Chicken With Chestnuts


Chicken with Chestnuts – This is without a doubt my favourite chicken recipe. I created it after months of following the same recipe which was okay, but hardly inspired. I started on the perfect stuffing and everything fell into place. It’s nice and light, yet is satisfying and packed with flavour that makes you feel like your tummy has been hugged 😃 The chestnuts can be omitted if you choose….but don’t do that! They add a fantastic touch of classiness.


Chinese Braised Chicken with Chestnutsis a tradition Chinese recipe that is pure comfort food

Chinese New Year is coming up soon – February 10, 2013, and it’s the Year of the Black Snake! I’ve been thinking of what dishes I’m going to make for my family, and this Chinese Braised Chicken with Chestnuts is a dish that’s been on my mind recently.

For 8 years, we had a woman from Shanghai live with our family to help care for my aging in-laws. After both my mother-in-law and father-in-law passed away, she moved out and returned to her home country. We were so fortunate to find someone as capable as she was – not only was she an excellent caregiver, but she was a great cook and I learned a few dishes from her while she lived with us.

This Chinese Braised Chicken with Chestnuts is traditionally Shanghainese and I remember Wendy making this for our family. Although dried chestnuts used to be commonly used in this dish, frozen fresh chestnuts and jarred chestnuts are more readily available these days, so that’s what I use.

Cooked Chestnuts I purchased from the frozen section of an Asian grocery store

Chinese Braised Chicken with Chestnuts

Traditionally, the chicken pieces are cut into bite size pieces; however, if you prefer to leave them whole, extend the cooking time.

 Course Main Course

 Cuisine Chinese

 Prep Time 10 minutes

 Cook Time 40 minutes

 Total Time 50 minutes

 Servings 8

 Calories 300 kcal


  • 2 1/2 pounds chicken parts I used chicken thighs on the bone
  • 4 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 scallions cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 5 slices ginger the size of quarters, peeled
  • 1 cup fresh chestnuts or defrosted frozen ones
  • 8 shitake mushrooms rehydrated in water (reserve soaking liquid), stems removed, halved
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cup shitake mushroom soaking liquid


  1. Chop chicken parts into small pieces if you like (1 1/2″ pieces). Marinate chicken with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan and add scallions and ginger; saute a few minutes until fragrant. Place chicken pieces in pan in a single layer. Brown on one side, then turn over all the pieces and brown the other side. Add remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, sherry, honey, star anise, rehydrated shitake mushrooms, and shitake mushroom soaking liquid. Mix sauce and chicken well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, covered. Add chestnuts and toss gently. Cover and simmer another 15-20 minutes, until chicken is tender.

Chicken with Chestnuts

Chicken with chestnuts is a comforting dinner, perfect for the Fall. Chicken breast is pan fried, and then simmered in a sweet and savory wine sauce with roasted chestnuts, shallots, and garlic. This is a restaurant-quality chicken dish that is easy to make in the comfort of your own home.

All about chicken with chestnuts

Chestnuts have been a staple to my family since I was little. Around the holidays, my family roasts them and eats them with fruit before dessert. My grandpa is in charge of cutting them, and my job was to put them in perfect rows on the broiler pan. Now, that’s my sons job and it is so cute to see how excited he gets around the holidays to help. 

Since I grew up eating chestnuts, it was shocking to me that so many people are scared to cook with them. If you are one of those people, I strongly advise that you give them a chance. They really give the perfect slightly sweet component to savory dishes. 

They sell packaged, peeled chestnuts right in the produce section of most grocery stores in a convenient pouch.  I have linked the specific brand I use down below in the ingredients section.  This convenient product eliminates the need to roast and peel the chestnuts; all the work is done for you.  They are perfect for this dish!

Cooking with wine

Madeira wine works really well in this recipe, because it has great depth of flavor with some sweetness.  Marsala wine would be a good alternative, too. If you don’t prefer to use alcohol in cooking, the closest flavor would probably come from reducing balsamic vinegar and mixing it with more chicken stock. These flavors will mimic the sweetness and depth of the wine.

What do I need to make chicken with chestnuts?

Here is everything you will need to make this dish:

  • thinly sliced chicken breast
  • all purpose flour
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • light butter
    • I use the Land ‘O Lakes brand, light butter with canola oil
  • roasted and peeled chestnuts
    • I use the Galil brand
  • shallot
  • fresh garlic
  • Madeira wine
    • A good alternative would be Marsala wine, since it has a similar taste. 
    • If you don’t cook with wine, you can replace with broth and reduced balsamic vinegar.
  • reduced sodium chicken broth

How do I make chicken with chestnuts?

This dinner is fairly easy to make. The method I use here is a universal method for making a chicken dish with a pan sauce.  Everything gets made in one pan, but in stages. Prep your vegetables first by slicing your shallots and garlic. Add the flour to a shallow dish and season it with half of the kosher salt and pepper. Stir this mixture until it is fully combined and dredge each piece of chicken in the flour.

Cooking the chicken and making the sauce

Melt half of the butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat, and add olive oil spray. Sear two pieces of chicken at a time in the frying pan for a couple of minutes on both sides. Make sure to only cook two at a time so the pan doesn’t overcrowd and the chicken is able to develop a golden color. At this point, the chicken won’t be cooked through. Set the chicken aside and repeat this step, adding the rest of the butter and olive oil spray, and sear the other two pieces of chicken. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add more olive oil spray and sauté the shallots and chestnuts with 1/4 teaspoon of salt for 5 minutes. The shallots should be broken down and tender. Add the sliced garlic for just a minute or until fragrant, ensuring it doesn’t burn. Then, pour in the Madeira wine and the reduced sodium chicken broth and cook until the mixture begins to boil. 

