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Why do brussels sprouts have a bad rap?

I just finished my lunch of balsamic glazed pork chop, brown rice and brussels sprouts (all leftovers from dinner last night). As I was eating, I was relishing each and every bite of brussels sprout and I couldn't help but wonder why they have such a bad rap.

While I was growing up, I seem to remember brussels sprouts referred to as the dreaded vegetable no kid wanted to eat on sitcoms, books, etc. Now growing up in a Korean household, I had never actually had brussels sprouts myself when I was younger, so I always wonder - would I have like brussels sprouts as a kid or is it something I would have only enjoyed as an adult?

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  1. I never realized brussel sprouts had a bad rap. I have liked them since I was a kid.

    1. People mostly overcook them, and while all members of the cabbage family get stinky when they're overcooked, sprouts are probably the worst in that regard. Once I get past that I can eat, even enjoy, overcooked ones, but many people just can't make it past the burned-rubber funk. My father-in-law, on the other hand, betrays his Upper-Midwest upbringing by requiring all of his vegetables to be cooked to mush, especially Brussels sprouts. His daughter and I prefer ours to be steamed or parboiled just until chewable, then either finished by sautéeing in butter or braised with a little bacon. I like them cold, and dressed with a little oil and lemon juice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Will Owen

        Agree that overcooking is the usual problem. Overcooked Brussels sprouts are both stinky and mushy. Cut cross slits in the bases so the outer leaves will not be overcooked with the core is done. A quick zap in the microwave in a covered dish with just a little water gets them ready to eat with dressing as simple as a bit of lemon juice or with any of Will's finishes. I too like them cold with a little oil and vinegar or lemon juice dressing.

      2. Agreed that overcooked is the problem. Luckily I grew up with a mom who had a keen sense of timimg in the kitchen, so I have always liked brussels. They are so cute, too! Just like tiny cabbages. Adorable.

        1. I think most people do not know how to cook them. I either pan saute or roast in the oven with garlic and some onion, comes out great.

          1. I never met a BS (thanks for the abbreviation, purple goddess) that I didn't like. Re: those who don't like them, more for us!

            1. I like mine halved, tossed with an olive oil/bouillon concentrate paste such as Better Than Bouillon(thinned out a tad with water) and seasoned with rosemary, thyme, summer savory, sage or whatever suits my fancy. Then roast for 9-10 minutes in a very hot oven 450-500. Ambrosia. Boiled brussels sprouts are soggy, flavorless and pretty awful. Steamed is good. Pan saute with oil and the final addition of butter and garlic is pretty awesome.

              1. I actually just tried brussels sprouts for the first time last year. My family never made them. I wish they had. One of my favorite ways to have brussels sprouts, is steamed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

                Raj from "What's Happening" hated brussels sprouts.

                1. I think that cruciferous veggies in general (B. sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) have a bad reputation because they can have an intense bitter, sulfer-y taste and strong, unpleasant smell. I like them, but I can see where people who are sensitive to that sort of thing would not.

                  In my college dorms, I remember the guy serving dinner laughing because I asked for an entire plate of b. sprouts. He said that every time they made them, most people would refuse to eat them, but that a dozen or so of us would come down and load up our plates full. Yum.

                  1. I have always loved brussel sprouts. I think most people just don't know how to cook them.

                    1. I love brussels sprouts, just gently steamed so they're still tender-crisp. Generally, I do this in the microwave.

                      However, I do have to admit that I primarily view brussels sprouts as a carrying device for a good sharp cheddar cheese sauce. I haven't seemed to utilise them past that point, though some of these recipes have me thinking... especially the roasted brussels sprouts idea.

                      Those would be good with a cheese sauce, yes?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: kali_MM

                        Yes, they would! I'll have to try that. When I'm cheesing sprouts, I usually steam them cut in half until just barely tender, then lay them out in a gratin pan, pour the sauce over, top with panko mixed with Parmesan and finish in the oven. However, I've used leftover cooked sprouts, too, in which case I bake the dish just until the crumbs brown and it's all hot through. Roasted sprouts would be great this way, I think. I know roasted broccolini is.

                      2. They taste bitter. I still hate them. The reason children hate them more than adults is because children are more sensitive to bitter flavors than adults are. Also note that sensitivity to the various "tastes" (bitter, sweet, salty, etc) varies from person to person, so some people simply have a more intensely bitter experience of brussels sprouts than others.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: aynrandgirl

                          I agree they are bitter. I have tried them at various stages in my life thinking that maybe I would get over my hatred of them. My husband loves them, so I try his. And yes, we know how to cook them properly.

                          And I still hate them. I refer to them as vile, little cabbages.

                          1. re: Sooeygun

                            "Vile, little cabbages" -- hilarious.
                            I've hated them since I was a kid (yet I've loved broccoli since I was a kid, and I've liked cabbage as well).
                            I'm from the upper Midwest and my family always boiled all vegetables into mush and then drenched them in butter. But I've had them in recent years in restaurants where they were prepared differently, and even with that I've still hated them.

                            For me, it's that bitterness. I can't get past it.

                            (Oh, and as for the Bird's Eye label, my mother always cooked frozen BS, but never Bird's Eye brand, so that can't be the whole story.)

                            1. re: Sooeygun

                              Ditto, ditto and ditto.

                              ROFL at "vile, little cabbages."

                              "When Good Cabbages go Bad"
                              "Veggie without a Cause"
                              and my favorite
                              "cruciferous balls of Satan spawn"

                            2. re: aynrandgirl

                              the ones i've had are not always bitter, however, i learned to cook them in some chicken broth before fixing them with bacon, and i haven't had a bitter one since!

                              see the other thread on what to do with a "bag of BS".....

