Chestnut Stuffing

This year I nearly burst into tears when I realized there would be no GAPS-legal, gluten-free dressing I could eat at Thanksgiving dinner. But winter means chestnuts, and I was bound and determined to figure something out! I saw some chestnut stuffing recipes out there, but lots of them included bread. We’re totally grain-free and I don’t really like nut bread so I wanted something different. The grain-free recipes didn’t seem to have the texture I was looking for.

CHESTNUTS ARE NOT GAPS LEGAL – I read erroneous information and based my recipe off others who had said theirs was GAPS legal. Turns out they are too starchy!

Here's our Christmas lunch - Roast chicken, chestnut dressing, delicata squash rings, cranberry sauce, green salad, wasabeans, fermented asparagus, and hard cheeses

Here's our Christmas lunch - Roast chicken, chestnut dressing, delicata squash rings, cranberry sauce, green salad, wasabeans, fermented asparagus, and hard cheeses

I set to experimenting and came up with something good. But then I made it the night before for Thanksgiving and was a disappointed with how it came out. I’d also experimented with leaving some of the chestnuts unprocessed, and didn’t like the way that worked. I tried again for Christmas, and finally struck the perfect balance between getting the prep work out of the way and having a delicious dressing with our meal!

All my measurements are approximate, I’m an improvisational cook:

Chestnut Dressing

2 lbs chestnuts
1 lb ground pork
3 cups chopped celery
1 onion
2 medium granny smith apples
1 bunch sage
3 tsp salt (to taste)
2 tsp paprika (to taste)
2 whole cloves garlic
1/2-1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp fat (duck, chicken or pork fat or ghee)

Prep the Chestnuts
This is my favorite video on how to prep chestnuts because it shows good slicing technique:

Chestnuts in food processor before adding stock

Chestnuts in food processor before adding stock

I did mine a bit differently:

  1. Fill an 8 quart or larger pot about 3/4 of the way with water, and bring it to a boil.
  2. Turn off the heat, dump the chestnuts in, and cover. Let sit for about 2 hours.
  3. With a serrated knife, slice one line all the way across each chestnuts rounded side, and place on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, place all the chestnuts in a bowl so they will stay warm, and shell them.
  6. Process chestnuts in the food processor until they are evenly processed into 1/8 inch or less pieces
  7. Chestnuts in food processor after adding stock

    Chestnuts in food processor after adding stock

    Pour in 1/4 to 3/4 cup of chicken or other stock and a teaspoon or so of salt and continue processing. The chestnuts will turn almost pasty and start to ball up. You may want to stop before they are totally pasty, the texture will probably remind you of cornbread.
  8. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Prep the Sausage

  1. Finely chop the sage, and combine in a medium bowl with 2 pressed (or finely minced) cloves of garlic, 2 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of paprika. Add the ground pork and mix together thoroughly. Fry up a spoonful of the sausage to check the seasoning and alter your mixture to taste. You want the sausage to be a bit on the heavily seasoned side, so it won’t disappear in the stuffing.
  2. Make sure you leave chunks of sausage

    Make sure you leave chunks of sausage

    Cook the sausage in a cast iron pan, making sure to leave chunks that are at least 1 inch in diameter. Do not overcook.
  3. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

Prep the Other Ingredients

  1. Chop the celery into 1/2 inch pieces
  2. Chop the onion into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces
  3. Peel and chop the apples into 1/2 – 3/4 inch pieces
  4. Refrigerate each ingredient in a separate container if not using immediately

When you are ready to make the dressing:

Chestnut dressing ready to bake

Chestnut dressing ready to bake

  1. Preheat over to 350 (We usually have a bird roasting so the oven is already going)
  2. Melt fat in a pan on medium
  3. Add onion and celery
  4. Add about 1/2 cup stock
  5. Cook until onions are translucent and starting to caramelize. Salt lightly.
  6. Combine all ingredients – chestnut mixture, cooked pork sausage, chopped apples, and celery mixture in a large bowl.
  7. Fill baking dish with the mixture. I used a 9×9 pan and had some mixture left over for a smaller dish. Leave at least 1/2 inch at the top of the dish.
  8. Bake uncovered for about 10-15 minutes. The top should start to get crispy. Turn the top into the mixture and return to oven. Repeat at least twice. Deeper dishes will need more stirring and cooking, so that it doesn’t end up soupy. The idea is to create texture throughout the dish.
  9. Remove from oven when the top is crispy again (about 45 minutes).
Chestnut dressing ready to eat

Chestnut dressing ready to eat

This is part of Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Weekend Gourmet, Real Food Wednesdays, Friday Food Flicks on Traditional Foods, Momnivore’s Dilema’s Creative Juice, Allergy Friendly Fridays, Seasonal Inspriation, Full Plate Thursday, and Made From Scratch Monday, Grateful GAPS Holiday Foods!

