17 Ways To Add More Flavor To Brussels Sprouts

How do you feel about Brussels sprouts? These tiny cruciferous veggies are in the same family as kale, arugula, and cauliflower and pack a powerful nutritional punch. These ingredients are rich in essential vitamins like E, K, and folate, and they're also a good source of fiber that makes for a filling side dish. Despite the myriad of positive health benefits associated with these vegetables, though, they never seem to make it to the top of people's lists for the best side dish to be served at a gathering. If you neglect to season them correctly or make the unfortunate mistake of overcooking them, Brussels sprouts can be downright repulsive. 

Admittedly, I was in the anti-Brussels sprouts camp for a very long time. But after some hardcore experimentation and cooking the sprouts every which way, I've found a deep appreciation for this crunchy, versatile veggie. Here are some of the best ways to add more flavor and depth to your Brussels sprouts — and bypass the groans of seeing a dish of them on the dinner table.

Roll your sprouts in crumbled Cheetos

The next time Brussels sprouts are on your dinner menu, take a walk down the snack food aisle at your grocery store. Although it might seem a bit strange to grab a bag of your favorite chips to elevate your cruciferous side dish, Cheetos are the texture upgrade your Brussels sprouts need. You should consider the standard Cheetos puffs and other flavors like Flamin' Hot or White Cheddar. Alternatively, you can also use crumbled Doritos, Takis, or Fritos for your veggies. These snack food favorites provide a satisfying crunch and burst of savory flavor, which will take your bland veggies to new heights. 

There are numerous ways to add Cheetos to your Brussels sprouts recipe, and it's dependent on how you plan on cooking the sprouts. Start by crushing your puffs in a resealable bag before rolling your roasted sprouts in them. Or, you can add your chip-coated Brussels sprouts to the oven to help crisp up the topping even more.

Cook them with bacon

The logical solution for any lackluster flavors in the kitchen is to add bacon. It's the secret to out-of-this-world cinnamon buns, dreamy mac and cheese, and salty, savory Brussels sprouts. The easiest way to add bacon, or pancetta, to your Brussels sprouts is to chop it up and add it to your Brussels sprouts as they're baking or roasting. You can also use both ingredients for a bacony Brussels sprouts hash since the saltiness of the bacon plays well with the eggs and the peppers. 

Our favorite way to use the meat is to make bacon-wrapped balsamic Brussels sprouts (say that five times fast). Once your sprouts are boiled and slightly tender, wrap each in a piece of bacon and roast them on a wire rack in the oven. After they are crispy, you can coat each in a heavenly balsamic glaze and serve hot. They make a great appetizer for an upscale event or can be served as a side dish to your holiday favorites. 

Add a touch of sweetness with pomegranate molasses

You might have to traverse an unfamiliar aisle at the grocery store to source a container of pomegranate molasses, but we assure you that it's the ingredient that will breathe new life into your Brussels sprouts. Unlike regular molasses, which is made with a sugar byproduct, pomegranate molasses is made by reducing pomegranate juice until it forms a viscous liquid. The Middle Eastern ingredient can be drizzled on meats, salad, seafood, and veggies like sprouts. 

For the best flavor, you'll want to drizzle the molasses directly onto the sprouts after they're finished cooking. Alternatively, you can also candy the sprouts by simmering them in the sweet, acidic liquid. Bobby Flay's fruity spin on Brussels sprouts utilizes both pomegranate molasses and whole pomegranate seeds to make a delicious side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. The chef tops his dish with candied walnuts, but we could also see substituting it with toasted pine nuts, too.  

Pop them on the grill for a delightful char

Brussels sprouts are one food that is highly susceptible to overcooking. Leaving these cruciferous veggies on the stove for just a little bit too long will cause them to turn into mush and emit a foul-smelling odor. David Chang's flavorful tip for making Brussels sprouts is to always blast them with high heat rather than simmering them on low. This will prevent overcooking and cause them to develop perfectly charred spots with a deep, caramelized flavor. 

You'll still need to give your sprouts a light blanch or steam to soften them before charring. For perfect grilled Brussels sprouts, pop them in your microwave for about three minutes to steam the insides of the sprouts that would otherwise not cook. From there, you can add the halved sprouts to skewers and grill for a couple of minutes on each side. It's the perfect way to get a fresh summer side dish when your grill is already hot. 

Brighten them up with lemon

Lemon is your secret weapon in making delicious Brussels sprouts. This bright, tangy ingredient provides an acidic element to your dish, which helps balance out its flavors. Our spicy lemon Brussels sprouts recipe is made with both lemon juice and zest, which helps highlight the other dressings in this dish. The lemon is particularly helpful if you're working with an outrageously sweet ingredient, like honey or maple syrup, or a spicy one, like chili oil, that can easily overpower the flavors in your dish. 

