How to Make Brussels Sprouts Less Bitter (2024)

Kitchen / Cooking Tips

How to Make Brussels Sprouts Less Bitter (1)

By Holly Riddle

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Brussels sprouts — some people love them, some people hate them. However, for many, brussels sprouts are becoming standard fare (especially around the holidays), as home cooks move beyond the sad, boiled Brussels sprouts you may have grown up with, to more palatable recipes like roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic or roasted Brussels sprouts with cheese and bacon (because everything’s better with cheese and bacon).

But what if you’ve tried some of these much-improved Brussels sprouts recipes and still just find the veggie too bitter for your taste? Well, it might have to do with your genes.

According to a 2011 study, brussels sprouts contain a particular chemical that tastes bitter, but only to a portion of the population (it’s kind of like how some people love cilantro but others think it tastes like soap). The study estimated that about 50% of people have this gene mutation that makes Brussels taste bitter.

That said, before you chalk your general dislike for this ingredient up to science, consider that you may have just been making a few, common Brussels sprouts mistakes. There are some tried-and-tested ways you can reduce Brussels sprouts’ bitter notes, for better noshing, no matter your gene pool.

Here are four ways to make Brussels sprouts less bitter.

1. Buy your Brussels sprouts fresh and at the right time.

If you want the best Brussels sprouts, timing is key. The sweetest Brussels sprouts can be found fresh and ideally locally grown in late fall or early winter. This is because Brussels sprouts improve in taste after being exposed to a few light frosts, which causes them to convert starches to sugars, resulting in a sweeter (and less bitter) flavor. You’ll be able to taste these sugars after you cook the sprouts.

If it’s just not feasible for you to pick up the freshest Brussels sprouts at just the right time, though, there are other things you can do.

2. Prep them correctly.

Don’t just throw your Brussels sprouts onto a roasting pan with a little olive oil and salt and expect great results. To cut down on some of that bitterness, take a few extra steps.

When you clean and prep your Brussels sprouts for cooking, be sure to remove the outer leaves. Additionally, rather than going straight to the roasting pan, consider quickly blanching the sprouts first, which can also help reduce bitter flavors.

3. Caramelization is key.

When it comes to Brussels sprouts, the best flavors are made possible via caramelization. Because of this, as you’re cooking, try to create a cooking environment ideal for caramelization without burning. Cook on high heat, use enough cooking fat or oil, and choose a cooking style that’s going to lend itself to caramelization — such as roasting rather than boiling.

4. Pair the right flavors.

If you’re finding a certain ingredient is too bland, boring, or bitter for your tastebuds, it might just be the case that you’re not pairing that ingredient with the right other ingredients. Just like you need extra add-ons, mix-ins, and toppings to turn brown rice from boring to tasty, you often need the same for Brussels sprouts.

Try pairing your Brussels with brown sugar and butter, like you might a sweet potato, or go the savory route with cheese, bacon, chili flakes, and/or garlic.

How to Make Brussels Sprouts Less Bitter (4)

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Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts (That Aren’t Bitter)

Try these easy and flavorful pan-roasted Brussels sprouts as an amazing cool weather side dish. A quick blanching and caramelization process ensures a sweet, not bitter, taste. Enhanced with garlic, lemon juice, maple syrup, and Parmesan, it's a delightful side dish for any meal.

Prep Time10 minutes mins

Cook Time15 minutes mins

Total Time25 minutes mins

Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: American

Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian

Servings: 4

Calories: 210kcal


  • 1 large skillet


  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts halved
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 2 tbsp walnuts chopped (optional)
  • fresh parsley for garnish


  • Remove the outer layer of the Brussels sprouts. Blanch them in boiling water for 3 mins, then plunge into ice water. Drain and dry, and then cut them in half.

  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn (overcooked garlic will add bitterness of its own). Revmove garlic from the skillet and set aside.

  • In the same skillet, add the sprouts, cut side down, and cook until golden and starting to carmelize (5-6 mins).

  • Season with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Add sautéed garlic, lemon juice and maple syrup; stir well.

  • Sprinkle with Parmesan and nuts, if using. Cook for 2-3 more mins.

  • Remove from heat. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.


