If any vegetable has suffered an undeserved bad reputation, it is Brussels sprouts—mostly because the preferred cooking method used to be to boil them beyond recognition. But once it was discovered that they could be roasted to caramelized goodness—with a crisp exterior and tender, buttery interior—or shredded raw into light and crunchy salads, Brussels sprouts became a revelation.
On the plant, Brussels sprouts look like an alien creature that landed in the garden. A profusion of tiny cabbage-like heads—the buds of the plant—hugs a thick stalk that can get up to 21/2 feet tall, crowned by a spray of blue-green leaves. Each stalk produces between 50 and 100 sprouts. And although they are not tiny cabbages, Brussels sprouts are part of the brassica family, as is cabbage.
Pictured Recipe: Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onions
Brussels sprouts are one of the last crops to be harvested from the garden. They thrive in cool weather and are at peak season from fall to early winter—and, in fact, taste even sweeter and milder after the first frost.
Try these: Healthy Brussels Sprouts Recipes
How to Cook Brussels Sprouts
Pictured Recipe: Parmesan-Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts can be boiled (gently, please), steamed, roasted, grilled, braised and sautéed. Good flavor companions include onions, garlic and shallots; walnuts; caraway and fennel seeds; a mustardy vinaigrette; brown butter; bacon and other smoky, salty meats; nutty, pungent cheeses, such as Swiss or Gruyère; and herbs like sage and dill.
Try breaking the heads apart into individual leaves and quickly stir-frying—or scattering the leaves over the top of a pizza with Italian sausage or caramelized onions and blue cheese. Or try these more classic preparations:
How to Prep Brussels Sprouts
Pictured Recipe: Brussels Sprout Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
1. Trim a very thin slice off stem end of each sprout and remove any brown or yellow leaves.
2. Rinse in a colander under cool running water.
3. Leave sprouts whole or cut in half, quarter or shred.
How to Braise Brussels Sprouts
Pictured Recipe: Cider-Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add 1 pound Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are browned in spots, 2 to 4 minutes.
3. Stir in 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until Brussels sprouts are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
How to Roast Brussels Sprouts
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1. Toss 2 pounds halved Brussels sprouts with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
2. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast in a 450°F oven, stirring once, until sprouts are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
How to Steam Brussels Sprouts
Pictured Recipe: Brown Butter & Dill Brussels Sprouts
1. Place 1 pound quartered Brussels sprouts in a steamer basket over 1 inch boiling water. Cover and steam until tender, 7 to 8 minutes.
2. Toss steamed Brussels sprouts in your favorite dressing.
How to Make Brussels Sprout Chips
Pictured Recipe: Brussels Sprout Chips
Don't throw out the loose leaves that fall off the sprout when you're prepping your Brussels—instead, roast them into chips!
1. Remove enough outer leaves from Brussels sprouts to make 4 cups.
2. Place in a large bowl and add oil, pepper and salt. With clean hands, gently massage the leaves until evenly coated. Spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet.
3. Roast at 400°F until the leaves are browned and crispy, about 10 minutes.
How to Choose Brussels Sprouts at the Store
Pictured Recipe: Brussels Sprouts Gratin
Choose firm, bright green, tightly furled sprouts. Avoid sprouts that have brown spots or yellowing or are beginning to open. Try to get sprouts of approximately the same size so they cook evenly. Small sprouts have a sweeter, milder flavor than large ones. Although you might occasionally find sprouts still attached to the stalks, beware as the stalk sucks moisture out of the sprouts as they sit. If you want to buy them on the stalk, make sure they were picked recently, and cut them from the stalk when you get home.
How to Store Brussels Sprouts
Store Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
Brussels Sprouts Nutrition Facts
1/2 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts has 28 calories 28, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar (not added), 2 grams of protein, 16 milligrams of sodium and 247 milligrams of potassium.
Plus, with four times the cancer-combating glucosinolates of broccoli, these little gems boast more of these compounds than any other crucifer. Chopping them, as for a slaw, works to release even more of these cancer-fighters.
How to Grow Your Own Brussels Sprouts
Pictured Recipe: Garlic-Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts require little more than sunshine, regular water and ample space. Start seeds indoors in early spring, 90 days before the last frost. In spring, transplant 24 to 36 inches apart. Harvest when sprouts are 1 to 11/2 inches in diameter, picking sprouts from the base of the plant upward.
Watch: How to Make Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onions