The trick to making your citrus zest flavor more prominent in any recipe is always to zest the fruit right before you need to serve it. The oils in the rind are volatile, meaning that they easily evaporate into the air. For the best flavor on your Brussels sprouts, you should also always use fresh lemon juice rather than the bottled varieties. 

Add flavor complexity with your favorite Dijon mustard

Dijon mustard is the unsung hero in your kitchen. This spread can be used for everything from upgraded potato salads to steak marinade — and it's an incredible asset to your Brussels sprouts. Maple-Dijon Brussels sprouts combine a few ingredients, including your treasured jar of Grey Poupon and a splash of maple syrup to balance the complex flavor notes. You'll want to pour the dressing onto the Brussels sprouts before you bake them so that all the folds are enveloped in a layer of zesty flavor. Dijon mustard is versatile enough to serve with pork, steak, or holiday staples, so you can be sure that this dish is welcomed on every table, including ours. 

If you're a big fan of the mustard flavor, you can use whole-grain mustard instead of Dijon for your glaze. Although the bits of mustard can alter the texture of your sprouts quite a bit, the flavor is much more concentrated. 

Smother them in garlic butter

Garlic butter Brussels sprouts are one of the easiest recipes you can make at home because it only requires four ingredients: butter, garlic, salt, and of course, the sprouts. Add your minced garlic to a skillet with the butter to bring out its aromatic properties before adding the sliced Brussels sprouts. The edges of the sprouts should be charred but still firm to the touch. Moreover, this flavorful add-in will promote the beautiful brown color and caramelized flavor on the outside of the sprouts and plays well with a variety of main dishes, including pork, chicken, or fish. 

Another way to use butter to boost the flavor of your sprouts is to brown it in a pan before adding it to your sprouts. Browning toasts the milk solids in the butter, which adds a toffee-like sweetness to your sprouts. It can also be a vector for fresh garlic, but we also recommend adding a handful of toasted pine nuts to the plate. 

Use Worcestershire sauce for an umami profile

Although it may be difficult to spell, it's not difficult to fall in love with the flavor of Worcestershire sauce-seasoned Brussels sprouts. It's the secret ingredient Jamie Oliver adds to his recipe because it adds an element of umami and savoriness to the dish, which he complements with apples and sausage. 

Worcestershire sauce is an unsung hero for Brussels sprouts because it has the sweetening elements of molasses and sugar, along with the puckery flavor of anchovies, vinegar, and tamarind. It's a one-stop shop for all things flavor, so you can use it as the sole seasoning for your sprouts. You'll only need to add about one to two teaspoons of the sauce to your recipe. For the most forward flavor, try adding your Worcestershire sauce at the end of the cooking process, right before you're about to serve the sprouts, to maximize the taste on your palate. 

Cook them in the air fryer instead

Oh air fryer, how we love you so. You should cook Brussels sprouts in an air fryer because it makes for crunchy, convenient cruciferous veggies in a snap. Not only will you forgo the tedious process of preheating and running a massive oven, but you also won't have to add as much oil to this recipe to get the perfect degree of crispiness. The hot, consistently moving air will crisp up your sprouts and, as a result, impart a much sweeter flavor to your veggies than if you cooked them with another method.

The key to making sure that your Brussels sprouts cook correctly in this tabletop appliance is always to cut them into halves and place them in a single layer in the basket to maximize air circulation. Once you remove these veggies from the air fryer, you can top them with your favorite glaze or cheese. 

Grab the balsamic

One ingredient that is often shared across Brussels sprout recipes is the beloved balsamic vinegar. This thick sauce is a vehicle for flavor because it has both sweet and sour flavors. Authentic balsamic vinegar from Moderna is aged 12 months in barrels, but most of the stuff you get on the shelves of your grocery store has a mere 60 days. We recommend sourcing the traditional product rather than its cheaper, industrially-produced cousin for optimal flavor.

For easy balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts, mix your balsamic vinegar with whole grain mustard, maple syrup, extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of hot sauce (which you can omit if you aren't a spice fiend). Once the sprouts are roasted with the oil, you can coat the sprouts in the glaze. If you add the glaze before the sprouts are roasted, you'll risk burning them. The balsamic plays well with briny feta and fresh parsley as a garnish. 

Make them salty with parmesan cheese

Although the folks at our local Olive Garden like to cut us off on the cheese with the line "Say when," we're not skimping on the parmesan for these Brussels sprouts. Parmesan Brussels sprouts are a tasty, savory rendition of the recipe packed with salty and umami flavor notes. The cheese is also an excellent way to help convince young eaters to dig into these veggies. 