Add the chicken pieces back into the pan with the juices on the plate they were sitting on. Nestle the chicken into the sauce to ensure it is coated. Cover and cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce has reduced and thickened. 

Chicken with Chestnuts

Chicken with chestnuts is a comforting dinner, perfect for the Fall. Chicken breast is pan fried, and then simmered in a sweet and savory wine sauce with roasted chestnuts, shallots, and garlic. This is a restaurant-quality chicken dish that is easy to make in the comfort of your own home.

Course: dinner

Cuisine: Italian

Keyword: chestnuts, chicken dishes, madeira wine

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

Calories: 265kcal


  • frying pan


  • 1 lb chicken breast split into 4 pieces, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tbsp light butter I use Land ‘O Lakes Brand with Canola oil
  • olive oil spray
  • 3.5 oz chestnuts bag, roasted and peeled
  • 1 shallot large
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup Madeira wine
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth


  • Prep your vegetables; slice the shallot and mince the garlic.
  • Cut your chicken breast into 4 thin slices, if you are starting with full chicken breasts.
  • In a shallow dish, add the flour and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  • Dredge the pieces of chicken in the flour.
  • Melt 1/2 of the butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat, and add olive oil spray.
  • Sear two pieces of chicken in the pan for a couple of minutes on either side until they are golden in color (it won’t be cooked through).
  • Set the chicken aside and repeat this step, adding the rest of the butter and olive oil spray, and sear the other two pieces. Remove from the pan.
  • In the same pan, once all of the chicken is cooked and has been removed, add more olive oil spray and sauté the shallots and chestnuts with 1/4 teaspoon of salt for 5 minutes until the shallots are broken down and tender.
  • Add the sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the wine and broth, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Add the chicken pieces back to the pan with the juices from the plate they were sitting on.
  • Nestle the chicken in the sauce to ensure its coated, cover and cook on medium low for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Braised Chestnut Chicken (板栗炖鸡)

A classic Shanghai dish, braised chestnut chicken is a super comforting dish that is very easy to prepare and extremely satisfying to eat. It’s a great centerpiece for your Sunday dinner, or you can make a huge batch for meal-prep.

Braised chestnut chicken is a comforting dish that I enjoyed eating growing up in China. When chestnuts are hard to find or not in season, we usually make the braised chicken with shiitake mushrooms. But when I saw the recipe in Belly Liu’s newly released cookbook My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories from a City on the Water, I immediately bought the ingredients and made the dish in my kitchen.

Compared to the braising method my mom uses, Betty’s version requires a bit of extra love, which makes the dish even more flavorful. Once the dish is done, my kitchen smells so good and the dish makes me feel like I’m back in my mom’s kitchen again.

My Shanghai Cookbook

I’d been following Betty’s work for a few years before she released her book this March. When I received the book, it was just as beautiful as I imagined it would be.

Betty’s book takes you to Shanghai through her stunning photography, anecdotes of her stories living in the US while deeply rooted with the city, and family recipes.

The recipes stay authentic while sharing many tips for audiences overseas, who might not have access to seasonal produce. Beyond well-known dishes and restaurant style food, the book shares many homestyle recipes too, and I enjoy those the most. 

I highly recommend adding her cookbook to your collection, since it serves both as a beautiful coffee table book and as a book you’d enjoy cooking from, a rather rare combination.

Ingredients for braised chestnut chicken

Most of the ingredients for braised chestnut chicken are easy to acquire and you probably already have them in your Chinese pantry.


The single item in this recipe that’s quite rare is the chestnut. It’s a seasonal product you will see in Chinatown or Asian markets during fall. If you don’t have access to the fresh ones, you will need to use the frozen, vacuum packed, or canned type. When the fresh ones are not available, my favorite version is the frozen type. They are quite close to the fresh ones if prepared properly. You can use the vacuum packed or canned chestnuts as well. But they might come pre-seasoned and might fall apart more easily during braising.


To make the best braised chestnut chicken, you will have to use bone-in skin-on chicken chopped into bite-sized pieces. When you use bite-sized bone-in pieces, the meat will cook faster while staying juicy, the bones will release flavor into the broth, and the fat from the skin will be emulsified in the broth to make it sticky and extra rich.

In China, a whole chicken is usually used for this dish. But in the US, it’s easier to use chicken leg quarters, each chopped into four pieces.

It’s very easy to chop bone-in chicken with a cleaver if you have one. But if you only have a chef’s knife, it’s totally fine as well.

  • Cut along the joint to separate the thigh and leg
  • Cut the thigh and leg further into four pieces

If your knife is on the light side and you think it might be impossible to hack the bone in one motion, do not swing your knife from the top many times trying to cut through at one point. Instead, cut through the meat first, then use your other hand to hold the chicken piece, then swing the knife and chicken piece at the same time, a few inches from the cutting board. This way, you can cut through the bone easily without messing up the meat. 

Rock sugar

Sometimes the rock sugar might come in the form of giant crystals. In this case, you will need to use a mortar and pestle to grind it into smaller pieces.

Rock sugar is less sweet than regular sugar. If you use regular sugar to replace rock sugar, you should use a smaller amount.

Dried shiitake mushrooms 

It takes a bit of time to soak them but doing so adds tons of flavor to the broth. I highly recommend using the dried ones because they taste richer than fresh mushrooms used this way.

Cooking process

  1. Blanche the chestnut, then pan fry them (skip the blanching if using vacuum-packed or canned)
  2. Brown the aromatics and the mushrooms
  3. Brown the chicken
  4. Add water and spices to braise
  5. Stir occasionally, until the chicken turns very tender
  6. Turn up the heat to reduce the sauce if needed, then serve

How to serve

I love to serve braised chestnut chicken over steamed rice, along with some green vegetables and a simple soup.

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