The Top Alternatives to Water Chestnuts: Exploring the Best Substitutes

The best water chestnut substitutes

Water chestnuts are a popular ingredient in Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine, known for their delicate crunch and subtle flavor. They add a unique texture to dishes and can be used in a variety of recipes. However, they are not always readily available in local grocery stores. In such cases, it is helpful to know the best substitutes that can mimic the flavor, texture, and color of water chestnuts. This article explores several alternatives to water chestnuts, including white turnips, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and celery.

White Turnips

White turnips are an excellent substitute for water chestnuts. They are mild in flavor and do not have the strong peppery flavor of other turnips. White turnips are usually in season during the winter months, but may be available year-round in well-stocked produce departments. When using white turnips as a substitute for water chestnuts, it is best to use only the large bulb and remove any smaller roots or greens that may be attached. The mild and slightly sweet flavor of white turnip pairs well with other Asian cooking ingredients.


Jicama is another good alternative to water chestnuts. It has an extremely mild flavor that is very similar to that of water chestnuts. Like turnips, jicama is a root vegetable, but has a texture similar to a raw potato. When diced into small pieces, jicama can effectively mimic the texture, color, and flavor of water chestnuts. To maintain the crunchy texture of jicama, it is important not to overcook it. Short cooking times over high heat are preferable, as prolonged cooking can soften the texture and intensify the sweetness of the root. However, jicama should not be served raw, as its starchy nature can be unpleasant in the mouth.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, are a root vegetable that can be used as a substitute for water chestnuts, especially in cold dishes. Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes are not related to artichokes, but are a member of the sunflower family. When cooked, Jerusalem artichokes become soft and develop a mild artichoke heart flavor. When eaten raw, however, they retain their crunch and can be an excellent substitute for water chestnuts. Jerusalem artichokes are similar in appearance to ginger root and should be selected for their firm texture and smooth skin. Before using them as a substitute for water chestnuts, the skin should be removed and the root diced into small pieces.


While celery may not resemble water chestnuts in flavor or color, it is a readily available substitute that can add crunch and body to dishes. In recipes that call for water chestnuts, only a small amount is typically used to provide texture, and this is where celery can be used effectively. When using celery as a substitute, it is best to use the lower parts of the stalk, as the whiter parts have a less pronounced “green” celery flavor. Finely dicing or slicing the celery and adding it toward the end of the cooking time will help retain its crunch. Slicing celery crosswise can also minimize the appearance of its tough fibers.


While water chestnuts are a unique ingredient prized for their crunch and subtle flavor, they may not always be readily available. In such cases, white turnips, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes and celery can serve as suitable substitutes. Each of these alternatives offers its own unique flavor, texture, and color characteristics. White turnips offer a mild and slightly sweet flavor that complements Asian cuisine. Jicama is similar in flavor and texture to water chestnuts, but should be cooked briefly to retain its crunch. Jerusalem artichokes are an excellent choice for cold dishes because they mimic the crunch of water chestnuts when eaten raw. Finally, celery can add crunch and body to dishes that require a small amount of water chestnuts. By using these substitutes, you can still enjoy the unique qualities that water chestnuts bring to your culinary creations, even when they are not readily available.


Can I use white turnips instead of water chestnuts?

Yes, white turnips are an excellent substitute for water chestnuts. They have a mild flavor and a slightly sweet taste that goes well with Asian cuisine.

What is the texture of jicama when used as a water chestnut substitute?

When diced small, jicama can closely mimic the texture of water chestnuts. It has a crunchy texture that adds a pleasant crunch to dishes.

Are Jerusalem artichokes a good alternative to water chestnuts?

Yes, Jerusalem Artichokes can be a great substitute for water chestnuts, especially in cold dishes. They retain their crunch when eaten raw and offer a mild artichoke heart flavor when cooked.

Can celery be used as a substitute for water chestnuts?

While celery does not have the same flavor or color as water chestnuts, it can add crunch and body to dishes that call for water chestnuts. Using the lower parts of the stalk and finely dicing or slicing it can help retain its crunch.

Do these substitutes work well in Asian recipes?

Yes, these substitutes can work well in Asian recipes. They have flavors and textures that complement Asian cooking and can add a similar crunch and body to dishes that traditionally use water chestnuts.

Where can I find these alternatives?

White turnips, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, and celery can usually be found in well-stocked grocery stores or at local farmers’ markets. They may be seasonal, so it’s best to check for availability during their peak season.