Water chestnuts are a popular vegetable used in many Asian dishes. Their crunchy texture and mild, nutty flavor make them a great addition to stir-fries, salads, and more.
If you’ve bought more fresh water chestnuts than you can use right away, you may be wondering if you can freeze the extras to enjoy later.
What are Water Chestnuts?
Water chestnuts are not actually nuts at all; they are an aquatic vegetable grown in marshes and ponds. The edible part is the corm, which is an enlarged stem that grows underground. Water chestnut corms have a brownish-black skin and crisp, white flesh.
Some key facts about water chestnuts:
- Botanical name: Eleocharis dulcis
- Grown in muddy wetlands and ponds in tropical and subtropical areas.
- Corms are typically 2–3 inches wide.
- Have a crunchy texture and a slightly sweet, nutty taste.
- Low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants
- Commonly used in Asian cuisine
Water chestnuts are different from chestnuts, which come from large nut trees. The name refers to the shape and coloring of the vegetable, which resembles a chestnut.
Benefits of Freezing Water Chestnuts
Freezing is a great way to preserve fresh water chestnuts so you can enjoy them for longer.
Here are some of the main benefits:
- Extends shelf life: fresh water chestnuts will only last about 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Freezing them allows you to enjoy them for many months.
- Maintains texture: Frozen water chestnuts retain their signature crunchiness when thawed and cooked. The freezing process doesn’t significantly alter their texture.
- Convenient: Having frozen water chestnuts on hand makes it easy to add them to recipes on short notice without having to run to the store.
- Saves money: Buying fresh water chestnuts in small quantities can get expensive. Stocking up when you find a good deal and freezing the surplus lets you save money.
- Enjoy when out of season. Water chestnuts are not available fresh year-round in all regions. Freezing lets you enjoy their taste and crunch during the off-season.
How to Freeze Water Chestnuts
Freezing water chestnuts is simple and takes just a few steps:
Step 1: Prepare the Water chestnuts.
Rinse fresh water chestnuts under cool running water to clean. Remove any bruised or damaged chestnuts. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
Peel off the tough outer skin using a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler. Try to remove it in large pieces rather than shredding it, which can tear the flesh underneath.
Once peeled, pat the chestnuts dry again if needed.
Step 2: Blanch the Water chestnuts.
Blanching helps destroy enzymes that cause flavor and texture loss during freezing.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Lower the peeled chestnuts into the water and return it to a boil.
- Boil for 3 minutes total to blanch. This will cook them slightly while inactivating enzymes.
- Drain in a colander and immediately plunge into ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. Allow it to cool for 3–4 minutes.
Step 3: Pack Water Chestnuts for freezing.
Pat the blanched water chestnuts completely dry with towels. Pack into airtight freezer bags or containers, removing as much air as possible.
You can pack them in single servings or larger quantities, depending on their intended use. Just avoid giant clumps, which freeze solidly.
Seal bags or containers. Label with contents and freeze-by date.
Step 4: Freeze Water Chestnuts
Place sealed water chestnuts in your freezer. Lay flat for faster freezing.
For best quality, freeze at 0°F or below. If freezing larger amounts, rotate new packages to the back of the freezer to freeze solidly.
Frozen water chestnuts properly packaged and frozen at 0°F will last about 10–12 months before their quality degrades.
Thawing Frozen Water Chestnuts
Water chestnuts are simple to thaw when you’re ready to use them.
- For quick thawing, place the sealed frozen package in the refrigerator overnight or submerge the sealed bag in cold water.
- You can also thaw while cooking. Add frozen water chestnuts directly to stir-fries or other cooked dishes. Their small size allows them to thaw and heat through nicely.
- Microwave thawing is not recommended, as it can lead to texture changes.
Once thawed, use water chestnuts immediately for the best quality. Do not refreeze.
How to Use Thawed Frozen Water Chestnuts
Thawed frozen water chestnuts can be used in place of fresh in most recipes, like:
- Stir-fries: Add them with other vegetables near the end of cooking.
- Salads: Toss in greens, chicken, and Asian dressing.
- Dumplings: Mix them into the filling before wrapping.
- Fried rice: mix it into the rice along with other vegetables.
- Casseroles or hot dips: mix in towards the end of cooking.
- Roasted veggies: toss with other veggies before roasting.
Their texture will be a little softer than raw, but still pleasantly crunchy. Adjust cooking times slightly longer as needed since they will thaw during cooking.
Storing Thawed Water Chestnuts
For the best quality and food safety, use thawed water chestnuts right away. If you need to store them:
- Drain off any liquid from thawing before storage.
- Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Do not refreeze thawed water chestnuts or store frozen ones thawed for extended periods. This increases the risk of texture and quality loss.
Can You Freeze Water Chestnut Cans?
Canned water chestnuts can also be frozen for longer storage.
- Drain the canned water chestnuts and rinse to remove any sliminess from the canning liquid.
- Pat dry thoroughly, then pack into airtight bags or containers.
- Label and freeze as directed above.
Frozen canned water chestnuts will last 8–10 months and can also be substituted for fresh or refrigerated canned.
Freezing Water Chestnut Peels
You can also save water chestnut peels and freeze them for making stock.
- After peeling chestnuts, place the skins and any trimmings in a resealable bag.
- Freeze flat until needed.
- To make stock, simmer the skins in water for 30–60 minutes until softened. Strain and use the stock for soups or cooking grains.
The peel stock will have a subtle, sweet, earthy flavor. Just avoid using peels older than 6 months.
Frequently Asked Questions About Freezing Water Chestnuts
1. Should water chestnuts be blanched before freezing?
Yes, blanching is highly recommended. The short boil destroys enzymes that can lead to off-flavors and texture changes during freezing. Blanching also slightly pre-cooks the chestnuts.
2. How long do frozen water chestnuts last?
Properly stored at 0°F, frozen water chestnuts will maintain their best quality for about 10–12 months. Freezing greatly extends their shelf life beyond 1-2 weeks when fresh.
3. What happens if you freeze raw water chestnuts?
Freezing raw skips the blanching step. The chestnuts may develop more off-flavors and will have a crunchier, harder texture when thawed since they don’t partially cook.
4. Can thawed frozen water chestnuts be refrozen?
It is not recommended to refreeze thawed water chestnuts. Refreezing leads to greater moisture and texture loss. Use thawed chestnuts right away for the best quality and food safety.
5. How do you know if frozen water chestnuts have gone bad?
Discard water chestnuts if they have an off-odor, visible mold, or very soft, mushy spots when thawed. A slightly softer texture than fresh is normal, but they should not be slimy.
6. Can you substitute canned water chestnuts for frozen?
Yes, canned water chestnuts that are drained and rinsed can be used in place of frozen in most recipes. Canned foods tend to be more tender than frozen ones. Adjust the cooking time slightly longer as needed.
7. What dishes pair well with frozen water chestnuts?
Frozen water chestnuts are great in stir-fries, fried rice, noodle dishes, curries, salads, dumplings, stews, and more. Their crunch balances well with tender veggies, meats, and sauces.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.