These Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts are a crispy, crunchy nibbler destined for greatness on your next buffet table. A nostalgic cocktail classic that will have everyone raving!
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You know how ranch dressing makes everything better? Well, everything’s even better-er wrapped in bacon!
These Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts are a perfect little bite that will have your flavor buds singing. Sweet and salty, crispy and crunchy. Betcha can’t eat just one!
Should you try water chestnuts wrapped in bacon? Why not!
We love draping bacon over jalapenos (or adding some inside them – Cream Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers), crafting bacon belts for asparagus and tater tots, or even making bacon-flavored meat like hotdogs and steak. Bacon Wrapped Smokies, anyone?
It’s crispy, smoky, and salty – a combination guaranteed to make any savory dish better, and, believe it or not, even some sweet pairings like bacon-dotted chocolate chip cookies benefit from a few crumbles.
Combine bacon with the unique crunch of water chestnuts, and you’ve got a match made in foodie heaven.
Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts is essentially a simple take on rumaki, a Polynesian-inspired hors d’oeuvre that became really popular in the 1950s and 60s. Rumaki still has a bit of a culinary cult following and even made a couple of cameo appearances in Mad Men.
Okay, side note, Anyone else besides me LOVE Mad Men? Who was your favorite character?
WHAT IS RUMAKI MADE OF?
Rumaki is made by stuffing a chicken liver with a water chestnut, then wrapping it in bacon and baking until crispy. The sauces vary a bit, but most have some combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger.
You won’t find any chicken livers in my Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, which both simplifies the prep and reduces the calorie-count compared to its rumaki origins. At the center of both recipes, though, is the mysterious water chestnut.
If you eat much Chinese takeout, you’ve likely had those mildly flavored, crunchy bits in a stir fry, but what exactly is a water chestnut? As you might suspect, it’s not a nut at all. Water chestnuts are the corm (a fancy word for underwater bulb) of a plant that grows in muddy bogs. The corms do resemble chestnuts in shape and color but don’t have to be roasted to be ready to eat.
CAN YOU EAT RAW WATER CHESTNUTS?
Raw water chestnuts are edible and have a slightly sweet, fruity flavor and crisp texture that makes many people actually prefer the fresh, uncooked version. In China, they’re sold by street vendors as a popular snack.
Canned water chestnuts are what most of us are used to, a version that’s been peeled and blanched before making their way to the grocery store shelves. If you visit an Asian supermarket in your area, though, you’ll find fresh ones in the produce section.
If you can find fresh and want to use them for this recipe, they’ll roast up beautifully. The canned ones are definitely easier to find, though, and obviously easier to prep for cooking with, so that’s what I use.
My recipe for Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut appetizers only has five ingredients and we’ve already talked about one. Next is the bacon, and we’ll use little pieces to wrap each of our water chestnuts in a salty blanket.
Some recipes suggest pre-cooking the bacon a bit so it’ll crisp more quickly once it gets put in the oven, but I find that’s not only unnecessary but a bit of a pain. Cold bacon holds its shape much better, which means it’s easier to blanket the water chestnuts. If it’s softened, it requires a bit more wrestling.
The water chestnuts will cook long enough in the oven to ensure a nice crispy exterior, so you don’t have to worry about sad, soggy bacon.
HOW LONG DO YOU COOK BACON WRAPPED WATER CHESTNUTS?
To cook Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts, you’ll place them in the oven for 10 minutes, then add the sauce and cook for about another hour. Once it’s done, the bacon will be crispy and each morsel will be infused with all the wonderful flavors of the sauce.
The sauce is super simple, just a few ingredients that work really well with the cured pork product: ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar.
Other cooks keep with the rumaki theme, and when they make Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts soy sauce is the first thing they reach for. Soy definitely adds a wonderful umami flavor to this dish, but I think Worcestershire sauce, which has so many different uses all on its own, has a lot more to offer in the flavor department.
That impossible-to-pronounce sauce has anchovies that add a salty quality, tamarind (which resemble tart dates), garlic, and a touch of chilies to bring a little heat. When you mix it with ketchup, it really produces a pretty complex sauce, especially considering we’re only talking about two items from your fridge!
There are varying degrees of “sweet” for this dish depending on the cook.
Some recipes make a bacon wrapped water chestnuts pineapple version where you nestle a chunk of pineapple in with the water chestnut before wrapping. The added fruit changes the texture, though, and I really like this to be all about the crunch.
There are also bacon wrapped water chestnuts maple syrup versions, replacing some of the brown sugar with this liquid sweetener. I think the brown sugar is all you need and creates the perfect balance of sweet and salty.
Definitely, don’t skip the foil on the baking sheets in this recipe or else you’ll have an epic clean-up on your hands. Sugar really has a knack for ruining cookie sheets, and the foil makes clean-up a snap. Parchment paper will work too.
CAN YOU REHEAT BACON WRAPPED WATER CHESTNUTS?
If you’re thinking about serving these at a party, you may be wondering can you make Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts ahead of time. The answer is yes, and they can be reheated in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes.
I don’t like to cook these Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts slow cooker style because the bacon won’t get crispy. You can bake the water chestnuts and bacon until crispy, then add them with the sauce to the crockpot, but they still won’t turn out quite the same. The slow cooker is good at keeping them warm, though, after you’ve finished cooking them in the oven.
With five ingredients and minimal prep time, this is the perfect recipe to pull out for unexpected guests. You can also easily cut it in half if you’re having a Netflix and chill kinda night. Fair warning, though, they’re kind of like that canned potato chip. No one can eat just one!
RECIPE NOTES FOR BACON WRAPPED WATER CHESTNUTS:
Fire-free zone – If you’re worried about the toothpicks turning this into a flambé dish, you can soak them in cold water for 10 – 30 minutes before you need them. The water helps prevent the sticks themselves from getting too charred during the cooking process.
Bacon – Some like it fatty, some like it lean, but don’t use a thick-cut bacon in this recipe. It takes longer to cook and usually won’t crisp as well. There are some different “flavored” bacons you can experiment with though like Applewood smoked or black pepper-crusted.
I also don’t recommend reducing the fat here with turkey bacon since that’s both literally and figuratively a different animal altogether.
Spice things up – If you want to turn this into a spicy Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts recipe, you can make a Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts Sriracha version by adding 2 – 4 tablespoons to the sauce (or just serve some on the side).
You can also substitute a spicy ketchup for the plain ketchup or make Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts chili sauce style by replacing some of the ketchup with your favorite brand. A touch of cayenne mixed directly into the sauce will work as well.
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Bacon Wrapped Waterchestnuts
Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts- crispy, crunchy nibbler destined for greatness on your buffet table. A nostalgic cocktail classic that makes everyone raving!
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar Packed
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Cups Ketchup
- 1 Pound Bacon Slices Cut in Thirds
- 2 (8 Ounce) Cans Waterchestnuts Drained
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9X13 inch baking dish with aluminum foil.
Combine brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup until smooth.
Wrap each water chestnut with a bacon piece, overlapping ends, then securing with a toothpick. Place in a prepared baking dish in a single layer. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Drain off excess grease.
Pour the sauce over chestnuts then arrange in a single layer. Place back in the oven and continue to bake another 50-60 minutes, or until bacon crisps up.
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