Fork-tender roasted brussels sprouts with caramelized flavors from high heat cooking. The trick to making each bite golden brown on the outside with sweet centers is to steam then roast the vegetables. These tasty sprouts are ready in just 20 minutes!
I never thought I would say this, but I like Brussels sprouts. Once I figured out how to properly cook them they have become a steady appearing side dish on our dinner table. The raw sprouts look like mini cabbages with a bitter taste and tough texture. Most people shred them up and toss them into salads, but I think the best way to maximize the flavor potential of these veggies is to combine the steaming and roasting cooking methods.
Roasting creates a high heat environment that quickly generates new flavors and colors on the sprouts due to caramelization. However, the hot dry-heat alone doesn’t firm up or tenderize the insides. The steam pre-cooks the vegetable for a contrast of textures. Using one pan, all you need are some fresh sprouts, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper, that’s it!
Selecting brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that you can often find year-round with their peak season from September to February. You can find them still attached to their stalks, I’ve seen them this way at Trader Joe’s. They are also sold loose or trimmed and packaged.
When selecting Brussels sprouts, look for green leaves, firm to the touch, and compact. Typically the smaller ones, about 1 to 1 ½ inches in size are sweeter. Check the steams to look for browning and cracks, avoid those pieces. For even cooking, choose ones that are similar in size.
For this recipe try to find sprouts that are 1 ½ inch long and cut them in half. If smaller than 1-inch, keep them whole. If you have jumbo-sized sprouts larger than 2 ½ inches, cut them into quarters. Trim off any browned and bruised leaves.
Steam the brussels sprouts first
All you have to do is toss the cut or whole sprouts with olive oil, a small amount of water, salt, and pepper. Tightly cover the tray with foil, this allows the water to turn into superheated steam, and cook the interior of the sprouts first.
This 10-minute process ensures that moisture loss is minimized, and makes the sprouts taste slightly sweet instead of bitter. When you remove the foil, the sprouts will be bright green, and firm, yet tender. Now it’s time to roast!
How to caramelize brussels sprouts
Now that the sprouts have already been pre-cooked, it’s safe to drive off the extra moisture on the surface. Roasting at 500 degrees allows the exposed sprouts to caramelize and pick up extra flavor. After about 9 minutes, the surface of the vegetables will pick up a deep golden brown appearance.
Make sure to place any halved sprouts cut side down. The pan holds heat more efficiently than the hot air in the oven, so anything touching the metal will brown quicker and develop more flavor. Roasting also makes the Brussels sprouts crispy on the edges.
Now that you’ve learned the simple technique for roasting brussels sprouts, it’s time to get creative with flavors.
- I love to chop up oven-roasted bacon and sprinkle it on top.
- Drizzle on a balsamic vinegar glaze for a sweet and tangy combo.
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese with fresh herbs like parsley and basil make a nice combo.
- Add chopped nuts like walnuts or pecans for crunch.
- Make a lemon vinaigrette or honey mustard sauce, and toss.
- Or just simply enjoy with salt and pepper.
More side dish recipes
Pre-cook the brussels sprouts for better texture
To avoid burnt dried out Brussels sprouts, briefly steam them first. For 2 pounds of sprouts, only 1 tablespoon of water is necessary. Steaming keeps the vegetable firm and tender by activating the enzyme pectin methylesterase, at temperatures between 120 to 160ºF. The enzyme helps the pectin link with the calcium ions to strengthen the bonds in the cell walls so that the sprouts don’t become mushy. (Source: Cooks Illustrated)
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Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 2 pounds brussels sprouts, 1 to 1 ½-inch long, trimmed and cut in half
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Place oven rack in the upper-middle position and preheat to 500ºF (260ºC).
- Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Keep pieces that are smaller than 1-inch in size whole.
- Combine brussels sprouts, olive oil, water, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Spread the sprouts in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet, turning the cut sides facing down.
- Tightly cover baking pan with foil and roast for 10 minutes.
- Remove the foil and roast until the sprouts are a deep golden-brown and tender, about 9 to 12 minutes depending on the size.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve warm.
- For sprouts that are 1 ½ inch long, cut them in half.
- If smaller than 1-inch, keep them whole.
- If larger than 2 ½ inches, cut them into quarters.
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