Chestnuts: How to peel, chestnuts recipes | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Peel a Chestnut

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Without Cutting Off Your Thumb!

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Here’s how to peel a chestnut—without cutting off your thumb! While chestnuts are similar to other nuts and easy to crack, they can be tricky to peel. Here’s how it’s done!

Chestnuts are harvested in the fall. When cooked, they add a sweet, meaty taste to stuffing and dressings as well as stews and soups.  Traditionally, chestnuts are a popular addition to the Christmas menu but also used in Thanksgiving stuffings with turkey.

If you are foraging, just ensure that you are collecting the edible variety, the sweet chestnut. Horse chestnuts, also called conkers and buckeyes, are not edible. The sweet chestnut variety always has a pointed tip. Its toxic relative bears no such pointed end on its brown shell.


How to Peel Chestnuts

Now, chestnuts can be a royal pain to peel, so we are here to help with advice on how to go about it.  Our method is as follows:

  1. Make an X on the flat side of the shells with a sharp knife. Wear leather gloves, because the nuts are slippery.
  2. Place the nuts in a single layer in a glass baking dish, cover with waxed paper, and microwave on High for about 6 minutes, until the shells begin to peel back.
  3. While the nuts are still warm, use a small sharp knife to peel off the shells and as much of the inner brown skins as you can. Work patiently to avoid bloodshed (your own).
  4. Before adding the nuts to stuffing or other dishes, saute them in 1 tablespoon butter until golden brown.

Photo credit: Charmaine Mitchell

Another Chestnut Peeling Method

A forager friend shared another chestnut-peeling method, finding it to be the best in obtaining an intact chestnut.

  • First cut in half. Grab the shell with a pair of pliers ( it has to be real pliers) and pull off/pop out the nut. It is very easy to remove the outer shell when it is cut in half and cold.
  • Put the half into boiling water for 10 to 20 seconds only, remove, and rub off the inner husk with a tea towel. The inner husk is very easy att this point. 
  • Put in jars and freeze for Christmas!

Did you know that All Saints’ Day traditionally features chestnuts on the menu, too—as well as gingerbread and doughnuts.


To celebrate this day or any day, here are a couple recipes using chestnuts.

Cornbread, Chestnut, and Sage Dressing

Chestnut Croquettes

Of course, chestnuts are also wonderful straight from the oven or fireplace. One fun activity is to serve them after dinner so a group to peel and enjoy as a casual dessert. They’ll warm your hands and your mood!


See our Thanksgiving Recipes and Christmas Recipes for more recipe ideas!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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