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What Is A Water Chestnut? Is It Even A Real Nut? Check The FAQ Here!

Do you want to learn some essential information surrounding water chestnuts? Hop on! From nifty tips on cutting the aquatic vegetable to its culinary uses, everything you need is here!

Water chestnut is an edible tuber vegetable that belongs to the sedge family (Cyperaceae). 

Its versatile, crisp white flesh is suitable for Asian recipes such as stir-fries and salads.

The vegetable, botanically known as Eleocharis dulcis, is native to Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Australia, Africa, Southern China, Africa, and Pacific Islands. 

Water chestnuts shouldn’t be confused with spiky and single-seeded nuts belonging to the Castanea genus in the Fagaceae family. 

They may share a name and some likeness, but both ingredients are two different things. 

Also, water chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis) aren’t related to water caltrops (Trapa natans), sometimes called water chestnuts. 

From its flavor profile and tips on the right way of cutting the edible tuber to significant tricks on storing this vegetable, get to know more about water chestnuts in this FAQ guide!

Is a water chestnut a nut?

Contents

No, water chestnuts aren’t “real nuts,” and they’re considered aquatic vegetables. 

However, the brown skins of the tuber are akin to tree chestnuts. 

Moreover, water chestnuts are incredibly sweet, nutty, and a bit tart with a texture of an Asian pear.

Fresh vs. Canned Water Chestnuts

You can find water chestnuts in most Asian food stores or online—either in fresh or canned form. 

Fresh water chestnut vegetables are more challenging to find than the canned version. 

The following are the critical comparisons of fresh and canned water chestnuts:

Taste and texture

Fresh water chestnuts feature a sweeter flavor profile than canned, but both share a similar juicy and crispy texture.

Culinary uses

Food enthusiasts use fresh water chestnuts for dishes where vegetables are the main ingredient, like these bacon-wrapped water chestnuts and air fryer masala water chestnuts.

Meanwhile, canned water chestnuts are sought-after mainly for their textural nuance—adding crunch to a tender dish.

You can use them to incorporate that delectable crispness into soups, stuffings, and fillings.

Cost

As mentioned, water-packed cans are much easier to find compared to fresh water chestnuts. 

So those fresh ones can be costly compared to those water chestnuts sold in cans or jars.

What do water chestnuts taste like?

If you’ve never eaten the fresh veggies and have always wondered what water chestnuts taste like, the best way to describe their flavor is that every bite tastes like a blend of fresh coconut and an apple. 

They’re lightly sweet, a bit nutty, and a tad tart at the same time! 

Meanwhile, canned water chestnuts don’t have the flavor that fresh ones possess. 

How to eat water chestnuts

You can eat fresh water chestnuts as is, thanks to their fruity, sweet flavor, and crunchy texture. But it doesn’t stop there!

There are other ways in which you can eat veggies. But before slicing or cooking water chestnuts, you should remove their soft and outer shell or skin.

Here are a few ways you can use water chestnuts:

  • Eat them plain for a delicious snack.
  • Use unshelled water chestnuts to incorporate a nice texture into soups.
  • Combine the vegetables with mushrooms to create this tasty stir-fry dish.
  • Peel and slice water chestnuts and merge them with eggs
  • Chop suey, everyone?
  • Boil chestnuts and toss them into this flavorful curry
  • Add another layer of crunch to an Asian-inspired salad with water chestnuts.

How do you cut water chestnuts?

Water chestnuts are indeed a versatile veggie to use in recipes. 

You can eat them raw, boiled, fried, grilled, and even pickled—the possibilities are endless!

If you want to cut water chestnuts so you can use them for your daily cooking, here’s how you do it: 

Things needed:

  • Vegetable brush
  • Fresh water chestnuts
  • Sharp knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Cutting board

Instructions for cutting water chestnuts:

  1. Start by cleaning the chestnuts. Rinse them under cold water, then brush the chestnuts with a vegetable brush. 
  2. Slice off the top and the bottom of the vegetable using your sharp knife. Once done, remove the skin with a vegetable peeler.
  3. Place the corms on the cutting board with the flat side facing up. 
  4. Run through the length of the water chestnuts, making your slices as thick or thin as you would like.

Tips on buying water chestnuts

To make sure that you’re getting the best water chestnuts at the Asian grocery store, pay attention to the following tips:

  • Be sure to look for water chestnuts that have a firm shell. 
  • Purchase those corms with unwrinkled skin, as this is a sign that they’re fresh. 
  • Avoid those water chests that have off smell and soft spots. 
  • Fresh water chestnuts can last for up to 10 days, so make sure to purchase a few more of them than needed.

Tips on storing water chestnuts

As I said, unpeeled and fresh water chestnuts will stay fresh for about seven to ten days in the refrigerator. 

Meanwhile, the shelf life of canned water chestnuts is longer, lasting up to a year. Here are some tips on properly storing water chestnuts: 

  1. If you happen to open a canned water chestnut, it’s worth noting that you should store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When stored correctly, the veggies should last within three days. 
  2. One great way to store raw water chestnuts is in the refrigerator. Before sliding them into the fridge, ensure to clean them. But it’s up to you whether you peel the vegetable or not. 
  3. When cutting the water chestnuts, try not to cut too deep to save as much of that skin as possible. 
  4. After storing sliced water chestnuts in sealed containers, label them with their date to track their expiration.

Let’s take a look at sides for stir fry!

The bottom line

Water chestnuts are aquatic vegetables known for their crunchy texture and fruity flavor—they’re also highly versatile and genuinely delicious!

Whether you enjoy the corms or veggies as is or incorporate their flavor and texture into a variety of dishes, you can’t go wrong with water chestnuts!

Try this cashew chicken recipe filled with umami-packed sauce and nutty sesame seeds if you’re interested in this vegetable.

Hop on this list of Japanese Appetizers here.

Simple Stir-Fried Water Chestnuts

Simple Stir-Fried Water Chestnuts

Enjoy the goodness of savory water chestnuts by making these simple stir-fried water chestnuts!

Ingredients

  • 12 peeled water chestnut
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 2 t Paprika
  • 1 t Black pepper
  • 1/2 t Red Chilli flakes
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • Chopped Coriander (Dhania) leaves

Instructions

  1. To begin making the Stir-Fried Water Chestnuts recipe, heat olive oil in a pan.
  2. Toss the water chestnuts into the oil once it's at a simmer. After a minute, add the garlic and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add paprika powder, black pepper powder, and salt to the pan after 3 to 4 minutes. Make sure to mix everything.
  4. Add red chili flakes to the pan and cook the water chestnuts for 5 to 7 minutes. As soon as it's done, turn off the heat and top with chopped fresh coriander leaves.
  5. Serve the Stir-Fried Water Chestnuts with some Homemade Spicy Ramen with Tofu for a splendid weeknight meal. It can also be served as a tea-time snack with a cup of Masala Chai.

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