13 Ways To Upgrade Brussels Sprouts From Side To Center Stage

Brussels sprouts have long been a staple on holiday tables, gracing the feast as a reliable side dish. However, Brussels sprouts deserve more than just a supporting role — they're more than capable of taking center stage in a variety of main course dishes. While traditionally relegated to the periphery of the holiday spread, Brussels sprouts possess a unique versatility that can transform them into the focal point of a meal.

In this article, we'll explore 13 inventive ways to upgrade Brussels sprouts, showcasing how they can transition from being a beloved sidekick to the undisputed star of the culinary show. From beautifully sweet roasted or pan-fried sprouts in a pasta dish to a warming soup that's perfect for cold nights, there are so many ways to use Brussels sprouts. Although they're traditionally divisive, when they're prepared thoughtfully, rather than boiled to oblivion, even the staunchest of sprout-haters might start to come around.

So, what are you waiting for? These delicious main course ideas will give you the inspiration you need to get creative with sprouts. As a keen home cook and experienced food writer, I've done plenty of my own culinary experiments with Brussels sprouts. I've also got some inspiration from recipe developers and food bloggers to fill in the gaps.

Make them the star of a pasta dish

Brussels sprouts, typically the supporting actors of holiday sides, are stepping into the spotlight in an unexpected role: right at the heart of your favorite pasta dishes. This mini cruciferous veggie isn't just a sidekick, it can hold its own as part of a hearty main dish.

Brussels sprouts are especially great with creamy or cheesy pasta sauces. However, you could choose to keep it simple with some high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and a healthy dose of garlic. But how can you really make Brussels sprouts stand out in pasta? The secret lies in halving the Brussels sprouts and giving them a sizzling turn in the oven or on the stovetop. This caramelizes the edges, bringing out their inherent sweetness.

Brussels sprouts effortlessly strut their stuff in various pasta styles. While you can find plenty of dedicated Brussels sprout pasta recipes online, it's also fine to experiment by adding them to your existing favorite pasta dishes. They add sweetness and freshness that can cut through heavy sauces. So, if you're looking to make the most of sprouts while they're in season a pasta main should be on your list.

Turn them into a gratin

Making a Brussels sprout gratin is one way to turn the humble sprout into a delicious main dish. Effectively, this is just sprouts baked in a creamy sauce — you really can't go wrong. To make this kind of gratin, you begin by halving or shredding Brussels sprouts. Then you mix them with a sauce, often crafted from a decadent blend of heavy cream, cheese, and savory seasonings. If you're vegan or dairy-free, you can easily adjust this by using soy cream or cashew cream in place of heavy cream.

Layered into a baking dish, a gratin wouldn't be complete without its signature topping, and here, you have options aplenty. A generous layer of breadcrumbs or crumbled potato chips adds crunch, while an extra sprinkle of cheese promises a golden, gooey finish. Then, it's just time for the gratin to spend some time in the oven and it's ready to hit the spotlight.

There are plenty of ways to add your own variations on this dish. Some opt for a touch of nuttiness with chopped almonds in the topping, while others introduce a hint of smokiness by incorporating Gruyère or smoked cheese. You can also experiment with herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary for aromatic depth.

Wrap them in pastry

Want to level up your Brussels sprouts into main dish territory? Try wrapping them in pastry. No, we don't mean individually, but rather in an en croute or pastry roll. Honestly, few foods in this world can't be improved by being wrapped in pastry, so there's no reason why Brussels sprouts shouldn't get the pastry treatment. And, if you're looking for a vegetarian main for the holidays or a special dinner, anything wrapped in pastry always impresses people way more than the amount of effort that goes into making it.

First, you'll need to prepare the filling. Sure, you've got Brussels sprouts, but you'll need more than just those if you want to create a tasty, balanced dish. There are so many choices for mixing with your sprouts, including roasted sweet potato, crushed nuts, and cheeses such as feta or halloumi — or try vegan alternatives, if you want to leave out the dairy. We'd also suggest cooking the sprouts before using them as a pastry filling to make sure they're cooked through and to add some natural sweetness. Once you've prepared your filling, all you need to do is wrap it in ready-made puff pastry or filo pastry and bake until golden.

Use them to top a galette

We're not done with pastry yet. If you don't want to wrap up your sprouts inside the pastry, you can stick them on top of the pastry in the form of a galette. For the uninitiated, a galette is a rustic, free-form pastry that originated in France. It is essentially a flat, round, or oval-shaped crust made from pastry dough that is rolled out and filled with ingredients — in this case, Brussels sprouts and other delicious savory fillings. One distinctive feature of a galette is its rustic appearance. The edges of the dough are typically folded over the filling, leaving the center exposed. This lack of precision adds to the charm of the galette and makes it an approachable and forgiving pastry for home bakers.

We'd recommend pan-frying or roasting Brussels sprouts to top a galette. But you'll want more ingredients to make a tasty galette. Caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness, and you can balance this out by adding cheese for a rich umami depth of flavor. If you'd like to add some sauce, a pesto or thick bechamel is a tasty addition.

