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Hi, I’m Chef Martin Smetana. Welcome to my culinary blog!

Today, we’re talking about chestnuts!

Chestnuts are very popular in Europe, especially in Austria, where half of my family is from. As a child, I remember getting roasted chestnuts in the city of Wienna, Austria. They’re called maroni, and they’re roasted right in front of you. The whole place smelled so good!

Maroni stand in Vienna, Austria

First,  some interesting facts about chestnuts:

- They are high in potasium and protein, and they are the only nuts containing Vitamin C!

-  They are enjoyed in a variety of ways including: roasted, boiled, steamed, pureed, preserved, and candied.

- Chestnuts are in season from  September through February; during the winter season, you can buy them in a local grocery store and roast them yourself.

- When buying chestnuts, choose the ones with nice, shiny, and firm brown shells without any bruises. If you’d  like to store them for a few days, peal them first and store them covered in your refrigerator.

Now that we know a bit more about chestnuts, let’s move on to the fun stuff…

Chestnuts roasting

Chestnuts roasting


  • Cut a little “X” mark in the top part of the shell to prevent them from exploding in the oven – BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT YOURSELF!
  • Soak the chestnuts in cool water for about 20 minutes.
  • While the chestnuts are soaking, preheat your oven to 400* F
  • Pull the nuts from the water, dry them with a towel, and place them on a baking sheetpan with the “X”  mark facing up.
  • Roast the chestnuts for 20 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes before pealing. THEY’RE STEAMING HOT WHEN DONE!
  • Peal them and enjoy!

Some people like them plain like this, dipping them in a sour cream.

I like to use chestnuts in other daily recipes such as stuffed salmon with crab meat and chestnuts; potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms and roasted chestnuts; chicken and chestnut salad; chestnut hummus; spinach salad with candied chestnuts, etc.

                                                             ROASTING CHESTNUTS:


Chestnut Hummus
Recipe from Executive Chef Eric Cartwright, University of Missouri

  • 1 ½ cup Chestnut meats
  • 1 ½ cup Parsnips, peeled, cut 1″
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • ¼ cup Fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp. Butter
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp. Cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. Tahini
  • t.t. Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. Fresh parsley, chopped
  1. Place the chestnuts and parsnips in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until they are very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain in a colander, reserving 1 tablespoon of the cooking liquid.
  2. Transfer the chestnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Puree along with the reserved cooking liquid, garlic, lemon, butter, olive oil, and cumin until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and cool it to room temperature.
  4. Just before serving, drizzle the tahini over the top and garnish with chopped parsley.

Chestnut and Chicken Salad
Recipe developed by Julie Rhoads, UMCA

  • 2 cups shelled raw chestnut meats
  • 1 large can of cooked chicken, drained
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper from jar, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salad dressing or mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare fresh chestnuts according to the instructions for “Removing Chestnut Meat from the Shell”.

Boil shelled chestnut meats in chicken broth or water about 9 minutes or until meats remain slightly crunchy, drain. Let meats cool and then coarsely chop the meats.

Combine meats and other ingredients in a bowl and mix in small amounts of mayonnaise until a creamy but not runny consistency. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve salad as an appetizer spread with crackers or use as sandwich filling.

Chestnut Pesto
Recipe developed by Julie Rhoads, UMCA

  • 1 cup shelled raw chestnut meats
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil + extra olive oil if needed
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. ground sea salt or regular salt (use more if needed)

Prepare fresh chestnuts according to the instructions for “Removing Chestnut Meat from the Shell”.

Boil shelled chestnut meats in chicken broth or water about 9 minutes or until slightly crunchy, drain. Place the olive oil and basil leaves in a food processor and puree until a smooth consistency. Add the chestnut meats, parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt to the processor container and process until the mixture reaches the desired consistency of slightly chunky or smooth. Add additional small amount of olive oil if pesto is too thick and a moister consistency is desired.

For best flavor, refrigerate the pesto in a lidded container for at least 24 hours before using. For a variety of pestos made with Missouri-produced nuts to offer as appetizers, prepare separate batches using toasted pecan meats or black walnut meats. Spread pesto on crackers as an appetizer or mix with alfredo or white sauce for use in a pasta recipe.

Chestnut and Honey Spread
Recipe adapted from Ken Hunt, UMCA

  • 3 cups shelled raw chestnut meats
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ to ½ cup soft tub margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt

Prepare fresh chestnuts according to the instructions for “Removing Raw Chestnut Meats from the Shell.”

Cook the shelled chestnut meats in the microwave until soft. Put the meats into a food processor or blender and add margarine, honey and salt. Process ingredients until smooth. May need to add a small amount of water during processing to keep from getting too thick. Serve on crackers as an appetizer or use as a spread for toast or bagels. Store in refrigerator.