How to Cook Brussels Sprouts

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Fresh Brussels sprout in pile on table.

First of all, yes, it is Brussels sprouts, plural on the Brussels. I know, it seems weird. But there’s nothing weird about this amazing vegetable. Brussels sprouts are often cooked as a side dish, especially during the cold weather months. They are particularly popular as part of holiday meals such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Pile of fresh Brussels sprouts.

What Are Brussels Sprouts?

Brussels sprouts are part of the same species as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and collard greens, and they actually do indeed look like miniature cabbage. They date back to ancient Rome, but true to their name, they first gained popularity in the region of Brussels (thus the need for the ‘s’ and the reason it’s capitalized) in Belgium in the 13th century. Once they made their way to North America in the 18th century, they became a major crop in California. That state remains the largest U.S. grower of Brussels sprouts. 

Brussels sprouts grow on a large, thick stalk and look really cool if you can get your hands on a fresh one (you can order one here!). By the time most of us find them in the markets, the buds, or little heads, are taken off the stalk.

You might find them packaged in bags or even loose, sold in bulk by weight in the grocery store. However, some farmers markets and specialty markets sell Brussels sprouts on the stalk in peak season. It’s a fun conversation piece, and kids will find this fun and strange.

Seasoned, halved brussels sprouts in a glass bowl.

What Do Brussels Sprouts Look Like? 

Brussels sprouts are small, round, fairly bright green “mini-cabbages.” Like cabbage, they are made of many compacted layers of leaves. On the plant, a thick stalk holds a helical (which means having the shape of a helix, a spiral — I had to look that one up) pattern of mini cabbage-looking buds with the leaves getting larger on the outside.

Buying and Choosing Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts can be found in the produce section of general supermarkets year-round. They’re also sold in the frozen vegetable aisle. If you are lucky enough to live near where these are grown in the United States (mainly California), they are usually readily found at farmers markets and sometimes still on the stalk. 

When Are Brussels Sprouts in Season?

Brussels sprouts are grown in California from June through December but are generally readily available year-round. They are considered a cool weather crop, so often appear in local temperate regional farmers markets in the fall.

How Do I Pick the Best Brussels Sprouts?

All Brussels sprouts should be firm and bright in color. Make sure they are free of wilted leaves and bruises. Any damaged outer leaves can be removed, but try to find the freshest ones you can. The smaller the Brussels sprouts, the more tender and sweet it is (go for larger ones if you want a more cabbage-like flavor). 

Fresh Brussels sprout in pile on table.

What do Brussels Sprouts Taste Like?

Brussels sprouts can be a bit bitter in taste. Larger sprouts are more bitter and take on the flavors of cabbage, while smaller sprouts tend to be sweeter and more tender. Much of the taste of Brussels sprouts, however, really comes from the way they are cooked. Roasting and sautéing bring out their sweet and nutty flavors while boiling makes them “cabbagy.”

How to Prepare Brussels Sprouts

If you have a Brussels sprouts stalk, remove each bud by cutting right under the sprout. To prepare Brussels sprouts for any recipe, start by removing any outer leaves that are slightly browned or wilted. Trim the base of each Brussels sprout. 

However you plan to cook with them, selecting Brussels sprouts similar in size will ensure consistent cooking. If cooking whole large Brussels sprouts, cut small X‘s in the trimmed base of the sprouts, which helps them cook evenly by allowing heat to penetrate faster into the center.

Brussels sprouts can also be shredded, thinly sliced, or cut in half or quarters, depending on the size and the needs of the recipe.

If you want to shred or slice them, you can do this with a sharp knife and cutting board, use the slicing blade on a food processor, or use a small mandoline. You can also buy them pre-sliced or shaved.

Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts on a baking sheet.

How to Cook With Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are very versatile and delicious when prepared in a number of ways. Used raw, they are amazing when sliced thin and used in salads. They can also be steamed, boiled, sautéed, fried, roasted, and even pickled!

A word on steaming or boiling Brussels sprouts: Most people who hate Brussels sprouts have only eaten them steamed or boiled, and perhaps even overcooked. These are not my favorite Brussels sprouts cooking methods; when boiled and overcooked, their bitter flavor and limp texture are not very appealing.

