AICR Test KitchenCute and Cancer-Fighting: Brussels Sprouts

Make a place in your heart for sweet and tender Brussels sprouts–and even better, a place in your stomach. The secret to enjoying these miniature cabbages is all in how you prepare them–well worth learning so you can get their super health-protecting compounds. [Watch the video to see how to prepare garlic.]

raw Brussels Sprouts Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables—cousins to broccoli, cauliflower and Bok choy, turnips, chard and watercress. Studies link greater consumption of cruciferous vegetables with decreased incidence of several types of cancer. That's because they are a source of isothiocyanates, a class of phytochemicals that help our bodies detoxify undesirable compounds, possibly stopping cancer before it starts.

Like their cruciferous relatives, Brussels sprouts' taste and smell can be bitter or delicious. Here's how to bring out their natural sweetness and chewiness and instead of overcooking them to be mushy and smelly.

Chefs' Secrets for Delicious Brussels Sprouts

If you're using fresh Brussels sprouts, first trim off all remaining portions of the stem as well as any discolored outer leaves. Wash them well under running water or soak for a few minutes in a bowl of fresh water then rinse. Before cooking, cut an “X” in the bottom of each sprout to ensure that the heat spreads evenly.

  • Microwaving or steaming preserves the sprouts’ texture and color. Cook until the Brussels sprouts are bright green and just tender with a little crunch, usually 4 to 8 minutes in a microwave or 8 to 10 minutes in a stovetop steamer, depending on size. Baby Brussels sprouts often have a sweeter taste than full-sized and are available frozen. Add a sprinkling of chopped pecans and dried cranberries, plus a dash of balsamic vinegar and a touch of olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste and toss before serving.
  • Roasting also works well for Brussels sprouts, with the oven's dry heat working to evaporate the liquid from the sprouts and making them pleasingly firm and creamy-textured while caramelizing their natural sugar for a bit of sweetness. First toss sprouts with some olive oil and roast for 25-30 minutes in a 400-degree oven on an oiled baking sheet. When done, spritz with fresh lemon juice and top with a spoonful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving.
  • You can also braise Brussels sprouts in broth with shallots or sliced garlic slowly over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking. Or make this tangy, garlicky glaze:

Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts

cooked Brussels Sprouts
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced peeled ginger
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Water
  • 16 oz. fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed, washed and with an X cut on the bottom of each; or 1 bag (16 oz.) frozen Brussels sprouts, thawed

Combine first six ingredients in blender and blend just until puréed. Transfer to a nonstick saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to moderate. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is slightly syrupy. Check taste and if glaze seems too acidic, stir in slightly more honey. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Reduce heat to low and set aside.

If using fresh sprouts, steam 8-10 minutes on the stove, covered, over 1 1/2 cups boiling water (or 4-5 minutes in a microwave oven on a plate with 1/4 cup water).

Drizzle glaze over hot, cooked sprouts and serve immediately. (Glaze may be stored, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days. Reheat glaze before using.)

Makes 6 servings

Per serving: 70 calories, 1.5 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 11 g carbohydrate,
2 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 25 mg sodium.

Learn more about garlic and cancer from the AICRblog: Ward off Cancer with Garlic.

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