What Do Brussels Sprouts Taste Like? Everything You Should Know

Brussels sprouts – there aren’t many foods that divide opinion quite so much!

Every Christmas at our dinner table there’s a split between those who love them and those who just can’t stand them.

But what if you’ve never tasted them before? Are they worth a try?

Here’s the quick answer: Brussels sprouts have an earthy, slightly bitter taste that is most similar to cabbage. Size affects their flavor, with smaller sprouts being sweeter and more tender.

Keep reading to learn more about these versatile veggies!

Key Takeaways

  • Brussels sprouts belong to the brassica family and resemble mini cabbages.
  • They have an earthy, slightly bitter taste that is milder than cabbage.
  • The size, preparation, and cooking method of Brussels sprouts can impact their flavor.

What are Brussels Sprouts?

Brussels sprouts are part of the Brassica oleracea family.

Latin aside… that’s a fancy way of saying they’re related to cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and collard greens.

Seeing as they’re ‘cousins’ it should be no surprise that Brussels sprouts look like mini cabbages!

Here’s a quick rundown of the essential Brussels sprout facts:

  • Family: Brassica oleracea
  • Appearance: Small, cabbage-like buds on long stalks
  • Related Vegetables: Cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, collard greens
  • Origin: Belgium
  • Seasonality: Year-round, with peak season from late August through March

What Do Brussels Sprouts Taste Like?

Brussels sprouts have an earthy, nutty and slightly bitter taste. This bitterness is why so many people can’t stand sprouts.

But the truth is, they actually don’t have to taste that bitter.

The taste of sprouts can be influenced by their size, and smaller sprouts tend to have a better and sweeter flavor compared to larger, more mature ones.

Freshness is also really important. Sprouts that have gone bad will always taste much worse than freshly picked ones.

Cooking methods can have a major impact on the taste of Brussels sprouts.

A lot of it comes from cooking sprouts that have gone bad or cooking them incorrectly.

Raw Brussels sprouts are more bitter than they are when cooked. The bitterness is due to the presence of compounds called glucosinolates, which contribute to their earthy and nutty taste.

On the other hand, when you cook Brussels sprouts, the flavor profile changes entirely. Cooking methods such as roasting, boiling, or steaming will alter their taste and texture. For instance, roasting Brussels sprouts can bring out a sweeter, caramelized flavor, and the crunchy exterior is contrasted by a soft, creamy interior.

So, if you’ve tried them before and didn’t like them – give them another go but try cooking them differently!

Here’s a quick roundup of the factors that influence the taste of sprouts:

  • Preparation method: Whether you eat them raw, roasted, boiled, sauteed, or steamed can have a big impact on flavor.
  • Cooking time: Overcooking can lead to a stronger sulfur-like smell and bitter taste. not to mention ruining the texture!
  • Age: Older Brussels sprouts may have increased bitterness

What is the Texture of Brussels Sprouts Like?

Brussels sprouts have a pleasant texture when cooked properly. They should have a crunchy exterior and a tender interior.

Are Brussels Sprouts Healthy?

Are Brussels Sprouts healthy? Yes! They’re packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that offer great health benefits.

They’re high in fiber, which is essential for maintaining healthy digestion and preventing constipation. Sprouts are also full of antioxidants, which protect your cells from oxidative damage.

The fact is that Brussels sprouts are a real superfood. Here’s a breakdown of the key vitamins and minerals in the humble sprout:

  • Vitamin C: Important for immune system function and collagen synthesis
  • Vitamin A: Essential for healthy vision and immune system function
  • Vitamin K: Necessary for blood clotting and bone health
  • Potassium: Needed for nerve function, muscle contractions, and regulating blood pressure
  • Folate: Crucial for DNA synthesis and cell division

With so many nutrients in just one serving, it’s no wonder Brussels sprouts have such high nutritional value!

Here’s a quick summary of the major nutrients found in 1/2 cup (78 grams) of cooked Brussels sprouts:

  • Calories: 38
  • Fiber: 3.5g
  • Protein: 3g
  • Vitamin C: 81% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin A: 12% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K1: 137% of the RDI
  • Folate: 20% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 5% of the RDI

With a profile like that, Brussels Sprouts are definitely worth adding to your regular diet. They shouldn’t just be for Christmas!

How to Buy Brussels Sprouts

As I’ve mentioned, a huge part of the taste of Brussels sprouts comes down to their size and freshness.

