Thursday, February 9, 2012

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Balsamic & Brown Sugar

I love brussels sprouts.

I avoided them for a long time because of their terrible reputation. From movies, tv and general pop culture I associated them with those long parent-child torture sessions where they make you sit at the table for hours until you eat all your vegetables.

But then I tried them, and I loved them. They are quick and easy to saute. They taste great and have a nice little crunch. And they look like miniature Barbie-sized cabbages. What more can you ask for in a healthy vegetable?

So if we add a little brown sugar, a little balsamic vinegar, and a little bacon, things can only get better.

Gratuitous close up of brown sugar. Mmmmm.

I only recently realized you can buy bacon at the meat counter. I mean, single slice bacon purchase, where have you been all my life?? It's the perfect way to buy just a little bacon for a recipe and not be blessed with stuck with an entire package of bacon to use up. Maybe everyone already knew this. But I didn't.

This recipe makes a side serving for two people [the amount in the bowl is one serving]. So if you need more, just double and triple as needed. It would be a great side for a romantic V-day dinner! Also if you'd like it to be vegan/vegetarian, just omit the bacon and start right with sauteing the sprouts, it'll still be pretty good. I haven't tried it with veggie bacon, I have a feeling it just wouldn't be right. But try if you're braver than me.

So here's what I did [recipe follows at bottom]. First, cut off the bottom of each Barbie cabbage, then cut it in half lengthwise. The outermost little leaves will fall off. It's ok.

Then rinse thoroughly. I do this after cutting because we're getting rid of the outer layers anyway, so why spend time washing them?

Then dice the bacon and saute it in a skillet at medium high heat until just crisp. Pour out the bacon and grease onto a paper towel to drain.

Whoops, no picture. We all know what cooking bacon looks like, right?

Now heat olive oil in the skillet. Place all the sprouts with the cut sides down into the pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Saute at medium low heat for about three minutes, until bottoms start to caramelize and tops start turning a darker, vibrant green.

Pour vinegar over sprouts. I usually pour two turns of the pan. After the vinegar sizzles around for thirty seconds, flip all the sprouts over. Tongs are the best tool for this.

Take a second to admire the pretty colors. After another minute of cooking, add the bacon back in. Toss and cook for another 30 seconds.

Turn out into a bowl and serve.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Balsamic & Brown Sugar
makes 2 side servings
1/2 lb brussels sprouts
2 slices bacon
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar, not packed
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

1. Cut off the bottom of each sprout, then slice in half vertically. Rinse.
2. Dice bacon. Saute bacon in skillet over medium heat until just crisp. Reserve bacon. Pour off drippings.
3. Heat olive oil in skillet. Place sprouts in skillet, cut sides down. Sprinkle with sugar. Saute over medium low heat for about 3 minutes or until bottoms start to caramelize and tops start turning bright green.
4. Pour vinegar over sprouts and shake pan to distribute. Cook for 30 seconds. Turn all sprouts over and cook for another minute.
5. Add reserved bacon to sprouts. Toss and cook for 30 seconds. Salt to taste if necessary [I usually don't add salt, remember the bacon is already salty]. Serve.


  1. How funny, earlier this week I bought brussel sprouts because I had never had fresh ones before, but I didn't know what to do with them. This is perfect and perfect timing! thanks for sharing, I'm totally trying it out this weekend!

  2. haha i'm glad to help you out with your sprouts! i think you'll like cooking them, they saute so quickly and easily.

  3. I avoided them for years and years! tried them once as a kid and never again I said. But thankfully I gave them a second chance and I have changed my ways. These look especially good.

  4. These look amazing! I made them similarly, but I add a bit of water to soften them up, some leeks, and maple syrup instead of brown sugar! It's a heavenly combo.

  5. This is just so beautiful, bacon and brussels sprouts were born to be together.

  6. I've tasted this recipe...unbelievably easy to eat your veggies like this! Very yummy.

  7. I made this last night for Valentine's dinner. My husband & I LOVED it! Thanks for this delish recipe!!

  8. so glad you and your husband liked it!! :]

  9. Tried this tonight. It was delicious, but mine didn't turn out as pretty as yours. Every thing just looked dark from the balsamic. I must have done something wrong =(

  10. This was AMAZING. I made it last night for my mom and a friend and there wasn't a single bit left and we all wanted more. I could easily eat a bowl of this every day! I used to toss my spouts in EVOO and balsamic and then roast them but this is my new go-to recipe. Thanks!

  11. Hi I just used your recipe and served these with Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. It was the first time I have attempted cooking brussel sprouts and they came out fabulous! They were a huge hit with my guests and several people had second helpings. My only complaint is that there were no leftovers! Thanks for sharing this!

  12. I tried your recipe, but didn't really work out.. I had to cook it for like an hour to make it edible, it was completely hard after the time you said. And even after 1 hour it was very bitter. I think it's much better boiled!

    1. oh bummer! it always seems to work for shouldn't have to cook brussels sprouts for an hour, they'd be totally obliterated! they aren't bitter either...maybe you got a bad batch? or perhaps the bitterness was the sugar, it was probably pretty badly burned after an hour...sorry it didn't work out for you.

  13. This just looks so appetizing, last time i tried these it was a big hit with my older brothers, they actually ate their vegetables for a change. Ever since I've been buying a couple of cook books here and there, a pan, a skillet and now a knife set. Hooray for Brussels sprouts!

  14. They look like small cabbages! Cute and healthy! Balsamic vinegar always makes any dish pop its flavor, making it more likeable by many.


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