Leite-Sautted Onions Chestnuts and Bacon

Editor’s Note: We want to make sure and get an early start with Thanksgiving Sides that will wow your friends and family.  David Leite offers this recipe that is easy, elegant, and oh-so-delicious.

What I love about this recipe—well, aside from how sweet, nutty, and smoky it tastes—is how easy it is to prepare. You probably have everything on hand, except for the chestnuts, which are plentiful in markets at this time of year. You can even put the dish together several hours ahead with the exception of the honey. When you’re ready to serve, just heat over very low heat, drizzle with the honey, and enjoy.

Your first thought when you saw a side dish of onions, chestnuts, and bacon was Thanksgiving, right? Well, the Portuguese don’t celebrate the holiday, but they do grow  plenty of chestnuts. When something is as vital to the local economy as chestnuts are to the Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro region, people find plenty of ways to cook and eat it throughout the year. While living in Portugal, I had chestnuts in soups, bread, and dessert, but I’d never had them tossed with onions and bacon, as they are in this dish adapted from a recipe by chef Michel da Costa. It makes sense. The nuts are an excellent foil for the saltiness of the bacon and the caramel sweetness of the onions.

Read Related: It’s Time for Delicious Apple Recipes!

Not surprisingly, it makes for a crowd-pleasing Thanksgiving side dish and will be on our table this year. Again.

LC Know Your Chestnuts Note: This recipe calls for cooked chestnuts, which you can find in a jar or vacuum-packed bag. Those gorgeous nuts you see in big bins this of year are a pain to roast and peel, but more than that: they can be starchy tasting. If you have the luxury of both jarred and vacuum-packed chestnuts, picked the jarred. Fewer broken casualties that way.


½ pound thick-sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips
1 pound pearl onions, scant 1 inch in diameter
1 pound peeled, roasted chestnuts (vacuum-packed or jarred)
2 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish


  1. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the fat has rendered and the meaty bits start to crisp, about 12 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a bowl with ice and water and set aside. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Drop in the onions and blanch for 30 seconds. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and plop them into the ice water. To peel the onions, snip off the tip and remove the papery outer layers. Set aside the onions.
  3. Raise the heat under the skillet to medium, plonk in the onions, and sauté in the bacon fat, stirring occasionally, until spotted with brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chestnuts, cooked bacon, and honey and toss to warm through, being careful not to break the nuts–they’re fragile. Season with salt and plenty of pepper and then scoop into a decorative bowl. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Sautéed onions, chestnut, and bacon recipe © 2009 David Leite. Photo © 2009 Nuno Correia. All rights reserved.