“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” sings Nat King Cole on the holiday classic The Christmas Song. That iconic first line, first recorded in the 1940s, signals that Christmas has truly begun. But while most people no longer actually roast chestnuts on an open fire, this holiday snack is far from a thing of the past—it’s just far easier now to pop them in the oven. Here’s more on the treasured Christmas tradition, plus vegan recipe ideas. So, load up Spotify, stick on Cole’s famous song, and get roasting.

Why do we roast chestnuts during the holidays?

Chestnuts used to be a common sight across North America. It’s hard to imagine now, but according to Tasting Table, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the entire East Coast of the US was covered in almost 4 billion gigantic chestnut trees. Things changed in the early 20th century, however, when most of these trees were wiped out by a fungus.

Because they were so readily available and affordable, people used to eat a lot more chestnuts than we do today. They’re particularly popular among Italian communities, because of their link with Saint Martin’s Day. The popular holiday in Italy falls in November, which is right in the middle of the chestnut season.

They might not be quite as prevalent as they used to be, but it’s not uncommon to find street and market sellers roasting chestnuts in cities during the holiday season today. And you can make them from home, too. 


How do you roast chestnuts?

Without a doubt, the easiest way to roast chestnuts is in the oven. All you need is some fresh chestnuts, which you can likely find in grocery stores or at the farmer’s market in the winter, and some water. The water is for soaking the chestnuts before they’re roasted, which makes them easier to peel later on.

After that, cut them with a sharp knife (making an X on each chestnut), before arranging them on a baking sheet. Pop them into a preheated oven (around 425 degrees should do the trick) for around 15 to 20 minutes, and keep a close eye on them. When the outer shell starts to peel, they’re ready to come out of the oven.

If the nut inside is tender, the chestnuts are ready for peeling and eating. When roasted, chestnuts have a slightly sweet, earthy, nutty taste, with a creamy, soft texture. If you choose to roast them over an open fire, they will also have a pleasant, subtle smoky flavor to them.

7 vegan holiday recipes to enjoy with roast chestnuts

You can choose to enjoy roast chestnuts as they are, straight out of the oven, as a tasty festive snack. But they also taste great when the flavors are allowed to mingle with other festive foods, too. We’ve compiled a handful of delicious vegan holiday recipes that would complement roasted chestnuts perfectly.

VegNews.StuffedSquashRoastSimon Smith

1 Vegan Stuffed Squash Roast

Sweet, nutty, and creamy roasted chestnuts would add another layer of delicious flavor and texture to this festive stuffed squash. Serve them separately as an extra side, or you could even incorporate them into the Christmas rice section of this recipe.
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VegNews.BlackGarlicBrusselsMareya Ibrahim

2 Charred Brussels Sprouts With Black Garlic

This tasty holiday side, which boasts umami-rich fermented black garlic, would pair beautifully with roasted chestnuts. The flavorful, savory Brussels sprouts also create a satisfying contrast in flavors and textures for a succulent, festive dish.
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VegNews.StuffingHannah Kaminsky

3 Vegan Pecan Rosemary-Sage Stuffing

This rich bread stuffing, featuring fresh herbs, celery, onions, and apples, already forms a hearty centerpiece. But when paired with roasted chestnuts, it promises a delicious ensemble of flavors and textures that will take your holiday spread to the next level.
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VegNews.ChristmasRoast copyLike A Vegan

4 Vegan Holiday Roast With Hazelnut Cranberry Stuffing

We think this rich and hearty holiday roast, which features hazelnut and cranberry stuffing, could complement the creamy, slightly sweet nature of roasted chestnuts well. Consider trying them together for a festive combination of flavors.
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VegNews.StuffingwithLemonCashewSauceRyan Shepard

5 Vegan Pomegranate Stuffing With Lemon-Cashew Cream Sauce

This herbaceous stuffing, which features a tangy lemony cream sauce and juicy pomegranate seeds, already offers a dynamic mix of flavors. But the earthy sweetness of chestnuts could complement the bright, savory notes of this indulgent dish beautifully. Why not give it a whirl?
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VegNews.SweetBasilSquashSara Kiyo Popowa

6 Roasted Sweet Basil Squash With Wild Rice and Mustard Greens Salad

In this flavor-packed dish, sweet, buttery roasted squash is enhanced by a salty and spicy basil marinade, while the wild rice salad adds texture and a peppery kick. For a unique, wholesome combination, consider trying it with earthy roasted chestnuts, too.
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VegNews.CrispyBrussels-1Antonis Achilleos

7 Crispy Brussels Sprouts With Tamarind and Cashews

Inspired by Southeast Asian and Indian flavors, this dish offers a delicious blend of tangy tamarind, chilies, and toasted cashews, which would pair well with creamy and slightly sweet roasted chestnuts. Give it a try for yourself, it’s guaranteed to wow your guests this Christmas time.
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