Brussel sprouts are a controversial topic – one of those foods that people either love or hate! These innocent green vegetables can be a hot topic of debate at the dinner table, and it can be hard to convince people to give them a try.
But we think these little vegetables deserve a chance!
So, what do brussel sprouts taste like? Brussel sprouts taste like a cross between broccoli and green cabbage, but with a slightly stronger flavor. Sometimes brussel sprouts can be bitter, but if cooked in the right way they have a sweet nutty flavor which goes well with many other foods.
We are firmly in the corner of brussel sprout lovers, and we would like to convince you to give them a try!
Let’s take an in-depth look at these little green cabbage-esqe vegetables and figure out how to make the most of their lovely flavor.
What Are Brussel Sprouts?
Brussel sprouts are a vegetable, part of the brassica family along with cabbages and kale.
They grow on a tall stalk which produces lots of little compact green balls which look like tiny cabbages. These are the sprouts, the part which we eat.
The individual sprouts themselves are just like a miniature replica of a cabbage.
Made up of multiple layers of tiny leaves tightly packed onto a thicker stem, they have a smooth glossy surface once the thicker outer leaves have been removed.
Brussel sprouts were cultivated in Belgium in the 16th century, which is where they got their distinctive name. They are highly nutritious, packed full of fiber, potassium, and folate, along with Vitamins A, C, and K.
While some people rave about them, many others – particularly children – can’t stand the flavor and smell of brussel sprouts.
It turns out that this dislike of brussel sprouts isn’t just a result of people being picky eaters!
Some clever researchers have found that some people are particularly sensitive to the part of brussel sprout that has a bitter flavor.
It is estimated that about one in four of us will find brussel sprouts too bitter to eat, so if your kids refuse to eat them there may be a genuine reason for this!
However, tastes change as you age, so this is one of those vegetables that is worth persisting with as you get older.
What Do Brussel Sprouts Taste Like?
Like all vegetables, the taste of brussel sprouts depends on the way you cook them. There are many variations on the flavor, so we’ve summed up the key points for you:
- When cooked and seasoned properly, brussel sprouts have a sweet, smoky, nutty flavor. This is best described as a cross between green cabbage and broccoli, but slightly stronger in flavor than these vegetables.
- When cooked badly, the bitter flavor of brussel sprouts will be enhanced. This normally happens if they are cooked for too long, or inadequately seasoned.
- Brussel sprouts can be eaten uncooked. Raw brussel sprouts taste like a slightly stronger version of cabbage.
- The size of the brussel sprout will affect the flavor. Smaller sprouts have a better and sweeter flavor than more mature ones.
In our opinion, you will get the absolute best flavor by roasting your well-seasoned brussel sprouts in oil with some bacon pieces.
Roasting will bring out the delicious nutty flavor and enhance the sugars, as well as giving a slight crisp to the outside. Delicious!
But not everyone will agree, and brussel sprout fans all have their own favorite recipes.
Sometimes you can’t go wrong with freshly steamed sprouts, simply garnished with a knob of butter and a twist of freshly ground black pepper.
This will give you a much lighter and fresher taste to your brussel sprouts compared to roasting.
What Do Brussel Sprouts Smell Like?
A raw brussel sprout, like most vegetables, doesn’t really smell of anything. It is the cooking process that starts to unlock different flavors and smells, and unfortunately, these are not always pleasant!
One of the biggest problems people have with brussel sprouts lies not with the flavor, but with the smell.
This is a twofold problem – smells are produced during cooking, and they can have some unpleasant effects on the human digestive system as well.
During cooking, brussel sprouts have a very recognizable odor, and this can appear no matter what cooking method you use.
This smell is a combination of sulfur – an eggy smell – and raffinose, a carbohydrate also found in beans.
This is not a particularly pleasant odor, and can, unfortunately, linger in your kitchen for some hours afterward.
The smell is considerably worse if sprouts are boiled in water, so stick to steaming or roasting to avoid the stink.
