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Best water chestnuts substitute (12 Options to try)


Pick the best water chestnut substitute from our list when you can’t find any water chestnuts at your local grocery store. Water chestnuts are one of the most common ingredients called for in many recipes, especially in Asian dishes.

Finding them in American grocery stores can often be challenging. Luckily, you can tweak your recipes and work around the absence of water chestnuts. Below, you will find some of the closest and best substitutes for water chestnuts.

small glass bowl filled with sliced water chestnuts, can with label "chestnuts" next to it.

What are Water Chestnuts?

The taste of water chestnuts is a cross between a coconut and an apple, and their texture is similar to pears. 

Chestnuts grow on trees, while water chestnuts are aquatic tuber vegetables that grow in the mud, underwater, and marches. They have a similar color, size, and shape to chestnuts, but they are not nuts. 

The best way to prepare water chestnuts is to peel their skin after cutting and wash them with cool water. Peeled water chestnuts can be soaked in water and stored in the refrigerator.

In the US and Europe, you can find fresh water chestnuts in the produce sections of grocery stores and Asian markets. You will typically find canned water chestnuts on the shelves. 

Ways To Use Water Chestnuts

Raw water chestnuts are good on their own; however, they are most commonly used as an ingredient in different recipes because they add a nice crisp and crunch, especially in Asian and Chinese recipes.

They help create mouth-watering sweet and savory dishes and stir-fries. They can also be used in dessert recipes or roasted in oil to create a crispy snack. You can dice, slice, and grate water chestnuts to use them in many unique ways.

12 Best Substitutes for Water Chestnuts

Many vegetables have similar flavors and textures when compared to water chestnuts.

Here are 12 of the best substitutes for water chestnuts, which you can use in their place if you cannot find them in your area.

1. Canned Water Chestnuts

Canned water chestnuts have the same texture as the fresh ones, so they are great substitutes for each other. The canned version has a more blended flavor, while fresh water chestnuts have a nuttier taste.  

There are two versions of canned water chestnuts: whole and sliced water chestnuts. Canned whole water chestnuts have a crunchier texture than sliced ones.

Remember to use canned water chestnuts within a few days after opening. 

2. White Turnips

White turnips are typically available during the winter months, but the robust produce section of your grocery store may have it the whole year. Therefore, they make good water chestnut substitutes because they are easy to find and are one of the cheapest.

Slice the white turnips and then add some water, oil, and salt to soften them before substituting for water chestnuts. You can use them as a side dish or an ingredient in many Eastern dishes. 

You can use white turnips in many recipes that require cooking, boiling, steaming, or roasting because they don’t have a strong pepper flavor like the other kinds of turnips.

3. Almond Nuts

Almond nuts and almond flour are the most expensive substitutes for water chestnuts, but they are the tastiest. The crunchy texture of raw almonds makes them an excellent replacement for water chestnuts. 

While water chestnuts have a juicy and sweet flavor, almonds have a slightly bitter and salty flavor.

Despite this difference in taste, almonds still make a suitable replacement for water chestnuts, especially if your recipe requires the crunchiness of the nuts. 

4. Raw Hazelnuts

Raw hazelnuts are a top substitute for water chestnuts because of their crunchy texture and sweet taste. Their nutty flavor makes them the best alternative for water chestnuts for your tasty sauces and deserts.

5. Fresh Bamboo Shoots

The crispiness and crunchiness of fresh bamboo shoots make them good substitutes for water chestnuts. Raw bamboo shoots have a bitter and fibrous taste, but they can be a substitute for water chestnuts in many delicious recipes. In fact, using them in place of water chestnuts will add more flavor to your dish.

Make it a point to use fresh shoots because the canned ones are too delicate. Another crucial thing to remember is that you need to cook bamboo shoots properly, or you run the risk of cyanide poisoning.

6. Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem Artichokes, sometimes called sunchokes or earth apples, belong to the sunflower family and are actually unrelated to artichokes. Like turnips, the roots of Jerusalem artichokes grow underground, and you can purchase them in groceries together with their roots.

They are tubers with a knotty appearance and brown skin similar to ginger. They have sweet and nutty flavors with a crunchy surface. During cooking, the Jerusalem artichoke softens and takes a mild artichoke heart taste. 

The crunchy texture of Jerusalem artichokes makes them valuable water chestnuts substitutes, especially in dishes eaten raw and cold. 

Pick Jerusalem artichokes with smooth skin and firm texture to ensure their quality. Nevertheless, you should remove the dirt and peel it before cooking. 

