This amazingly easy, 5-ingredient recipe makes traditionally bitter brussels sprouts sweet and crazy delicious thanks to roasting in a cast-iron skillet to create a caramelized bite of baby cabbage and salty pancetta for a favorite simple side dish any time of the year.
This recipe is brought to you by Kroger
Whether you call them correctly with the plural Brussels sprouts, or leave the S off the end of this cruciferous veg aka brussel sprouts, everyone can agree that these green baby cabbages are at their best when roasted in a skillet with crispy bacon bites drizzled with a maple-sweetened vinegar tang. Even a newly-converted-brussel(s) sprout lover, like me.
When I was a kid I pretty much loved everything my mom made for dinner and was just about always the first one finished. But when she served the one or two things I really didn’t care for, (“Awwwww…Brussels sprouts and liver????”) I had two secret tricks that made it so it appeared I was eating, but really, I wasn’t. First I’d take a gratuitous bite or two, then another combined with a fake cough straight into my napkin with whatever was in my mouth, that was quickly hid under the table and fed to the dog, or as I excused myself to go to the restroom and dumped into the toilet later.
I can’t believe my mom didn’t realize the only times I EVER had to go to the bathroom during dinner was when we had Brussels sprouts and liver. (Sidenote: Watch for my mom’s reply that she really did know all along in the comments below…I know her too well and I probably wan’t that good of an actress anyway.)
But thankfully, times change, and so do our palettes. At least half the time. I’m still not a fan of liver, but you can now count me as one of the lovers of Brussels. And even the singular brussel sprouts too, because of easy, 5-ingredient recipes like this.
How to Cook Brussels Sprouts
Back in the day, the only way I’d had Brussels sprouts was boiled with a bit of melted butter then drizzled with vinegar to cut their bitter bite. Sometimes it worked, but more often it didn’t. More recently, Brussels sprouts have been given the “hipness” blessing and are represented on chef’s menus just about as commonly as potatoes.
The beauty of this recipe and why I now actually like eating Brussels sprouts, is thanks to a crispy but caramelized sweetness that occurs when they’re roasted. Typically this happens in the oven on a sheet tray, but when mega cooking days like Thanksgiving take up all that precious oven space thanks to the main event of roasted turkey, stuffing, and homemade rolls, the cast-iron skillet is where I put these babies to work. Plus, this recipe is totally easy and quick to make.
First, I start off with cooking salty-cured pancetta to add built-in flavor to my cast-iron skillet. Pancetta is an Italian bacon made of pork belly meat, that is salt cured and very similar to the flavor of bacon. I buy it in one 1/2 pound chunk at my Smith’s deli counter then dice it into smaller pieces myself. You could also use regular bacon if you’d prefer, just choose a really good quality brand or pick it up directly from the meat counter itself. The lesser brands of bacon turn out all fat and end up becoming a grease bomb without much flavor. Because pancetta is leaner than bacon, you’ll need to cook it in a bit of olive oil as well.
Next, remove the pancetta from the skillet and drain it on a plate topped with a paper towel. Then, add the halved, fresh Brussels sprouts to the skillet. And that’s when things really get cooking.
How to Make Brussels Sprouts Crispy and Caramelized
The key to getting these sprouts crispy is to let them cook undisturbed in the heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet cut side down so the caramelization process can begin. All vegetables become sweeter with that continued exposure to higher heat, releasing the sugars within.
There’s no need to cook the sprouts before adding them to the pan. They become tender and delicious as they cook all the way through. Simply cover with a lid, and let them do their thing.
Dressing these sprouts couldn’t be easier. Simply mix a bit olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with a maple syrup for a bit of sweetness and add at the end. The dressing is absorbed right into the sprouts and mellows their bitterness with every sweetened, crunchy bite.
How to Shop for Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts can be found in the produce aisle just about any month of the year, but November and December are when they really hit their seasonal stride.
When choosing your little bundles of cabbages, choose small to medium sized cabbage sprouts with leaves that are compact and tight, and bright green in color. Like many vegetables the smaller sized sprouts will be sweeter than the larger, more cabbage-tasting size.