                            3. For me, it was the Bird's Eye frozen Brussels sprouts, that my mother prepared all too often. It was not until many years later, that I experienced fresh, grilled Brussels sprouts, that I had a catharsis - these were NOT my mother's Brussels sprouts. Wife, nearly my contemporary, still makes a "cross" with her fingers, like warding off a vampire, whenever Brussels sprouts are offered.

                              Blame it on Bird's Eye.


                              1. I think both Will Owen and Aynrand made good points. If you can get your kids past the smell, they pop them in their mouth and find out that they are bitter. Double whammy. Unfortunately for me the grandmother who believed all vegetables should be boiled for a minimum of 30 minutes introduced me to brussel sprouts. I was decades before I was able to face them again. Slimy, nasty smelling, and bitter was all i could remember.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: KaimukiMan

                                  Yes, several mercaptins are released from these items, especially as they are cooking. When we steam some, we both look at our Bulldogs and point fingers. Still, once past THAT aspect, it amazes me how good they taste.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    sauteed in butter with sliced almonds or (preferably) hazelnuts, there's not a finer veggie side.

                                    1. re: Hungry4Good

                                      I'd eat that, and will try the next time.

                                2. They have a bad rap because they taste like s&%t. I've tried to like them. I really have. I've tried them browned in butter, covered with cheese, shredded like slaw, and a dozen other ways. I can choke down the first couple, but after that, I start gagging on them.

                                  1. "Why do brussels sprouts have a bad rap? "

                                    like everything - Mom.

                                    "vile little cabbages" - I try to say that with love when I employ it regarding the children of friends.

                                    I might be wrong, but I think the key is a brief burst of intense heat - why I like the roasting method with head-started new potatoes. the outer leaves caramelize in the olive oil.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: hill food

                                      I love BS as an adult, but hated them and most other veggies as a kid except for corn on the cob and canned sweet corn. The ones in the produce section of the super market are good, but must be prepared properly, as Mr HF states. We grow our own and there is no bitterness. They are so different from store bought; must be the sugar content.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        Well, tried home grown too. My parents grow them. Still vile. More for those of you who love them, I guess :).

                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                          I had always hated brussels sprouts until I had them fresh from a garden once - what a revelation, they were so good! They are also one of the goofiest-looking vegetables the way they grow, they look like like pimples on the sides of a super-tall broccoli stalk.

                                          1. re: BobB

                                            Gee, thinking of them as pimples just makes them even more appetizing.

                                      2. Lots of previous threads on same topic - many with good recipes. here's one:


                                        The link I provided to a video of Lidia Bastianich cooking BS on that thread is still good - completely removes the bitter by removing the cores.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: applehome

                                          Agreed- I made the LB recipe for a crowd - labor intensive, but good. Becasue the leaves" are individually removed, I did not tell the kids what they were. They loved them ( who doesn't like lemon and garlic), and when I did tell them, they all said they thought they did not like brussel sprouts

                                          1. re: macca

                                            The first time I liked brussel sprouts was when I tried cooking them by removing all the leaves individually and lightly microwaving, then topped with lots of pepper and butter.

                                            Now that I am used to the taste, I don't even mind whole ones as long as they are not super mushy. But I think I've trained my mind to ignore the bitterness, just as I trained to tolerate eating cilantro without gagging.

                                        2. My family always has them for TG and Xmas. One year when I was about 9 I think we spent Xmas with my aunt nad uncle and they didn't have BS on the table and my sibs and I were all like "where are the brussel sprouts??!! It's not Xmas without BS!"

                                          As to the bad rap, not in my family!

                                          1. I could never handle Brussels Sprouts until I went to a place in LA called The Village Idiot, that cooks them in huge chunks of the Superhero of foods- Bacon. I go there all the time now and get the BS every single time. Absolutely delicious!!!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: SaltCod

                                              is there anything bacon can't solve?

                                              (assuming no dietary restrictions of course)

                                            2. personally, i love the little suckers just steamed, especially the really teeny tiny ones. however, they are strong and pungent, and have a very specific particular taste, so just as with anything, if the taste doesn't sit well on the buds, no matter the preparation, the taste comes through... unless of course you were to soak them in beer or honey or some other permeating liquid, then batter, crumb and fry... kinda like my antipathy toward avocados or bananas - doesn't matter how you prep those, i can discern the flavor from a mile away, just as with the inclusion of ginger :)

                                                1. I never liked them till I tried J Beard's recipe for them in American Cookery. Al dente with grilled onions and bacon and a dash of black pepper and wine or balsamic vinegar. Since then I really hate to share my sprouts.

                                                  1. Brussel sprouts last a long time after their picked (in that they look the same) but they get bitter. Everyone I know who's had them fresh from the fields loves them. Picked and trucked across the country and then sitting on the shelf for days--not so much. I've seen them sold on the stalks, too, and that might be closer to being picked from the field.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      As I told my husband last night-there must be something medically wrong with me because I stood there forever peeling off leaf after tiny, green leaf until I had them all done. This is hard to do with you get to the center. I used a tiny knife and just kept at it. They were so fun to look at.
                                                      Cooked 3/4 lb of bacon, pulled it out, into part of the bacon fat went 1/2 a minced onion, some minced garlic-the BS leaves, cooked and served with the crumbled bacon on top. I want more right now!

                                                    2. Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables. They get a bad rap because people are spoiled rotten. Put such a complainer in a dicey situation where Brussels sprouts are all he can get to eat...and he'll greedily gobble them up

                                                      1. I'm surprised no one's mentioned how good they are with chestnuts. For any of the sauteeing treatments mentioned, throw in a few cooked chestnuts, rough sliced to the size of a lima bean (another favorite). And make sure to add plenty of salt and pepper. Bacon grease also makes all things good.