This is an updated and expanded version of my original post on “Brussels Sprouts 101 – The Basics.” If you need some specific information about Brussels sprouts, this information should help.
Brussels Sprouts 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)
About Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are members of the cruciferous (Brassica) family of plants. They are not baby or small cabbages, but are a separate plant that grows on a stalk. They are cousins to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other such vegetables. They look like mini cabbages with diameters of about one inch. They grow in bunches of 20 to 40 on a stalk that may be as high as three feet tall. They are usually sage green, but some varieties are reddish.
It is not known where Brussels sprouts originated, but first mention of them was found in the late 16th century. They were thought to be native to an area near the capital of Belgium, named Brussels. Hence, they were named Brussels sprouts. Around World War I, they spread across Europe, and are now grown throughout Europe and the United States. Most Brussels sprouts in America are grown in California.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Brussels sprouts are rich in many nutrients. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K. They also supply a lot of folate, manganese, Vitamin B6, fiber, choline, copper, Vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, Vitamin B2, protein, magnesium, pantothenic acid, Vitamin A, niacin, calcium, and zinc. They are also abundant in disease-fighting phytochemicals including sulforaphane, indoles, glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, coumarins, dithiolthiones, and phenols.
Cancer Prevention. There are many studies that focus on the health properties of Brussels sprouts in PubMed (the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.). Over half of those studies center on the anti-cancer benefits of this cruciferous vegetable. This strong relationship occurs because Brussels sprouts provide support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development and prevention: (1) The body’s detoxification system, (2) The body’s antioxidant system, and (3) The inflammatory/anti-inflammatory response system. Prolonged imbalances in any of these systems increase our risk of cancer. When the imbalances occur simultaneously in all three of these systems, our risk of cancer significantly increases. Through these studies, Brussels sprouts have been closely associated with the reduced risk of bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate, and ovarian cancers.
Cardiovascular Support. Brussels sprouts, along with other cruciferous vegetables, contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Researchers have become increasingly aware that unwanted inflammation creates problems for blood vessels and circulation as it relates to cardiovascular disease. The anti-inflammatory compounds found in Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables may help to prevent and possibly reverse blood vessel damage due to inflammation.
The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts have been found to bind with bile acids in the intestine so they are carried out of the body in the feces, preventing them from being reabsorbed into the blood stream. This forces the liver to make more bile from existing blood cholesterol. This action helps to lower blood cholesterol levels, thereby reducing our risk for cardiovascular disease. These benefits were found to be provided by Brussels sprouts whether they were eaten raw or cooked. However, a recent study revealed that this binding capacity was greater in steamed Brussels sprouts than raw. So, if you want to get the most cholesterol-lowering benefit from Brussels sprouts, eat them steamed rather than raw.
Digestive Support. There are 4 grams of fiber in one cup of Brussels sprouts, which makes this vegetable an excellent choice for supporting the digestive system. Furthermore, researchers have found that the sulforaphane (made from Brussels sprouts’ glucoraphanin) protects the stomach lining from overgrowth and clinging of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. This particular bacterium is responsible for the development of stomach ulcers and promotes the formation of stomach cancer. This reason alone should invite you to include more Brussels sprouts in your diet!
Other Possible Health Benefits. The anti-inflammatory agents found in Brussels sprouts have prompted researchers to investigate their relationship to the risk of developing Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.
How to Select Brussels Sprouts
Choose Brussels sprouts that are firm, bright green, and compact with tightly formed leaves. They should feel heavy for their size. They should not have yellowed or wilted leaves, and should not be soft in texture. Holes in the leaves may indicate that they have insects inside. Smaller Brussels sprouts are usually sweeter and more tender than larger ones.
Fresh Brussels sprouts are often available year-round, but their peak growing season is from autumn until early spring.
How to Store Brussels Sprouts
Store Brussels sprouts unwashed and untrimmed in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. The vent should be closed to help keep a humid environment in the drawer. They may also be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to ten days.
How to Prepare Brussels Sprouts
To prepare fresh Brussels sprouts, first remove the stems and any yellow or discolored leaves. Then, wash them well under cool water. Slice them in half lengthwise. If they are large, quarter them. Smaller pieces will cook faster than larger pieces and should have less of a sulfur-like flavor then if they were left whole.
How to Freeze Brussels Sprouts
Fresh Brussels sprouts may be frozen. They should be washed and trimmed, as detailed above. Steam them for 3 to 5 minutes, then immediately chill them in a bowl of cold water. Drain them well, then transfer them to an airtight freezer container and label the container with the current date. Use them within one year.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Brussels Sprouts
* Try to avoid overcooking Brussels sprouts, and cook them with as little water as possible. Prolonged cooking, especially in a lot of water, releases their sulfur-containing compounds, making them taste strong and undesirable. Lightly cooking them in as little liquid as possible prevents that from happening.
* When shopping for Brussels sprouts, remember that smaller ones will be more tender and sweeter than larger ones.
* One pound of Brussels sprouts has about 24 to 28 medium sprouts.
* One pound of Brussels sprouts is about 3 cups of sprouts.
* If you’re cooking and find you don’t have enough Brussels sprouts for your recipe, you can substitute broccoli florets or chopped green cabbage. The flavors and cooking times may vary somewhat, but they will work as substitutes.
* Sauté Brussels sprouts with garlic and a sprinkle of chile pepper flakes. When finished, drizzle with a little lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
* When steaming Brussels sprouts, cook them for 5 to 8 minutes, just until they are starting to get tender. Avoid overcooking them.
