For People Who Think They Don’t Like Brussels Sprouts
You probably know how to eat Brussels sprouts, right? Just politely push those little cabbage cubs around your plate. Then pretend to forget them.
Well, good news: You can stop playing with your food now. Because Roast Brussels Sprouts are actually edible. Delicious, even.
I know you may find that hard to believe. But that’s probably because the only Brussels sprouts you’ve encountered have been overcooked. As in, boiled to death. And the truth is, if you cook Brussels sprouts too long, they turn into a stinky mess. Nobody wants to eat a vegetable that’s been so badly mistreated.
Unlike lengthy boiling, roasting brings out the best in Brussels sprouts. Roasting deepens and concentrates flavor, highlighting an inner sweetness that boiling obscures. And roasting reveals hidden depths of flavor that most people find irresistible.
It’s a good thing Brussels sprouts are plentiful and inexpensive in the fall and winter, so you can indulge in your new favorite vegetable. And with Thanksgiving later this week, they’re a great green veggie choice for your festive dinner.
Roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook this healthy and nutritious vegetable. And they taste so great, even your most finicky eater will be asking for seconds. Maybe thirds.
Recipe: Roast Brussels Sprouts
Roasting Brussels sprouts (or most other vegetables) is simple: Just toss cut-up veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper before popping them into the oven. Include some herbs or garlic if you want to add a bit of flavor interest.
You can roast almost any vegetable at oven temperatures ranging from 300 to 500 degrees F. I prefer 400 - 425 for Brussels sprouts. They take longer to cook at lower temperatures, while at higher temperatures they have a tendency to char somewhat (which I sometimes regard as a good thing, although if you overdo it they may develop some of the flavor characteristics that people find unpleasant). You can roast Brussels sprouts whole, but I find they cook faster and more evenly if I cut them in half lengthwise, or even into quarters.
I usually figure a pound of Brussels sprouts will yield 4 to 6 servings. But people often want seconds on this dish, so adjust accordingly. It’s easy enough to double or triple this recipe, if necessary. I prefer to buy Brussels sprouts loose so I can select ones that are all the same size.
In the fall, you can also buy them on the stalk, which is rather nice. Many supermarkets sell Brussels sprouts in little baskets. Be aware that these often contain about 10 ounces of Brussels sprouts, enough for 4 smallish servings.
This recipe serves 4 and takes 5 to 10 minutes of preparation time, plus 20 to 25 minutes oven time. You probably won’t have leftovers. But if you do, they’ll store well in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few days.
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts (see Notes for purchasing tips)
- ~2 tablespoons pure olive oil (just enough to coat each piece lightly; see Notes)
- salt to taste (I prefer kosher salt)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- optional garlic, dried thyme, or other herb/spice (see Notes for discussion)
- optional balsamic vinegar for garnish (see Notes)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (or any temperature from 300 to 500; but roasting time will vary; see Notes).
- Wash Brussels sprouts and trim off any discolored leaves. Trim about 1/8 of an inch from the stem – just enough to remove any discoloration. Cut each head in half lengthwise, or into quarters (you want them to be bite-size).
- Place Brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Add olive oil and salt, pepper, and optional herb to taste. Toss to coat the sprouts with oil and flavorings.
- Spread the Brussels sprouts on a large rimmed baking sheet or in a casserole baking dish. You want the pieces to be in one layer, and not touching (to promote even cooking). Use a baking sheet/dish that’s just large enough to hold the sprouts in one layer. Don’t worry when some of the leaves fall off (they always do); they’ll just brown up and become deliciously crisp.
- Roast for 10 minutes, then stir or toss to turn over and promote even cooking. Continue roasting until they are tender throughout, but not mushy. At 425 degrees, this usually takes 20 to 25 minutes, so I start checking at 20 minutes.
- If you want a bit more char on your Brussels sprouts, run the baking pan under the broiler for a few minutes until you achieve the result you desire.
- Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve. I often sprinkle balsamic vinegar on my sprouts before serving.
- When buying Brussels sprouts, look for ones that are bright green with tight, compact heads. You don’t want to see heads that are discolored (yellowed) or with loose leaves.
- If you’re roasting meat, this dish (or any roast vegetable) is an ideal accompaniment, because it will cook at any temperature you’re likely to use for cooking the meat.
- Oven temperature affects how quickly Brussels sprouts roast. At 500 degrees, it could take as little as 15 minutes (though 20 is usually more like it). At 300 degrees, they may need 40 minutes or even longer. So test early and often to determine when your Brussels sprouts are done.
- After oven temperature, the factor that will most affect roasting time is the size of your Brussels sprouts. So although you don’t have to cut them into halves or quarters, remember that they’ll take longer to roast if you don’t.
- You can use more or less olive oil than called for in Step 3, depending on the flavor you want. If you prefer a really low-fat dish, you can get by without using any olive oil, although the Brussels sprouts will be somewhat dry, and also less flavorful. If you go the “no olive oil” route, spray the baking sheet with baking spray to reduce sticking.
- I use “pure” olive oil (the cheap stuff) because the aroma of extra virgin dissipates during the long roasting time — so IMO you’re wasting money if you use this.
But extra virgin olive oil has wonderful flavor. So you may want to sprinkle some on the Brussels sprouts when you remove them from the oven to boost their flavor.
- Sprinkling balsamic vinegar over the Brussels sprouts just before serving is another nice flavor boost.
- Brussels sprouts are also terrific when combined with smoky flavors, like bacon. Sauté some bacon pieces while the sprouts are roasting, then add the bacon (along with a bit of the rendered fat) to the sprouts when they’re ready to serve.
- Another way to boost flavor is to add some minced garlic to the Brussels sprouts in Step 3 when tossing with oil. Two or three cloves of garlic is about right, IMO.
- You can also add fresh or dried herbs (I like dried thyme) or spices. Use about 1 teaspoon (half that if you want only a hint of flavor) and toss with oil in Step 3.
- Brussels sprouts (or their close kin) have been around for thousands of years. An ancestor probably was grown in Rome at the time of the Caesars. Nowadays, they’re most often associated with Belgium (in French they’re called choux de bruxelles, or “Brussels cabbages”). The Brussels sprouts we know today date back to the 16th century.
- Brussels sprouts handle frost well, so they’re particularly tasty in late fall and early winter.
Coming Up: Cookies and Cocktails
In the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. And as soon as we clear our plates, many of us will start thinking about the winter festivals of Christmas and Hanukkah.
It’s a time of year when people entertain family and friends, so they’re looking for special treats to serve. And here at Kitchen Riffs, we’re ready to help! Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring recipes for two holiday favorites: cookies and cocktails.
Why cookies? Because even people who seldom bake (or eat) them are likely to do both as Christmas approaches.
And cocktails? Because in the US, December is the biggest sales month of the year for liquor stores as we all stock up to celebrate the season.
So beginning next week, we’ll feature a cookie and a cocktail every week. You may be familiar with some of the recipes, but I can almost guarantee that others will be new to you.
And you'll want to make them all.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Roast Sweet Potatoes
Roast Belgian Endive
Stir-Fry with Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry Relish with Jalapeño
Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Baking Powder Biscuits