Sweet and starchy chestnuts are vastly different from other tree nuts. Available fresh during the winter months, chestnuts can be difficult to locate at other times of the year. The mild flavour of chestnuts can be easily replaced in recipes without drastically affecting the final product. Recipes best suited for substitutions include poultry stuffings or dressings and desserts that use cooked chestnuts combined with other ingredients.
Hazelnuts stand in well for an equal amount of chestnuts in poultry stuffings and desserts. The two nuts share a similar shape and size, but the hazelnuts are higher in fat and crunchier. Hazelnuts, like chestnuts, have a slightly sweet, nutty flavour. Look for fresh hazelnuts in their shells in the produce section of supermarkets during the fall and winter months. Bags of shelled hazelnuts can be found in the baking section year-round. Toast the nuts in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven for 10 to 15 minutes and rub the still-warm nuts in a towel to get rid of the brown skin surrounding the nuts. The heat will help to loosen this bitter skin, so do not wait for the nuts to cool to remove it.
Chufa nuts are used in Latin and Spanish cooking to make a thickened drink called horchata. Chufa nuts have a similar starchiness compared to chestnuts. Chufa nuts are also known as tiger nuts or earth almonds, and are really tubers that resemble nuts. Look for them in Latin grocery stores in the packaged nuts section. Grind chufa nuts to replace chestnuts ground into flour.
Macadamia nuts have the same round shape of chestnuts, but they give dishes a richer flavour because of their higher fat content. Use cooked, unsalted macadamia nuts to replace the same amount of fresh, roasted chestnuts in any recipe. Look for bottles of shelled and roasted macadamia nuts in the snack section of most supermarkets.
Canned or Jarred Chestnuts
Canned or jarred chestnuts have been cooked, shelled and peeled. Using these saves on labour, but the texture of jarred chestnuts is softer than fresh chestnuts. Canned chestnuts are readily available with the other baking goods in gourmet and grocery stores and on the Internet. Use the same amount of canned or jarred chestnuts to replace freshly cooked chestnuts in any recipe. Check the jar and avoid using those labelled "glace." These nuts have been cooked in a sugar-syrup until coated. They are used as a dessert ingredient in recipes calling for candied chestnuts or marrons glaces. They cannot replace chestnuts in savoury recipes. An equal amount of canned chestnut purée without added sugar can replace mashed or puréed chestnuts in a recipe.
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