What Can You Substitute for Water Chestnuts in a Recipe?

Not everyone has heard or used water chestnuts in their cooking yet, but there’s always a first for everything, right? (*)

For those who have already tasted this interesting ingredient, you know how vital its distinct flavor and crunchy texture are in dishes. While you might come across a canned water chestnut in the American grocery stores, it’s still challenging to come across. The same goes for fresh water chestnuts, which you’ll usually find in Asian grocery stores!

On the off chance, you can’t find water chestnuts anywhere or forgot to get some while you’re already preparing your recipe, what’s there to do?

It’s time to use the perfect substitute for water chestnuts, then!

We list down all the possible substitutes for water chestnuts, so read on.

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Water Chestnut Substitute: Top 11 Alternatives To Try

image of Best Water Chestnut Substitutes

Before anything else, let’s first talk about what water chestnuts are for those who aren’t familiar with this ingredient. (*)

Water chestnuts are aquatic tubers native to Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, China, among other islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Fresh and raw water chestnuts taste fruity and flavorful. The sweetness will blend with its gentle tartness simultaneously, along with the crispy texture, whether fresh, canned, or cooked.

Fun fact: Water chestnuts stay crunchy because of their ferulic acid content!

Since water chestnuts have that crunch and unique sweet-tart flavor, you can find them in numerous recipes, from cashew chicken, bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, or stir-fry vegetable dishes.

If you have no water chestnut, here are the ingredients you can replace it with:

1. Canned Water Chestnuts

Canned water chestnuts are the best substitute for fresh water chestnuts.

You get the closest resemblance in texture, though expect the flavor to be a tad blander than the fresher version.

But the good thing is that canned water chestnuts are that it’s more cost-effective. If you don’t mind the slight blandness and prioritize a substitute for its texture, then canned water chestnuts are the way to go.

You can find whole and sliced water chestnuts.

We recommend getting the former as a substitute for water chestnut; it has a crunchier texture.

2. Almond Flour

Whether you use almond meal, almond flour, or ground almonds, they are made of sweet almonds. These ingredients are low in carbohydrates but loaded with nutrients.

Almond flour is also an excellent alternative for those who want a healthier option or need to go gluten-free. When using almond flour, you can use an equal 1:1 ratio.

Do note that you won’t get the similar texture that water chestnut offers!

Alternatively, you can use hazelnut flour or grain-free nut flour if you are allergic to nuts.

You can even use water chestnut flour if you have it!

3. White Turnips

After canned water chestnuts, the next suitable substitute for water chestnuts in white turnips!

These are root vegetables you can easily find in any supermarket. Plus, turnips are cheap, making them a more affordable substitute for water chestnuts.

You achieve the crispy and crunchy texture in turnips, but the flavor is quite different. This root vegetable would have a mildly pungent flavor with a slightly spicy and bitter taste when eaten raw. Once you cook it, the spiciness would become sweeter and milder, with a more subtle flavor.

Because of that, we recommend using turnips as a substitute for water chestnut in Eastern cuisine, particularly in stir-fries.

4. Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes are another excellent substitute for water chestnut!

These root vegetables look similar to ginger root, both of which you can easily find in supermarkets.

Fun fact: Jerusalem artichokes are also known as wild sunflower, earth apple, or sunchoke).

When uncooked, Jerusalem artichokes have a crunchy texture with fresh, sweet, nutty flavors, similar to water chestnuts. Because of the nutty flavor, you can find Jerusalem artichoke in various vegetable side dishes.

However, note that the flavor of Jerusalem artichokes will become milder after cooking them.

Also, we don’t recommend eating a lot of Jerusalem artichokes in one sitting, as they make you fart! That’s because Jerusalem artichoke contains a lot of inulin, a starch that’s quite difficult to digest.

When using this root vegetable to replace water chestnuts, we recommend using one gram of Jerusalem artichokes, half a gram of Jicama slices, and a bit of turnip. Make sure you remove all peels and dirt before using this substitute.

5. Jicama Slices

Jicama slices are another one of the best substitutes for water chestnuts, which you’ve probably heard of already! This ingredient is known for its sweet, juicy taste and crunchy texture.

Jicama slices have a thin, golden-brown skin with white flesh and high starch content. While raw jicama slices taste sweet, it’s still low in sugar, so it’s great for those who have diabetes.

After cooking these substitutes for water chestnut, you get a sweet and nutty flavor in your dish, which matches other ingredients well to create lovely, complex flavors.

You can find it best suited for Asian dishes!

6. Bamboo Shoots

One of the following substitutes for water chestnuts is bamboo shoots.

Cooked or fresh bamboo shoots have a similar texture to water chestnuts, which are crisp and crunchy.

That said, you get a different flavor as fresh shoots taste bitter and fibrous. Because of that, we only recommend using this in certain Asian dishes.

