5 Tips for Better Brussels Sprouts

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Brussels sprouts can be so much more than the boiled, bitter side dish that some of us may have had in our childhood. A tasty dish of Brussels sprouts starts with the Brussels sprouts that you buy and how you prepare them for cooking. So the next time you buy and cook Brussels sprouts, use these five tips for even tastier results.

(Image credit: Lidante)

1. Buy compact, bright green sprouts.

When you’re shopping for Brussels sprouts, look for balls with tight, compact leaves. They should be bright green, without any browned spots or yellowing leaves. Be wary of Brussels sprouts that have been bagged and look like they contain moisture. They tend to be softer and develop brown spots more readily.

2. Understand how size affects flavor.

When shopping for Brussels sprouts, it’s important to know how size affects flavor. The larger the Brussels sprouts grow, the more they take on the qualities of cabbage. Large pieces will be slightly more bitter, while smaller Brussels sprouts are a little bit sweeter. Save the big ones for roasting, when the combo of high heat and fat coaxes out every drop of sweetness.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

3. Trim them and cut them for how they’ll be cooked.

Brussels sprouts don’t have a hard core that needs to be removed, but it’s always a good idea to trim the stem end that sometimes becomes hard or woody. Peel off any leaves that are off color or with browned spots, then decide how to cut them up by how you’re going to use them.

If you are going to shred them in a food processor or by hand, trim the end and leave them whole. For roasting or sautéing, halving or quartering in best. If you just want the leaves, trim a little higher up above the stem. This makes it easier to pull apart the leaves from the head.

4. Roast them a little longer than you’d think.

As Brussels sprouts roast, they brown around the edges or the cut sides that are faced down on the sheet pan. The browning add loads of flavor to every bite. The next time you roast them, cook them a little longer than you have previously to capitalize on how mellow and sweet their flavor becomes. After all, the crispy browned leaves are the best part!

Crispy Brussels Sprout Recipes to Try

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

5. Raw is just as good as roasted.

This is another time to think of Brussels sprouts like cabbage. When dressed with the right vinaigrette, uncooked Brussels sprouts make for a tasty salad. If you want to take some of the edge off, toss it with the dressing and let it stand for as little as 15 minutes before serving. Like coleslaw, the leaves will soften slightly without losing all their crunch.