Raise your hand if you are curious about cooking chestnuts. Some foods don’t really feel like they are married to a season or time of year, while others just scream “the holidays are here!” Chestnuts fall into the latter category, and quite honestly, it’s hard to smell the delicious scent of roasted chestnuts without feeling like you should put on your holiday PJs and snuggle up by the fire. If you’ve never cooked with (or enjoyed eating) chestnuts before, you’re missing out on one of the most delicious and nutrient-packed gems out there. As Livestrong reports, Richard Litz, author of the book Biotechnology of Fruit and Nut Crops, explains “chestnuts have been a valued food source in many cultures, notably those of China, Korea, Japan and the Mediterranean, and have been cultivated for more than 6,000 years in China and 3,000 years in Europe.” And for good reason. They are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and copper, and like so many other nuts, they are loaded with essential (healthy) fatty acids, which can boost heart health. In short, chestnuts are a healthy food you should be eating. And if you’re not because you don’t really know what to do with them, we’re here to help.
Chestnuts are delicious on their own and in everything from soups to stuffing to dessert. They’re a perfect way to mix up your kitchen routine and get into the seasonal spirit as the holidays kick into high gear. To get you started, here are 10 recipes that will make you want to start cooking chestnuts.
1. Chestnut and Kale Soup We all know kale is healthy, so surely any soup (or dish for that matter) that uses this as a key ingredient has to be good for you. But it’s the chestnuts that are the true star of this dish—they give it a rich flavor, and it doesn’t hurt that you also garnish with Parmesan and fresh thyme.
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2. Chestnut Stuffing Stuffing isn’t just for Thanksgiving—it’s tasty any day and it’s so easy to make you can serve it whenever your taste buds demand something delicious. This recipe uses some standard ingredients like bread crumbs, onions, chicken stock and herbs alongside some less common additions like turkey liver and chestnuts. The result is a dish that smells almost as good as it tastes.
3. Silky Chestnut Soup If you like butternut squash soup you will love this silky chestnut soup, which is a creamy puree of all your favorite fall veggies—think carrots, celery and onions, mixed with chestnuts and herbs.
4. Chestnut Ravioli with Browned Butter and Thyme We make it a rule to never say no to anything involving browned butter, and this dish certainly doesn’t disappoint. The ravioli reminds us of butternut squash pasta because it’s equally smooth and rich, but it’s less sweet. Making the pasta by hand definitely takes some patience and effort, but it’s worth the time when you get to dig into the final product.
5. Farro Minestrone With Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash and Chestnuts There’s something about a rich, hearty stew on a chilly fall day that just feels right, and this soup is just what you are looking for if you’re in need of a comforting and delicious dish. Granted, you can eat it any day, in any weather and it’s still going to taste good. The farro gives the soup body (and a healthy serving of fiber), while the pancetta infuses a major dose of richness. And the chestnuts mixed with butternut squash is about as autumnal as you can get when it comes to cooking—and the combination pays off big time in the flavor department.
6. Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts, Mushrooms and Pancetta Another take on the chestnut-stuffing concept, this dish uses mushrooms and pancetta to give the stuffing extra flavor and texture. The ciabatta also changes up the consistency of the dish and gives it a bit of an Italian spin; and the chopped chestnuts add a nutty and rich flavor that you look forward to all year long.
7. Chestnut Flour Crepes with Ricotta and Honey It’s hard to beat a really delicious crepe, especially when it is filled with a ricotta honey mixture that is perfectly sweet and creamy all at once. What makes this recipe extra unique is that the flour and the honey are both made with chestnuts, infusing the entire dish with a nutty flavor that is indulgent and interesting from the very first bite.
8. Brussels Sprouts With Bacon And Chestnuts Chestnuts and Brussels sprouts go together like, well, chestnuts and Brussels sprouts. They’re a perfect combination because they are both nutty and earthy, and when you toss in some bacon the result is a dish that is salty and indulgent and beyond tasty. It also happens to be really easy to make, but it tastes like you spent hours roasting and sautéing your veggie mixture.
9. Healthy Chestnut Hazelnut Cheesecake Raise your hand if you love cheesecake, but you’re looking for a way to kick it up a notch this season? Look no further; this recipe is so decadent we absolute insist you try it. And as a bonus, it’s actually way healthier for you than traditional NY style cheesecake, with about half the calories and fat in one slice. The lower calorie count is thanks to the sweet ingredients (applesauce and dates instead of sugar) as well as the healthier choices for the cheese filling (Greek yogurt, egg whites, cottage cheese and chestnut puree). The result is a nutty cheesecake that you can enjoy this holiday season, guilt-free.
10. Chocolate Chestnut Torte Chestnuts work really well for dessert as well, they’re a great option when you’re sick of the more common nuts, but you’re longing for a nutty treat. This torte is everything you want in a chocolate dessert—rich but not overly sweet (you use bittersweet chocolate), creamy but not too heavy, and covered in a gooey glaze. The dark rum doesn’t hurt either.
Photos 2, 4 & 6 courtesy of Food Network.com