The other secret to reducing the smell is to cook your sprouts as quickly as possible!
As we’ve already found, brussel sprouts contain raffinose. This carbohydrate is often linked to bloating and abdominal discomfort, which can lead to some rather unpleasant after-effects.
Yes, the notorious brussel sprout flatulence!
Unfortunately, no matter what cooking method is used, the effect of brussel sprouts on the digestive system will be the same.
Drinking peppermint tea can help to reduce the symptoms, but if you are prone to bloating then it may be best to steer clear of these little vegetables.
Brussel Sprout Texture
Raw brussel sprouts have a similar texture to cabbage but are slightly more rubbery and chewy.
When cooked, the tender leaves on the inside will become soft, with a nice crunchy exterior.
Take care not to overcook them, as they can quickly become mushy – something which has put many people off brussel sprouts in the past!
Why Should We Eat Brussel Sprouts?
Okay, so we admit that so far it isn’t looking good – one in four people will find brussel sprouts bitter and unpalatable, others will hate the smell, and other people may suffer from bloating and flatulence.
So why should we eat brussel sprouts?
Well, let’s not forget that many of us think they are delicious!
If you can hit the delicate balance of cooking them perfectly, then you will be rewarded with a sweet and delicious brussel sprout that deserves pride of place on any dinner table.
But it is not all about the flavor – brussel sprouts are also very good for you!
These nutritious vegetables pack a lot of benefits – absolutely loaded with Vitamins A, C, and K, along with high levels of iron, potassium, and fiber.
How to Cook Brussel Sprouts
We think that brussel sprouts deserve pride of place on any dinner table. But there is no point serving up mushy, soggy, bitter sprouts – you won’t be doing anything to help the reputation of this misunderstood vegetable!
When cooked in the right way, brussel sprouts come alive!
With a tender, juicy interior, and crisp exterior, they should taste sweet, nutty, and delightful. Hugely different from the overcooked soggy mess people associate them with!
There are several ways to cook brussel sprouts. Whatever method you choose, the key to unlocking this fabulous flavor is to not overcook them.
To prepare your brussel sprouts for cooking, simply slice off the bottom of the stalk and remove the tough outer leaves.
Carefully use your knife to make a cross in the bottom of the stalk – this helps your sprout to cook evenly, allowing the cooking time to be as short as possible.
Here are the best ways to cook brussel sprouts:
On The Stove
Traditionally, brussel sprouts were boiled in water. If this is your preferred method that’s fine, but many people find that boiling them unlocks more of the bitter unpleasant flavor.
Boiling is also the method blamed for generating the horrible sulfur smell which can linger in the kitchen for hours.
The preferred method to cook brussel sprouts on the stove is by sautéing them.
Pop a single layer of sprouts in a pan, season well, and add a splash of oil. Sautee until tender but not mushy. This method also allows you to add different flavors, such as garlic and white wine.
Another option on the stove is to steam your brussel sprouts. This can be a great way to preserve the fresh flavor without the risk of mushiness.
However, steaming can still produce some unpleasant smells during the cooking process!
In The Oven
Traditionally, brussel sprouts were boiled to a mush on the stove, which is the root cause of their terrible reputation. Then along came a revelation – these little beauties roast perfectly in the oven!
Roasting brussel sprouts in the oven give them a beautiful crispy outer layer and juicy middle.
Roasting will also enhance the nutty flavor and caramelize the natural sugars. This method also gives the opportunity to add flavors, such as bacon, shallots, and celery.
To roast brussel sprouts, coat them in olive oil and transfer them to a baking sheet. Season well and cook for 20 to 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
Give the pan a shake occasionally to turn the sprouts over. When the outer leaves turn dark brown they are cooked to perfection!
No, we haven’t gone crazy! This might not be the healthiest option (and kind of defeats the object of eating vegetables), but deep-fried brussel sprouts have an amazing super-crunchy texture!