Top a pizza with them

Brussels sprouts might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about pizza toppings, but their sweet, earthy flavor can elevate your 'za. One of the keys to a successful Brussels sprout pizza is thinly slicing or shredding the sprouts, ensuring they cook evenly and become tender. This preparation method allows the Brussels sprouts to caramelize, bringing out their natural sweetness and complementing the savory elements of the pizza. You could also halve them, but if you do this, we'd recommend slightly pre-cooking them so they cook through fully by the time your pizza is ready.

For the sauce, a white pizza can provide a perfect canvas, allowing the flavors of the Brussels sprouts to shine. A garlic-infused olive oil or a creamy béchamel sauce serves as an excellent base, enhancing the overall richness of the pizza. Alternatively, for a unique twist, consider experimenting with a barbecue sauce base, which can impart a sweet and tangy kick, balancing the Brussels sprouts' earthiness.

When it comes to cheese, you have so many choices. A combination of mozzarella and fontina can contribute a gooey, melty texture, while a sprinkle of Parmesan or goat cheese adds a sharp contrast. Blue cheese enthusiasts may find its bold flavor pairs exceptionally well with the subtle nuttiness of Brussels sprouts. To complete the pizza, consider additional toppings that complement the Brussels sprouts, such as caramelized onions or a drizzle of balsamic glaze for a touch of sweetness.

Make tacos

Yes, it's an unlikely pairing, but Brussels sprouts in tacos can make a tasty meal if you get the balance of flavors right. Start by thinly shredding or slicing the Brussels sprouts, allowing them to cook quickly and absorb the flavors of your chosen seasonings. Sauté them until they're tender with a slight caramelization, unlocking their innate sweetness.

To build a flavorful foundation, consider layering your taco with a base of black beans or seasoned black lentils, providing a hearty, protein-packed element. Add a vibrant crunch with shredded red cabbage or crisp lettuce, introducing both color and texture to each bite. For a creamy contrast, drizzle your tacos with a zesty cilantro lime crema or a tangy avocado sauce. The creaminess complements the Brussels sprouts, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. A spicy Sriracha aioli can add a kick that enhances the overall taco experience.

Fresh herbs play a crucial role in elevating the dish. Sprinkle cilantro leaves liberally over the top for a burst of freshness, or experiment with mint or parsley for an unexpected twist. A squeeze of lime juice just before serving adds a citrusy brightness that ties all the flavors together. Or you might want to create a zingy chimichurri sauce using fresh herbs. Your cheese options are plentiful: consider crumbled queso fresco for a mild tang, or go for a sharper cotija for added depth. Finish off your Brussels sprouts tacos with a sprinkle of toasted pepitas or sliced almonds for crunch.

Use them in gnocchi

If you want a standout main where sprouts play a leading role, consider adding them to a gnocchi dish. Halving the Brussels sprouts and roasting them to perfection gives them a sweetness that you wouldn't achieve by boiling or steaming your sprouts. To further enhance the dish, consider roasting the gnocchi alongside the Brussels sprouts. This unconventional method results in crispy exteriors that contrast beautifully with the fluffy centers of the potato dumplings. It adds a delightful crunch to every bite and delivers something different from your standard boiled gnocchi.

For the sauce, a brown butter and sage combination can work wonders, offering a nutty richness that complements the Brussels sprouts and gnocchi. Alternatively, a light cream sauce infused with garlic and hard Italian cheese adds a creamy element that ties the ingredients together. The key is to keep the sauce light enough to let the flavors of the roasted Brussels sprouts shine.

You can also consider adding sautéed shallots or caramelized onions for a subtle sweetness, and perhaps a handful of toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts for an extra crunch. Fresh herbs like chopped parsley or basil can provide a burst of freshness and balance out the richness of the dish. A drizzle of balsamic or a squeeze of lemon just before serving adds a touch of acidity.

Blend them into a soup

Indulge in the rich, hearty goodness of Brussels sprouts with a delicious twist — transforming them into a soul-warming soup. While Brussels sprouts might not be the conventional choice for a soup base, their robust flavor makes an excellent soup that can really steal the show.

Consider enhancing the depth of flavor by roasting or pan-frying the Brussels sprouts before incorporating them into the soup. This technique elevates their natural sweetness and imparts a slightly caramelized edge, contributing a layer of complexity that simmering alone won't achieve. For a velvety texture, think about creating a cream of Brussels sprout soup. Add some heavy cream when blending or opt for a plant-based alternative like cashew cream. For a more adventurous flavor profile, evoke the essence of broccoli and Stilton soup by introducing blue cheese to the Brussels sprout concoction.

Of course, to further enhance the soup, you should add aromatic elements such as sautéed onions or leeks and garlic. A pinch of nutmeg or a dash of white pepper can add a subtle warmth, enhancing the overall depth of the soup. Garnish your Brussels sprout soup with a swirl of additional cream, a sprinkle of crispy onions, or a handful of toasted pine nuts for added texture.

