CRAVE: Brussels sprouts can make a flavorful Thanksgiving side

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. And if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, I’m here to say – I think you just haven’t had them prepared well. But you’re about to change that!

Brussels sprouts are part of the same species as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and collard greens, and they do indeed look like miniature cabbage. They date back to ancient Rome, but true to their name, gained popularity in the region of Brussels, Belgium, in the 13th century.

Brussels sprouts grow on a large, thick stalk and look really cool if you can get your hands on a fresh one. 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.

How to choose them

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.

Brussels sprouts can be a bit bitter. 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 “cabbage-y.”

However you plan to cook with them, selecting Brussels sprouts similar in size will ensure consistent cooking.

How to prepare them

For any Brussels sprouts recipe, start by removing any outer leaves that are slightly browned or wilted. Trim the base of each Brussels sprout.

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, do that 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.

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

Roasting and sautéing are the most popular methods used to enhance Brussels sprouts’ earthy, nutty and sweet flavor. Simply add minced garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil before cooking, or toss in some extra special ingredients like bacon, lemon, Parmesan or shallots to get a different flavor profile. Brussels sprouts — raw and thinly sliced or cooked — also work well with light, acidic things like vinaigrettes drizzled over them.

Brussels sprouts will last in the refrigerator for at least one week in a bag or airtight container.

Warm Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Mustard Vinaigrette


4 strips bacon

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

½ cup minced onion

1 pound Brussels sprouts (trimmed and halved)

2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth (preferably low-sodium)

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

Discard the fat in the skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high. Add the onion and Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring only occasionally, until the onion is tender and turning golden and the Brussels sprouts begin to brown in spots, about 8 minutes.

Add the broth and cover the pan. Let the liquid come to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium. Steam the Brussels sprouts until you can easily slide a sharp knife into them and the broth is almost evaporated, 7 to 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette over the cooked Brussels sprouts in the pan and toss to coat with the vinaigrette. Crumble the bacon, add it to the vegetables, and toss one more time before transferring to a serving dish. Serve hot or warm.


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