The frying time will vary depending on the size of your brussel sprouts and how you prefer them to be cooked, so do a test run with two or three first to get it perfect.
If you have more burning questions about brussels, read on.
Do Cabbage And Brussel Sprouts Taste The Same?
Cabbage and brussel sprouts do look very similar – in fact, brussel sprouts are often described as miniature cabbages!
They are from the same family of vegetables known as brassicas, which also includes kale, broccoli, and cauliflower.
But do cabbage and brussel sprouts taste the same?
They are remarkably similar, but brussel sprouts have a slightly stronger and sweeter taste and are best described as a cross between cabbage and broccoli.
When cooked, brussel sprout also have a slightly nutty flavor.
So, if you fancy trying some different greens on your plate and are a fan of cabbage and broccoli, give brussel sprouts a try – you will not be disappointed!
Why Do Brussel Sprouts Taste So Bad?
Well, many of us don’t think that brussel sprouts taste bad! But one in four people will find that this innocent green vegetable tastes bitter and unpleasant.
Why is this?
Brussel sprouts, along with other members of the brassica family, contain high levels of glucosinolates. This compound, when metabolized by the body, can give a sharp or bitter taste.
Scientists have discovered that there is a genetic difference between people’s taste receptors on the tongue.
25% of people have inherited bitter taste receptors which are incredibly sensitive – these people will find foods like brussel sprouts unpalatable with a strong bitter taste.
This is a throwback to when many bitter foods were toxic, to protect our foraging ancestors from eating poisonous berries.
So next time you tell your parents you do not want to eat the brussel sprouts at dinner, you can tell them that it’s not your fault. Just blame your genes!
What Goes Well With Brussel Sprouts?
Searching for recipe inspiration for brussel sprouts?
These little vegetables are more versatile than you might realize and can be paired with many other foods and flavors. They work particularly well with a bit of added sweetness or salty flavored foods.
These are our favorite foods to pair with brussel sprouts:
- Vegetables: Artichoke, pepper, celery, fennel, shallots
- Fruits: Apple, orange,
- Herbs: Basil, bay, parsley, thyme
- Spices: Black pepper, nutmeg
- Dairy: Butter, Parmesan cheese, blue cheese
- Nuts: Cashews, walnuts, pine nuts
- Meats: Bacon, pork
- Other: Capers, garlic, white wine, soy sauce, olive oil
How Do You Store Brussel Sprouts?
Brussel sprouts are quite unusual vegetables. The plant itself is a tall thick green stalk, with little green nodules along the length of the stalk.
Each nodule looks like a tiny cabbage – this is the sprout, the part that we eat!
If you live in a rural area, you may be able to buy your brussel sprouts still attached to the stalk. Sprouts will last much longer on the stalk, especially if left in a cool dark place with the cut end of the stalk in a bowl of water.
More often, you will see sprouts sold already cut off the stalk. These should be stored in the refrigerator and are at their best if eaten within three days.
After this, they will still be edible, but they will develop a stronger flavor.
If the outer leaves start to turn yellow and spots develop, the brussel prouts will be past their best and should be discarded.
What Are Tips For Buying Brussel Sprouts?
As with all vegetables, the best time to buy them is when they are in season.
These are an autumn and winter cropping vegetable, and are at their best when harvested after the first frost. This cold snap of weather triggers the plant to form sugars, giving a sweet and delicious flavor.
If buying brussel sprouts on the stalk, look for a thick healthy stalk, preferably with some of the top leaves left on.
For loose brussel sprouts, look for sprouts with clean and healthy outer leaves. Avoid any with yellowing or spots.
Smaller brussel sprouts will have a tender and sweeter flavor, whereas the larger ones will taste more like cabbage.
Out of season, brussel sprouts may also be found in the freezer section of your local store.
Although these will not have the same crunchy texture as a fresh sprout, they can be a good alternative if you are looking to add some variety to your diet.