Recipes

Recipe: cast iron pan-roasted chestnuts on a stovetop

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If you have homegrown or store bought chestnuts, the first recipe you need to master is roasted chestnuts. Here’s a simple pan-roasted chestnut recipe you can make on your stovetop in a cast iron skillet (or regular pan). 


We fully express our love for chestnuts and our desire that you grow your own chestnuts in our previous article, Why and how to grow chestnuts in your home orchard or homestead.

Now it’s high time we start sharing some chestnut recipes with you so that you know what to do with a pile of chestnuts once you have them. With any new ingredient, we always suggest starting simple, with the basics. In this case, that means roasted chestnuts. 

Want to make roasted chestnuts in your modern kitchen. We'll show you how to make roasted chestnuts with no open fire, horse-drawn sleighs, or specialized cooking equipment required. Cast iron pan-roasted chestnuts made on stove top.

Want to make roasted chestnuts in your modern kitchen. We’ll show you how to make roasted chestnuts with no open fire, horse-drawn sleighs, or specialized cooking equipment required.


Why? You want to get a good sense of the base flavor of chestnuts and have a foundational go-to recipe when you’re tired, grumpy, and just need to get something on the dinner table fast. (FYI this condition is a nightly occurrence when you’re pregnant.)

Also, roasted chestnuts are usually a first step/ingredient in making other chestnut recipes. So knowing how to roast chestnuts for other chestnut recipes is like knowing how to make a good roux for making other French recipes.  

The basics: the history of roasted chestnuts 

The most basic chestnut recipe of all is roasted chestnuts. We’ve all heard the Christmas song “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” right? 

Well, that song was written in 1945, right after the chestnut blight completely wiped out billions of America’s native chestnut trees, completely changing our nation’s forest (and culinary) landscapes. Despite chestnuts’ disappearance, the songwriter and most listeners would have still had vivid childhood memories of eating roasted American chestnuts, which were as common then as French fries and burgers are today. 

After chestnut blight, roasted chestnuts were largely a thing of the past, like horse-drawn sleighs. In fact, if you get roasted chestnuts at a restaurant or from a street vendor today, it’s highly likely that they’re imported chestnuts, which must be fumigated with fungicides prior to distribution. (Yet another reason to grow your own chestnuts, organically.) 

Given how common roasted chestnuts were in the early 20th century, it was quite common for home kitchens to have specialized metal chestnut roasters designed to roast chestnuts over an open fire.     

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

A century later, most Americans don’t have a clue how to actually cook food, and our kitchens have electric or gas stoves (not wood-fired stoves). Most kitchens certainly don’t have chestnut roasters. 

What to do? Improvise. 

Step-by-step: process photos showing you how to make roasted chestnuts in a cast iron pan on a stovetop 

In this article, we’re going to teach you how to make roasted chestnuts in ~20 minutes (start to finish) using a cast iron pan/skillet on an electric or gas stove.

Cookware you'll need for this recipe: medium sized pan and a lid. Here's the medium sized cast iron skillet we used for this recipe. It's an antique Wagner #6. The lid isn't a perfect fit, but it works fine for this recipe.

Cookware you’ll need for this recipe: medium sized pan and a lid. Here’s the medium sized cast iron skillet we used for this recipe. It’s an antique Wagner #6. The lid isn’t a perfect fit, but it works fine for this recipe.

Don’t have a cast iron pan? No worries. Use whatever frying pan with a lid that you have available, although we’d advise you NOT to use teflon-coated pans

Let’s get started! 

First step is scoring your chestnuts… 

Scoring chestnuts is essential for getting the shells to come off easily after cooking. There are different scoring methods, but I like to use a large chef's knife to cut a deep X into them. If you're not comfortable and steady with a large knife, use a smaller paring knife.

Scoring chestnuts is essential for getting the shells to come off easily after cooking. There are different scoring methods, but we like to use a large chef’s knife to cut a deep X into them. If you’re not comfortable and steady with a large knife, use a smaller paring knife.

Here you can see a finished, scored chestnut with an X cut through the shell. You can also cut a little way into the nut meat - that's not a problem. Recipe: roasted chestnuts in cast iron pan.

Here you can see a finished, scored chestnut with an X cut through the shell. You can also cut a little way into the nut meat – that’s not a problem.

Next: time to start cooking, lid on. This steam-cooks the chestnuts all the way through.

All ingredients go into the pan with the lid on.

All ingredients go into the pan with the lid ON for the first 10 minutes.

