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The Best Substitute For Water Chestnuts: 7 Surprising Options You Can Try

Are you searching for a delicious replacement for water chestnuts in recipes? Check the best substitute for water chestnuts here.

substitute for water chestnuts

I recently learned about water chestnuts from my friend, and I’m impressed by what they can do to every dish. They bring that surprising juicy crunch to every bite without overpowering the final recipe. However, they’re not always available in stores, so I always keep a substitute for water chestnuts ready in my pantry.

Contrary to its name, water chestnuts aren’t related to chestnuts or any nuts. They got the name “chestnut” because they appear like one. They’re aquatic tubers having a crunchy texture and a lightly sweet flavor with a hint of nuttiness and tanginess. 

What can I substitute for chestnuts?

You can use white turnips, Jicama slices, and Jerusalem artichokes because of their same flavor and texture profiles. For a pinch, you can use canned water chestnuts or potatoes. Hazelnuts and almonds heighten the nuttiness of your dish with the same crunchy texture.

Let’s get to know more about each alternative below. But first, let’s delve deeper into the description and use of water chestnuts.

What Is Water Chestnut?

Water chestnuts remind me of many fruits, like pear, coconut, and apple. That fusion of delightful flavors and texture makes water chestnuts delectable to taste when raw.

You can dice, slice, or grate these chestnuts to add to salads, vegetable stir-fries, and many other recipes. Chinese cuisines use these aquatic tubers in pudding, soups, and drinks.

To prepare water chestnuts, slice the top and bottom parts. Peel the skin to reveal the white flesh. That white flesh should be crunchy and tangy, just like a ripe apple.

The flavor is delicately sweet like a pear and somewhat nutty like coconut. 

Water chestnuts aren’t only tasty but also nutritious. This Asian-native plant contains many antioxidants to reduce the risk of cancer, hypertension, and other chronic diseases. They also have low calories, making them ideal for weight loss.

You can buy fresh water chestnuts at your favorite Asian supermarkets. If unavailable, you can use any of the substitutes below.

7 Best Substitute For Water Chestnuts

1. White Turnips

When the weather gets colder, I like to use white turnips in my dishes as they taste sweeter at this time. The delicate, sweet flavor and crunchy, white flesh make this root vegetable an excellent replacement for water chestnuts. However, it lacks the nuttiness that water chestnuts provide.

White Turnips

Choose blemish-free white turnips with the roots and greens still attached. That indicates freshness. To prepare for cooking, you need to trim the roots and greens off, then peel off the white skin.

White turnips are a viable replacement for water chestnuts in many cooking methods, like roasting, steaming, and sauteing. I like to use them in salads as I can toss the greens to add a spicy bite. Take note that the caramelized sugar of white turnips can over brown the dish when roasted, so don’t forget to stir occasionally.

Use a 1:1 ratio, as both ingredients have similar flavor and texture profiles. Store any leftover bulb in the fridge for up to two weeks.

2. Jicama Slices

Jicama isn’t known as a Mexican water chestnut for no reason. This root vegetable has almost the exact complex flavor of water chestnuts that’s slightly sweet and nutty. When you peel its light brown skin, the water chestnut reveals the same white, crunchy flesh that’s juicy like water chestnuts.

Jicama Slices

To make paper-thin slices, use a mandoline. Here are the following steps.

  • Cut the Jicama in half before slicing them. 
  • After cutting, put the slices into a plastic bag and store them in the fridge until it’s time to use them.

Jicama slices suit well as a replacement for water chestnuts in salads, stir-fries, and saute recipes. Interestingly, they soak up the liquid from other ingredients, so they taste more delicious in soups and stews.

To use as a substitution for water chestnuts, use a 1:1 ratio. 

It’s easy to find the Jicama because they’re available all year round. The best Jicama is firm and blemish-free with a slightly shiny appearance.

3. Canned Water Chestnuts

Nothing is more convenient than having canned goods at home. I always stock my pantry with a few cans of whole tomatoes to keep them handy whenever I’m looking for a quick stewed tomatoes substitute. Likewise, I do the same for water chestnuts as the fresh ones aren’t available at all times.

Canned Water Chestnuts

The crunch and tang are still there, but water chestnuts lose their punchin antibacterial properties during the canning process. The flavor of canned water chestnuts tends to be less sweet than the fresh ones, so integrate them in dishes that highlight their texture, like stir-fries, dumplings, and soups.

If you like to replicate the freshness of fresh water chestnuts, soak them in cold water to remove the metal taste of the can. Doing so will also revive the natural crispness of the water chestnuts. To add sweetness to the canned chestnuts, soak them in a sweet fruity white wine. 

Use a 1:1 ratio to substitute canned water chestnuts for fresh ones in any recipe. Keep any leftovers in an air-tight container for about a week in the refrigerator. 

4. Jerusalem Artichokes

Contrary to its name, Jerusalem artichokes aren’t artichokes. These vegetables are a sunflower variety with a brown-skinned tuber originating from central North America. The appearance looks like a ginger root, but the flavor is lightly sweet and nutty, just like water chestnuts.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Raw Jerusalem artichokes have a crunchy texture that suits well for salads. Keep in mind that they contain inulin which can cause gas when consumed raw. This root vegetable also works well for braised, sauteed, and stir-fried recipes.

Use in the recipe that calls for water chestnuts in a 1:1 ratio.

When selecting Jerusalem artichokes, look for pieces that are firm and fresh. The peel can have an earthy taste, so I recommend removing them before adding them to recipes that call for water chestnuts.

5. Potatoes

Potatoes have a mild sweet flavor, making them another satisfactory replacement for water chestnuts. Recently, I’ve discovered that potatoes stored in a cold place for a long time make them even sweeter.

Potatoes substitute for water chestnuts 

While most potatoes are soft, the blue/purple and fingerling varieties have firm flesh. Both of these varieties also have a nutty flavor similar to water chestnuts. I like to use them as a water chestnut substitute for roasts, salads, and steams.

Potatoes do offer a new dimension of flavor to final dishes. They’re earthy and buttery, providing a richer flavor to soups.

To prepare the potatoes for cooking, scrub the skin carefully. I like to keep the skin because it’s loaded with nutrients, like iron, vitamin B3, and fiber. If you like to mimic the same crispness of water chestnuts, fry the potatoes before adding them to the recipes.

If a recipe calls for one cup of water chestnuts, substitute with the same amount of potatoes.

6. Almonds

I love nuts, and I’m glad that I can put my almonds to good use. Almonds have a nutty taste similar to water chestnuts. I prefer to use the domesticated ones that are available in stores because they’re delightfully sweet, unlike the wild bitter varieties.

The texture is crunchy and crispy, but without the juicy part that I’m after for water chestnuts. Despite that, this type of nuts is an excellent addition to soups, stews, and salads.

Almonds substitute for water chestnuts

Aside from meal recipes, almonds make a good substitute for water chestnut flour. Simply, blitz blanched almonds in a blender until fine. I like to use this flour to make pancakes and batter for vegetables.

Use a ½:1 ratio for perfect substitution. When a recipe calls for one cup of water chestnuts, use ½ cup of almonds because using more might overpower the dish. 

7. Hazelnut

Hazelnuts aren’t only good for healthy snacking, but also as a fancy water chestnut substitute. The extra nuttiness and slight notes of earthiness can add a richer note to liquid-based recipes. The chocolate aroma makes the dish more appetizing.

Hazelnut substitute for water chestnuts

Like water chestnuts, hazelnuts are pretty sweet. They have the same crunchy texture that adds a unique bite to salads and pasta.

When selecting in-shell hazelnuts, choose those that feel heavy. If you opt for the shelled ones, make sure that the skin is tight. Use shelled hazelnuts as soon as possible because they’re delicate.

Since the flavor of hazelnuts is more intense, use less than what the recipe calls for. A ½:1 ratio is ideal where you substitute ½ cup of hazelnuts for every cup of water chestnuts. Skin the nuts to remove the bitter taste.

>>> RELATED TOPIC: 10 Great Northern Bean Substitutes That Can Boost Your Meals 

Substitute For Water Chestnuts In Recipes

Two of the most popular recipes that use water chestnuts are spinach dip and filling for lettuce wraps. Here’s an idea of what to substitute for each recipe in case you run out of water chestnuts at home.

1. Spinach Dip

The classic spinach dip makes a flavorful appetizer for any meal. It can also be served with crackers, chips, and pita. The combination of a creamy dip with a crunchy base makes a wonderful palate experience.

To make:

  • Combine spinach with water chestnuts, mayonnaise, and thinly sliced shallots in a bowl. 
  • Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least six hours. 
  • Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.

The best substitutes for water chestnuts in spinach dip are white turnips, canned water chestnuts, Jerusalem artichokes, and Jicama slices. All of these alternatives have the same crunch that adds an exciting texture to the dip, and the same light sweetness as water chestnuts.

2. Lettuce Wraps

The best way to make a quick meal for the family is to prepare some lettuce wraps and meat filling. You can use any meat for the filling and mix them with water chestnuts, spices, and seasonings. Of course, don’t forget your fresh lettuce.

Lecttuce Wraps with slice water chestnuts

Put some of the meat filling on the lettuce and eat burrito style.

The best substitute for water chestnuts in lettuce wraps is Jicama because the taste and texture are almost similar.

FAQ

  • Can I substitute bamboo shoots for water chestnuts?

Yes, you can use bamboo shoots as a replacement for water chestnuts because they’re crunchy and sweet. Fresh bamboo shoots maintain their crunchiness even after cooking. You can’t eat them raw because they contain a toxin that can hurt your gut. 

  • How to make water chestnut powder?

First, peel the water chestnuts. Slightly dry the meat to make the pulverization easier. 

Dry the peeled water chestnuts under a fan for about two days or in the dehydrator for 12 hours. The quickest way is to use the lowest setting of the oven for about two hours.

Once dried, put in the blender. Add one part of water to every two parts of the water chestnut to make a smooth powder. Blitz until fine, then dried back in the dehydrator to remove any moisture.

  • How to cook whole water chestnuts?

There are many ways to cook water chestnuts. You can boil it together with winter melon to make a drink. Grill them to make bacon wraps or stir-fry with other vegetables. 

You can also roast water chestnuts, drizzled with olive oil and a dash of seasonings, in the oven for 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite meal as an appetizer.

Conclusion

That wraps up our best substitute for water chestnuts. My favorite of all is the Jicama slices because they have the same delicate sweet flavor and crunchy texture that I’m looking for in water chestnuts. They also offer a hint of nuttiness that I like to taste in my soups and stir-fries.

Make sure that you follow the right proportions for substitution to get the best results. Also, use whatever is in the season because it’s when they taste the best. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. If you like this article, feel free to share it with your friends.

 

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Anya Kaats

Hi! I’m Anya, a San Diego-based Holistic Health Coach and Marketing Consultant on a mission to share good food, health & happiness with as many people as possible. I am a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and have worked in the natural & organic products industry for my entire professional career with companies such as Suja Juice, Brad’s Raw Foods, and Mamma Chia. While my life may be totally consumed with healthy food now, nutrition wasn’t always a passion of mine.