* When preparing Brussels sprouts, try to cut pieces about the same size. That means large ones will probably need to be quartered, while small one will probably be just cut in half. This helps them to all cook within the same amount of time.
* Try to avoid boiling Brussels sprouts. It’s easy to overcook them that way, making them mushy, bitter, and sulphury-tasting. You’ll also lose a lot of nutritional value in the process.
* The fiber in Brussels sprouts is known to bind with bile in the digestive tract, removing it from the body. In turn, this helps to keep blood cholesterol down (the liver makes bile from existing cholesterol). Researchers have found that the fiber in steamed Brussels sprouts binds with bile better than that of Brussels sprouts that were eaten raw.
* For an easy side dish or salad, combine quartered steamed Brussels sprouts with sliced red onions, walnuts, and a mild cheese, such as feta. Toss with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and enjoy!
* Try steamed Brussels sprouts topped with a tahini dressing made with tahini, lemon and garlic.
* Try braising Brussels sprouts in a little vegetable broth, along with some chopped garlic and a sprinkle of herbs such as basil, thyme, or rosemary. Braise them only until just barely fork-tender. Remove from heat and drizzle with a little fresh lemon juice and enjoy!
* Stir-steam Brussels sprouts in vegetable stock or water (2 tablespoons at a time) along with some chopped onion. Cook them only until just barely fork-tender. Remove from heat and stir in a dressing of Dijon-style mustard and a little maple syrup. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds and serve.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Brussels Sprouts
Basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, chili pepper flakes, coriander, cumin, curry powder, dill, fennel seeds, juniper berries, marjoram, mint, mustard powder, mustard seeds, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, salt, thyme
Foods That Go Well with Brussels Sprouts
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beef, cashews, chestnuts, chicken, eggs, fish (seafood), hazelnuts, lentils, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, poultry, rabbit, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu, walnuts, water chestnuts
Vegetables: Artichokes (Jerusalem), bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chives, endive, fennel, garlic, ginger, kale, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, root vegetables (in general), rutabagas, scallions, shallots, sprouts (bean), squash (winter), turnips
Fruits: Apples (fresh, dried), apple cider, apple juice, cranberries (dried), grapefruit, grapes, lemon, lime, orange, pears, raisins
Grains and Grain Products: Bread crumbs, buckwheat, grains (in general), kasha, pasta, rice
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Browned butter, butter, cheese (in general, esp. blue, cheddar, feta, goat, Parmesan, provolone, ricotta, Swiss), coconut milk, cream, crème fraiche, ghee, sour cream, yogurt
Other Foods: Maple syrup, mustard (prepared, i.e., Dijon), oil (esp. olive, sesame, walnut), soy sauce, stock, sugar, tamari, vermouth, vinegar (in general), wine (esp. dry white, rice)
Brussels sprouts have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Crudités, egg dishes (i.e., fried, hard-boiled, omelets, poaches), salad, slaws, soups, stir-fries
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Brussels Sprouts
Add Brussels sprouts to any of the following combinations…
Almonds + Orange Juice
Apples + Goat Cheese +Hazelnuts
Bread Crumbs + Hard-Boiled Eggs + Lemon + Parsley
Buckwheat + Mushrooms
Caraway Seeds + Mustard
Caraway Seeds + Orange
Cauliflower + Garlic + Olive Oil + Rosemary
Chestnuts + Maple Syrup
Chili Pepper Flakes + Garlic + Shallots
Cream + Nutmeg + Parmesan Cheese
Dried Cranberries + Walnuts
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil
Garlic + Pine Nuts + Shallots
Garlic + Vinegar + Walnuts
Ginger + Thyme
Hazelnuts + Maple Syrup
Lemon + Mustard + Parsley + Walnut Oil
Mushrooms + Pine Nuts
Orange + Sesame Oil
Judi in the Kitchen video, Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://youtu.be/TpXII-ZU9pc
Judi in the Kitchen video, Cook Brussels Sprouts Without Bitterness https://youtu.be/u9S7R_SV0OQ
Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Cranberries and Pecans https://producemadesimple.ca/shredded-brussels-sprouts-bacon-pecans-dried-cranberries/
Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/warm-brussels-sprout-salad/
Tangy Brussels Sprouts Slaw https://producemadesimple.ca/tangy-brussels-sprout-slaw/
Bacon and Brussels Sprouts Salad https://pinchofyum.com/bacon-and-brussel-sprout-salad
Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cauliflower https://producemadesimple.ca/oven-roasted-brussels-sprouts-with-cauliflower/
Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-brussels-sprouts-recipe2-1941953
5-Minute “Quick Steamed” Brussels Sprouts http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=244
27 Tasty and Creative Ways to Eat More Brussels Sprouts https://www.foodnetwork.ca/in-season/photos/best-brussels-sprouts-recipes/#!Bacon-Wrapped-Brussels-Sprouts
25 Ways to Use Brussels Sprouts https://www.cookingchanneltv.com/devour/recipes/2014/11/how-to-use-brussels-sprouts
Our 17 Best Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Every Occasion https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/brussels-sprouts-recipes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (oil free and vegan) https://shaneandsimple.com/roasted-brussels-sprouts/
Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://feelgoodfoodie.net/recipe/pan-roasted-brussel-sprouts/
No-Oil Roasted Brussels Sprouts https://www.graciousvegan.com/recipe-recommendations/2020/4/17/no-oil-roasted-brussels-sprouts
Vegan Brussels Sprouts Roasted (oil-free) https://eatplant-based.com/classic-roasted-brussels-sprouts/
Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.