The water helps steam-cook the chestnuts. The steam also helps the nut meat expand and the shells to pop open and pull back, which you can already see beginning to happen in this photo. Note that our cast iron skillet has divots on each side that let steam out. If your lid is air tight, you may want to occasionally open the lid while cooking so some of the water can evaporate.

The water helps steam-cook the chestnuts. The steam also helps the nut meat expand and the shells to pop open and pull back, which you can already see beginning to happen in this photo after just a few minutes cooking. Note that our cast iron skillet has divots on each side that let steam out. If your lid is air tight, you may want to occasionally open the lid while cooking so some of the water can evaporate.

Now it’s time to get a little smoky…  

During the last few minutes of the 10 minute lid-on cooking time, all the water will have either evaporated and/or been absorbed by the chestnuts. At this point, the steam will start turning smoky as the shells char. This helps provide a true wood-fire flavor on your roasted chestnuts. Shake the pan constantly during this stage to keep the chestnuts from sitting on one spot and burning.

During the last few minutes of the 10 minute lid-on cooking time, all the water will have either evaporated and/or been absorbed by the chestnuts. At this point, the steam will start turning smoky as the shells char. This helps provide a true wood-fire flavor on your roasted chestnuts. Shake the pan constantly during this stage to keep the chestnuts from sitting on one spot and burning.

Cook chestnuts uncovered for a final 2 minutes.

10 minutes lid on is over. Now it’s time to cook the chestnuts uncovered for a final 2 minutes.

Let the chestnuts rest. 

Remove the pan from heat and immediately place lid back on for 5 minutes, slowly starting to cool the nuts while trapping moisture.

Remove the pan from heat and immediately place lid back on for 5 minutes, slowly starting to cool the nuts while trapping moisture.

All done! Remove the lid.

Now you just need to let your chestnuts cool down long enough to eat them without burning your fingers or mouth. 

Chestnuts cooling in cast iron skillet.

Sing along now: chestnuts cooling in an open pan!

Serve your chestnuts! 

Turn each chestnut cut side up for most visual appeal. We also like to serve them in the same cast iron pan they were cooked in, communal style. Dinner guests can pull each one out as they go. Chestnuts roasted in a cast iron skillet on a stove top.

Turn each chestnut cut side up for most visual appeal. We also like to serve them in the same cast iron pan they were cooked in, communal style. Dinner guests can pull each one out as they go.

Pan roasted cast iron chestnuts made on stovetop
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Cast iron pan-roasted chestnuts on a stovetop

Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chestnuts, Chinese chestnuts, roasted chestnuts
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes
Servings: 4

A delicious 20 minute roasted chestnut recipe that can be made on an electric or gas stovetop using a cast iron skillet or standard pan. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chestnuts 28 Chinese chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp organic grass butter

Instructions

  1. Score your chestnuts. See pictures and instructions further up in article. 

  2. Turn temperature on stove burner to medium heat (5 on our stove). Place all ingredients in pan with lid on. 

  3. Cook covered for 10 minutes, shaking pan every minute, so nuts cook evenly and don't cook to much on one spot. The water also helps ensure even heating by steaming/boiling them and preventing them from drying out too much.  

  4. At the end of the initial 10 minutes cooking with the lid on, the water will boil out/evaporate, and the inside of your pan will start getting a bit smoky. The nut shells will start to get a bit charred which creates the slight smoke, replicating the smoky flavor of an open fire! Shake the pan constantly at this point to keep things from getting too smoky or setting off your indoor fire alarms. 

  5. Uncover pan. Stir nuts and/or shake pan constantly while uncovered on heating element for 2 minutes.

  6. Remove pan from heat, and place lid back on pan. Let nuts cool for 5 minutes with lid on. The nuts will continue to slowly cook as they cool down as long as the lid stays on. The lid also helps trap some of the moisture.  

  7. After 5 minutes, remove lid and let the chestnuts cool down to eating temperature. You can even serve them in the cast iron skillet you cooked them in for a unique presentation. 

  8. Another alternative is to let the nuts cool down, then remove them from their shells before serving. However, in our opinion that's not quite as authentic to the original roasted chestnuts of yore, which were served shells-on. Plus, serving the chestnuts shells-on makes for a more involved dining experience by forcing those eating them to slow down and talk, rather than wolfing them down.  

Now you know how to make quick and easy roasted chestnuts in your kitchen with equipment you already have! 

This is a great go-to chestnut recipe that you can use as-is OR as the first step in other chestnut recipes that call for roasted chestnuts as an ingredient. Enjoy! 

KIGI,

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