Water chestnuts, also called the Chinese water chestnut, are delicious, crunchy, and with a light sweet taste. They are prominently used in many Chinese dishes, including lettuce wraps, chop suey and stir-fry. They are aquatic tuber veggies, similar to chestnuts, but water chestnuts are not nuts.
If the recipe calls for water chestnuts, but you are finding it hard to look for them in grocery stores, you can use the common substitutes that may change the taste of the dish a bit, but will still give you the rare crunch and exotic flavor you are after.
Among the best water chestnut substitutes include the following:
- Canned water chestnuts
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Bamboo Shoots
- Fresh Ginger
Keep reading to learn more about what to use as a substitute for water chestnuts that won’t drastically affect the taste of the dish.
Top 15 Substitute for Water Chestnuts
Aside from the taste, water chestnuts are filled with healthy nutrients. They are loaded with potassium, which helps in reducing your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. It also has a number of antioxidants that help in reducing your risk of several chronic health problems.[Source]
The plant is native to China, Japan, the Philippines, and India, and it also grows in Africa and Australia. It is not always easy to look for the fresh variety outside of these countries.
Some of the closet substitutes in terms of taste and texture includes smaller sized turnips and canned water chestnuts. Of course, you can still consider the remaining substitutes mentioned in the list below.
Aside from being always available no matter the time of the year, turnips are also one of the most affordable substitutes for water chestnuts. For this purpose, avoid large-sized turnips that tend to leave a bitter taste. Choose turnips less than three inches in diameter.
It is also recommended to use white turnips over other varieties. White turnips have a mild flavor without the strong peppery taste.
Slice the turnips first when using them as an alternative to water chestnuts. Put the slices in boiling water with oil and salt. Cook until soft. As for the amount, you can use a 1:1 ratio or a gram of white turnip slices for a little more than a gram of water chestnuts.
Canned Water Chestnuts
The flavor of the canned variety is more blended, but it has an almost similar texture to fresh water chestnuts. This is best suited for those after the texture of the fresh ones. In this case, it is recommended to get the whole version that is crunchier than the sliced type.
Since water chestnuts are loaded with ferulic acid, the cooked veggies and canned in water retain their crispiness. Once you have opened a can of this veggie, it is best to use it within two to three days. Change the water every day and keep it somewhere cool.
If you can’t find the whole version, you can add the sliced type to your recipe but fry them first for a couple of minutes before using. Add the canned water chestnuts when you’re almost done cooking, so they won’t lose the crunch.
If you are after the full flavor and smooth texture of water chestnuts, you can place them in the oven or boil them in water before adding them to soups and purees. You can use the 1:1 ratio when making the substitution. Additionally, ensure that you will cook through the dish if you’re using the canned water chestnuts in a cake batter.
Jicama is crunchy and juicy, similar to water chestnuts. This root vegetable is low in sugar and has a high starch content. It is sweet when raw, and this sweetness blends into the other ingredients once cooked.
It’s a to-go snack for people who are craving for sweets, but want to lose weight or have diabetes. It is best to simmer its slices when using jicama as a substitute for water chestnuts.
To use jicama instead of water chestnut, you have to gradually add slices to your dish and taste before adding more. This way, you’ll be assured that the veggie won’t overpower the taste of the other ingredients in the dish.
Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes come from the sunflower family and are not related to Artichokes. They get soft when cooked with a mild artichoke heart flavor.
When used as an alternative to water chestnuts, it is best to use them raw. Some people eat them raw with the skin, while others peel the skin before eating or cooking. Rinse them thoroughly and remove all dirt from the skin.
It is best to limit your consumption of sunchokes since it has a starch called insulin that the body takes time to digest.
If it’s nuttiness that you’re after but couldn’t get a hand at water chestnuts, you may want to use pecans as a substitute. They are perfect for desserts, and the flavor goes well with maple, caramel, and vanilla.
They are firmer than water chestnuts and loaded with nutrients, including fiber, healthy fats, and proteins that boost your energy. They also contain potassium, magnesium, and calcium that help maintain healthy blood pressure.
