In this article, you’ll find out how to easily turn raw chestnuts into chestnut flour, a delicious and versatile kitchen ingredient.
We’ve previously written all about how to grow Chinese Chestnuts (Castanea mollissima), a chestnut species resistant to the blight that wiped out American chestnuts nearly a century ago. So now that you’ve got your chestnuts in hand, what do you do with them?
Each year when our chestnuts ripen and fall to the ground in late summer through early fall, we experiment with new ways to use them in the kitchen. Our standard go-to recipe is cast iron pan roasted chestnuts on a stove top (no open fire required). But chestnuts can be used to make baked goods, desserts, porridge, and so much more…
Most nuts have high fat and protein content but very little carbohydrates. However, chestnuts are referred to as “bread of the woods” due to their high carbohydrate content. Unlike wheat, chestnuts don’t contain gluten which is a great feature for those with gluten sensitivities in search of a starchy alternative.
But to start using chestnuts to make baked goods, you have to turn them into flour first. That can be a tough nut to crack if you don’t have experience doing it.
How to make chestnut flour
Chestnuts offer a sweet nutty flavor similar to sweet potatoes, but more savory. Since the nut meat doesn’t contain gluten, chestnut flour doesn’t have the sticky property that binds wheat flour-based baked goods together. Translation: for most recipes, you can’t substitute chestnut flour for wheat flour 1:1 and expect similar results.
Nevertheless, there are infinite ways to use chestnut flour and we’ll be sharing our favorite new recipes each year. If you’ve got a pile of chestnuts handy, we’d also encourage you to make chestnut flour and do some experimenting of your own.
Here’s a step-by-step guide showing you exactly how to make your own chestnut flour:
Step 1: Score the chestnut shells with an X and remove the shells.
Chestnuts don’t have hard shells like pecans or walnuts. The shells are relatively thin and can be cut into with a knife. (We like to use a small peeling knife.)
Carefully score the chestnut, cutting an X shape into the dark brown part of the shell. *Carefully* because you don’t want to accidentally let the knife slip and cut yourself.
If you don’t want to hold the chestnuts in your hand while cutting them, you can place them on a cutting board and press down on them with a chef’s knife to cut them.
Once the shell has been scored, use your knife to peel back the shell, piece by piece until you can remove the nut inside.
Step 2: Slightly dry the nut meat to make the testa (skin) easy to remove.
Chestnuts have a papery skin on the surface of the nutmeat that’s called a testa. When chestnuts are fresh, it’s pretty much impossible to remove the testa without a lot of work because it feels like the testa is glued on.
Not to worry: once the nuts are slightly dried, the loss of moisture causes them to shrink and the skin peels right off.
Three ways you can dry them:
- Dehydrator – The easiest and best solution is to use a dehydrator. We LOVE our Excalibur dehydrator and use it year round, including for processing chestnuts. Put your chestnuts in your dehydrator on a low temperature overnight (~12 hours) and they’ll dry enough to remove the skin.
- Oven – Turn your oven to its lowest temperature setting. Put chestnuts on a cookie sheet and place them inside with the oven door slightly cracked. You’re trying to dry the nuts, not cook them. Remove them after about two hours and let them cool.
- Under a fan – Put the chestnuts on a cookie sheet and let them dry in a room underneath a ceiling fan. This method may take 2-3 days. You’ll know when they’re ready when the skin easily peels off.
Step 3: Place in mixer with water and blend until smooth.
Now that you’ve got your clean, de-skinned chestnuts, it’s time to blend them into a smooth mixture. If you put them into a blender as-is, you’ll just get chunks of chestnut.
Instead, add some water in about a 1 part water : 2 parts chestnut ratio. For instance, if you have 2 cups of chestnuts, also add 1 cup of water to your blender.
Blend until completely smooth and creamy.
Step 4: Dehydrate your chestnut puree until completely dry.
Your creamy chestnut puree now needs to be dried back down to remove ALL the moisture/water. Any remaining moisture will invite mold, thus causing your finished chestnut flour to go bad.
Here again, a dehydrator is the best solution for drying your chestnut puree. Obviously pouring chestnut puree on a mesh rack would make a mess, so spread it on parchment paper or aluminum foil placed over the rack with all four sides folded up to prevent spills.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, dry your chestnut puree with an oven or a ceiling fan as detailed above, but modify time as needed to make sure there is no water remaining in the puree.
Step 5: Pulverize, sift, and store.
Once your chestnut puree is completely dry, it’s time to get the blender back out!
- If you have a blender with single blades at the base, you’ll want to pulverize the dried puree in small batches.
- If you have a blender with multiple blades at two levels, you can get away with doing large batches.
Pulverize your dried chestnut puree until it’s a fine powder, aka chestnut flour. Be careful lifting the lid so you don’t get hit in the face with a cloud of chestnut dust!
Sift the chestnut flour to make sure no large chunks or pieces are left over.
How long will this chestnut flour last?
Stored in a ziplock bag in the freezer, chestnut flour can last for many years. It will probably last for at least one year in the fridge, too.
We can’t say for certain how long chestnut flour will store at room temperature, but our guess is at least a few months – however, we’d advise cold storage instead.
What can you make with chestnut flour?
Chestnut flour is as versatile in the kitchen as wheat flour. Pies, puddings, baked goods, breakfast porridge… let your imagination run wild.
Keep in mind that these instructions are for raw, uncooked chestnut flour. While raw chestnuts do taste pretty good, their high tannin content can lead to GI distress, so it’s best to cook your chestnut flour before eating it.
We’ll be adding chestnut flour recipes that we come up with in the months and years ahead as our seasonal supply allows. If you have a chestnut flour recipe you’d like to share, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
More nutty articles from Tyrant Farms:
- Recipe: chestnut porridge, a simple & delicious sugar-free breakfast
- How to grow chestnuts in your home orchard or homestead
- Recipe: 20 minute pan-roasted chestnuts on a stovetop
- How to make acorn flour
- Recipe: Hickory nut ambrosia