How to Shop for Groceries Without Stepping Foot in the Store
For me, going to the grocery store is one thing I actually enjoy. I love wandering through the aisles and checking out new products, and redesigned labels, and getting inspired by what’s in season in the produce aisle.
However, I absolutely realize I am a bit of an anomoly in that department and that’s why for those of you who don’t get a rush in going to the store, or have run out of time thanks to the busyness of your day, or simply can’t bear the thought of listening to your kids whine for one more time that they want to get out of the cart and run wild…Kroger’s ClickList is for you.
Kroger’s ClickList is an online grocery shopping service where you create your list of everything you’d purchase at your local grocery store (available at participating stores like Ralph’s, Smiths, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, and more), and specially-trained Kroger ClickList associates shop the store for you, hand-selecting each and every item on your list. Then, you choose whether you’d like to pick up your grocers curbside at the store, or have them delivered to your home for an additional fee. Because often, time is money, and this might be one of the only ways I know of to actually buy more time!
Meet Pam, above. She’s just one of the ClickList associates at my local Smith’s. When I asked her to take a photo with me she tried to shy away, but since she sees me in there all the time, she thankfully agreed.
While most of us get the convenience and time-saving factor of having a personal grocery shopper, I think the number one area of hesitation in signing up for a shopping service like ClickList is that you want your fruit and veggies, meat and seafood to be the best it can be, and who can do it better than you? because I don’t want someone choosing just any old tomato. I want it the ripest, most perfect one there.
But see, here’s the thing…I’m a bit of a spy (yes, I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I was little), and I’m always checking out the ClickList associates (yes, I’m looking at you Pam) to see if they shop as judiciously and selectively as I do, and truth be told, I think they just might do a better job. I’ve watched these people squeeze the avocados, and pull back the husks from the cobs to inspect the kernels of corn, look over which freshly baked baguette is best-shaped, and then diligently choose that piece of fish that looks the most pleasing in the case.
These ClickList associates are solidly on our side, the customer’s side. They’re ready to shop. I mean, they get paid to shop! So maybe it’s time to let them do the shopping for you, so you can spend your time doing what you do best, too. Like spending more time in the kitchen cooking recipes like this to enjoy and savor with family and friends. #winning
- ½ pound pancetta, cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound fresh brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is fragrant and beginning to crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain and set aside.
- While the pancetta is cooking, trim the ends of the brussels sprouts and cut in half from the root to the tips of the sprout. Raise the temperature of the pan to medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts cut side down in an even layer, and cook for 4-5 minutes and the sprouts begin to brown and caramelize, then turn, season with kosher salt and black pepper, reduce the heat to medium and cover with a lid. Add another tablespoon of oil to the bottom of the pan if needed. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the sprouts are fork tender.
- Add the pancetta back to the pan with the sprouts. Whisk the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar and add to the sprouts, tossing to coat, and cook for another minute or two, so the sprouts are still fork tender but not mushy. Season with more kosher salt and ground black pepper and serve.
More Favorite Easy Side Dishes to Complete the Meal
- The Best Buttery Parsley Potatoes
- 5-Ingredient Stovetop Creamed Spinach
- Dilled Red Potatoes and Peas
- Maple-Chipotle Sweet Potatoes
- Mashed Cauliflower with Parmesan and Chives
- 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Creamed Corn
- Sweet Carrots with Tarragon
- Green Beans and Shiitake Mushrooms
- Buttermilk Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes
This post is in partnership with Kroger. As always, thank you for reading and supporting companies I partner with, which allows me to create more unique content and recipes for you. All opinions are always my own.
Thanks for reading and subscribe to FoodieCrush to have each post delivered straight to your e-mail box.
Craving more life balance, less stress, and better health? Check out my Nourished Planner, the daily planner to help create simplicity and under-schedule your life.
Subscribe and have every FoodieCrush post delivered straight to your e-mail inbox