Bowl of Brussels sprouts with pistachios and pomegranate seeds

How to cook Brussels sprouts

Serve perfect Brussels sprouts at Christmas with our tips on buying, cooking and freezing this gorgeous green veg, plus recipe twists to convert sceptics.

Brussels sprouts have long been a divisive side dish at the Christmas Day table – there are lovers and haters, but very few in between. With over 100 varieties, don’t assume all sprouts are the same, however.

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Among the most popular are Abacus (ready in August and September) and Cryptus (these are like mini cabbages with frilly outer leaves, ready in December), plus dark green Petrus and Splendus that continue going strong into April.

For more Christmas inspiration, see our Brussels sprouts recipes, plus the health benefits of Brussels sprouts.

How to buy Brussels sprouts

Look for firm, fresh, perky-looking sprouts when you buy them. They should have a pale base and darker leaves – any yellowing or browning will mean they’re getting old. Also, if they look as if the leaves have started to open out, they have probably been harvested late. If you buy them on a stalk, twist them off firmly starting at the base and working upwards just before cooking, or roast them on the stalk.

Brussels sprouts

How to store sprouts

Sprouts will store for a reasonably long time – at least five days and up to 10 – if you put them in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Do not wash them first, as this will make them deteriorate faster.

How to freeze sprouts

If you end up with a load of leftover sprouts, you can freeze them, but bear in mind the texture will not benefit from being frozen. If you do freeze them, use them in bubble & squeak and other hash-style dishes, or stir them into some cream and bake.

Classic Brussels sprouts recipe

Serves 8

  • 750g sprouts, trimmed, any large ones halved
  • 50g butter
  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and simmer the sprouts for 5 mins.
  2. Test with a sharp knife to see if they are cooked through.
  3. Drain and tip back into the pan along with the butter and plenty of seasoning. Gently turn the sprouts over with a wooden spoon or spatula until they are well-coated.

The one rule that holds true for cooking sprouts on the hob is that you should try to avoid cooking them for more than 5 minutes or the sulphurous compounds (isothiocyanates) within them will start to break down – and they will smell. The longer you cook them, the stronger the smell will get.

Halve, quarter or shred sprouts to minimise the cooking time. If the sprouts are larger than average and you want them to remain whole, you can of course cook them for longer. They will probably need 7-8 minutes to cook through.

Don’t cut a cross in the base of your sprouts. It won’t make them cook any more quickly and makes prepping them take longer.

How to cook Brussels sprouts

Steamed

Steam halved sprouts in a steamer set over a pan of simmering water, or in a microwave for 5 mins (longer if needed). Season and dress with butter and a squeeze of orange.

Roasted

Toss sprouts in a little oil and tip into a baking dish with bacon lardons (or wrap each in pancetta first). Roast at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 20-30 minutes, or until tender.

Fondue with roast sprouts

Stir-fried

Steam or simmer sprouts for 3 mins, then heat a little oil in a wok and stir-fry for 3-4 mins until they colour a little. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Spicy stir-fried sprouts 
Chicken, kale & sprout stir-fry

Pan-fried

Heat some oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Put halved sprouts in, cut-side down, leave to sizzle for 10 mins, then dot with butter and cook for 10 mins more until dark brown. Season and scatter over some sesame seeds.

Burnt sprouts with pomegranate & sesame

Deep-fried

Fill a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan no more than a third full with oil and heat until it reads 190C on a thermometer or a piece of bread browns in the oil within 15 secs. Carefully drop in the sprouts and fry for 3 mins until deep golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then scatter with sea salt.

Deep-fried Brussels with black pudding & apple 

Hash

Fry sliced sprouts (pre-cooked if you like) in a little butter until they start to brown, then add mashed potato, season and mix. Press the mixture down in the pan and brown the base. Turn over in patches and keep browning wherever needed.

Bubble & squeak

Gratin

Roast sprouts at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 30 mins. Pour over some cheese sauce, scatter with dried breadcrumbs (and some bacon if you like) and bake for 10 mins.

Roasted sprout gratin with bacon-cheese sauce 

Braised

Tip sprouts into a pan and cover with chicken stock. Add a knob of butter and bring to the boil. Simmer for 8-10 mins, then rest the sprouts in the stock until needed.

Three-in-one braised vegetables 

Creamed

Steam or simmer sprouts for 3-4 mins until tender, then roughly chop. Fry a finely chopped onion in butter until tender, stir in the sprouts and add some cream and a grating of nutmeg and heat together.

Raw

Shred raw sprouts, toss with mayonnaise or vinaigrette and use instead of cabbage in slaws.

Sprout salad with citrus & pomegranate

Top Christmas Brussels sprouts recipes

Bubble & squeak cakes

Leftover sprouts can easily be used up in this recipe, and you may well get them past sprout avoiders in this form. Serve as a side or with a poached egg for brunch.

Bubble & squeak cakes

Sprouts with crispy prosciutto

Pancetta (or prosciutto or bacon), goose fat and sage make these sprouts a fragrant, luxurious side dish for a roast.

Sprouts with crispy prosciutto

Cranberry, sprout & pecan pilaf

This very pretty dish uses sprouts in two ways and is jewelled with festive red pomegranate seeds. Serve with roasts or stews.

Cranberry, sprout & pecan pilaf

Indian spiced greens

Add spices, coconut and chilli to your sprouts and greens to make a very different side dish for a roast.

Indian spiced greens

All-in-one roast bubble & squeak

All-in-one roast sprouts, potato and bacon. Easy and addictive.

All-in-one roast bubble & squeak 

Like this? Find more super sprout recipes…

Christmas sprout recipes
Brussels sprout recipes
Our most indulgent sprout recipes
How to make the ultimate Brussels sprouts

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How do you like to serve Brussels sprouts? Leave a comment below…