Chestnut and Fennel Soup

Chestnut soup with roasted chestnuts, fennel, onions, apples, celery, and a dollop of sour cream.

chestnut fennel soup
Elise Bauer

Years ago an aikido friend of mine and I travelled to Shikoku, a Southern island of Japan.

On a brisk walk one day, we discovered the path covered with chestnuts. We gathered a bunch and took them back to where we were staying.

Not knowing exactly how to cook them, but having seen plenty of NYC vendors with pans of hot chestnuts in them, we decided to pan roast them. We placed the chestnuts in a single layer in a large frying pan and put them on high heat.

I bet you can guess what happened next?

A few minutes into our little experiment the chestnuts started exploding, like popcorn, all over the kitchen.

It was all we could do to avoid getting hit by these blazing hot, golf ball-sized projectiles.

Who knew you had to score the shells first? Still, after the mess, I still remember how good those chestnuts were.

American chestnut trees once filled our eastern forests, but were all but wiped out by blight in the early 1900s. These days most of the sweet chestnuts we buy come from Europe, though there are organizations such as the American Chestnut Foundation working to breed blight-resistant chestnut trees.

chestnut fennel soup
Elise Bauer

So, about this chestnut soup.

My first introduction to chestnut soup came from Dorie Greenspan in her Around My French Table cookbook. Have you ever tried chestnut soup? It's utterly delicious.

I've seen chestnut soups with apples, pears, mushrooms; all work well with this sweet, earthy nut. For this soup, I decided to pair the chestnuts with fennel, whose natural sweetness and hints of anise work beautifully with the chestnuts.

I have found when cooking with chestnuts, already prepared (jarred or packaged) chestnuts work best because of the consistency of texture and flavor.

Packaged roasted chestnuts can be hard to find though. I searched 3 stores before finding a few jars. They can be found online though, and you can always roast the chestnuts yourself (remember to score them first!)

Chestnut and Fennel Soup

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 60 mins
Total Time 75 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings

The recipe works best with packaged cooked chestnuts. However, if those are not available, you can easily prepare chestnuts from scratch if you want. Cut a cross, about 1/8 inch deep and wide enough to go to the edges of one side of the chestnut, into the shells (so steam can escape), place on a baking tray cut side up, and roast for 30-35 minutes at 350°F. Cool until cool enough to handle, but still warm, and peel off the shells. This soup has a tendency to thicken over time, so dilute it with water as needed.


  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)

  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 2 large ribs)

  • 4 cups chopped fennel (about 2 large bulbs)

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • 2 good cooking apples (Fuji. Jonagold, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, or Braeburn would be good, do NOT use red delicious), peeled, cored, and chopped

  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)

  • 15 to 16 ounces peeled roasted chestnuts (jarred is best), chopped (do NOT use water chestnuts)

  • 4 cups chicken stock (low sodium)

  • 3 cups water

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Pernod or Ricard pastis (optional)

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sour cream (more or less to taste)

  • Sprigs fennel fronds, for garnish


  1. Cook the onion, celery, and fennel:

    Melt butter in a large, thick-bottomed pot (6 to 8 qt) on medium heat. Stir in the chopped onion, celery, and fennel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and the fennel and celery softened, about 10 minutes.

    cook onions celery fennel for chestnut soup
    Elise Bauer
  2. Add the chestnuts, apples, thyme, and liquids:

    Stir in the chopped roasted chestnuts, chopped apples, and thyme. Add the chicken stock and water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

    stir in chestnuts and apples for chestnut soup
    Elise Bauer
    add stock to chestnut soup
    Elise Bauer
    cook chestnut soup
    Elise Bauer
  3. Purée the soup:

    Working in batches, purée in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Remember to fill the blender bowl no more than halfway, and keep your hand pressing down on the top of the blender lid, or the pressure from blending the hot liquid may cause the soup to splatter everywhere.

  4. Adjust the seasoning, add Pernod and/or sour cream:

    If too thick, add more water to thin to the consistency you desire. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the Pernod or Pastis if using (or other anise flavored liqueur).

    Either stir in sour cream, or dilute the sour cream and drizzle over the bowls at service.

    Serve hot, garnished with fennel fronds.


Chestnut and Mushroom Soup from A Communal Table

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
259 Calories
8g Fat
45g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 259
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Cholesterol 16mg 5%
Sodium 442mg 19%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 7g 23%
Total Sugars 17g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 26mg 129%
Calcium 73mg 6%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 781mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.