Transform them into a curry

Invite Brussels sprouts to the vibrant world of curry and discover a delicious marriage of flavors that adds a unique twist to this divisive ingredient. Whether you prefer the creamy richness of a korma, the robust intensity of a bhuna, or the fiery heat of a vindaloo, Brussels sprouts can bring something to the party in a wide range of curries. Brussels sprouts shine not only as solo performers but also as part of a vegetable ensemble in assorted vegetable curries. Mixed with other vegetables like carrots, peas, or bell peppers, Brussels sprouts contribute their distinct character, ensuring a diverse and satisfying medley of flavors and textures in every bite.

Preparation is key to integrating Brussels sprouts seamlessly into curry. Consider pan-frying or sautéing them briefly before adding to the curry pot to bring out their sweetness. This step ensures that the sprouts retain their texture amidst a rich, flavorful curry. Whether you're a fan of milder curries or crave the fiery intensity of spice, Brussels sprouts are an unexpected yet tasty addition to your curry repertoire. Their versatility allows them to hold their own in a variety of curry styles.

Make them into a hash

Break away from breakfast norms and embrace the versatility of Brussels sprouts with a hearty Brussels sprout and potato hash. Contrary to their reputation as a dinner side, Brussels sprouts prove to be a surprising and delicious addition to the breakfast table. We like quartered Brussels sprouts in a hash. This is small enough to cook through in a pan but large enough to retain some chunky texture to stand up against potatoes. For an extra layer of depth, consider sautéing onions and garlic until golden brown before adding the Brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Whether you prefer a crispy finish or a tender bite, the cooking process is where the magic happens. Allow the hash to sizzle in the pan until the Brussels sprouts and potatoes are golden and caramelized. You can further enhance the flavor by adding fresh or dried herbs, such as thyme or sage. If you like a bit of a kick to your breakfast, some chili flakes or a splash of hot sauce doesn't go amiss.

Give them the Buffalo treatment

Transform your Brussels sprouts into irresistible Buffalo bites with this crunchy, fiery twist. By battering or breading and then frying sprouts, you're in for a mouthwatering treat that brings a perfect balance of heat and crunch. Start by preparing a light batter or breading mixture. The batter can be a simple combination of flour, cornstarch, and seasonings whisked together until smooth. Alternatively, you can coat the Brussels sprouts in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture for an extra crispy texture.

Whether you choose to deep fry or shallow fry, the goal is to achieve a golden brown and crispy exterior while maintaining the tenderness of the Brussels sprouts within. Deep frying results in an all-around crispiness, while shallow frying provides a crunchy coating with a slightly softer center. The magic happens when you toss these golden nuggets in Buffalo sauce. The classic combination of hot sauce and butter clings to each Brussels sprout, infusing them with that unmistakable Buffalo flavor. To tame the heat and add a creamy element, serve your Buffalo Brussels sprouts with a cool and tangy ranch dressing or another favorite creamy dip. The contrast between the fiery kick of the Buffalo sauce and the soothing creaminess of the dip is second to none.

Add them to mac and cheese

Elevate your mac and cheese game with a twist that's bound to steal the show: the addition of roasted Brussels sprouts. This unexpected combination transforms the classic comfort dish, making it an ideal candidate for a standout main course, especially during holiday gatherings.

Start by roasting Brussels sprouts until they achieve a perfect caramelized exterior. You can then add them to your usual mac and cheese and bake until it's hot and bubbly and the flavors have melded. However, if you don't have a go-to sauce for your mac and cheese, consider a combination of sharp cheddar for its robust flavor, creamy Monterey Jack for smoothness, and a touch of nutty Gruyère for depth. The medley of cheeses makes sure your mac and cheese is something special. For an extra layer of decadence, add a topping to your Brussels sprouts mac and cheese before baking. A crispy breadcrumb crust is always a solid choice, but there are other options, including chopped nuts, crushed potato chips, crispy onions, or even slices of fresh tomato.

Turn them into veggie burgers

Shredding Brussels sprouts and transforming them into a patty gives you an alternative to store-bought veggie burgers. If you want to try making sprout burgers, start by finely shredding the sprouts. Mix them with seasonings, such as salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs, to infuse the patties with a burst of savory goodness. Introduce finely chopped onions and garlic for added depth of flavor, and bind the mixture together with a combination of egg and flour, ensuring the burgers hold their shape during cooking.

Pan-frying is the key to achieving a golden-brown exterior and a tender interior. Cook the Brussels sprout patties in a skillet until they form a delightful crust, allowing the natural sweetness of the sprouts to shine through. For an extra layer of indulgence, consider adding a slice of your favorite cheese on top of each patty during the final moments of cooking. The melted cheese creates a creamy, savory layer that makes your sprout burger taste even better.

When it comes to serving, the options are as varied as your taste buds desire. Place your Brussels sprout patties between your favorite burger buns, and let your creativity shine through with a selection of sauces and toppings. Classic options like ketchup and mustard work well, or you can experiment with mayo-based spreads, spicy aioli, or a tangy barbecue sauce. Top your Brussels sprout veggie burgers with fresh lettuce, juicy tomatoes, crisp pickles, or slices of creamy avocado.