Roasted Chestnuts – Iconic London Christmas Staple

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,

Jack Frost nipping on your nose,

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,

And folks dressed up like Eskimos…….

Ahh… this 1945 classic by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé is the most sung Christmas song and the most famous recording is by Nat King Cole. The song is full of sentimental imagery and chestnuts roasting on an open fire are complimentary to a beautiful white Christmas, bolstering chestnuts as a Christmas classic as well. When I hear that song I want to curl up by the fire place with a bag of warm chestnuts from a London street corner.

chestnuts in a bag

Although roasted chestnut vendors are not a common tradition in the United States, there was a time that hot chestnut vendors could be commonly found in London street corners during this time of the year. Now it is a nostalgic trade, but buying a bag of hot chestnuts on a cold winter’s day and peeling them in the street is a timeless delicious ritual. During the holidays you will still find old time vendors throughout London and in places like Petticoat Lane as the magnificent chestnuts are truly one of the more iconic symbols of the season.

Hot Chestnut Vendors on London Streets



Hot roasted chestnuts when done right are chewy, full of flavor and indulgent. So, how could I leave out this Christmas staple in my collage of holiday edibles for Christmas parties in the UK. I think roasted chestnuts are a fabulous idea to fill the tummies at your party and send home with your guests in pretty paper bags.

chestnuts roasting

Roasted Chestnuts


1 to 1 1/2 pounds whole chestnuts in shells

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in the middle.

Cut an X in rounded side of each chestnut with a small sharp knife. Place chestnuts in a cast iron skillet or a shallow baking pan cut side up.  Sprinkle sea salt on top of chestnuts.  Roast chestnuts, until shells curl away from nutmeats, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Wrap hot chestnuts in a kitchen towel and squeeze gently to further loosen shells. Let stand, wrapped, 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tip: Serve chestnuts in individual quantities in small paper bags at each table place setting or on buffet table.


roasting chestnuts

chestnuts open fire

hot roasted chestnuts

Here is the Nat King Cole rendition of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire for you to enjoy as you try making roasted chestnuts.

Merry Christmas!

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