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Mar 20, 2011 06:14 PM

Fresh Water Chestnuts

I just bought some today.

Suggestions on how to peel and use? I would think to use them as I normally would when I used canned but if you have suggestions, I am all ears.

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  1. Just peel them, slice and use as usual.

    2 Replies
    1. When I buy them fresh I just peel and eat. Fresh are sweeter and better than canned, so why hide them in a cooked dish. Plus peeling takes so much effort, why waste them on a cooked dish?

      Peeling water chestnuts is a good test of knife and your knife skills.

      20 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        Ah, I was waiting for someone to mention peeling. :-) I did not buy too many, so I will not feel really invested. But I had to try fresh, if only to know why I will still use canned.

        Some things I am OK with being canned, processed, pre-prepped and some things I only want fresh.

        1. re: Quine

          I use my sharpest small knife; in fact one of my best knives for this looks more like a small hunting knife than a paring knife.

          Another thing - you may encounter bad spots, or even have to throw out a whole chestnut. I pick the firmest ones, but still sometimes get bad ones. I also keep a bowl of water on hand, to put the peeled ones in.

          So - get your best knife, make yourself comfortable, and have a chestnut peeling party. Don't count on having any left over for cooking.

          1. re: paulj

            I am just curious, since I use knives other than in cooking, can you define what you mean by hunting knife? Looks or what you can to describe.

            So, fresh tastes that good, I shall be munching as I peel?

        2. re: paulj

          Paul. Agree. Paring knife and peel. In fact, I don't know any other method works better. Fresh Chinese water chestnuts should be cooked as little as possible. Their advantages over canned Chinese water chestnuts are their fresh, crisp and sweet texture. Now the only thing I like to add is that I won't say they cannot be cooked at all. They can be cooked, but should be on the lighter side. For many dishes, I would never consider using the canned ones. I would not even cook these dishes.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics


            I am assuming you are talking about the so called Chinese chestnuts due to what you said. There are water chestnuts which should not be consumed raw due to toxic elements. Bad idea.

            Just to clear to other posters. These are Chinese water chestnut and can be consumed raw:


            These are also called water chestnut, but they should not be consumed raw:


            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yes, I've been talking about Chinese water chestnut, Eleocharis dulcis, the same one that can be bought canned.

              What's the toxic one? The Wiki article for water caltrop does not mention a toxin.

              Both Wiki articles mention an intestinal fluke that can be found on the surface of water plants like this (fasciolopsiasis). I wasn't aware of that, but I do wash the chestnuts well, peel them, and usually rinse after.

              1. re: paulj

                Yeah, we are talking about the same thing. Water caltrops are also called water chestnuts, but they are toxic in the raw state. There are few websites indicate as such. For example:


            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I have a Japanese peeler that I was planning to try first on these, very sharp with a very thin "peel" surface. Good start? Go in with a nice bird beak after?

              1. re: Quine

                I don't know what a Japanese peeler is like? Is it like any peeler? In my experience, paring knife works much better and safer than regular peelers. I have even forced myself to use a peeler to see if I can do it, and I couldn't even finish one because I was scared to cut myself. It is actually not difficult to use a paring knife to peel Chinese water chestnuts. They are not peeled the same way as apples or peaches. Once the knife get in the Chinese water chestnut, the hard skin just crack along. Think of it like peeling cooked eggs.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Surprised re your peeler experiences and will try the "peeling hard boiled eggs" thing.
                  But these look like a very thing soft peel sorta thing.

                  I'm game, will try. My mileage may vary.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    My peeler is very similar to this one, only alot older. Very sharp.


                    1. re: Quine

                      Ok, it looks like a Y-peeler (aka T-peeler). I would still say it is easier to use a paring knife. I think once you start peeling, you will see. A Chinese waterchest is small, it just does not work well with a peeler like this. A peeler works best when there is a large area to shave like a carrot or an apple. Just imagine this. Would it be easier to peel a cherry with a paring knife or a peeler? Well, a Chinese waterchest is not much larger than a cherry and it has a hard skin.

                      "Surprised re your peeler experiences and will try the "peeling hard boiled eggs" thing."

                      Ok, I think I have mispoken. I don't mean you should peel the waterchest with your fingers like peeling an egg shell. I mean the skin of the waterchest is very hard (like egg shell), so one can tilt/twist a hard skin, whereas one cannot tilt/twist like an apple skin, so there are some small skill differences when peeling a Chinese chestnut.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        OK these water chestnuts do NOT have a hard peel. Very very thin, almost membrane. But I can see the size point. I could get good, once around the middle peel with the peeler and clean up the rest.

                        I am really thrown off by what you are saying about the water chestnuts "very hard" skin.

                        PS, peeled so many things I am so sure I can use a peeler blind folded. It's OK I did not think you were being dismissive.

                        1. re: Quine

                          "these water chestnuts do NOT have a hard peel. Very very thin, almost membrane"

                          Interesting. Chinese water chestnuts that I know of have hard and thick skins. Ok, not super thick, but not thin:




                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            OK I see what you mean. It also look like there is a thin skin under that. That is what I have.

                            Looks ALOT like plain old chestnuts, that hard skin cracks off when roasted but that nasty very thin membrane often remains. I think this is similar.

                            Thank for researching and posting that image. As they say, one seeing is worth a thousand tellings. I now understand a great deal better!

                            I bought these from Hong Kong Market in East Brunswick, NJ. The whole case was thin, minus the hard ouside case.

                            1. re: Quine

                              Oh... my... you live close to me then. Yes, yours are probably what I called partially peeled. I actually have never used those. Should be a lot easier to handle these. Have fun.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Well I am almost on LBI, but yeah close on the grand scheme of things.

                                Now can ya see why I am thinking a good swipe (almost a grab and wrap) of the peeler, clean up with a bird beak?

                                But maybe a good abrasive attack, almost try a scrub off?

                                HK is a great place to shop.

                                1. re: Quine

                                  Ok, if you at Long beach island area, then you are not that close. I am close to Trenton, NJ. I have never been to HK Supermarket -- though I have heard about it. I have been to Great Wall Supermarket (Franklin Park) and Asian Food Cneter (Plainsboro), but I mostly just go to Philly Chinatown for Asian grocey stuffs.

                                  I guess I can see a peeler may work.

                                  In your case, if they only have membranes left, I guess you may even scrub them off with a vegetable brush or an old toothbrush. I don't know for sure. I have never used the kind of water chestnuts you bought.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    LOL! Not like NJ is so *huge* especially "waist-wise". I won't bite ya for being so close. I am from the NJ that sees NYC as being "close" and "Philly" as a foreign place.

                                    So anyways, when you buy fresh water chestnuts, you get the total shell, the hard one, like chestnut. And so when you peel those, that inner membrane comes off with it?

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Oh yeah, forgot to say, given your picture and seeing what I would call shell, I can see why you thought I was nuts to say "peel".