How to cook brussels sprouts

No one likes a mushy sprout! Find out how to cook brussels sprouts to perfection for with our easy guide and video – or ring the changes and experiment with frying, steaming, roasting or even fermenting them. We also answer your top brussels sprouts FAQs – from why they’re called brussels sprouts to what sprout tops are.

We’re here to tell you that these small green balls of joy aren’t just for Christmas (though they’re very welcome then). They’re much more versatile than the naysayers would have you believe…

How to cook brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts FAQs

What are sprouts, exactly?
Contrary to what many people assume, they’re not mini cabbages, although they are part of the same family (brassicas). Whereas a cabbage grows on the ground with a single head, sprouts grow on a long stem (see left).

What’s brussels got to do with brussels sprouts?
It’s thought the cultivar was first bred there in the Middle Ages. Certainly by the 16th century, when the city was part of the vast Habsburg Empire, sprouts were all the rage, and they’ve been associated with Brussels ever since.

Why are brussel sprouts so mushy?
You’re cooking them wrong. Instead of boiling, halve or shred, then fry them to get some flavoursome browning. Or steam them, so the good stuff doesn’t leak out into the water. They roast well too, and shredded they’re great raw in a slaw. Or try fermenting them; find lots of exciting ideas below. If you really must boil them, do it for no longer than 5 minutes – see our guide below.

What does well with brussels sprouts?
Everyone knows about chestnuts or crispy pancetta, but try a sharp dressing with lemon instead, or a Thai-style vinaigrette with fish sauce and lime juice. Throw in toasted hazelnuts or pine nuts, or take a more Middle Eastern route, as in our recipe over the page.

What are sprout tops?
They’re the big leaves at the top of the stem, separate from the sprouts. If you see them at a farmer’s market, grab some. They’re a delicacy of the brassica world and you can treat them like cabbage leaves. Sliced and fried or braised, seasoned with salt, chilli flakes and a splash of sherry vinegar, they’re
a side dish of champions.

How to cook perfect brussels sprouts 

Like your sprouts the old-fashioned way – boiled? Here’s how to cook them correctly.

  • Before boiling, remove the outer leaves and trim the tip of the stalk, which can be a little tough. Be careful not to slice off too much though! The stalk holds the leaves together and they may disintegrate when boiling.
  • For larger sprouts, lightly score a cross at the bottom of each to ensure even cooking.
  • To test if they’re cooked, use a cocktail stick or sharp knife to gauge how soft they are. This part is important! No one wants to eat green bullets but you want to retain a little bit of bite, too.

How long should you boil brussels sprouts for?

It varies depending on the size of the sprout. Larger varieties can take up to 5 minutes to cook, while small to medium sprouts will take 3-4 minutes.

Check out our video to see how we do it….

More ideas with sprouts

There’s more than one way to cook a sprout! Here are some quick ways to shake up your sprout game – along with some gamechanger recipes. You may even convince a scout-sceptic…

Roasted sprouts
Toss 750g prepared sprouts in olive oil, place in a baking tray and roast in the oven at 180ºC fan/gas 6 for approximately 30-35 minutes until soft and lightly golden.

Mashed sprouts
Place 500g prepared sprouts in a big pan of salted water, bring to the boil, then cover until the water comes back up to the boil. Uncover and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the sprouts are tender. Melt 25g butter with 75ml cream, then whizz in a food processor with the cooked sprouts.

Charred sprouts
Slice 500g of prepared sprouts in half and toss in olive oil. Heat a griddle pan until medium hot, then cook the sprouts on it, cut-side down, for 4-5 minutes until charred on one side and just cooked all the way through. They should still be quite firm.

Sprout and harissa hash with tahini yogurt
This seasonal brunch celebrates sprouts with the help of Middle Eastern pantry staples such as fiery harissa, creamy tahini and a crunchy, fragrant dukkah topping.

Sprout ‘kraut
Enjoy sprouts year-round with this funky sprout sauerkraut with pink peppercorns. Fermenting can sound daunting because of the bacteria, but the salt will kill off anything harmful, leaving the good guys to get to work. It’s great in a grilled cheese sandwich or with sausages or pork chops.

Sprout pesto
This recipe a quick and easy way to add a hit of fresh green sprout flavour to pasta dishes, soups or canapés for Christmas– simply spoon the pesto onto trimmed chicory leaves.

Garlic butter sprouts
These sprouts are gently cooked them until crisp and caramelised, bringing out their natural sweetness, in a pool of luscious garlic butter.

Roast sprouts with cranberries and kale
Sprouts again get the roasted treatment, complemented with pops of fresh cranberries and crunchy walnuts, and with a maple syrup and balsamic vinegar dressing. This is a winner at Christmas.

In the mood for sprouts? Check out our full brussels sprouts recipe collection.

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