So, when you’re shopping for them, you should keep a few things in mind to ensure you’re getting sprouts that bring the most flavor to your plate:

  • Color: Look for a bright green color on the sprouts. This is a sign of freshness and indicates that they’ll have the best taste. Avoid sprouts with yellowing leaves or black spots, as these indicate spoilage or damage.

  • Size: For the perfect balance of sweetness and tenderness, go for smaller sprouts over their larger counterparts.

  • Leaves: Choose sprouts that have tightly packed leaves, as this is another sign of freshness. Loosely packed leaves are a red flag, signaling that the sprouts are past their prime and won’t taste as good.

Can You Eat Raw Brussels Sprouts?

Not only are raw sprouts safe to eat, but they also make a delicious and crunchy addition to your salads.

Remember though that raw Brussels sprouts have a slightly bitter taste, which some can find overpowering.

To enjoy raw Brussels sprouts in your salad, I recommend shredding them thin and using a flavorful salad dressing to balance the bitterness.

Here are a few easy steps to prepare raw sprouts for your next meal:

  1. Wash and trim: First, give them a good rinse and remove any yellow or damaged leaves. Trim the stem end slightly to get rid of any hard bits.
  2. Shred thinly: Use a grater, a mandoline slicer, or a food processor with a slicing attachment to shred the Brussels sprouts into thin, ribbon-like strips.
  3. Mix with other ingredients: Add your shredded sprouts to your salad.
  4. Dress it up: Choose a dressing with bold flavors, such as a classic vinaigrette, a tangy citrus dressing, or a creamy Caesar dressing, to help counteract the bitterness of raw Brussels sprouts.

How Should You Cook Brussels Sprouts?

Boiling or Steaming

Boiling or steaming Brussels sprouts is one way to cook them.

However, be aware that this method may result in a stronger bitter taste.

To counteract this, you can add flavors like butter and garlic powder while cooking. Steaming is a healthier option as it preserves more nutrients compared to boiling. Here’s a simple recipe for steaming your sprouts:

  1. Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts.
  2. Add water to a pot and place a steamer basket in it.
  3. Bring water to a boil and add the sprouts to the steamer basket.
  4. Cover and steam for 5-10 minutes depending on your desired tenderness.


Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven can bring out their natural sweetness and offer a milder flavor. To enhance the taste, toss the sprouts with olive oilsalt, and pepper before placing them in the oven. Here’s a quick guide to roasting:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C).
  2. Trim and wash your Brussels sprouts.
  3. Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  5. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Optional add-ins for roasting include balsamic vinegarhoneylemon juice, or Parmesan cheese.


For a quick and delicious way to cook Brussels sprouts, try sauteeing them.

This method retains the sweet flavor while allowing you to add extra ingredients for an enhanced taste, such as balsamic vinegarsoy sauce, or onions. Follow these steps to saute your sprouts:

  1. Wash and slice your Brussels sprouts in half or shred them.
  2. Heat oil or butter in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Add sliced or shredded sprouts and cook for a few minutes, occasionally stirring.
  4. Add your choice of seasonings like garlic, salt, or pepper.
  5. Cook until sprouts are lightly browned and tender.

Experiment with different seasonings and combinations to discover your favorite way to enjoy Brussels sprouts. Whether you boil, roast, or saute them, you’re sure to create a tasty and nutritious dish.

How to Store Brussels Sprouts

Gone overboard and bought too many Brussels sprouts? Want to make sure they stay fresh long enough to eat them all?

I’ve got your back!

By properly storing them, you can keep sprouts in edible condition for 7 to 10 days. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Keep them unwashed and untrimmed: By leaving the Brussels sprouts in their natural state, you’re buying more time before they start to wilt or turn bad.
  2. Use a plastic bag: Place your Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag to maintain freshness. You might also want to remove any yellowed or wilted leaves before storing them.
  3. The fridge is your friend: The best place to store Brussels sprouts is in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. This will help keep them fresh and crisp.

What Foods Go Well with Brussels Sprouts?

I like sprouts, but would I ever eat them on their own? Certainly not!

The good news is that there are plenty of great options available to complement their unique flavor. Here’s a list of some excellent pairings that you can try for a delightful meal.

Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, or almonds can add a delightful crunch to your Brussels sprouts. You can toast the nuts for a richer flavor and sprinkle them on top of your sprouts, turning a simple side dish into something special.

Apples: The sweetness of apples pairs nicely with Brussels sprouts, creating a balance between sweet and savory. Try adding diced or sliced apples to your sprouts when roasting or sautéing them.

