Brussels sprouts have been my favorite vegetable for as long as I can remember! Growing up, my dad and I would harvest them together in the small garden plot in our back yard. I always knew them in their steamed form with a little dash of salt and pepper…to me, they were delicious, but the limp texture and stinky aroma might make most turn up their nose in disgust. But when prepared the right way, even the pickiest of eaters might venture out of their comfort zone to try these tasty little leafy morsels. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered the magic of roasted Brussels sprouts. Roasting your sprouts brings out the natural nutty, sweet flavors that steaming does not achieve.
When purchasing your Brussels sprouts, the fresher the better! They can be bought on the stem or bagged. Look for sprouts that are bright green and firm to the touch with tight leaves. Sprouts that fit this description typically can be stored in the fridge for about a week and a half. When it comes to taste, typically the smaller varieties are slightly sweeter, while the larger ones tend to be a bit more bitter.
Brussels sprouts are chock full of all sorts of nourishing nutrients. A half cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides nearly 200% of your recommended daily allowance of immune-boosting vitamin C and about 100% of the recommended adequate intake for vitamin K, which is essential for natural blood clotting. Beyond these commonly known nutrients, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are still being researched to further distill all of their potential health benefits, but they have been shown to be potent detoxifying agents which help the body excrete several carcinogens. This knowledge could support the inclusion of foods high in glucosinolates, such as Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, kale, and turnip greens, as a dietary cancer prevention intervention.
This recipe is just bursting with so many amazing flavors and unique textures! The Brussels sprouts are perfectly tender in the center, with lightly crisped outer leaves. The sweet maple syrup and savory, crispy bacon effortlessly bring out the earthy flavors of the sprouts. Add in some toasty pecans, and you’ve got the perfect side dish to accompany your next wholesome family meal! This dish would pair perfectly with two fried eggs, an almond butter laden roasted sweet potato, or a sweet and tangy honey mustard chicken breast.
LEAP Friendly Recipe Modifications
Vegetables: Can’t have Brussels sprouts or aren’t fond of their taste? An alternative you may try in their place is chopped Napa or savoy cabbage, or for a slightly sweeter take, sweet potatoes would be a great option.
Nuts: I tried pecans in this recipe and the flavor and texture paired very nicely with the other ingredients. However, you could also try hazelnuts or walnuts as a hearty substitution.
Sweetener: I haven’t tried this recipe with honey, but I imagine it would be a suitable alternative to maple syrup to add a similar hint of sweetness.
Bacon: If bacon doesn’t fit into your LEAP diet or you choose not to eat it for other personal reasons, do not fret! Coconut bacon is a fun new alternative to achieve a similar smoky flavor and crisp texture. Minimalist Baker and Cookie + Kate both have great recipes — but note that liquid smoke is not a LEAP friendly ingredient. You could also dice up slices of prosciutto (usually ingredients are just pork + salt) and give them a quick pan fry for a similar effect.
As you can see, this wholesome recipe is very adaptable and can be customized to fit your personal LEAP diet!
(References: NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, Linus Pauling Institute; Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2003)
- 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or another neutral oil such as olive oil or grapeseed oil)
- ⅛ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt or sea salt
- ¼ cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts (I used pecans)
- 2 tablespoons dark robust maple syrup
- 3 strips oven cooked bacon, crumbled**
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
- Trim the woody ends from the Brussels sprouts and peel away brown or yellow outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half through the stem.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss together halved Brussels sprouts, avocado oil, and sea salt until evenly coated.
- On a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, evenly spread Brussels sprouts.
- Roast for 30 minutes in the 375˚F oven.
- Remove Brussels sprouts from oven and toss with pecans and maple syrup in the same mixing bowl you previously used. Return to baking sheet and roast for an additional 5-10 minutes until nicely caramelized and fork tender.
- If you prefer your sprouts a bit more browned and crispy, put them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
- Remove from the oven and toss with bacon crumbles. This recipe is best hot out of the oven but can be stored in the fridge to enjoy as leftovers for 3-4 days in an airtight container.
Food is Medicine
Brussels sprouts are one of the best sources of a sulfur-containing compound called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are known to be natural detoxifiers which can help rid our bodies of harmful toxins. Consumption of these chemoprotective little leafy morsels may help reduce our risk of certain cancers.
Guest post by Kaitlin Denison, Dietetic Intern at Vanderbilt University