Brussels Sprouts Are More than Just Tiny Cabbages — Here’s Everything You Should Know

updated Oct 7, 2022
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While these cute, cabbage-like vegetables are sometimes seen as the sort of food you only eat because it’s good for you, in truth, Brussels sprouts are quite delicious if cooked and seasoned properly.

What are Brussels sprouts, though? Are they miniaturized green or Savoy cabbages, or something else entirely? Here, we bring them into the spotlight to learn more about why they’re worth buying and eating.

How Did Brussels Sprouts Get Their Name?

Brussels sprouts are named after the capital city of Belgium — they were cultivated in the country in the 16th century. Knowing this fact can help you remember that it’s Brussels sprouts, not Brussel sprouts, and it’s Brussels sprout even if you’re only referring to one sprout. The “B” in Brussels should always be capitalized, too.

Why You Should Cook with Brussels Sprouts More Often

For many people, and for a long time, Brussels sprouts had a bad rap. That’s mainly because they used to be boiled to death, which made them sulfurous and just unpleasant to eat. Undercooking them is just as much of a crime, leaving them bitter with uneven texture. However, if you can find the delicate balance of cooking them until tender but not mushy, or dressing shaved raw Brussels sprouts with a bright dressing, they are truly delicious.

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How to Buy and Store Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are cool-looking plants — their thick stalks are evenly covered with tiny round sprouts, all beneath giant leaves towering at the top. In most parts of the United States, their season runs from late August through March. The best-tasting ones are picked after the first hard frost, since the cold causes the sprouts to produce sugars.

Usually, Brussels sprouts are sold already cut off the stalk, but when it’s peak season, you can find them still on the stalk. If you are using them soon, buying the loose ones it easiest, but the ones on the stalk will last longer if you’re planning to eat them later.

The smaller the Brussels sprout, the more tender and sweet it is. Go for larger ones if you want a more cabbage-like flavor.

Look for a vibrant green color and whole, intact sprouts without a lot of spots that are nice and firm. Once you get them home, store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. While they can be still be eaten after that, they will develop a stronger flavor.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts aren’t hard to cook — you just have to cook them enough so they’re tender, but don’t let them go long enough where they turn to mush. If you want to maintain their bright green color after cooking, give them a cold water bath after you remove them from the pot or pan.

Brussels can be eaten raw, too, but it’s recommended that you cut each sprout (usually called shaving) crosswise so the leaves separate into thin, lettuce-like pieces. If your sprouts are large and you’re worried they’ll be tough, you can

use a vegetable peeler to core them

how to cut Brussels sprouts for more helpful tips.

Roasting Brussels sprouts helps to concentrate their sweetness and brings out a pleasant nuttiness. Brussels sprouts pair well with salty, rich foods like bacon, but also take well to light, acidic things like vinaigrettes and lemon zest since that helps to combat its more vegetal-flavored side.

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen/Kitchn

Brussels Sprouts Recipes

Ready to put your Brussels sprouts to work? Here are a few of our favorite recipes.