Gateway Brussels Sprouts

Why “gateway” Brussels sprouts? While according to a Time magazine poll last year my fellow San Franciscans and I can’t get enough Brussels sprouts (roasted, raw, deep fried, any which way), I’ve realized that there are a few people out there who do not enjoy Brussels sprouts.  Even grown-ups.  Even fellow doctors.  In fact, when I was proposing menus for a cooking demonstration I did recently for a large group of my colleagues, my Brussels sprouts idea was immediately nixed by the organizers.  ”Eww.  I hate Brussels sprouts.”  ”Please, no Brussels sprouts!” Both of these sentences from vegetarian, healthy-eating Californian doctors well into adulthood.  I was momentarily stunned.  I thought to myself, “Are you three years old?” Then, I replied out loud, “Perhaps you haven’t had them prepared properly.”

That’s why I’m sharing my family’s favorite Brussels sprouts recipe, which I created a few Thanksgivings ago for a newly vegan friend.  I call these “gateway” because even true Brussels sprouts haters will admit, if you can force them to taste these, that they’re “not bad.” (In fact, I have seen otherwise well-mannered adults eat them with their hands and then lick their fingers, in public.)   I love Brussels sprouts served in any form, and there is a lot to love from a nutrition standpoint as well.   Brussels sprouts are a fantastic source of fiber, as well as potassium, vitamin C and B vitamins, and are naturally low in sodium.  The trick in cooking Brussels sprouts is to not over-cook them into pastiness.  In this recipe, I also add the sweetness of caramelized onions and maple syrup to mellow out the bitterness some people taste in Brussels sprouts.  The pine nuts add crunch and richness to make this vegan dish worthy of  main dish status.  

*     *     *

Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Pine Nuts

Serves: 12 as side dish, 4-6 as a main


2 lbs Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, and sliced in half lengthwise

2 small or one medium onion, sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely

4 Tbsp maple syrup, preferably Grade A (medium amber) or Grade B

5 Tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

6 Tbsp pine nuts

water, as needed for cooking

Note: depending on the size of your frying pan, you may need to cook this in two batches


  1. Heat a dry frying pan over medium-low heat, then add pine nuts.  Allow to toast until golden,  about 5 minutes.  Stir or sauté every minute or so to prevent burning.  Remove from heat when toasted.
  2. Warm 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium low heat in a frying pan, then add sliced onions and a pinch or two of salt.  Cover and allow to cook slowly over medium low heat until caramelized, about 30 minutes.   Stir every 5 minutes, each time adding a bit of water if needed if the onions begin to dry out..  Remove from heat when onions are brown and soft.  [Note: this is the point where you may need to divide and cook in two batches.]
  3. In another frying pan, add remaining 3 Tbsp of olive oil and warm over medium heat.  Add chopped garlic and sautee until golden, then remove and reserve on a plate.  Add Brussels sprouts, cut sides down, in a single layer.   (Some leaves may fall off—add these too.  Sprinkle evenly with a few pinches of salt and pepper.  After a minute, check to see if the cut side has browned.  When lightly golden, turn over Brussels sprouts with a spatula.
  4. Add 4 Tbsp of water, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook for about 3 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the Brussels sprouts are fork tender.  If they are not tender, add another Tbsp of water and cook for another minute.  (Brussels sprouts should be al dente and bright green, not soft and mushy.)
  5. Now add the maple syrup, stir, and increase heat to medium, and cook uncovered until syrup begins to bubble, a minute or less.Turn off heat, add previously sautéed garlic, caramelized onions and pine nuts, and toss together.

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This post is my contribution to #LetsLunch, a monthly virtual potluck on Twitter.  This month, we’re celebrating the release of Joe Yonan’s new book, Eat Your Vegetables, with dishes that made us love vegetables.  I’ve chosen this recipe as the dish that makes people love brussels sprouts.  Check back later for a list of the other contributions to #LetsLunch.  And if you have other favorite Brussels sprouts recipes, please share in the comments! Thank you for coming by.

Annabelle‘s Farmer’s Market Gazpacho at Glass of Fancy

Cheryl’s Egg-Drop Broccoli in Ginger-Miso Gravy at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Eleanor‘s Green Beans Two Ways at Wok Star

Grace‘s Vegetable Tempura at HapaMama

Jill‘s Fusilli with Corn Sauce at Eating My Words 

Joe‘s Guaca-Chi at Joe Yonan

Linda‘s Chocolate-Zucchini Twinkies at Free Range Cookies

Lisa‘s Totally “Free” Veggie Soup at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Lucy‘s Roasted Okra Chips at A Cook and Her Books

Pat‘s Umami-Laden Green Beans at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

Sonja‘s Ukrainian Borscht at Foodnutzz

Vivian‘s Kangkong (Water Spinach) with Fermented Beancurd, Chili and Garlic at Vivian Pei

20 responses

  1. Pingback: Glass of Fancy » Blog Archive » Let’s Lunch: Farmer’s Market Gazpacho - Fashion, fiction, and life in the city.

  2. I have to admit, I was a Brussels Sprouts hater as a kid, but I can’t get enough of them now. Caramelized onions sound like a lovely combination; I’ll have to keep this in mind for the fall!

  3. I’ve been working on getting to like brussels sprouts for a couple of years now. I eat them occasionally… I’m at the point where I can enjoy 2 or 3 but don’t really want any more than that. Your idea of “Gateway Brussels Sprouts” is pretty funny though…. I’ll give it a try next time I decide to experiment with them!

  4. Pingback: Chocolate Zucchini Twinkies - gluten free and vegan recipe

  5. Pingback: 5 Tips for Tasty Vegetables and an Umami-Laden Green Bean Recipe | The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

  6. My hubby and I love brussel sprouts too! Like your addition of pine nuts for crunch. Try making in a wok, it’s wide and can hold more.

  7. Love Brussels sprouts! Yours look really good. I think many people have only had them overcooked when they taste really strong and have a smell that would peel the wallpaper off the walls.

  8. Pingback: Spiced Cranberry Apple Crisp, Thanksgiving Dessert with a Twist | spicebox travels

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