How to Cook Brussels Sprouts for People Who Don't Like Them

by Lindsay Lau
Learn to minimize bitterness in Brussels sprouts to make them more appealing.

Learn to minimize bitterness in Brussels sprouts to make them more appealing.

Brussels sprouts often get a bad rap because some people associate them with a pungent, offensive flavor. As members of the cabbage family, they contain compounds that produce bitterness as a natural defense mechanism. Their reputation is not entirely deserved, however, because when prepared with care, they can be mellow and pleasing to all palates. Learn the techniques that will get even professed Brussels sprouts haters to reconsider their opinion about these delightful little cabbages.

Perfect Prepping

Start with fresh Brussels sprouts with compact heads and green leaves. The older they are, the more assertive their flavor.

Remove and discard any outer leaves that are yellowed and loose. These outer leaves are tough to chew.

Bitter flavor components are concentrated in the core of the sprout. Trim the bottom stem and cut the Brussels sprouts into halves, quarters or thin slices to allow these compounds to leach out during cooking. A food processor set up with a slicing blade can quickly shred the sprouts for you.

Soak the cut Brussels sprouts in cold water before cooking to leach out more of the bitter flavor compounds. Dry the sprouts completely before adding them to hot oil.

Don’t overcook. When Brussels sprouts and cabbages are cooked too long, sulfur compounds produce a strong smell. The sprouts are done when they are easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy.

Recipe Inspiration

Cook shredded Brussels sprouts in olive oil or butter and season them with salt before adding some to a familiar dish, such as pasta with marinara sauce. When family and guests realize they can eat Brussels sprouts this way, they might be willing to try them as the featured ingredient.

Break out the bacon. Bacon makes practically any dish taste better, and Brussels sprouts and bacon make an especially pleasing combination. Crisp some diced bacon or pancetta, cook the sprouts in a little bit of the bacon drippings, and serve with the bacon on top.

Serve fried Brussels sprouts, a fun snack that no one can resist. Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and deep fry them for a few minutes until brown on the outer leaves and crisp. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt while they are still hot.

Roast the Brussels sprouts for a caramelized effect that brings out their natural sweetness. Toss quartered or halved Brussels sprouts with enough olive oil to coat them, then season with salt and your choice of herbs or spices. Cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the sprouts are fork-tender and browned.

Items you will need

  • Fresh Brussels sprouts
  • Knife or food processor
  • Cold water
  • Bacon
  • Oil or butter
  • Paper towels
  • Salt


  • Use caution when frying Brussels sprouts in hot oil. Use dry sprouts and stand back to avoid any spattering oil.


  • On Food and Cooking; Harold McGee
  • The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
  • Momofuku; David Chang and Peter Meehan

About the Author

Lindsay Lau is a food writer and recipe developer with experience cooking professionally at both restaurants and catered events. As a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, Lau specializes in healthy cooking techniques.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images