How to cook Brussels sprouts
- Preparation and cooking time
- Serves 8
Serve the perfect side of sprouts at Christmas with our classic recipe. Plus, read our tips on buying, cooking and freezing this gorgeous green veg, along with alternative recipe suggestions.
- Low fat
- 750g Brussels sprouts , trimmed, any large ones halved or quartered
- Knob of unsalted butter (optional)
- STEP 1
Tip the sprouts into a pan and add a couple of cm water and a pinch of salt – a large pan works better so they're not piled up too high. Cover and bring the water to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook with the lid on for 3- 5 mins depending on size.
- STEP 2
Test with a sharp knife to see if they are cooked through. If not, cook for a little longer and test again.
- STEP 3
Drain and tip the sprouts into a bowl. Serve with a knob of butter, if you wish.
Tips for cooking Brussel sprouts
- 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. It may also cause them to become more soggy as the water infiltrates the centre of the sprout.
- You can cook your sprouts ahead and reheat them in the microwave if you are short on hob space. Or you can cook halved or quartered sprouts ahead and warm them gently with some butter in a pan.
- Ingredients that can be added to cooked sprouts include flaked or chopped almonds, chopped hazel nuts and of course chestnuts. Brown the nuts in a little butter before adding the freshly cooked sprouts. Give your sprouts a spiced edge with garam masala or ras el hanout, or add some chopped chilli and garlic, again cook the spices or flavourings for a few seconds in butter or oil before adding the hot sprouts. Toss them together. You'll find plenty more flavour ideas in our main collection of Brussel sprouts recipes.
- There are plenty of other ways to cook Brussel sprouts other than boiling. See our list of cooking methods below, including roasting, steaming, pan-frying and plenty more.
Other ways to cook Brussel sprouts
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 if you like.
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.
Steam or simmer whole or halved 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. You can also stir-fry shredded sprouts in the same way, they’ll cook quickly so keep moving them around the wok.
Heat some oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Put halved sprouts in, cut-side down, leave to sizzle for 5-10 mins, lifting them up every few mins to see how brown they are, then dot with butter, turn them over and cook for about 10 mins more until they are tinged dark brown all over. Season and scatter over some sesame seeds or flaked almonds if you like.
Prepare your sprouts and dry them thoroughly. 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 lower in the sprouts and fry for 3 mins until deep golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper, then scatter with sea salt.
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.
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.
Tip sprouts into a pan (in a single layer if you can) 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.
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 until bubbling.
Shred raw sprouts, toss with mayonnaise or vinaigrette and use instead of cabbage in slaws.
Which sprouts should I use and when are they in season?
We think of sprouts as a Christmas dish but there are over 100 varieties which come into season at varying points through the late summer through until spring.
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. Most loose sprouts won’t be labelled but those in nets might be, you could also try growing your own if you have space..
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 sprouts on a stalk, twist them off firmly starting at the base and working upwards just before cooking, or roast them on the stalk.
How to prepare Brussels sprouts :
- You don’t need to peel sprouts when you are cooking them, remove any discoloured leaves if there are some, otherwise leave them be and trim the bases.
- Don’t cut crosses in the bases, this may encourage water to get into the sprout and make it soggy as it cooks.
- Don’t soak sprouts before cooking them, they don’t need it. Rinse before cooking, and if you want to store them ready-prepped but them in a reusable bag or container in the fridge.
How to store sprouts
- Raw sprouts will store for some time in the fridge – at least five days and up to 10.
- Leave them in their bag in the salad drawer, or if they are loose make sure your fridge isn’t going to dry them out.
- Don’t allow the sprouts to get too damp either or they might start to go mouldy.
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.
- Cooked sprouts are best frozen when cut into pieces or sliced first. Freeze them in a flat layer if you can, then tip them into a big so you can take as many as you like out at a time. Whole sprouts can be frozen in the same way.
- If you do freeze cooked sprouts, use them in bubble & squeak and other hash-style dishes, or cut them up, stir them into some cream and bake.
- Raw sprouts can be frozen when shredded or thinly sliced, spread them out on a tray to freeze and then tip them into a bag or container and they’ll defrost almost instantly so you can tip them straight into a frying pan.