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Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

These Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts are a super easy appetizer with big-time flavor. They’re perfect for the holidays or any occasion…but make plenty, because they’ll disappear fast!

Want an appetizer recipe that’ll knock everyone’s socks off? This. Is. It! Crunchy water chestnuts are wrapped in bacon and then covered in a sticky, sweet and spicy glaze. They’re positively addicting!

These classic hors d’oeuvres are a variation on rumaki, which is a very similar recipe (except that rumaki also includes pieces of chicken liver…not an ingredient I would enjoy, but I’m sure many people do).

I was introduced to them several years ago when my sister-in-law, Annie, brought them to a family Thanksgiving dinner. And I’ll admit that, even though they looked absolutely delicious, I was a little hesitant to try them at first.

Why? Because, up until that point, I thought I didn’t like water chestnuts (I always plucked every single one out of my Chinese takeout).

But these…these were different. They smelled fabulous and were covered in that wonderful dark red glaze. And let’s not forget the bacon (bacon makes everything better, right?). So I had to try at least one.

I loved it! It was, seriously, one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth. Crunchy, chewy, savory, salty, smoky, tangy, and sweet…all in one amazing bite!

I made my way back to that dish so many times. I could have eaten every single one.

Of course I asked for the recipe, because I most definitely didn’t want to wait for another holiday to enjoy them again, and I’ve been making them ever since (I also no longer pick the water chestnuts out of my Chinese food).

And because David and I often enjoy a spicy kick to our food, I decided to add some sriracha to the sauce. WOW, it took these babies right over the top! The sweet and the heat are a perfect match!

sweet and spicy bacon wrapped water chestnuts in a serving dish garnished with parsley

Ingredients you need:

  • Canned whole water chestnuts
  • Bacon (not thick-cut)
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Sriracha
  • Chopped fresh parsley (for garnish, optional)

Both the water chestnuts and sriracha can be found in the Asian food section of your grocery store.

Special equipment needed:

  • Plain, sturdy wooden toothpicks (don’t use toothpicks that have plastic or paper frills or decorations, as those parts can catch fire in the oven)

Fun Fact:

Water chestnuts are not chestnuts (or nuts) at all!

Native to Southeast Asia, they are an aquatic vegetable (a tuber) that resemble chestnuts in how they look, but they actually come from a grass-like plant that grows in freshwater marshes. The part that we eat grows underground and is called the corm.

Here’s a look at how to make Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts:

Note: This is just a quick overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe with detailed instructions.

two images; one a graphic of an oven with text that says preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit; the other of water chestnuts in a colander with text that says drain the water chestnuts
2 images; one of cut bacon slices on a cutting mat with a knife with text that says cut the bacon slices into thirds; the other of wrapped water chestnuts on the cutting with the bacon and a bowl of water chestnuts with text that says wrap each chestnut with 1 piece bacon, secure with a toothpick
bacon wrapped water chestnuts in a white baking dish with text that says place wrapped water chestnuts in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish; the other a graphic of an oven with text that says 375 degrees Fahrenheit, bake for 25 minutes
2 images; one of a pot of sauce on the stove with text that says meanwhile heat sauce ingredients; the other of the sauce poured over the wrapped chestnuts in the baking dish with text that says remove dish from oven, spoon sauce over the chestnuts
2 images; one a graphic of an oven with text that says return to oven, bake an additional 25 minutes; the other of the finished bacon wrapped water chestnuts in the baking dish with text that says or until the bacon is lightly crisp but still chewy, enjoy

Tips & Tidbits:

  • Make sure you use whole water chestnuts; the sliced ones are too small.
  • Don’t use thick-cut bacon. It will take too long to cook and crisp up.
  • The number of slices of bacon that you need will depend on how many water chestnuts are in your cans. My two cans had a total of 26 chestnuts, so I needed 9 slices cut into thirds (a little more than ½ pound). You might need a few less or more.
  • These aren’t super spicy, but you can omit the sriracha if you’d rather a not-spicy version (and they are still awesome!).
  • The toothpicks can get blackened and sticky if sauce gets on them or just blackened from the heat of the oven (see the last step-by-step photo). If you don’t mind that, leave them as is. If you do, you can always replace them with fresh toothpicks before serving (which is what I did) or you can simply just remove them.
    • To help prevent blackening from the oven heat, try soaking the toothpicks in water for 30 minutes before using (I didn’t soak my toothpicks).
  • Serve these right from the baking dish in the sauce or take them out of the sauce and serve them on a warmed plate.
  • Best when served immediately while still hot or warm, but I will say that they are still fantastic even once they start to cool off.
  • That being said, always remember food safety! Since these have bacon, don’t let them sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • If you have any leftovers (we never do!), store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat in a 325°F oven just until heated through. They are just as delicious reheated!
a hand grabbing a sweet and spicy bacon wrapped water chestnut off of the plate

I’m telling you, just watch and see how people keep coming back for more and more of these. They’re irresistible!

I hope you try this Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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sweet and spicy bacon wrapped water chestnuts on a white plate

Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

These Sweet and Spicy Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts are a super easy appetizer with big-time flavor. They're perfect for the holidays or any occasion…but make plenty, because they'll disappear fast!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 26 (approximate; serving size of 1 each)
Estimated Calories: 52

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) cans whole water chestnuts
  • 9 slices bacon, not thick-cut
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha, add more or less to taste
  • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Special Equipment

  • plain, sturdy wooden toothpicks (don't use toothpicks that have any plastic or paper frills or decorations)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Drain the water chestnuts.
  • Cut the bacon slices into thirds.
  • Wrap each water chestnut in one piece of the bacon; secure the bacon with a toothpick.
  • Place the wrapped water chestnuts in a 9×13-inch baking dish; bake for 25 minutes.
  • While the water chestnuts are baking, combine the dark brown sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and sriracha in a small pot; heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, just until warmed through and the sugar has melted.
  • Remove the baking dish from the oven and spoon the sauce over the water chestnuts, making sure each one is nicely covered (try not to get the sauce on the toothpicks).
  • Return the baking dish to the oven and continue baking for another 25 minutes or until the bacon is cooked through and lightly crisp but still chewy.
  • Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley, if desired; serve immediately.

Notes

  • The toothpicks can get blackened and sticky if sauce gets on them or just blackened from the heat of the oven. If you don’t mind that, leave them as is. If you do, you can always replace them with fresh toothpicks before serving or you can simply just remove them. To help prevent blackening from the oven heat, try soaking the toothpicks in water for 30 minutes before using.
  • Not into spicy food? Omit the sriracha. 
  • Serve right from the baking dish in the sauce or take them out of the sauce and serve them on a warmed plate.
  • Remember food safety! Since these have bacon, don’t let them sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
  • If you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat in a 325°F oven just until heated through.
  • Estimated calories shown are for 1 bacon-wrapped water chestnut.
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