Awww, little Brussels sprouts…so tiny…yet so deceiving! Many love them while others can’t get past their strong flavor. I personally tried to like them my entire life without success until 5 years ago when I tasted one in a restaurant that had been prepared in a new way. It was a total game changer!
Why it’s Wise to Learn to Like Brussels Sprouts
A tiny cousin to the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, are in the cruciferous family which is in the Brassicaceae plant family. The cruciferous family got its name because the plants have four-petaled flowers that look like a crucifer or cross.
Many people aren’t aware that the cruciferous family is quite large and diverse including the following vegetables:
Nutritional Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
Brussels sprouts, and the other cruciferous vegetables, are packed with powerful vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Here are a few of their attributes:
- High in sulfur-containing compounds, called glucosinolates, that have been associated with reduced risks for the following cancers – bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, stomach, lungs, ovaries, pancreas, prostate and kidneys.
- Some research shows a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease with regular consumption.
- Inflammation fighting.
- High in fiber (food for your microbiome).
- High in vitamins C (antioxidant, immune boosting), E (antioxidant, scavenging free radicals) and K (blood clotting, bone health).
- High in folate (brain and heart health).
- High in several carotenoids including – beta-carotene (antioxidant, vision, immune function, bone development) lutein (vision) and zeaxanthin (vision).
To Make Brussels Sprouts Irresistible – Roast Them!
Brussels sprouts, like their cruciferous cousins, impart a bitter taste when raw or cooked. Some people’s taste buds are more sensitive to this than others. One cooking method, however, causes kitchen chemistry that tames the bitterness and brings out the sweetness.
For Brussels sprouts, roasting them at 400°F causes a caramelization that changes the bitterness to a creamy, nutty flavor. In addition, adding sweetness to them like fruit or a splash of maple syrup or something savory like olives, parmesan cheese or clean, uncured bacon can further enhance their flavor while balancing the bitterness.
Another trick to add an extra layer of yumminess while enhancing the caramelization flavor of Brussels sprouts is to cut them in very thin slices. This is called shaved Brussels sprouts. This adds more surface area to each piece allowing even more caramelization. You can buy shaved Brussels sprouts in many grocery stores, like Trader Joes and Whole Foods. In case you haven’t come across them, it’s super quick and easy to shave your own Brussels sprouts.
How to Shave Brussels Sprouts
You will need:
- 1 ½ - 2 pounds whole Brussels sprouts
- Food processor with a slicing blade
- Cutting board
- A sharp knife
1. Wash and pat dry the Brussels sprouts.
2. Trim off the stem ends and remove any damaged outer leaves.
3. Place the slicing blade into your food processor.
4. Slowly add whole Brussels sprouts through the chute in the lid until all have been shaved.
5. Voila! Shaved brussels sprouts in about 3 minutes.
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a sharp knife to cut them in thin slices.
On a busy work night, roasted shaved Brussels sprouts are one of our quick, go-to veggies. If the sprouts are already shaved, they can go from fridge to table in 20 minutes.
If I’m making roasted shaved sprouts for just my husband and me, I follow the recipe below minus the bacon and balsamic vinegar. I simply toss them with 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, layer them on a large baking sheet, dust them with Homemade Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and black pepper. Then, roast them for about 15 minutes at 400°F (using the staggered timing described below to prevent burning). This is my version of Brussels Sprouts Chips.
For special occasions, I add a little extra bling.
1½ pounds (about 6 cups) shaved Brussels sprouts
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ - ½ tsp Homemade Seasoned Salt or sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper
3 slices lean, no sugar added, uncured bacon slices - diced
Aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
2. Toss the shaved Brussels sprouts with the extra virgin olive oil.
3. Spread the shaved sprouts on a large foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, making sure to keep everything in one layer.
4. Season with seasoned salt (or sea salt) plus black pepper.
5. Sprinkle the diced bacon evenly over the sprouts and place the pan in the oven.
6. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and toss the shaved sprouts. (You can also rotate the pan 180° if your oven does not heat evenly.)
7. Return the pan to the oven for another 3 - 5 minutes. Caution: Watch the sprouts carefully at this point because they can burn very quickly!
8. Remove the pan from the oven. If you prefer a darker toasting, toss the sprouts once again and return to the oven for 1 - 2 more minutes keeping a close watch to prevent over roasting.
9. Check the seasoning. If desired, drizzle some of the aged balsamic vinegar on the finished dish.
Vegetarian or Vegan?
To make this dish vegetarian or vegan, simply omit the bacon and add ½ cup diced pears (or diced apples) before cooking or toss ¼ - ½ cup pomegranate pearls over the roasted sprouts after cooking.
If you have IBS-like issues and struggle with cruciferous vegetables, talk to a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to see how you can carefully plan cruciferous vegetables into your eating plan. Taking a digestive enzyme like BeanAssist or BEANO can help you digest these foods to avoid the gas and bloating associated with cruciferous vegetables. For some, it may require more of a balancing act than just adding a digestive enzyme.
What is your favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts?