Glossary of Foods: Water Chestnuts

Water chestnuts, also known as Chinese water chestnuts or water caltrops, are aquatic vegetables [...]

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Water chestnuts, also known as Chinese water chestnuts or water caltrops, are aquatic vegetables common in Chinese cuisine. These firm, mild vegetables are commonly mixed into your Chinese takeout and provide a little added crunch and wholesome vegetable goodness.

water chestnuts

Though they resemble chestnuts in shape and color, water chestnuts are the root of a grassy, aquatic plant grown in freshwater ponds, lakes, and streams. Grown widely in Asia, Australia, and tropical parts of Africa, these tubers can be difficult to harvest because of their unique growing conditions. The root of the plant, including the tuber, is completely submerged underwater, with the leaves of the plant sprouting above the water.

Raw, peeled water chestnuts have a firm white flesh that is crunchy and slightly sweet. After cooking, they are mild and slightly sweet. Even after they are harvested and cooked, water chestnuts remain firm. They are often canned or jarred to give them a longer shelf life. Canned or jarred water chestnuts are the easiest to find and most common way to use this veggie. It's possible to find fresh water chestnuts at an international market, but talk to your grocer to make sure they are really fresh!

Water chestnuts are low in calories and fat. In a half cup serving, there are zero grams of fat and only 60 calories. They are a good source of carbohydrates due to their slightly starchy texture and sweetness; plus, the tubers contain a moderate amount of fiber. Water chestnuts also contain a boost of nutrients, including 10 percent of your daily potassium and vitamin B6.


Interested in giving water chestnuts a try? Sliced water chestnuts work well in this Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry. Think fresh with this Asian Layered Salad that includes fresh veggies and water chestnuts. Get creative and add them to some of your favorite Skinny Mom dishes, like our take on these 11 other Chinese takeout favorites.