chestnut. If the chestnut is still hard or feels waxy, it’s not done yet. Once fully cooked, the texture should be a similar to a walnut or cooked chickpea. If they aren’t done yet, pop the chestnuts back into the oven and continue cooking for about five minutes more.
Content, recipe, and photos updated December 2019. Originally posted January 2010.