Calories: 210kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 130mg | Potassium: 503mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1031IU | Vitamin C: 104mg | Calcium: 135mg | Iron: 2mg

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How to Make Brussels Sprouts Less Bitter (2024)


How to Make Brussels Sprouts Less Bitter? ›

Brussel sprouts have a bit of bitterness, if you roast them you develop some of their natural sweetness and umami, a squeeze of citrus or a splash of vinegar and you've added some sour. Or a good balsamic will add some sour and some sweetness. Add salt.

How to make your Brussels sprouts not bitter? ›

Brussel sprouts have a bit of bitterness, if you roast them you develop some of their natural sweetness and umami, a squeeze of citrus or a splash of vinegar and you've added some sour. Or a good balsamic will add some sour and some sweetness. Add salt.

How do you cover up the taste of Brussel sprouts? ›

Other Ways to Flavor Brussels Sprouts

After the sprouts are roasted and caramelized, drizzle honey (or hot honey), soy or balsamic glaze, or go sweet and savory with sweet chili or maple syrup. Sub in other cheeses while you're at it, like Gruyère, feta, or blue, depending on your mood.

Why do some sprouts taste bitter? ›

Research Fellow Lauren Chappell said: “Sulphur is responsible for the bitter sprout taste. As we age, we lose tastebuds, which can make them more palatable – potentially why adults who hated sprouts as children now embrace them in seasonal dishes.

Who made Brussel sprouts less bitter? ›

A Dutch scientist named Hans van Doorn, who worked at a seed and chemical company, figured out exactly which chemical compounds in Brussels sprouts made them bitter. The next step was to plant sprouts with the least amount of these chemicals and eventually cross-pollinate the chemicals out.

What gives Brussels sprouts a better taste? ›

In the late 1990s scientists identified specific chemicals, called glucosinolates, that made Brussels sprouts taste bitter. Plant breeders started growing old seeds, previously discarded for producing paltry harvests, to identify tastier versions with lower levels of these compounds.

Why do you soak Brussels sprouts? ›

Soaking Brussels sprouts in water is a terrific way to prep them to have a soft, juicy center that cooks to the perfect doneness in the same amount of time it takes those outer leaves to get nice and crispy.

Do you cook brussel sprouts face up or down? ›

Place them face down and resist the urge to move them around. A searing hot baking sheet with the brussels cut side down is the key to crispy brussel perfection.

What happens when you over cook brussel sprouts? ›

For best results, cook sprouts until just tender, never mushy. Overcooking produces the offensive odor associated with Brussels sprouts. It's caused by the release of sulfur-containing compounds. Overcooking also causes them to turn a drab olive green.

Do you rinse brussel sprouts before cooking? ›

Wash sprouts under cold running water and remove any leaves or yellow spots you may see. Place sprouts in a pot and cook for about 10-15 minutes. Sprouts are done when a knife will easily cut through them. Season with butter, salt, and pepper to taste.

How do you make bean sprouts not bitter? ›

In order to avoid a bitter taste, sprout the mung beans in the dark and avoid bright light during the sprouting process.

How to blanch Brussels sprouts? ›

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Blanch small Brussels sprouts for 3 minutes, medium for 4 minutes, and large for 5 minutes. Plunge the blanched sprouts in the ice water to stop the cooking process then move them to a clean towel and pat dry.

Can you eat Brussels sprouts raw? ›

It's hard to beat the caramelized crispness of roasted Brussels sprouts (perhaps with a maple-Dijon glaze), but these little green guys can also be eaten raw. They're delicious when shaved in a salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, to start.

How to remove bitterness of Brussels sprouts? ›

The sweetness works with the bitterness, and the sugar helps to caramelize the sprouts and bring out their own sweetness. A bit of brown sugar will also work. Acid can be useful as well. A splash of lemon juice, or even apple cider vinegar, works wonders on bitter sprouts.

Why are my bean sprouts bitter? ›

If the beans are exposed to light for a long time during sprouting, the sprouts may turn bitter. Make sure you place the beans in a dark and dry spot. When you rinse the beans, do it quickly and place them back in the dark spot immediately after rinsing.

How do you keep brussel sprouts from burning? ›

Don't Overcook. Overcooked Brussels sprouts can burn, so be sure to keep an eye on them and toss them partway through baking. Rotating the pan 180°F halfway through will also help them cook evenly.

How to make brussel sprouts digestible? ›

Blanch Brussels sprouts in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes before cooking. This makes them easier to digest. You can also freeze them after blanching. This will preserve their flavour and health benefits.

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