(Note: this post was originally published on April 8, 2021. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
A Brussels Sprouts Secret
Envision a magical world in which Brussels sprouts could be perfectly caramelized, delightfully juicy, AND loaded with flavor. Too good to be true? No way! I'm going to tell you the secret.
Simply put, these skillet Brussels sprouts rock. They're addictingly salty thanks to tamari, loaded with zingy fresh ginger, and kissed with sweet orange, all of which are complemented by decadent, nutty sesame oil. They're a symphony of flavor. We make this healthy Brussels sprouts recipe again and again, and I bet you'll do the same!
But what I really want to talk about here is my absolute most favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts. Clearly these wonderful little veggies are my greatest love, and yet they sometimes get a bad reputation. That bad reputation is completely the result of poor cooking. If you don't treat them properly, they can end up sulfury and mushy (gross!), flavorless, or dry. Are you ready to hear my secret approach for the most perfectly caramelized stovetop Brussels sprouts that are still juicy and flavorful??
How Do You Cook Brussels Sprouts?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad ways to cook Brussels sprouts. Boiling them can make them mushy, water-logged, and sulfury (gross). Roasting them is better and sometimes pretty good, but they can easily dry out, especially if you don't use much oil (which, generally speaking, I prefer not to). Roasting can also take a lot of time. Cooking them in the air fryer sometimes works alright, but again they tend to dry out.
My Approach: The Sear + Poach + Reduce Method
My preferred approach is a three-part method on the stovetop. Although it takes a bit more hands-on attention, the results are magical (and it's faster than roasting too!). This healthy Brussels sprouts recipe uses minimal oil since they stay moist thanks to a sauce you'll make right in the skillet.
First, you'll caramelize the sprouts cut-side-down in a skillet to get that gorgeous, golden side. This is critical for getting that luscious visual appeal and deep, toasty flavor. This will take about ten minutes.
Next you'll add a watery sauce, put a lid on the skillet, and poach the stovetop Brussels sprouts for a couple minutes. This creates a fragrant "hot tub" that will moisten and infuse your sprouts with flavor. Just a few minutes in this hot tub transforms the sprouts from dry and flavorless to juicy and decadent!
Finally, the third step is to cook down the sauce. Remove the lid and evaporate off the rest of the liquid until the sauce has thickened and is sticking to the sprouts. This will take about 5-10 minutes.
This three-part method gives you the best of both worlds. You still get that perfectly caramelized, flavorful surface generally achieved by roasting. But the poaching part of this cooking method ensures that the skillet Brussels sprouts are moist and infused with flavor, rather than crispy and dry. The end result is sprouts that are succulent, juicy, and hearty. And although there are three separate parts to this approach, the method is easy (it basically just involves putting the lid on and off!) and is much faster than roasting; you'll have this healthy Brussels sprouts recipe done in about 20 minutes!
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts, tips, and possible substitutions. If you make any substitutions, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Cooking oil. Just a tiny dash is enough to get these stovetop Brussels sprouts beautifully caramelized.
Tamari. Or use low-sodium soy sauce instead.
Honey. If you don't do honey, agave is probably your best bet. Maple syrup will work okay, although it will add some additional flavor. Having a bit of sugar in the sauce helps it thicken, so if you decide to omit it entirely you'll end up with a thinner sauce.
Toasted sesame oil. If you don't have this in your pantry, I recommend it highly; it's such an incredible flavor powerhouse. You'll use just a little bit, so this healthy Brussels sprouts recipe stays light instead of oily.
Fresh ginger root
Cayenne. Optional, but I like to give these fun skillet Brussels sprouts a subtle kick of heat. Feel free to omit it for a no-heat version.
Citrus slices. I've shown kumquats here because they're the best! But anything you have is fine, including the orange you zested to make the sauce.
I mean seriously, aren't these skillet Brussels sprouts beautiful?? No one could possibly not love Brussels sprouts after having this dish. The method I've outlined above will work with any flavor combination you could dream up, so feel free to experiment! Just make sure you have at least a few tablespoons of watery sauce so that they poach properly, and make sure your sauce has some sugars (natural or otherwise) to help it thicken.
In addition to being delicious, I love that these stovetop Brussels sprouts are easy, fast, and use minimal oil. While I love the occasional fried Brussels sprout order at a bar, this healthy Brussels sprouts recipe is one you can make again and again at home as a nourishing comfort food dish all fall and winter long.
How will you enjoy these easy, juicy skillet Brussels sprouts? We love them just as finger food alongside some Friday evening cocktails! But they'd be equally as great as a side dish along some Asian-inspired fare, on top of a big hearty salad, or in a nourish bowl. Whether you're a Brussels sprout lover or a Brussels sprout skeptic, these are a must-try.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
Beautifully balanced between sweet, salty, and spicy, these stovetop Brussels sprouts make for an awesome side dish or finger food. The real magic of this post, though, is my top-secret most favorite Brussels sprouts cooking method!
Cut the stems off the Brussels sprouts, then cut them in half to yield two symmetrical sides. Lay them all, cut-side down, in a large, oiled skillet.
Cook the Brussels sprouts on medium-high heat until the cut sides become browned and caramelized. Check them frequently to avoid burning.
Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the tamari, honey, sesame oil, grated fresh ginger, and orange zest. Add a little pinch of cayenne if you want some heat.
When the Brussels sprouts are caramelized on the cut sides, turn the heat to low and let the skillet cool down for a couple minutes. Add the sauce, then put a lid on the skillet. Let the Brussels sprouts poach in the sauce for a couple minutes until tender and full of flavor.
Remove the lid from the skillet and cook for a few more minutes at medium/high heat to evaporate off any remaining moisture and condense the sauce. Keep a close eye on them since the sauce will want to burn as it thickens.
Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving platter and garnish with sesame seeds and citrus slices.