Japanese Candied Chestnuts

When chestnut season comes around Thanksgiving, I make my first kuri-no-shibukawani (candied chestnuts) for the season, and I make the second one for a traditional Japanese New Year’s day meal.  It is and one of my favorite desserts. Unlike more typical chestnut recipes, this one is prepared with the inner, thin cheshnut skins still on. Rather than fully peeling them, it requires you to boil a few times to take the bitterness out of the skins.  It is not difficult make, but it requires some tedious work. It is totally worth it if you are a fan of chestnuts like me! One candied chestnut is pretty satisfying, so a batch could last for a while in the refrigerator.

As far as cooking instructions go, there are two important suggestions that I can give you.  One is to make sure to boil the chestnuts a few times to get rid of the bitterness completely.  Also when you are peeling the outer shell, be really careful not to break the inner skin because the ones with damaged skin are going to fall apart when you are simmering in syrup later.  You need to be careful when you are dealing with boiled chestnuts as well, as they are delicate and it is easy to damage the skin.

Japanese Candied Chestnuts


  • 1 lb chestnuts
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda (divided)
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar (500g)
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce


  1. In a large bowl put all the chestnuts and pour enough boiling water to cover all chestnuts completely. Soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Drain chestnuts, and peel the outer shell taking care not to damage inner skin. Rather than peeling the whole chestnut with a knife, use a paring knife to make a slit, and peel using your fingers.
  3. Put peeled chestnuts in a saucepan with 1 teaspoon baking soda and add enough water to cover chestnuts completely. Quick stir to dissolve the baking soda. Bring it to boil over medium heat, and simmer for 10 minutes ,skimming as foams appear on the surface. Drain carefully as chestnuts get softer,they get broken easily. Rinse under running cold water, and remove some of extra layers of skin by rubbing with your fingers or using a toothpick to pick some stringy threadlike skin (see the photo below) only if it comes off very easily. Try not to overdo otherwise you might peel the skin. Remember it is important to keep the skin on. Repeat this step two more times, just skip adding baking soda for the last time.
  4. In a pot, return chestnuts and add enough fresh water to just barely cover, add sugar and soy sauce. Stir gently, and bring to a boil. Place otoshi buta (Japanese drop lid; click here for more details), and simmer for 90 minutes.
  5. Turn heat off, and let it cool overnight.
  6. Put chestnuts in a jar making sure to submerge them completely under the syrup, and keep in a refrigerator for up to a month.


I am originally from Japan and have been living in the US for about 20 years. Over the past 20 years I have traveled to many different parts of the world, seen different cultures, and tasted all kinds of interesting food. In between I studied anthropology, art and interior design. I currently live outside Boston and I teach cooking in continuing education programs and at home. I also take on freelance interior design projects. I hope you enjoy the blog! Yoko

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