How to Reduce the Bitter Taste in Brussels Sprouts

The tiny, cabbage-like heads that are Brussels sprouts are chock-full of nutrition. The vegetable serves as a good dietary source of vitamin C, iron, B-vitamins and fiber, but can be somewhat bitter to the taste buds. Although the bitterness makes Brussels sprouts somewhat less popular than other vegetables, you can reduce their bitterness with a certain cooking technique. Brussels sprouts are relatively quick to cook and easy to prepare without any specialized cooking equipment.

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Stovetop Cooking

Step 1

Pick your home-grown Brussels sprouts after the plant has survived a few morning frosts. The cooler weather concentrates the sugar content of the vegetable, according to the Utah State University Cooperative Extension, making the sprouts less bitter upon cooking.


Step 2

Slice Brussels sprouts in half with a paring knife before cooking. The sprouts contain thiocyanates, an acidic compound that is released during the cooking process, according to an article on Cutting the vegetables in half releases some of the thiocyanates and reduces their bitterness.


Step 3

Boil Brussels sprouts in a pot full of water to reduce the bitter taste. However, boiling vegetables in water can also cause water-soluble vitamins to leach out, reducing the nutritional content of the sprouts, according to a study published in the August 2009 issue of the "Journal of Zhejiang University: Science." Researchers found that boiling cruciferous vegetables reduced nutrient content, but steaming the vegetables kept content nearly the same as raw. When boiling Brussel srouts to reduce bitterness, you may compromise the vegetable's nutritional content for taste in the end. Boil Brussel sprouts until tender.


Step 4

Saute Brussels sprouts in a skillet with a bit of brown sugar, instead of boiling them, to offset their bitterness. Use heart-healthy olive oil to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pan and cook until just tender -- stick a fork or knife into a sprout to check for tenderness. As you saute, sprinkle up to 1/2 cup brown sugar per pound of Brussels sprouts over their tops. Remove the sprouts from the heat when the sugar has caramelized.


Step 5

Roast the Brussels sprouts in the oven for added texture and flavor. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and toss the halved Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Spread the seasoned Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and roast them in the preheated oven until the vegetables have browned.

Things You'll Need

  • Paring knife

  • Cutting board

  • Pot

  • Skillet

  • Olive oil

  • Brown sugar

  • Baking sheet

  • Salt