Substitutes for Water Chestnuts

If you’re looking for some substitutes for water chestnuts in your Asian cooking or because you’re all out, then there are some interesting alternatives that you can use. In this article, we explore the best options.

What Are Water Chestnuts?

Water Chestnuts are an important ingredient in Chinese cooking. They’ve been grown and eaten in China for thousands of years. Belonging to a group of vegetables that grow in water known as aquatic tubers, water chestnuts are not nuts at all. They are only known as water chestnuts because their shape and color are similar to chestnuts. They make for a subtle, sweet additive to many different dishes.

Water Chestnuts are difficult to source outside of specialist markets and Asian grocery stores. So what if you can’t find them? Not to worry, there are several suitable water chestnut substitute options.

Water Chestnut Substitute: Best Options

1. White Turnips

White turnips are root vegetables, similar to parsnips. Turnips are typically farmed in cool-climate areas in different parts of the world. As a result, they’re easy to come by in local marketplaces and supermarkets.

The taste of turnips is close to that of fresh carrots or potatoes. And it can also be steamed, boiled, baked, or roasted. Turnips can be substituted for the more expensive water chestnuts in many dishes. And can add that sought-after water chestnut texture to soups, stews, stir-fries, and more.

As a guide, you can use fresh turnip as a substitute for water chestnuts at a ratio of 1:1. However, the amount you use depends on the type of dish you’re making and your personal taste. White turnips will add a mildly peppery taste, ideal for Asian dishes.

2. Canned Water Chestnuts

If fresh water chestnuts aren’t available, why not use canned water chestnuts instead? These should be available in most supermarkets. This way, you’ll obtain the same flavor and texture as using fresh water chestnuts. 

Therefore, it goes without saying that you can substitute fresh water chestnuts with canned chestnuts using the same quantity. And they can be cooked in exactly the same way.

3. Jerusalem Artichokes

Just like water chestnuts aren’t nuts, Jerusalem artichokes aren’t artichokes. In fact, Jerusalem artichokes are a type of sunflower that has brown skin and look similar to ginger. And they’re sometimes also called sunchokes. 

They taste sweet with a nutty flavor and crisp texture, making them a perfect substitute for water chestnuts. When using Jerusalem artichokes, make sure you wash them thoroughly first to remove any dirt. Then peel away the outer skin to use the white fleshy section inside. 

4. Jicama Slices

Jicama is also a root vegetable that has a golden-brown skin color. The skin is fragile, giving it a papery appearance. White flesh with a higher starch content makes up the inner surface. Jicamas are a Mexican delicacy that is also popular in Asia. 

These root vegetables are incredibly mild-tasting and are probably the closest in taste to water chestnuts. They’re also similar in texture to potatoes. These are a perfect substitute for water chestnuts, especially if your recipe calls for a large quantity. 

5. Celery

If you have a recipe that calls for water chestnuts but you don’t like the flavor, you can use celery as a substitute. Celery may not be a match in terms of flavor or texture. But it’s easy to find and will provide that bit of crunch you expect from the water chestnut.

It’s best to use the lower, whiter parts of the celery stem when using it as a substitute for water chestnuts. The distinct, sharp flavor of the celery is less impactful in this portion of the stem. It’s also advisable to add your celery toward the end of the cooking process. This is because celery cooks very quickly, and you want to maintain a bit of the crunchy texture.


No matter the reason that you need a water chestnut substitute, there are some interesting and somewhat exotic options that you can use. Some options on this list are easier to get hold of than others, like canned water chestnuts which might be ideal if you want to head to the local store.