 You can make this cheesy rendition in your air fryer. Coat your sprouts in balsamic vinegar and oil before tossing them with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Panko breadcrumbs about halfway through the cooking process. The breadcrumbs will add a crunchy element to your sprouts and help curb the richness of the cheese. You'll want to avoid adding the cheese immediately when you add the sprouts to the air fryer because then they will burn before the inside has enough time to cook.

Add nuts for a pop of texture and fattiness

The key to establishing balance in your recipe is to seek not only complementary textures but also ingredients. Some veggies, for example, need fat to go along with them due to a phenomenon called nutrient synergy. Consuming some veggies with a source of fat can increase the intestine's uptake of nutrients like carotenoids. One of these fats is found in nuts, like walnuts or pecans. These nutrient-dense fats won't make you feel as bogged down as if you ate a plate of sprouts smothered in butter, and they will add a surprising pop of crunch to your dish. 

We add a walnut crumble to our Brussels sprouts gratin. The walnut pieces are paired with crunchy breadcrumbs, cheese, and thyme and added to the decadent dish before it's baked. You can also add chopped nuts to a Brussels sprouts salad with fruits like cranberries or mandarin oranges to help balance out the sweetness.

Make things sweet with honey

Brussels sprouts and honey go hand-in-hand. This sweetener adds sweetness to your recipe and a sticky texture that helps the breadcrumbs or cheese stick to your sprouts. Our honey-balsamic air fryer Brussels sprouts are dressed with a coating of honey, vinegar, and dry seasonings before being baked in the tabletop appliance. When working with honey, it's important to line your air fryer basket, if possible, to make cleanup easier. 

There are many different types of honey you can use to alter the flavor of your Brussels sprouts slightly. Wildflower honey, for example, is pollinated by a variety of different plants, so it may have a more variant flavor than standard clover honey. Manuka honey has a stronger mineral profile and often fetches a higher price tag because of its ultra-specific production method. You can play with these different types of honey to find the best blend for your sprouts. 

Smash them before cooking

Say it with us: surface area, surface area, surface area. The key to making your Brussels sprouts ultra crispy is to smash them before cooking rather than leaving them whole or halved. This will increase the surface area that the Brussels sprouts have to brown, thus increasing the opportunity for caramelization and char. 

You'll need to par-cook the sprouts first before you smash them since they are too hard to crush when raw. Mason jars or mugs are good tools to get your Brussels sprouts perfectly flat. Not to mention, it's pretty satisfying to beat down your veggies in the kitchen and get rewarded with a plate of crunchy, perfectly cooked vegetables. After your sprouts are smashed, you can cook them per your recipe's instructions. 

Use more oil than you think you'd need

Oil is your friend when trying to get crispy Brussels sprouts. The big mistake people make when roasting Brussels sprouts is not adding enough oil to the veggies before popping them in the oven. The oil helps develop those delicious crispy corners, so too little will yield limp, unappetizing sprouts. Ideally, you should be using about two tablespoons of oil per pound of sprouts, and toss your veggies in the oil well before adding them to the baking sheet or dish. 

The oil you choose to add to your sprouts also matters. Avocado and olive oil tend to be neutral-flavored oils that don't impart astringent notes on your veggies when heated to high temperatures. On the other hand, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has a grassy flavor and does not handle roasting temperatures well. Use EVOO for fresh Brussels sprout salads instead, or add it to your sprouts after cooking. 

Try frying your sprouts

You heard it right: fried Brussels sprouts. This salad incorporates Asian flavors and ingredients, along with a bit of an unconventional cooking method. The sprouts are plopped into a few inches of hot canola oil and cooked for a few minutes until crispy. Quartering the vegetable is ideal because it will ensure that all the sides of the sprouts get crispy and the center cooks. In addition, you'll need to dry off the Brussels sprouts entirely before placing them in the oil to prevent splattering. 

To help lighten up the dish, we recommend tossing the sprouts with salt (post-fry) and a spicy combination of fish sauce, Sichuan hot pot sauce, sambal, and lime juice. You can also balance out the richness with roasted squash pieces, nuts, and torn herbs like cilantro and mint. 

Toss them in buffalo sauce

Move over buffalo cauliflower, there's a new sheriff in town. Buffalo sauce provides a bright buttery yet spicy flavor to your sprouts and gives them a bar-food-esque profile. For these buffalo Brussels sprouts, cook them in a skillet before spooning your homemade sauce over it. Although making the recipe at home allows you to control the spice factor and introduce complementary flavors like thyme into the picture, you can also settle with your favorite flavor of Frank's Red Hot, too. 

Finish your plate off with a sprinkle of sharp Stilton bleu cheese and lemon zest to round out the sharpness of the Buffalo sauce. These sprouts are excellent to serve with your other game-day favorites.