As Cinderella stories go, the tale of how Brussels sprouts got so popular has to be even more impressive than that of kale. When I was growing up, the little brassicas weren't part of my family's repertoire, but their reputation preceded them: Long before I ever tried them, the adjective I primarily associated with them was "smelly." But in the past decade or so, as Brussels sprouts started to pop up on the menus of more and more hip restaurants (roasted, fried, even garnishing Bloody Marys), I finally had occasion to try them—and was instantly hooked on the sweet, nutty flavor they exude when cooked well.
My story is hardly unique, as is clearly demonstrated by the proliferation of sprout-based offerings on upscale menus everywhere. If you're still holding on to your childhood fears of mushiness and smelliness, there's no better time to step off the fence and into the fold than Thanksgiving: The sprouts are in season now, and, just as important, we've gathered 11 preparations that will make you a believer if anything will. Roasting Brussels sprouts in your oven is a good way to be introduced; if you feel ready for less-charted waters, try them deep-fried or baked in a creamy gratin.
Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
The simplest and most surefire way to cook Brussels sprouts? Just give them a roast with salt, pepper, and oil—but be sure to crank the heat on that oven. Slow cooking brings out the sprouts' less pleasant, sulfurous flavor, while a temperature of around 500°F yields crisp, charred edges and a deep sweetness.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots With Balsamic Vinegar
Another trick to maximize the heat for nutty, browned, almost crunchy roasted sprouts: Leave the pan in the oven as it preheats, which ensures that the sprouts get blasted with sizzling heat from all sides. We add flavor here by including sliced shallots, then drizzling the vegetables with balsamic vinegar as soon as they're out of the oven—the residual heat from the pan will turn the vinegar into a tart glaze.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Kimchi and Ginger
Though they do just fine with minimal seasoning, Brussels sprouts' layered leaves are also ideal for picking up bold flavors. Here, we roast the sprouts with shallots and ginger, then toss it all with a powerfully tart and spicy sauce of kimchi, fish sauce, and rice wine vinegar, with a touch of honey to balance out the acidity and chopped mint for a little freshness.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Bacon, Pecans, and Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette
For a Brussels sprout dish that's rich in the way a Thanksgiving side should be, we roast them with bacon fat instead of olive oil, then top the sprouts with the crisped bacon and crunchy toasted pecans. A vinaigrette of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar brings out the sprouts' natural sweetness. Good luck not eating every one of these before they even make it to the table.
Fried Brussels Sprouts With Shallots, Honey, and Balsamic Vinegar
If you've never tried deep-frying Brussels sprouts before, you're in for a serious treat. The fried sprouts come out crisp and golden brown, with plenty of nooks and crannies for soaking up sauce—here, we use a simple dressing of honey and balsamic vinegar, for a combination of sweet and tangy flavors.
Fried Brussels Sprouts With Shallots and Chilies
For a more intensely savory accompaniment for fried Brussels sprouts, try a Southeast Asian–inspired blend of fish sauce, ginger, lime, cilantro, and Thai bird chilies. Gauge the palates of your Thanksgiving guests before using the bird chilies, though—they're super hot, and you might want to consider a milder option, like a single jalapeño or serrano.
Seared Brussels Sprouts With Bacon Lardons
Want to avoid the extra time required for roasting and the mess of deep-frying? Searing on the stovetop is the way to go. Start by crisping up bacon (you can also use prosciutto, guanciale, chorizo, or whatever cured pork product suits your fancy), then sear the sprouts in the rendered fat. Allow them to sit undisturbed for a couple of minutes on each side so they get nice and charred.
Warm Brussels Sprout Salad With Bacon and Hazelnut Vinaigrette
To turn sprouts into tasty salad greens, cut off the stem ends, separate the leaves, thinly slice the cores, and quickly cook them all in rendered bacon fat until they're bright green and well charred. After cooking, dress the sprouts with a vinaigrette made with the bacon and sherry vinegar, emulsified with lightly crushed hazelnuts and honey. It beats a warm spinach and bacon salad any day.
Over-the-Top Creamed Brussels Sprouts Gratin
So deep-frying isn't a rich enough treatment, you say? You scoff at the notion that mere bacon can take Brussels sprouts to heights worthy of your Thanksgiving feast? Fine, then: This ultra-comforting, thick and creamy gratin of Brussels sprouts, made with bacon, heavy cream, and cheese, should be just the ticket. If that description didn't convince you, here are two more arguments: It can be made up to five days in advance, then finished with just a bake in the oven, and the sprouts need only to be split in half before they're combined with the other ingredients.
Creamy Brussels Sprouts Gratin With Blue Cheese
Just as ridiculous/delicious as the original, but with a more complex blend of dairy: Milk and cream form the base, blue cheese adds some funk, and whole-grain mustard gives it spice. The resulting gratin is draped in a blanket of Parmesan, just in case you need more cheese.
Creamy Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Lasagna
We've often promoted our squash lasagna as a great addition to your Thanksgiving table, whether as a side or as a vegetarian main dish. But in truth, all sorts of vegetables work in lasagna—including charred shredded Brussels sprouts, which we layer here with mushroom duxelles, white sauce, and pasta sheets. Take that, Brussels sprout haters!