Help! I’ve fallen in love with Brussels sprouts and can’t get up. And now I’m going to bring you down with me!
I hated Brussels sprouts as a kid. Despised them. Loathed them. You could beg and plead, offer me bribes but I would keep my mouth shut. Those little green cabbages were not my friends.
It wasn’t until I attended culinary school that I fell in love with them, caramelized green and golden, dripping with bacon and sweet, sweet cranberries.
So, how can you fall in love with Brussels Sprouts too? We’ve got 13 things you can do to make Brussels sprouts taste better than ever.
1) Do: Add fat
Brussels sprouts are known for having a bitter flavor. Using a bit of fat either when cooking or just before serving can help remove some of that. Well, it doesn’t remove the bitterness. What it does is coat the tongue (and taste buds) lightly making the bitter less easy to detect. Fat and bitter really play off each other well. Fats to try with Brussels sprouts are butter, bacon fat or olive oil. Or drizzle with some heavy cream just before serving. Mmm. Geez.
2) Do: Add salt
You’ve heard about adding salt to a bad cup of coffee to make it less bitter, right? We don’t think that actually works (although we haven’t tested it. Yet.) but we do know that salt takes down the bitterness of Brussels sprouts. It’s not entirely clear how or why salt counters bitterness, but it does. Make sure you salt Brussels sprouts at the beginning of the cooking process. And then go in with a good pinch of sea salt or kosher salt before serving. You can also add ingredients like bacon or pancetta for their added salt effect.
3) Do: Add sweet
Why do people put sugar in their coffee? Because it cuts down the bitterness. Sweet flavors to put with sprouts are apples, dried cranberries, apple juice/cider, sweet white wine, basil, flat leaf parsley, sugar, brown sugar maple syrup and molasses.
4) Do: Add sour
Sourness in a dish really helps to balance the flavors. To cut through the strong flavor of Brussels sprouts try adding lemon juice, a tangy Dijon mustard, a splash of dry white wine, cider vinegar or a drizzle of your favorite salad dressing.
5) Do: Add cheese
Cheese is fatty and it’s also salty so it totally helps with the whole bitterness problem. Salty and/or creamy cheeses are your best bet. Go with goat cheese, an aged Cheddar, pecorino, or creamy ricotta.
6) Do: Roast ’em
High, dry heat is perfect for Brussels sprouts because it caramelizes the vegetable, making it sweeter. Remember, sweet is good here. Try this Roasted Brussels Sprouts Gratin for an easy delicious side.
7) Do: Boil ’em
Boiled or steamed Brussels sprouts can be great. But they can also be bad. The trick is to not overcook them. We can’t give you an exact time here because sprouts are different sizes. You’re looking at simmering for around 4-7 minutes though. Be sure to test often to make sure they aren’t getting to soft. Our favorite way to incorporate boiled Brussels sprouts into dinner is by boiling the sprouts along with pasta, but just for the last few minutes of the pasta cooking time. Here’s a recipe for Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Pesto and Pecorino that will show you how to do it.
8) Do: Eat ’em raw
Shred Brussels sprouts with a mandolin or a grater and create a light and refreshing slaw or salad. This Brussels sprouts slaw has a vibrant citrus dressing and pecans for a bit of crunch.
9) Do: Sauté ’em
Add some sweetness to Brussels sprouts by sautéing and caramelizing them with a little bit of olive oil or butter. Our Brussels sprouts with peaches and bacon are a perfect example of the sauté method.
10) Do: Braise ’em
Braise Brussels sprouts on the stove by first sautéing them in a bit of fat, then finishing off with a quick simmer in a flavorful liquid, just until tender. White wine or apple juice are great picks. Here’s a recipe where they’re braised with apples and then simmered in apple juice. There are chestnuts in there too (FYI, Brussels sprouts and chestnuts are a classic pairing!).
11) Do: Nuke ’em
Get Brussels sprouts on the table fast by placing them in a microwave-safe bowl. Add two tablespoons water, a bit of seasoning (you can never go wrong with salt & pepper) and cover. Microwave on high for 4-6 minutes or until just tender.
12) Do: add flavor
Brussels sprouts by themselves, with a bit of butter, salt and pepper, are going to be fabulous for people who already love them. For people who don’t, you want to add other flavors to make them more palatable. Ingredients that taste great with Brussels sprouts are apples, bacon, chives, chestnuts, dill, fennel seeds, garlic (LOTS!), nutmeg, paprika, white wine, butter, peaches, pesto and orange zest.
13) Don’t: Overcook ’em
Brussels sprouts get mushy, messy and, above all, smelly when overcooked. Err on the side of al dente if you can.
(The exception to this is if you roast them at a high temperature (400ºF) until really dark on the outside and super-soft in the middle (about 40-45 minutes). Those are possibly overcooked but I have never ever heard anyone complain. Just make sure to include lots of olive oil and a good dousing of kosher salt before roasting them).