Traditional Boiled Chestnuts


Boiled chestnuts are a versatile ingredient, often overshadowed by their roasted counterparts. Yet, they are essential in various dishes, including delicious deserts like a traditional chestnut cake. Boiling chestnuts is a pretty straightforward process that yields a soft texture, making them suitable for recipes that require a finer consistency, but also easy to make and eat with tons of whipped butter hehehe.

The difference between boiled and roasted chestnuts lies in their texture, boiled chestnuts are tender and ideal for blending or peeling, while roasted chestnuts are firmer and often enjoyed as a snack. This recipe is pretty simple and effective method for boiling chestnuts, along with some practical tips for perfect creamy results. Whether you’re preparing them as part of a bigger recipe or as a standalone dish, boiled chestnuts are just yummy, and a very traditional part of the Portuguese celebrations of Saint Martin (São Martinho), so let’s get to it!

Traditional Boiled Chestnuts

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Rating: ★★★★★
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There's something about the simplicity and satisfaction of perfectly boiled chestnuts from Portugal, delicious for a cold day with plenty of butter.


  • Chestnuts – 320gr (In the Shell)
  • Fennel – 1 Tablespoon
  • Cinnamon – 2 sticks
  • Salt – A pinch
  • Butter – Optional


  1. Start by putting a pan on the heat with water, fennel, cinnamon and a pinch of salt.
  2. Wash the chestnuts well, dry them with a bit of kitchen paper and make a small cut in each one, be careful not to cut them in half, just a cut halfway through, also be careful, chestnuts are naturally slippery and the shell is hard, you need a good knife and attention is important so you don’t hurt yourself.
  3. When the water is boiling, put the chestnuts in the water and let them cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, it depends on the size of the chestnuts and the quantity, but to know if they are ready is to take one out and taste, you can adjust the salt a little at this point too, when they are tender, it’s time to drain.
  4. After draining, place the chestnuts in a cotton cloth, just like roasted chestnuts, and leave them in the cloth for about 10 minutes, this will loosen the inner skin of the chestnut and also keep them warm, serve them like this or with a nice dollop of whipped butter in the side, bon appetit!
Notes: Don’t add too much salt to the water, chestnuts, like potatoes, need a fair amount of salt to cook properly. However, you can always add more salt after they are cooked. If you add too much salt to the water, you risk making the chestnuts too salty. Score the chestnuts in two ways, one way is to hold the chestnut in your hand and twist the knife in the direction of the shell. The other way is to place the chestnut on a cutting board and place the tip of the knife blade on the board as well. Then, press down on the knife with one hand on the handle and the other on top of the blade. Sometimes the chestnut will jump and fly away, but there is no risk of cutting a finger. Add traditional aromatics to the water, other traditional aromatics that you can add to the water are bay leaf, garlic, or rosemary. If the chestnuts have a very thin skin, it is sometimes a good idea to remove the pot from the heat and let the chestnuts sit in the water for about 5 minutes before draining. This is especially helpful if you are going to peel and chop the chestnuts for another recipe. It’s said that when you add the chestnuts to the water, the ones that float to the top are not in good condition. I have never noticed this, but it could be true. If you have a single chestnut floating, it might be a good idea to follow tradition and discard it. I didn’t notice a big difference between cutting the chestnuts in different ways for roasting or boiling. However, tradition also says that for boiled chestnuts, you should cut them lengthwise, from the tail to the tip. For roasted chestnuts, you should cut them crosswise. As you can see, I cut them crosswise… that tradition passed me by, hehe. But supposedly they peel better if they are boiled this way, and that is always important, hehe. If you want to freeze chestnuts, this is the best way to cook them before freezing. Roasted chestnuts, fried chestnuts, and microwaved chestnuts are all delicious, but they make the chestnut more crispy and dehydrated. After freezing, they will become too hard.

This recipe for Traditional Boiled Chestnuts was originally created on Esta receita de Como Fazer Castanhas Cozidas foi publicada em português no


Per Serving: 650 calories; 30 g fat; 100 g carbohydrates; 10 g protein.

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