If I say, “Name a nut!” you probably won’t say “Chestnuts!” I don’t think of them much, either — when I think “nuts,” I think of walnuts and pecans and pistachios and macadamias and peanuts and pretty much every other kind of nut except chestnuts. I’d probably think of Brazil nuts before chestnuts. But lately I’ve been using roasted chestnuts (as well as chestnut flour) in my dishes and have been quite enjoying a unique aspect of chestnuts, namely that they’re much more starchy and less oily than every other nut. That makes them well-suited for creating creamy, thick dishes like this pudding. And chestnut flour is fantastic for thickening custards, sauces, gravies, and anything else you’d normally use cornstarch to thicken. (Why make the switch? Chestnuts are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Corn is not. Chestnuts also provide a much nicer flavor backdrop and are not genetically modified. ‘Nuff said.)
Although chestnuts are treated as a holiday food and fresh chestnuts are more likely to be found around Thanksgiving and Christmas, vacuum-packed chestnuts can be found nearly year-round. The latter are far more convenient to use since they’ve been peeled and roasted. All you have to do is open the bag and then chop or puree them into whatever dish you’re making. For this pudding, I just whirled them through my food processor. Instant velvety pudding base! Old-fashioned pudding is lovely, too, but there’s something to be said for the no-cook version.
Chestnut Chocolate Pudding This makes 2 petite desserts. Feel free to double or triple as needed.
3 oz. peeled and roasted chestnuts OR avocado if you don’t have chestnuts and/or want to take this in a totally different direction
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably non-Dutched
1 T. maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 + 2 T. whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows OR whole coconut milk if you’d prefer a dairy-free version (shake the can well before opening, or plan on some thorough stirring; coconut milk separates while standing in the can)
Note: If you’re using a standard processor to make this, you might want to place the chestnuts in a bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let sit for 20 minutes, then drain. That will make the chestnuts softer and easier to blend. If you’re using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix to make the pudding, you can skip this step.
Place all ingredients in a food processor and whirl until well-blended, occasionally scraping down the sides of the processor. If the pudding is still too thick, add another 2 T. of milk.
If you’re using avocado in place of chestnuts, only use 1/4 cup milk rather than the 1/4 cup + 2 T. If the pudding is too thick, you can always add that extra 2 T. And if you’d like to make this dairy-free, use whole coconut milk in place of the whole dairy milk. Just be sure to get canned whole coconut milk and not one of those thin, sugary, pre-flavored coconut milks that are usually sold in milk cartons.
Leftover pudding can be refrigerated for 4 days. It makes a nice breakfast, too.