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Serve up the perfect sprouts this Christmas with our expert tips, useful info on what to look out for when buying and common pitfalls when cooking.
They're the Marmite of the vegetable world, with a serious love or loathe divide, and though they don’t have the best reputation, most of this is down to neglectful cooking; usually resulting in soggy sprouts that don’t smell too great either. But with our easy how to cook Brussel sprouts guide, you’ll get them perfect every time.
A relative of the cabbage (opens in new tab) family, Brussels sprouts are bursting with health benefits. They contain sinigrin, a cancer-fighting compound, also found in broccoli (opens in new tab) and a number of other vegetables. As well as this, sprouts are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins and fibre.
How to prepare Brussel sprouts
When buying sprouts, you should look for ones that are firm and vibrant with closed leaves. Avoid ones that have started to discolour on the edges as this is a sign that they’re past their best.
If you can, try buying sprouts that are still on the stalk. Keeping them on the stalk is supposed to keep them fresher for longer, but it is worth noting that once the stalk is pulled from the ground they will start to deteriorate, so the best thing is to buy them little and often.
Smaller sprouts tend to be a little sweeter, with more of a nutty flavour, and sprouts are said to have the best flavour if picked after the first frost.
When preparing sprouts, rinse under running water in a colander, peel any outer leaves that may be damaged or discoloured and trim the base. Although most of us do, there’s really no need to cut a cross in the bottom, it adds nothing to the cooking process besides prolonging the prep, so we would advise leaving that step out. We would recommend cutting large sprouts in half though, so all your sprouts cook evenly.
How to cook Brussel sprouts
There are a variety of different ways you can cook Brussel sprouts. Traditionally sprouts are boiled but you can also pan fry them, roast them in the oven and even cook them in the microwave if you're short on time - and pans!
For the methods below we've used 700g of fresh, raw sprouts. This amount will feed around 6-8 people depending on how many sprouts everyone wants on their plates. You can always add a handful or two more before cooking to make sure you're covered. Leftovers can be turned into bubble and squeak the next day so there's no waste.
How to boil Brussels sprouts on the stove
Most people opt to boil there Brussel sprouts. This is a very simple, easy method that is ideal when you've got lots of other veg on the go. However, you need to be careful not to overboil the Brussels. Overcooked sprouts will become mushy, loose their colour and the longer they’re cooked, the stronger that cabbage-smell will be.
Firstly, you will need to bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil, add in the trimmed sprouts and boil for 5 mins. Using a sharp knife, test the cooking of the sprouts. The knife should pierce the veg, but they should not be soft and soggy. Using a colander, drain and then return back to the pan. Add the butter, season with salt and pepper and swirl to evenly to coat.
When boiling Brussels (or any veg!) save the water to make gravy or stock, that way you’re not missing out on nutrients from the vegetables.
How to cook Brussels sprouts in the oven
Toss the sprouts in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated oven at 200C/Gas 6 for around 25 mins until tender, with crispy charred edges. Roasting sprouts is also a great way to introduce some other ingredients and wonderful flavours, such as bacon lardons and chestnuts, or roast them with chopped garlic and grated parmesan cheese. If you want something sweet and sticky, you can roast with balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey (opens in new tab).
How to cook Brussels sprouts in a pan
You can also pan-fry sprouts and still achieve that great tenderness with little crispy bits. Add a good drizzle of olive oil to a pan and when hot, tip in the prepared Brussels sprouts. Saute for 8-10 mins, adding some minced garlic and chopped red chilli (optional) for the last 2 mins of cooking. Season with salt and serve immediately.
How to cook Brussels sprouts in a steamer
Steaming veg is a great way to lock in key nutrients. Using an electric steamer or a steamer over a pan of boiling water, cook the prepared sprouts (with the lid on) for 5-8 mins, depending on size. Once tender, tip into a bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a fresh grating of lemon zest. If you don't have a steamer, you can use a colander over simmering water and just cover with a lid.
How to cook Brussels sprouts in the microwave
Cooking sprouts in the microwave uses a combination of microwaves and steam. Place the prepared veg in a microwavable bowl and add enough water or stock to come ¼ way up the sprouts. Cover with cling film and cook on high for 5-6 mins, or until the strouts are tender.
The healthiest way to cook Brussels sprouts
The healthiest way to eat sprouts is definitely in their raw form. Senior Food Writer, Jessica Ransom says: 'I love thinly slicing sprouts and adding them to salads and slaws, they always taste great as sprouts can carry other flavours really well.'
If you want to start your own 'fermentation station', you could swap cabbage for sprouts in a classic kimchi (opens in new tab) or sauerkraut (opens in new tab) recipe as well. This will also provide a lot of benefits to your gut health.
The healthiest way to cook sprouts, like most vegetables is to steam them. You’re not introducing any fat this way, like you would when roasting, and you're not draining away any of the goodness in the water, as you would when boiling.
How to cook Brussels sprouts so they are not bitter
If you’re not a fan of sprouts because you find they have too much bitterness, this is simply down to the way you’ve been cooking them.
Boiling them in water will bring out that bitter, sprouty flavour, so if you’re not a fan, we would recommend cooking in olive oil and roasting in the oven.
If you want the crispiest (not necessarily the healthiest) Brussels sprouts, you can deep fry them for 3-4 mins in hot oil at 190C. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with sea salt - utterly delicious!
What to make with Brussels sprouts
Gordon Ramsay's Brussels sprouts with pancetta
Gordon Ramsay's Brussels sprouts with pancetta recipe is a real winner that can be enjoyed all year round. It's one of our most popular recipes come Christmas time. The pancetta is a great little bonus of flavour in this delicious dish.
Get the recipe: Gordon Ramsay's Brussels sprouts with pancetta (opens in new tab)
Warming Winter garden gratin
A delicious mix of sprouts and leeks in a cheesy sauce, this warming winter garden gratin will get the whole family eating their greens.
Get the recipe: Warming Winter Garden Gratin (opens in new tab)
Brussels sprouts soup
Curl up on a cold winter night with a warming bowl of this Brussels sprout soup.
Get the recipe: Brussels Sprouts Soup (opens in new tab)
They're not just for Christmas, and this fresh Asian-style coleslaw proves this point.
Get the recipe: Asian Slaw
Bacon with sprout bubble and squeak
Yes, sprouts for breakfast...and you're going to love them! This is a great way to use up leftover Brussels from your roast dinner.
Get the recipe: Bacon with Sprout Bubble and Squeak (opens in new tab)
Sauteed sprouts and beans
Sometimes simplicity is best! Let the wonders of each vegetable sing in this simple sprout dish.
Get the recipe: Sauteed Sprouts and Beans (opens in new tab)
With over 12 years of experience, arts graduate Keiron turned to food to channel his creativity, specifically cake decorating. Keiron set up his wedding cake business in 2015. And, in late 2016 won a scholarship at the world-renowned culinary institute - Le Cordon Bleu, London, where he studied the art of French Pâtisserie. He's worked in some of London’s finest 5-star hotels, collecting a wealth of knowledge along the way. As a Food Writer and Stylist food isn’t just a job, it truly is Keiron's passion.