Furthermore, please note that raw bamboo shoots have a toxin that would produce cyanide in our guts. Because of that, it’s essential to cook bamboo shoots properly before serving your food to prevent health issues.

You can also try using canned bamboo shoots, posing fewer health issues.

7. Pecans

Pecans are one of the best substitutes for water chestnuts if you need to create dessert!

These nuts have a lovely flavor, adding nutty richness to any recipe.

Furthermore, pecans are very versatile, working with various ingredients like caramel, maple, vanilla, among many others.

In terms of texture, pecans have a firmer texture than water chestnuts.

Besides the sweet and nutty flavor, we love that pecans are rich in nutrients.

Raw pecans have a lot of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

They also contain nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and potassium, helping lower our blood pressure.

Before you use pecans in your recipe, we recommend toasting them to enhance their flavor and aroma.

8. Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts are also great substitutes for water chestnuts because they have a sweet flavor and crunchy texture!

Because of the extra nutty flavor, we only recommend this for nutty soups, sauces, or dessert recipes.

You can even use raw hazelnuts as a water chestnut flour substitute by chopping and blending the nuts thoroughly using a food processor.

You’ll create hazelnut flour, another good option to replace water chestnuts with.

Hazelnut flour would nail the flavor you want from water chestnuts. Plus, it has a lot of nutrients!

9. Almonds

Almonds are one of the tastiest water chestnut alternatives, but they are also one of the priciest!

You can use raw almonds to replace freshwater chestnuts in basic recipes as they have a crunchy texture.

But regarding the flavor, almonds taste slightly bitter and salty compared to the sweet and juicy fresh water chestnuts.

You can try using sweet almonds for a slightly sweeter and authentic flavor.

As such, almonds are a better replacement that requires more nuttiness and crunchiness.

You can also ground sweet almonds and create almond flour, which is another good substitute to consider.

10. Fresh Ginger

We don’t consider ginger one of the best substitutes for water chestnut, but it’s good to use it in a pinch. This is a rhizome with some heat but tastes sweeter than water chestnut, so it wouldn’t suit all recipes.

We recommend using less ginger in your recipe first, tasting it as you go. The warmth might not suit most delicious recipes, but you get a similar texture.

11. Daikon

You can find Daikon in many Asian countries, particularly Japan, where it’s the most commonly consumed vegetable.

This winter radish you can use as one of the best substitutes for water chestnut.

Expect a mild tart flavor, which isn’t similar to the water chestnut. Furthermore, it doesn’t have much strong pepper flavor compared to other radishes.

We recommend using this water chestnuts substitute in stews and soups or using it as a low-calorie, healthy side dish. Yes, you can serve it raw!

Frequently Asked Questions

For those who still have general wonderments on water chestnuts and any of their substitutes, we answer your burning questions below:

1. Can I use canned water chestnuts instead of fresh water chestnuts or vice versa?

Yes, you can use canned water chestnuts to replace fresh ones! As mentioned, it’s a suitable alternative because they have the same texture, though slightly blander flavor.

If you need canned water chestnuts, you can also use fresh ones as an alternative, which might be better because of the more intense flavor!

2. Is water chestnut flour like buckwheat flour?

Buckwheat, also called Kuttu, is an organic product seed used during Hindu fasting. As for water, chestnut flour is made of drying water chestnut organic products, which are then grounded to create flour.

Water chestnut flour and buckwheat aren’t the same ingredients but go through similar processes.

If you can find water chestnut flour in your supermarket, you can also use it to substitute for water chestnuts. You can even use this flour to bread chicken and still achieve the same flavor.

3. What are the health benefits of water chestnuts?

We appreciate water chestnuts because of the many different health benefits it offers, such as (*):

They are low in calories without any fat, which can help weight loss. The presence of antioxidants also helps reduce inflammation.

Water chestnuts contain vitamin B6, a versatile and essential vitamin for our health. (*)

They contain various antioxidants that can reduce our risk of different chronic diseases or conditions, including high blood pressure and stroke.

Since water chestnuts have a low glycemic index, they are great for diabetes.

Fun fact: While they are called water chestnuts, these are not chestnuts! The only similarity with chestnuts has white flesh inside and papery brown skin outside.

4. What recipe are water chestnuts best known for?

Water chestnuts are best seen in Asian cuisines, including Chinese recipes. This is also best used as a classic bacon appetizer!

Simply wrap bacon on your water chestnuts, and you’ve got yourself an exciting and delicious dish.

You can also eat it on its own by cooking water chestnuts in olive oil.

Wrapping It Up

Who knew how many substitutes for water chestnuts were around?

Whether you need fresh water chestnuts or canned water chestnuts, there’s always something for you to use if you have none of it.

We hope you found the perfect substitute for water chestnuts from our list!

Do share what you thought of the alternatives you used, and continue exploring our page to learn about cooking.

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