The Best Ways to Cook Brussels Sprouts

Roasting and sautéing are the most popular methods used to enhance Brussels sprouts’ earthy, nutty, and sweet flavor. This can be done by simply adding minced garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil before cooking or tossing in some extra special ingredients like bacon, lemon, Parmesan, or shallots to get a different flavor profile. See below for lots of recipe ideas! Brussels sprouts — raw and thinly sliced or cooked — also work very well with light, acidic things like vinaigrettes drizzled over them.

4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Maple-Dijon Brussels Sprouts being spooned onto a plate with pork chop.
4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Maple-Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Storage

Since Brussels sprouts like cool temperatures, they store well. They will last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks when stored on the stalk and about 1 week if loose and stored in a bag or airtight container.

Brussels sprouts freeze very well (actually 85% of the U.S. Brussels sprouts harvest is for the frozen market, which is kind of amazing when you think about how many are sold fresh!). To freeze sprouts, blanch them by placing them briefly in a pot of boiling water, then drain and shock them in a bowl of ice water. Pat dry and freeze for up to a year. Or, you know, just buy them frozen.

Are Brussels Sprouts Nutritious?

And how! Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable high in vitamins A and C. They are also good sources of iron, fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants and are believed to reduce the risk of cancer.


15 Brussels Sprouts Recipes

I clearly LOVE Brussels sprouts, as evidenced below! I made a ton and often eat them as a main course. Here are several Brussels sprouts recipes to try.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad
5 from 1 vote

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Salad

This Brussels sprouts side can be served warm or room temperature. The salad has a great blend of textures.
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Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette / Mia / Katie Workman / themom100.com
5 from 2 votes

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

The anchovies do NOT make this dish taste fishy at all, they just add some umami depth of flavor. This is one of my favorite Brussels preparations.
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Bowl of Brussels sprouts.
5 from 2 votes

Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts

These are like roasted Brussels sprouts at their best, super crispy on the outside, and tender but not mushy on the inside. And they take just 15 minutes in the air fryer! Finish with Parmesan if desired.
View Recipe

4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Maple-Dijon Brussels Sprouts
5 from 1 vote

Slow Cooker Maple-Dijon Brussels Sprouts

During the holidays, we all love to find some hands-off sides. These Brussels sprouts side for the holidays or any cold-weather meal — and just require 4 ingredients.
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Woman adding mustard vinaigrette to a pan of brussels sprouts.
5 from 1 vote

Warm Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Mustard Vinaigrette

Mustard and bacon are two of the most perfect ingredients to pair with Brussels sprouts ever.

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Slaw / Carrie Crow / Katie Workman / themom100.com
5 from 6 votes

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Slaw

This is one of those slaw-salads that would be totally at home on a holiday table or a picnic blanket.
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Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts
5 from 1 vote

Best Parmesan Brussels Sprouts

When you add Parmesan to roasted Brussels sprouts, the result is nutty and savory. This dish is amazingly complex in flavor but amazingly simple to prepare.
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White plate of Shredded Brussel Sprouts on a yellow table.
5 from 1 vote

Shredded Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

One of the easiest ways to prepare Brussels sprouts, and also very fast.
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Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
5 from 1 vote

Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

And now for something a little different. Add these Chinese-inpsired Brussels sprouts to any Asian meal.
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Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi Dressing
5 from 2 votes

Kimchi Brussels Sprouts

This Korean-inspired Brussels sprouts recipe features gochujang and is nothing short of amazing.
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Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Toasted Bread Crumbs
5 from 1 vote

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Toasted Bread Crumbs

A fabulous chorizo-spiked breadcrumb topping provides lots of texture and flavor to these Brussels sprouts.
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Cheesy Baked Brussels Sprouts
5 from 8 votes

Cheesy Baked Brussels Sprouts

These are kind of like Brussels sprouts au gratin, and are substantial enough to serve as a meatless main course.
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Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts / Photo by Kerri Brewer / Katie Workman / themom100.com
5 from 1 vote

Bacon-Wrapped Brussels Sprouts

If you like Devils on Horseback, give these a try!
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Roasted Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts
5 from 2 votes

Roasted Honey Mustard Brussels Sprouts

These Brussels sprouts couldn't be easier to make but taste like something you'd order in a restaurant. Tender, with a burnished caramelized exterior, you should think about doubling the recipe.
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Brussels Sprouts, Pecorino and Apple Salad
5 from 2 votes

Brussels Sprouts, Pecorino, and Apple Salad

One of my favorite Brussels sprouts salads, with loads of different textures and flavors combining in every bite.
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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