When using pecans as a substitute for water chestnuts, toast them first to enhance their aroma and flavor.
You can use bamboo shoots as a substitute for water chestnuts in some Asian dishes, but not in recipes where its fibrous and slightly bitter taste will overpower the other ingredients. They have similar crispiness and crunch as water chestnuts.
However, you have to cook bamboo shoots properly. They contain toxins that, when consumed, might lead to the production of cyanide in your gut.
When making the substitution, you can use the 1:1 ratio, but it is best to chop the bamboo shoots first and get rid of the undesirable pieces. Gradually add the bamboo shoots and taste the dish before adding more to ensure that the taste is to your liking.
This will do as a substitute for water chestnuts in some, but not in many recipes. The best thing about celery is that you can find it anywhere.
You can use celery in recipes requiring small amounts of water chestnuts only to add color, flavor, and some crunch.
Use the stalks’ lower portion, chop it, and add it to the dish when it’s about to finish cooking. This will prevent the celery stalks from getting too soft. You can use two grams of freshly chopped celery for recipes that call for a gram of water chestnuts in making the substitution.
Ginger has warmth and slightly more sweetness than water chestnuts, so you cannot use it as a substitute in many recipes. You can use 1.5 grams of raw and finely chopped fresh ginger instead of one gram of fresh water chestnut. Taste the dish and add more depending on your preference.
It’s a winter radish, among the most commonly consumed vegetables in Japan and many other Asian countries.
It has a delicious surface with a tart flavor and can be easily used to substitute for water chestnuts in many recipes. Compared to other kinds of radish, daikon is less peppery and milder.
Instead of water chestnuts, you can use them to make low-calorie side dishes, stews, and soups. You can also serve it raw as an appetizer.
For a gram of fresh water chestnut that a recipe calls, you can use a gram of daikon. However, if the recipe calls for two grams of fresh water chestnuts, you can use the combination of a gram of turnips and two grams of chopped daikon.
Radish has an almost similar flavor to water chestnuts, although it is bigger in size. When making the substitution, you can follow the 1:1 ratio but make sure the radish is finely chopped. If the recipe calls for more than 1 1/2 cups of water chestnuts, gradually add the chopped radish and taste the dish.
It is best to leave the skin of the radish to maintain a high level of sharpness in its flavor. Peeling its skin will extensively bring down this vegetable’s warmth.
You can use hazelnuts instead of water chestnuts in recipes requiring a strong nutty flavor. You can use them in nutty soups, tasty sauces, and dessert recipes.
You can also chop the nuts and process them in a food processor to use as an alternative for water chestnut flour.
They may be expensive, but almonds can be the tastiest substitute you can use in recipes that call for water chestnuts. However, they vary in taste since almonds are slightly bitter and salty, but both are crunchy. You can use almonds in recipes that require the crunch.
On the other hand, you can process ground sweet almonds into almond flour. It has a sweet and savory flavor that makes it a good alternative to water chestnut flour.
Potatoes, Irish potatoes, or white potatoes make a great alternative for water chestnuts. They are loaded with nutrients, crispy, and taste tangy and sweet.
You can have them cooked or eaten raw. They can make an excellent base for any specialty plate.
This canned product provides a different flavor for those who want to tweak the recipe that calls for water chestnuts. It offers something new, which can prompt you to become more creative in whipping up your dishes and making the substitution.
Aside from being a good choice in substituting water chestnuts in recipes, crosnes have numerous health benefits. They are loaded with fiber, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
They are commonly used in Asia in treating irregular bowel movements and headaches. They work like painkillers without the side effects.
In preparing dishes, you can cook crosnes the same way you do with water chestnuts. However, peeling or scraping them can be challenging due to their spiral shape. You can instead scrub its skin under running water until it peels off.
They can serve as accents to raw and cooked dishes as long as you only use them in small doses. You can pickle them before adding to salads or roast them before mixing with chicken. When cooking crosnes, take them off the heat before they get mushy.