I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of chestnut substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Here’s a quick answer.
Nothing tastes quite like chestnuts, but hazelnuts or pecans make great substitutes in most recipes. Macadamia nuts are also a good option, although they’re more expensive. For a nut-free substitute, go for sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or sweet potatoes.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a few batches of herb stuffing to try out several different chestnut substitutes.
Chestnuts are edible fruits (did you know that all nuts are actually fruits?) that come from Castanea trees. They can be boiled, steamed, or deep-fried, but roasting is the most popular way of cooking them. And it’s very rare to eat them raw.
Once cooked, chestnuts have a sweet, buttery flavor and a soft texture that’ll remind you of sweet potatoes. They’re popular as a stand-alone snack, especially during the holiday season. But they’re also great for soups, stuffings, and desserts.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to Substitute||Verdict|
|Canned or jarred chestnuts||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Hazelnuts||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Pecans||Use ¾ of the amount||8/10|
|Macadamia nuts||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Walnuts||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Pumpkin or sunflower seeds||Use ¾ of the amount||8/10|
|Cashews||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Sweet potatoes||Use ½ the amount||5/10|
Tip: if you haven’t already checked an Asian supermarket for chestnuts you might find them there! They normally carry stock. You can also use canned or jarred chestnuts instead of the fresh stuff, but the flavors will be muted.
Hazelnuts are more than just the heart of everyone’s favorite sandwich spread (I’m talking about Nutella in case you hadn’t guessed!). They’re also a fantastic stand-in for chestnuts and you can use them in sweet or savory dishes.
Hazelnuts are known for their slightly sweet flavor and earthy bitterness, which balances out their buttery notes and means they’re not too rich.
Texture-wise, hazelnuts are crunchier than chestnuts. But I didn’t mind this because it added a satisfying contrast to the tender elements of my stuffing.
How to substitute: replace chestnuts in a 1:1 ratio with hazelnuts.
Pecans are another great substitute for chestnuts. They’re rich and buttery, with an earthy touch that means they’re less sweet than chestnuts. They’re also way easier to find than chestnuts, and if it’s the holiday season you might already have some to hand.
Pecans have more fat than chestnuts, but it’s the good kind of fat! The majority of it is unsaturated. Couple this with the high levels of plant protein, and you have a deliciously healthy snack.
Psst… you can’t serve pecan stuffing and not follow it up with a pecan pie!
How to substitute: replace chestnuts with 3/4 the amount of pecans (I used slightly less to account for pecan’s richness).
Looking for a bit more sweetness? Swap chestnuts for macadamia nuts.
They have a similar creamy profile to chestnuts but with an almost coconutty undertone. I loved the flavor in my herb stuffing, and I added a spritz of lemon juice because I know how yummy my lemon and macadamia nut cookies are.
The downside? Macadamia nuts are more expensive than your average nut. But I think it’s a worthy expense for special occasions.
A quick tip: toast the macadamia nuts before you use them in your recipe for best results.
How to substitute: replace chestnuts in a 1:1 ratio with macadamia nuts.
Walnuts are a super convenient replacement for chestnuts. Again, they have the same buttery flavor as chestnuts but with a slightly bitter twist. I’m not actually a fan of walnuts, but I didn’t let my personal tastes cloud my judgment.
Health-wise, you’re in for a treat with walnuts. They’re packed with dietary fiber and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and proteins, making them one of the healthiest nuts.
And let’s talk about texture. Walnuts are denser than chestnuts, which means they retain a satisfying crunch even after cooking. You can still blend them up into a delicious soup though, just like chestnuts!
How to substitute: replace chestnuts in a 1:1 ratio with walnuts.
Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Need a nut-free alternative? Swap chestnuts with pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. The seeds have a milder flavor than chestnuts, but this means the other flavors in your dish can shine.
Pumpkin seeds are more robust and earthy than sunflower seeds, which have a sweetness to them. Both work great as a substitute for chestnuts in salads and baked goods too.
Tip: you can toast seeds in the same way as nuts to bring out their flavors.
How to substitute: replace chestnuts with 3/4 the amount of sunflower seeds.
Cashews will bring an extra creamy flavor to the table. And instead of being loaded with carbohydrates like chestnuts, cashews are rich in monounsaturated fats and plant proteins – all great additions to your daily diet.
Cashews are commonly roasted and consumed as a snack like chestnuts, but their versatility doesn’t stop there. They blended seamlessly with my stuffing and are also a great add-in for cakes.
You can also make plant-based milk with them!
How to substitute: replace chestnuts in a 1:1 ratio with cashews.
Sweet potatoes are definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of chestnut substitutes. But their tender texture is surprisingly similar to chestnuts (if the potatoes aren’t too overcooked), and they also taste similar.
From a creamy soup to a hearty stuffing, sweet potatoes can slide in comfortably anywhere for chestnuts. Just watch the moisture content. I used slightly less liquid in my stuffing to make sure it didn’t end up too mushy.
How to substitute: replace chestnuts with ½ the amount of sweet potatoes.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top chestnut substitutes, but they’re not the only options. Here are some more:
- Jackfruit seeds: Boiled jackfruit seeds are ideal stand-ins for chestnuts! The only reason I don’t have them higher on the list is because they’re not the most convenient substitute – I had to buy a whole jackfruit and extract the seeds myself.
- Canned or jarred chestnuts: You’ve hopefully already thought about using canned chestnuts instead of the fresh stuff, but just in case you haven’t I wanted to remind you it’s an option.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas are another nut-free substitute. They have a mild flavor (bordering on bland). But they bring a soft, creamy texture similar to chestnuts and will soak up seasoning wonderfully.
Substitutes to avoid
I came across loads of suggestions for chestnut substitutes while I was researching, but not all of them worked out.
Sesame and flax seeds are very small and tasted nothing like chestnuts. Flax seeds also develop a jelly-like consistency when they absorb moisture, which is great when that’s what you want, but super inconvenient when it’s not.
Tiger nuts are another option that came up frequently but were really tricky to find.
And don’t get confused and use water chestnuts instead of chestnuts! They’re very different – water chestnuts are more like radishes than nuts.
Best Chestnuts Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- ½ pound hazelnuts
- ½ pound pistachios
- ½ pound macadamia nuts
- ½ pound walnuts
- ¼ pound cashews
- ¾ pound pecans
- ¼ pound sweet potatoes
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen chestnuts substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe