Despite their misleading name, water chestnuts are a versatile ingredient to cook with. If it’s your first time cooking with water chestnuts, you may be at a loss to know what to do with them.
How do you cook water chestnuts? Fresh water chestnuts can be eaten raw or cooked using various cooking methods. You can roast, broil, stir-fry, and microwave water chestnuts. Canned water chestnuts can be stir-fried, roasted, and microwaved too.
This article is your guide to cooking water chestnuts. From learning how to prepare water chestnuts to step-by-step instructions for cooking them using different methods, we have covered it all in this article.
What Are Water Chestnuts?
Water chestnuts, the other name for which is Eleocharis dulcis, are not a type of nut as many of you may think.
Water chestnuts are actually aquatic vegetables. They are called water chestnuts thanks to their close resemblance to chestnuts. These aquatic tubers have a round shape and a brown color just like regular chestnuts.
Water chestnuts grow in the mud, in freshwater marshes. They have tube-shaped green leaves that grow up to 5 feet high.
The water chestnuts themselves have a dark peel and white flesh. The flesh of these aquatic vegetables is crisp and moist.
As for the taste, water chestnuts are surprisingly flavorful. They taste sweet, tangy, and nutty like real chestnuts. Some people find water chestnuts to taste similar to apples too.
Like real fresh chestnuts, water chestnuts can also be cooked. Cooked water chestnuts retain their crunchy texture and mild nutty flavor which pairs well with a range of ingredients.
Water chestnuts come in a canned variety too. The flavor of canned water chestnuts is more subdued compared to fresh water chestnuts.
Canned water chestnuts are widely available in supermarkets which is not the case for fresh water chestnuts.
The Benefits Of Water Chestnuts
Water chestnuts have quite a few benefits. First off, water chestnuts are very nutritious.
A hundred grams of fresh uncooked water chestnuts contains only 97 calories, around 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, and nearly zero fat.
Water chestnuts also contain such vitamins and minerals as potassium, copper, manganese, vitamins B2 and B6.
Water chestnuts are high in antioxidants. The antioxidants these aquatic tuber vegetables help the body fight against free radicals and protect it from a range of diseases.
Water chestnuts promote heart health. Lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol levels, consuming water chestnuts regularly may help prevent heart diseases.
How Do You Use Water Chestnuts?
Fresh water chestnuts are a common ingredient in Asian cuisines. They are used in stir-fries, curries, salads, Chinese dim sums, and much, much more!
The uses of water chestnuts may differ depending on whether the chestnuts are raw, cooked, or canned. Canned chestnuts are preferably used in dishes where the flavor and texture of the water chestnuts are not of central importance.
How To Cook Water Chestnuts
Water chestnuts can be cooked in a few different ways. You can boil, grill, broil, or stir-fry water chestnuts. Thanks to their mild flavor, water chestnuts can be used in desserts too.
As for canned water chestnuts, you can eat them either raw or cooked. But despite the cooking method and the type of water chestnuts you are using, make sure to not overcook the chestnuts.
Overcooking causes the chestnuts to lose their crunchy texture which is one of the main reasons they are added into various dishes.
How To Prepare Fresh Water Chestnuts
No matter which cooking methods you are going to use for your fresh water chestnuts, you first need to prepare them.
To cook the water chestnuts, you should remove the dark peel. To do so, cut off the top and the bottom of the chestnuts.
Then, use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the chestnuts. Rinse the chestnuts under running cold water and proceed to cook them.
You can eat water chestnuts raw too. They make a healthy and fun snack. Raw water chestnuts can be sliced or grated over salads and stir-fries for added texture and crunch too.
The 3 Best Ways to Cook Water Chestnuts
As mentioned earlier in this article, you can use different cooking methods for water chestnuts. Here are step-by-step instructions for roasting, stir-frying, and broiling raw water chestnuts.
Roasting Water Chestnuts
Roasting is an easy way to cook water chestnuts. Here’s how you do it.
- Slice peeled water chestnuts into 1/4-inch thick slices.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Mix well to make sure the chestnuts slices are well-covered in olive oil.
- Spread the water chestnut slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Roast for 15 minutes. To make sure the chestnuts get roasted evenly, stir them from time to time while they cook.
- Once cooked, remove the roasted water chestnuts from the oven and serve them as is as an appetizer or a side dish for roasted meat or soups.
Stir-Frying Water Chestnuts
If you want to try cooking water chestnuts the Asian way, use them in a stir-fry.
- To start, saute some garlic.
- Next, add some sliced carrots. You can add other vegetables too. But if you want to make the stir-fry all about water chestnuts, using only carrots for some color and flavor is enough.
- Add in the sliced water chestnuts when the carrots soften a bit. At this point, you can add snow peas too. Just like water chestnuts, snow peas don’t need a lot of cooking either.
- Add salt and stir-fry all ingredients for 2-3 minutes.
Broiling Water Chestnuts
Water chestnuts are good in and of themselves. But they pair well with a range of other ingredients. One of the most common pairings water chestnut makes is with bacon. And here’s how to cook water chestnuts wrapped in bacon.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a cooling rack over it. While the chestnuts wrapped in bacon cook on the rack, the pan will catch the drippings.
- Marinate the peeled whole water chestnuts in soy sauce for around an hour. Leaving the chestnuts in the soy sauce for the entire night would be better.
- When you get to cooking the chestnuts, drain them.
- Roll the chestnuts in brown sugar.
- Next, wrap each chestnut in a slice of bacon.
- Secure the bacon on the chestnuts with toothpicks.
- Place the chestnuts on the rack.
- Cook for 25-35 minutes and broil for another 5 minutes.
- Watch the bacon-wrapped water chestnuts closely while they broil to avoid burning them.
How To Cook Canned Water Chestnuts
Before you cook the canned water chestnuts, first rinse them under running cold water.
Sometimes canned water chestnuts have an unpleasant tinny taste from the metal can.
To get rid of it, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with water and soak the canned chestnuts in this mixture. After around 10 minutes, remove the chestnuts from the water, rinse, and use.
Canned water chestnuts can be eaten as is or cooked just like raw water chestnuts.
But as the flavor of canned water chestnuts is not as vibrant as the flavor of its fresh counterpart, it is recommended to use them in dishes that contain other ingredients too.
This is why making an Asian-style stir-fry with canned water chestnuts is a good idea. Here’s what you can do.
- Preheat the skillet over high heat and add oil.
- Saute some garlic and ginger.
- Add your favorite vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots.
- Once the veggies are somewhat cooked, add the chopped water chestnuts.
- Make a quick sauce by combining soy sauce with broth and some cornstarch. Pour the mixture over the stir-fried vegetables and cook for an additional two minutes.
- Serve this colorful water chestnut stir fry with your favorite side dish. It can be chicken, beef, or a serving of plain white rice.
You can use canned water chestnuts in various other recipes too. In fact, you can use canned water chestnuts in nearly any recipe that calls for fresh chestnuts as the two are essentially the same thing.
But keep in mind that the flavor profile of canned water chestnuts is milder, with the nuttiness of the water chestnuts being toned down.
How To Microwave Water Chestnuts
Microwaving is an easy way to cook water chestnuts. All you have to do is to arrange the peeled chestnuts on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on a High setting for around 5 minutes.
You can make a quick appetizer using water chestnuts by simply wrapping them in bacon strips prior to putting the chestnuts in the microwave. This is the quick version of broiled bacon-wrapped water chestnuts.
If you do this, cook the water chestnuts in the microwave until the bacon is cooked. This usually takes around 8 minutes.
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