7. Jicama

Jicama, a root vegetable, comes with golden brown skin and white flesh. It has a sweet juicy taste and crunchy texture that is called for many delicious recipes. During cooking, the sweetness of Jicama blends well with the other ingredients. 

This root vegetable is a recommended substitute for water chestnuts because its color and texture are similar to water chestnuts. Aside from that, Jicama has the closest taste to water chestnuts.

It would be best to use Jicama in recipes you need to serve hot because it can hold its texture longer. A long cook time will make it soft and sweeter, so it is preferable to slow cook Jicama when using it to replace water chestnuts. However, be careful not to overcook the it so it does not lose its crunchy texture.

You can use an equal amount of Jicama slices to replace water chestnuts. You should gradually add it to your recipe, ensuring it does not overpower the other ingredients in your dish.

8. Celery

Many recipes require water chestnuts in small amounts because of the body and crunch they give to a dish. Celeries can deliver your dish the same thing. That being said, it is advisable to use celery as an alternative to water chestnuts if you are after its texture and not its taste because its color and flavor do not come close to them. 

When using them to replace water chestnuts, it is best to slice celery crosswise instead of lengthwise.

Be mindful that celery becomes soft fast, so it is better to add sliced and diced celery toward the end of the cooking time. 

Celery is always available in grocery stores, making it a convenient water chestnut substitute. 

9. Radish

Radish is a root vegetable that comes from the Brassicaceae family. This edible root vegetable comes with a bulb-like shape and a dull exterior color, with root hairs covering their outside.

While radishes are larger than water chestnuts, they have almost the same flavor, making them excellent substitutes.

Use the same amount of finely chopped radishes with that of water chestnuts.

10. Daikon

Daikon is a winter radish that is an effortless substitute for water chestnuts. It is a common vegetable ingredient in many Japanese and Asian dishes. 

Daikon is a great alternative to water chestnuts in stews, soups, and other low-calorie side dishes. You can also serve daikon raw as an appetizer. 

It has a mild flavor and less peppery taste when compared to other radishes. Similar to water chestnuts, daikon also has a pleasant surface. 

11. Turnip

Turnip is another good substitute for water chestnuts because they have the same texture and juicy taste as water chestnuts. They are also cheap and always available in grocery stores.

It is best to cook turnips with water, salt, and oil until they are soft. Its mild spicy flavor mellows and turns into a mustard-like flavor after cooking.

If your recipe requires greens, you can also sauté the greens of the turnips and add them to your dish.  

Use turnips in equal amounts to replace water chestnuts.

12. Ginger

People often refer to ginger as a root crop, but it is a rhizome. In the same manner, many people also call water chestnut a root. Ginger has some heat similar to a water chestnut, although they do not belong to the same category. 

Nevertheless, ginger is an excellent substitute for water chestnuts in many recipes. Take note that ginger is a bit sweeter than water chestnuts, so take extra care when using it in some of your recipes. 

You can use raw, finely chopped, or ground ginger to replace water chestnuts.

How To Choose The Best Water Chestnut Substitute

There is no exact substitute for water chestnuts. However, you can choose vegetables with the same subtle flavor, mild taste, and crunchy texture.

Here are 2 tips on choosing the best water chestnut substitute:

1. Consider the texture.

Water chestnuts are added to dishes like stir-fries and spinach salad because of the crispiness it gives. Therefore, when choosing a substitute, consider if it can add the same crispy feel to your recipe. Other water chestnut alternatives taste like water chestnuts but are not as crispy.

2. Watch out for the cost.

Another factor to consider is the cost of the substitutes because expensive alternatives like almonds might mimic the taste and texture of water chestnuts, but they might break the bank. If you are on a budget, choose alternatives like turnips or radishes, which are cheaper.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I substitute bamboo shoots for water chestnuts?

You can use bamboo shoots to substitute for water chestnuts, but be sure to pick the fresh ones and not the canned bamboo shoots. Fresh shoots have a flavor and texture close to freshwater chestnuts. 

What do water chestnuts taste like?

These root vegetables have a nutty and fruity flavor, a cross between coconuts and apples. They have a crunchy and crispy taste. On the other hand, their texture is similar to that of pears.

Final Thoughts

Water chestnuts are a staple ingredient in authentic Asian recipes, but they may not always be available in groceries. However, there is a substitute for water chestnuts with the same crunchy and crispy taste. 

Some of the water chestnut substitutes mentioned above add a tastier flavor to your recipe. Most of them you can find with little hassle, making them a convenient replacement for water chestnuts.

You can also include hazelnut flour and almond flour as substitutes for water chestnut and water chestnut flour, especially when called for in soups and stews.

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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