Citrus: Lemon or orange juice brings a zesty and fresh note that offsets the earthy taste of Brussels sprouts. Simply drizzle some citrus juice onto your sprouts just before serving. It also works excellently in salads with Brussels sprouts.

Bacon: A classic pairing, bacon adds savory, smoky flavor to Brussels sprouts. You can cook the sprouts with chopped bacon or crumble-cooked bacon on top to add a delicious, crunchy texture.

Herbs: Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or parsley can enhance the flavor of Brussels sprouts. You can use them in marinades, seasonings, or even as a garnish.

Bread crumbs: Toasted bread crumbs add a nice crunch to your dish. Adding them to a roasted sprout recipe helps create a scrumptious crust, perfect for a side dish or even a main course.

Cheeses: Pairing Brussels sprouts with cheese can make a delicious combination. Parmesan, blue cheese, or goat cheese all work well. You can melt the cheese on top, stir it into a cream-based sauce, or add it to a salad with sprouts.

Onions and Shallots: Caramelized onions or shallots complement Brussels sprouts’ taste, bringing out their natural sweetness. You can roast or sauté them together for a delightful side dish.

Vinegar: Balsamic or apple cider vinegar adds a tangy bite to Brussels sprouts. It helps in balancing their bitter undertones, especially when roasted or sautéed.

Mustard: Mustard adds a spicy tang that complements the sprouts’ flavor. You can whisk it into a salad dressing, make a mustard cream sauce, or even toss your sprouts in a little mustard before roasting.

These are just a few suggestions. One of the great things about sprouts is their versatility, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with your favorite ingredients!

What is a Good Substitute for Brussels Sprouts?

If you’re not a fan of Brussels sprouts or simply don’t have any on hand, don’t worry! There are several options to choose from as a substitute.

Let’s dive into the top alternatives to help you create a tasty and satisfying dish.

Broccoli is a fantastic alternative to Brussels sprouts due to its similar grassy and earthy flavor, with a hint of bitterness. It’s just as versatile as Brussels sprouts and can be boiled, roasted, steamed, or even served raw. Plus, it’s part of the cruciferous family, so it’s packed with nutrients too.

Another great option is shredded cabbage. While Brussels sprouts look like miniature cabbages, they’re different vegetables. However, cabbage’s taste and texture can still make it an excellent replacement. You can sauté it, roast it, or even add it as a crunchy topping to your dish.

Kale is nutritious and shares the slightly bitter flavor profile of Brussels sprouts. Its chewy texture and robust flavor make it an ideal substitute in sautés, salads, or even baked kale chips for a healthy snack.

Cauliflower is another versatile and popular choice for substituting Brussels sprouts. It has a mild, slightly nutty taste and can be prepared in various ways such as roasted, steamed, or even mashed as a low-carb alternative to potatoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do Brussels sprouts taste bitter?

Brussels sprouts can taste bitter due to glucosinolates, compounds containing sulfur and nitrogen. The bitterness is often a result of overcooking or improper preparation. However, when cooked properly, Brussels sprouts can develop a sweet, nutty flavor.

Do Brussels sprouts taste like cabbage?

Yes, Brussels sprouts do share a similar taste with cabbage, as they belong to the same family of vegetables.

That said, they aren’t identical.

Brussels sprouts have a milder flavor compared to cabbage and tend to be nuttier and sweeter when cooked properly.

What do Brussels sprouts smell like?

Brussels sprouts have an earthy, slightly sulfurous smell.

Overcooking them can release more sulfur compounds, resulting in a more pungent aroma.

To minimize the strong smell, avoid overcooking and try different cooking methods such as roasting or sautéing.

Do Brussels sprouts taste good raw?

Brussels sprouts can be eaten raw, but their taste is more bitter compared to when cooked.

Raw Brussels sprouts have a crunchy texture, and their slightly bitter taste can be a nice addition to salads.

Shred or thinly slice them before adding them to your salad for the best texture.

What takes the bitterness out of Brussels sprouts?

There are a few ways to reduce the bitterness in Brussels sprouts:

  • Blanching them before cooking can help remove some of the bitter compounds.
  • Roasting or sautéing brings out the natural sweetness and helps to caramelize the sugars, resulting in a more pleasant taste.
  • Adding a little fat, such as olive oil, butter, or bacon, can also help to balance the bitterness and enhance their flavor.

What other vegetables do Brussels sprouts taste like?

In addition to cabbage, Brussels sprouts also taste similar to other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale.

The earthy and mildly bitter flavor is common among these vegetables, but each has its unique texture and taste profile.