By Cassie Johnston
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Don’t believe the negative hype—I promise I can make you like Brussels sprouts. Yes, I realize that Bsprouts are so universally hated they’ve become a cliché that sitcoms use to torture kids at the dinner table. But even if you’ve tried them before and thought they were not-so-delicious, please read on, I have faith in your relationship with sprouts!
There are two big reasons why most folks say they don’t like Brussels sprouts—mushiness and stinkiness—and both of those issues come from improper cooking. That’s not the way good Brussels sprouts should taste!
When overcooked, Brussels sprouts turn mushy and release excess sulphur (the thing that makes cabbage and Brussels sprouts smell like cabbage and Brussels sprouts)—not good eats. When they are cooked perfectly, sprouts are sweet, a little crisp, and mildly-flavored. They are one of my favorite veggies in the whole wide world! Let me show you how to roast them perfectly (my preferred method of cooking).
Not all Brussels sprouts are the same. For the sweetest, mildest flavor, you’re looking for sprouts with tight, compact, bright green leaves. If the leaves have started to open up or turn brown, your sprouts are older and will be even more sulphur-y when cooking. Brussels sprouts are excellent storage crops—they’ll store up to two months after being harvested—which means there is no rush for growers to get the sprouts to the grocery store. The sprouts you buy from your grocery store might be weeks or months old.
A fun hint about Brussels sprouts (and all brassica veggies—kale, cabbage, etc.) – they actually taste sweeter if they’ve been hit with a frost or freeze while still on the plant. This almost never happens with grocery store sprouts, but you can get these frost-kissed sprouts at your local farmer’s market. Just head there after the first frost and ask anyone selling Brussels sprouts if they were harvested after the frost. Trust me. The difference is worth the effort. You’ve never tasted Brussels sprouts until you’ve tasted some fresh ones that have been hit by a freeze.
And, if you have the space, Brussels sprouts are relatively easy to grow on your own. They are a long season crop—meaning you basically grow them from frost-to-frost—but it’s worth the wait.
Most store-bought Brussels will have the stem mostly trimmed off, but if you want to really make sure there aren’t any woody parts, take a sharp knife and just lop off the bottom of the sprout.
To make cooking time a little quicker (and thus avoid over-sulphuring up the place), I like to slice my sprouts in half. This has the added bonus of giving more surface area to brown, caramelize and get exponentially more delicious.
When you slice your sprouts in half, any loose leaves that tumble off should head straight to the compost—treat those like the outer leaves on a head of iceberg lettuce, just not good eats.
There are a lot of fun ways to flavor roasted Brussels sprouts, but most of the time, I’m a purist. I like olive oil (or avocado oil), sea salt, and freshly-cracked pepper. I toss my sprouts in a bowl with the oil—I use about two tablespoons per pound of sprouts—until they are all well-coated.
Then I spread the sprouts onto a baking sheet. Now, here is where a lot of folks make a mistake—don’t you dare crowd those sprouts! You want enough space around each sprout for air to circulate. If they’re packed in there, they won’t roast and get caramelized, they’ll steam. And you know what isn’t tasty? Steamed Brussels sprouts. Use two baking sheets if you have to.
I also make sure the cut-sides of the sprouts are down on the baking sheet because I just tend to like the caramelizing on that side, but you really don’t have to be as uptight about it as I am. Then, once the sprouts are adequately spread out, I give them a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
I’ve tried roasting sprouts on parchment paper and baking mats, and while I love the easy clean-up factor of those, neither of them give me the same awesome results as just roasting the sprouts directly on my baking sheet.
Another mistake folks make when roasting veggies (any veggies)? Using too low of an oven temperature. You want that baby hot, hot, hot. Lower temperatures do a great job of softening and cooking vegetables without caramelizing. Higher temps bring out those sugars and help the sprouts cook more quickly (again, to avoid the activation of too much sulphur). I roast my veggies at 450°F.
At that temperature, the veggies will roast pretty darn fast, so don’t walk too far away. Depending on the size of your sprouts, you’ll want to flip them after about 15 minutes, and they’ll be ready after an additional five. Basically, when they are tender and brown, you’re good to go. Then you taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if you wish, and devour your super-healthy side dish. I really like to add a little bit of crunchy sea salt right before serving.
You don’t really need a recipe to make these babies, but just in case you want to print it out, I’ve written it out below. Enjoy!
5 from 1 reviews
Perfectly Roasted Brussels Sprouts will convert even the most adamant sprouts-hater. When they are cooked perfectly, sprouts are sweet, a little crisp, and mildly-flavored. Stinky, mushy veggies need not apply!
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Cassie, I didn’t start liking brussels sprouts until my 30’s! I appreciate your tips on roasting, very helpful as usual, thanks : )
I blame society’s prejudice against sprouts for your late-blooming sprout love! Ha! :)
I thought I knew how to roast brussels sprouts (made some last night, in fact) but nope, apparently not really :S Will definitely try your tips the next time around. Also, I really love the name “Wholefully”!
Hey, if you have your own method that you like, rock on with your bad self! :) And thank you!
I agree with you that home grown sprouts taste the best. I like to wait for the frost to arrive. The is so much sweeter. I have a granddaughter that thinks the store fresh or frozen will do in a pinch. My next challenge is to plant them so that I can have sprouts ready after a frost and not before. I will have to give your recipe a try.
So, I like them this way, however…we’ve found that they taste like horseradish the next day if we roast them. My husband hates the horseradish taste so he won’t roast them anymore. Any ideas?
I have to be honest with you, we love them so much, they never make it to a second day! Sorry, I don’t have any advice for you!
Such great tips! I love brusselsprouts! I actually like all vegetables, I’m not that picky, but brusselsprouts are definitely in the top 10.
I love the new website name!
My fav way to make brussel sprouts too, yum! I just got a new real sheet pan (finally… no more warping thin sheet pan wannabes), will have to try making them without parchment paper or a baking mat, I’m sure they’ll come out much crispier and yummier as you’ve said.
Found your site via A Cup of Jo… will be bookmarking it! :)
ps., please don’t hold your knife like that! Seems like it would be stable but you actually have much less control and power and it’s unsafe. I’m sure you’ve probably never had problems with it but don’t want other people thinking this is the right way to hold a knife!
Thanks for the tip on roasting temperature – one thing I always struggle with is getting my vegetable roasted instead of a mush that’s not caramelised at all.
I like to split the day up into family time with the kids, time to myself (usually a peceauri/fdcial and maybe a movie) and then, if we manage to get a babysitter, an evening out with my husband to round the day off. Perfect!
1st time cooking Brussels sprouts. Frozen, thawed, cut into half, cut out stem, with olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Put into 350 F oven 20 min. Center was woody or fiborous. Could only eat around the edges. Why?
Oh no! My guess would be either that the Brussels sprouts were frozen when they were past their prime, or that the thawed veggies had too much moisture in them when they were roasted. I hope your next try goes better!
love brussel sprouts. always have to add garlic when i make mine :)
Garlic is always a winner!
I googled: I make the worst brussels sprouts and realized that i’ve been spelling it wrong and that your site exists. great recipe! i’ve done it like this before…but wanted to boil them with oil, salt, pepper and their so meh. wonder what i can do to improve them even after they’re already “cooked” :/
Tossing them with a sauce or some cheese and nuts would probably help. I’m never a fan of boiled Brussels sprouts – I only like them roasted, personally!
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