Brussels sprouts look like cute mini cabbages but can taste bitter and soggy when not cooked properly. When you want them to have a crackly exterior and tender center, roast them in the oven until caramelized, slightly sweet and extra crispy.
The ingredients and techniques for crispy Brussels sprouts are truly simple, but a few nuances make all the difference. As with most vegetables, use high heat and enough oil that you can hear them sizzling in the final minutes. Trimming off tough ends, halving the sprouts and properly placing them on the baking pan all increase the crunch factor.
What Are Brussels Sprouts?
The first record of cultivated Brussels sprouts occurred in Brussels, Belgium, hence the name. The sprouts are actually the plant’s buds, which develop up the main stem as it grows.
Broad leaves encourage the plant to accumulate vitamins A and C and antioxidants that can help in reducing risk of heart disease and cancer and improving eye and skin health. Each compact Brussels sprout also packs in plant-based protein, fiber and healthy nutrients and acids.
How to Trim Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are typically cut off the plant’s thick main stalk when harvested, leaving a tough stem end on each sprout. When buying them fresh, choose firm, bright green ones that are similar in size and have tight, dense leaves. (Frozen Brussels sprouts will never become as crispy as fresh ones, so it’s best to roast fresh sprouts.)
To trim Brussels sprouts, use a sharp knife to cut off the tough stem end. Next, remove any discolored or damaged outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise to expose more of the interior to the hot pan. More surface area means crispier sprouts, so cut extra-large ones in quarters.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts Recipe
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Step 1: Coat with oil
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the halved Brussels sprouts on a 15x10x1-in. baking pan and toss with oil, salt and pepper until fully coated. Arrange the sprouts so the cut side rests directly on the pan. Place in a single layer with space around each half.
Step 2: Bake
Set the pan on an upper-middle oven rack and roast for 15 minutes.
Test Kitchen Tip: We recommend sticking with fresh Brussels sprouts for the crispiest results. If you want to roast frozen ones, start them straight from the freezer on a preheated pan for the first 15 minutes. Then cut in half, drizzle with oil and arrange on the pan before returning them to the oven for at least 20 minutes.
Step 3: Stir
Give the Brussels sprouts a stir halfway through cooking. To ensure they cook evenly, flip them cut-side down in a single layer with plenty of space around each before returning the pan to the oven.
Step 4: Char and serve
Cook the Brussels sprouts an additional 15-20 minutes, until they are lightly charred on the outside and tender in the center. They should start to sizzle in the last few minutes in the oven. Serve immediately for the crispest Brussels sprouts.
Tips for Making Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Why aren’t my Brussels sprouts crispy?
Brussels sprouts are 86% water, so steps that keep them from steaming improve their crispness. Skip a silicone mat or parchment paper and roast them uncovered. Use high heat, direct contact with a hot pan and just enough oil to sear the surface without making it soggy.
Avoid overcrowding the pan—and the oven—so that the Brussels sprouts cook quickly and evenly. Instead of jamming them together, cook in batches if needed or divide the sprouts between two baking pans on separate racks and rotate the pans partway through the cooking time.
Should you boil Brussels sprouts before roasting?
Boiling leaches bitter compounds from Brussels sprouts, but it also removes beneficial nutrients and makes the heads watery. For crispier sprouts, cut them in half to expose the core to more direct heat and reduce bitterness that way. Sprouts harvested in fall and winter might have a milder flavor than those stressed by summer heat and drought.
If the roasted Brussels sprouts still taste bitter, slide trimmed and halved sprouts in boiling water for just 3-4 minutes to blanch and then immediately plunge them in ice-cold water until cooled. Drain, pat dry with a tea towel, and then spread on a dry towel to continue air-drying while the oven preheats.
What are some variations for crispy Brussels sprouts?
Sticking to oil while roasting Brussels sprouts increases their crispiness, making it best to toss them with other liquids when they come out of the oven. For a flavor boost while they roast, try garlic powder or a little nutmeg. Once cooked, sprinkle them with dried cranberries and nuts or pancetta and garlic. Although typically served as a side dish, roasted Brussels sprouts can be sliced to top cheesy crostini or stirred into pasta with a creamy sauce.
Check out these other Brussels sprouts recipes for more ways to cook and use this veggie.
How do you store crispy Brussels sprouts?
Roasted Brussels sprouts will be crispiest hot from the oven, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a up to 4 days. For a faster meal, trim and halve fresh sprouts a day ahead and refrigerate them until roasting time. You can freeze roasted Brussels sprouts for a couple of months, but reheating is unlikely to restore their original crispiness.
An oven reheats roasted Brussels sprouts with the best chance for a crackly surface. Microwaving previously cooked Brussels sprouts will make them hot but soft.