Tapa Thursdays: Castañas

cred where cred’s due

I never knew that ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ was actually a thing until moving to Seville.

When the weather turns crisp (which finally happened last week), peddlers wheel out large carts that have a hole cut in the middle, under which coals are heated, and the chesnuts, called castañas, are roasted.

Castaño trees are all over Southern Europe, and the prickly nut is making a comeback in the gastronomic world. During the winter months, they’re picked up off the ground, roasted and scooped into paper cones. I always see kids reaching for them under the sheen of Christmas lights along Avenida de Constitución. I’m reminded of when I was a kid and my mom would take us to downtown Chicago to see the lights and windows at Field’s, and then treat us to Frango Mints and Garett’s Popcorn.

What they are: European chestnuts.

How they’re made: You can easily pick up a half kilo of chestnuts in the produce section of a supermarket and roast them at home by sliting an X into the hard shell and baking them for 30-35 minutes on 220°C. Or, if you’re lazy like me, you can just buy them from a vendor.

Goes great with: Chestnuts are a fantastic snack on the street (and they’re probably the only things you can eat on the run and not have a sevillano stick up their nose at you). They taste smoky and a tad sweet at the same time.

Have you ever eaten chestnuts?


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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. Natasha Nader says:

    I LOVE buying chestnuts from vendors. The thought of cooking them at home in the oven/microwave that I don’t have is completely unappealing to me. Biking home through the chestnut smoke on San Jacinto often forces me to pull over and buy some… and basically eat them all before I even get home.

  2. Like you, I had no idea what “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” actually were until coming to Spain. I had them first in November last year in Granada from a street-seller…but I wasn’t really converted to castaña-craze until experiencing the Magosto festival here in Galicia. Roasted. Chestnuts. Everywhere. But it was so good, too! My teachers at school told me that before the arrival of potatoes from the Americas, chestnuts were used as the main source of carbs (maybe protein, too) for the Galician diet.
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Is It Blasphemy to Dislike Granada, Spain?My Profile

  3. I had the same reaction when I first saw chestnuts roasting on the streets of Seville. My father is of Italian descent and we always had chestnuts roasted in the oven during Christmas time, but they did not have that nutty, smoky flavor of the chestnuts in Seville. Chestnuts will always mean Christmas to me. Unfortunately, thats’s one Spanish tradition that did not survive in Puerto Rico. No chestnut vendors here. Too hot, I guess.

  4. I was fortunate to grow up with the tradition of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Sadly in the states you hardly ever see vendors on the street anymore(and finding fresh ones to buy difficult), so imagine my excitement when I got to Spain and realized they had whole fiestas dedicated to them. I mean a whole school unit is dedicated to these toasty sweet beauties…Whoopeee! The best is when my parents came to visit and I saw their eyes light up when they smelled and saw the vender. It took them back to their childhood, that day no amount of sight seeing could replace that.
    Ahh thanks Cat, this post gave me the warm fuzzies.

  5. I’ve seen the vendors selling them freshly roasted, but I’ve yet to try them that way. Had them once as a stuffing for Christmas dinner, but didn’t care for them that much. I’m interested in trying my hand at roasting them in the oven 😉
    Gayla recently posted..Things to do in Barcelona – Stroll down La RamblaMy Profile

  6. Pedro Meca says:

    i love castañas, but i prefer them without roasting….the problem with that way is that you must manage to remove the two peels that they have….the second peel that you only see after removing the first one is quite difficult and laborious as it is very thin, so some people just eat that second peel too.

    another problem is that i am allergic to chesnuts together with many other things that have or derive from latex, but sometimes i risk and eat a little…..

  7. I love the fragrant, smoky smell of roasting chestnuts in the air. It always reminds me of my childhood and wintertime trips to New York City. Now you’ve done it: I’m going to have to buy them the next time I find them on the street. :)
    Linda Bibb recently posted..The Granville Hotel: A Bit of Waterford HistoryMy Profile


  1. […] the winter months, citrus fruits, figs, mushrooms and chestnuts are ripe and ready to be picked. Olive oil harvests begin, and crops like pumpkins, avocados and leeks begin […]

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