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15 comments to Chestnut Stuffing

  • Thanks for this recipe. Christmas was really hard for me, because I”m still on Phase 2 of the intro GAPS diet. I did “cheat” and have some bacon, coffee and a little bit of real whole milk. I was really desperate yesterday….because as much as I’m LOVING the meat broths, with veggies etc…it was not festive for me :) :) Well,otherwise, I survived and I’m back on track :) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

    • Joy

      I’m sorry Christmas was hard for you. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling better and further along in the stages. Then you can roast yourself up a chicken and have a proper feast. I don’t recommend trying chestnuts until you are out of intro and doing well with it, though. Let me know when you finally try it!

  • Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

    http://realfoodforager.com/2011/12/fat-tuesday-december-27-2011/

  • What an awesome recipe! Will definitely need to try it for holiday gatherings.

  • Great idea- love this! I will definitely give it a try :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi Joy,
    This is a great stuffing. Often time some of our best recipes are created out of need. I am like you I just have to have my stuffing, and you have brought an awesome solution. Thank you so much for sharing on our 1st Anniversary Party for Full Plate Thursday. Hope you are having a great week end and come back soon!
    Miz Helen

  • Wow! This is an amazing recipe! Who would have ever thought to use chestnuts? My daughter was never big on stuffing, but it is a totally different story when it comes to my husband and son. They have certainly missed that part of the meal over the last 3 yrs :) I will have to give this a try. One thing I just have to say is I wonder if anyone realizes the extra time it takes to prepare a gluten/allergy free meal most times…people have become so used to popping a ‘Stove Top’ Stuffing in the microwave that it seams so unrealistic to them to have to prepare something from scratch. I’ll bet that this stuffing beats anything that ever came out of a box :) Thanks for dropping your link!

    • Joy

      This stuffing is definitely a labor of love! Prepping chestnuts is a lot of work. Using chestnuts in stuffing wasn’t an original idea on my part, but usually those recipes just have them as a flavor and still involve bread, or the texture is completely different. I will say, the sausage is an integral part of this recipe, and the stirring is critical. Do it right, though, and the results are amazing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

      I think a huge part of the problem many people have when going gluten-free is looking for those boxed substitutes. Not only are they not as safe as you’d think from a cross-contamination perspective, they’re not aiding in healing from the damage done, either.

      Real, nourishing foods take more planning and more effort. Despite all that, I feel blessed that our health problems set us solidly on this path. The health benefits beyond just eliminating an allergen are something I wish all people could enjoy!

      • Joy, it amazes me how easy everything has become in the US. I remember growing up having home cooked meals every day. I don’t believe I ever went to a MacDonald’s until I was 16 yrs old. Now a days, it seems that fast food has become the way of life for the majority of parents. Certainly understandable when you consider running your children from one activity to another.
        But, I also believe that parents have become lazy, to some extent. Fast food and pick-up foods to eat at home are so much easier and no one really stops to consider the health aspect of it. I am guilty of that myself. It wasn’t until Michaela was diagnosed that I started reading labels. I remember I told my husband that I couldn’t believe how unhealthy I was eating all these years, even though foods had been advertised as ‘healthy’. When I started paying attention to what was in the items I was buying, I quickly realized that I wanted to go about this another way. Making meals from scratch takes so much more time, especially at the beginning. But, once you have gotten the knack of it, it becomes second nature and goes much faster. My problem is that I don’t always feel like making ‘vegan mayo’ when I’m in the middle of a recipe and I run out. Then I remind myself what is in the store bought brand and how much it costs. It doesn’t take me but a minute, literally, to make it. I just have to motivate myself :)

  • I am in the midst of chopping and prepping this for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I wondered if anyone had played around with adding egg to it? I am trying to come close to the Southern cornbread based dressing consistency, so I wanted to try to throw in some egg. Any thoughts on that?

    • Joy

      Good luck, Kristine. I don’t think egg would make it more like cornbread. Egg would probably mostly work as a binder if added to this recipe. I don’t think it would hurt, but I don’t think it would help in the way you would like, either.
      For a more cornbread type consistency, grain-free, one of the nut bread/nut meal based stuffings might work better.
      Anyway, I hope you let me know how it turns out!
      Good luck :)

  • Well, maybe just having that eggy flavor would be reminiscent. I may hard boil a couple and toss them in there. THANKS for the feedback!

  • I did add some chopped hard boiled eggs (2) just before cooking. The dressing was amazing! I love that it add a sweet smokiness to the meal. A definite make-again! Thanks.

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