Fresh Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Parmesan ♥ Day 187

Fresh Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Parmesan, another healthy vegetable side ♥
How to cook fresh Brussels sprouts with lemon and Parmesan flavors, a simple, no-recipe-required recipe. Just cook first by steaming or boiling, then soak for 15 minutes in lemon juice and grated Parmesan. LOL they won't win any beauty contests but what they lack in the looks department, they make up for as an easy make-ahead side dish.

Fresh Vegetables, Fast & Healthy. Just Three Ingredients! An Easy Side for Weeknight Suppers. Budget Friendly. Great for Meal Prep. Low Carb. Low Fat. Weight Watchers Friendly. Vegetarian. Naturally Gluten Free.

Understanding Brussels Sprouts

Before beginning to cook Brussels sprouts, it's good to first think through their anatomy.

Each sprout has a dense core tightly wrapped by overlapping leaves. Think of a baseball, it's not quite solid but almost. The same is true of Brussels sprouts.

The density affects our cooking choices. We have to cook all the way through those tight leaves and into the very core especially when we want extra flavors to permeate the sprout.

Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven works well, where time and high heat do the job, see Roasted Brussels Sprouts. But we don't always want to turn on the oven or have the time to let roasting do its work.

And so we cook Brussels sprouts on the stove, either boiling or steaming first and then, often, switching to a skillet to finish the sprouts.

A Two-Step Process

That dense structure is why so many recipes for Brussels sprouts specify cooking the sprouts in two steps. You've got to get heat right down in there into the very center!


"Parcooking" means to either cook partially or to cook fully but then follow with another cooking step. For Brussels sprouts, the first parcooking step is always:

BOILING the sprouts in water, usually well-salted water.
STEAMING the sprouts in a steaming basket over boiling water.


After boiling or steaming, the Brussels sprouts are indeed cooked but quite plain. That's why many recipes finish Brussels sprouts in a second step, some times soaking in other flavors (like the recipe below), other times by moving to a skillet to combine the cooked sprouts with other vegetables and flavors.

Steaming vs Boiling: Which Is Better for Brussels Sprouts?

Here, the Brussels sprouts are steamed or boiled first, then tossed with lemon juice and grated Parmesan while they're still hot so they'll soak up the sour lemon and creamy cheese.

But which is better, steaming boiling? It depends, each technique has benefits.

STEAMING — It's harder to overcook Brussels sprouts when they're steamed, harder to turn them into waterlogged baby cabbages. To steam Brussels sprouts, you need a steaming basket of some sort, usually a metal collapsible steaming basket (affiliate link) that's strong enough to hold Brussels sprouts.

BOILING — It's easier to overcook Brussels sprouts when they're boiled. But on the plus side, the water can be infused with flavor, primarily salt, to seasons the sprouts right into their cores. Boiling requires no special steamer basket since the sprouts may be boiled in a large saucepan or in a skillet with a lid so long as it's deep enough to hold both sprouts and water.

About This Recipe

Fresh whole Brussels sprouts are steamed or boiled until cooked through, then tossed to soak in fresh lemon juice and a little Parmesan cheese, a bright mix of sour and creamy.
Distinctive Ingredients = Brussels sprouts + fresh lemon juice + freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Allow time to prep the Brussels sprouts, it's not hard but takes a little time and deft knife work.
Most vegetable recipes on A Veggie Venture presume that a pound of vegetables is four servings. Brussels sprouts work out a little differently. First, trimming means that the Brussels sprouts lose about 30% of their weight. Second, Brussels sprouts seem to go further, even after trimming, they seem more like 8 servings than 4. Third, since Brussels sprouts are individual little things, I think we probably serve them by numbers instead of volume, three or five or seven per serving, say.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Use Fresh Brussels Sprouts

Lesson #1 When I first started A Veggie Venture, an OG in food blogging, I used more frozen than fresh vegetables. After a couple of months (already 60 recipes!) I realized that none of the recipes using frozen vegetables were favorites. Okay, lesson learned!

Lesson #2 Like every cook, I still lean on frozen vegetables for thrift and convenience. Since Brussels sprouts are a little time-intensive for prep, well, I kept buying frozen Brussels sprouts. But you know what? They're really not good. Fresh Brussels sprouts may take some effort, do allow time, but they taste just the very best. Lesson learned!

Allow Time for Soaking If you toss the Brussels sprouts with lemon and parmesan and eat them right away, you'll wonder if they're worth the effort. But if you let them soak up the flavors for 15 minutes, then reheat for a minute in the microwave, wow, totally worth it.

Salt If you steam the Brussels sprouts, be extra careful to taste for salt, you'll likely need some. But if you boil the Brussels sprouts in well-salted water, you may not.

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this recipe inspires you, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Fresh Brussels Sprouts with Lemon & Parmesan, another healthy vegetable side ♥


Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Serves 4
Just 3 Ingredients + Pantry Staples

1 pound (450g) fresh Brussels sprouts, roughly the same size
If boiling, table salt for the cooking water

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, more to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

PREP THE BRUSSELS SPROUTS Prep may be done ahead of time, even the day before. Wash the sprouts well. Trim and discard a bit of the stem, strategically positioning the trim cut to either (1) avoid releasing the outer layer of leaves if they're pretty or (2) if they're gnarly, letting them fall away. If the sprouts are quite large, consider cutting the sprouts in half lengthwise right through the center of the core; otherwise, to cook the sprouts whole, cut an X deep into the center of the core with the tip of the knife, this allows heat and moisture to reach the center.

~~ TO STEAM ~~ Arrange the Brussels sprouts in a steaming basket, stem-side down if possible, in a single or double layer if possible.

While prepping the sprouts, bring an inch or two of water to boil in a large saucepan large enough to hold the steaming basket. Reduce the heat to maintain a fast boil. Place the steaming basket into the saucepan; work carefully to avoid the hot steam! Cover the saucepan and let the sprouts steam for about 15 minutes, less time for smaller sprouts, more time for larger sprouts and/or more than one layer.

~~ OR TO BOIL ~~ While prepping the sprouts, bring several inches of well-salted water to a boil in a large saucepan big enough to hold the sprouts and enough water to cover the sprouts plus an inch or two more.

TEST FOR DONENESS Remove the lid and stab a single sprout with a fork, taste for doneness, the outer leaves should be soft and tender, the inner core firm but cooked.. Remember, at this stage, they're very plain, so taste for doneness, not deliciousness.

LET FLAVOR SOAK IN While the Brussels sprouts steam, collect the lemon juice and Parmesan in a bowl large enough to hold all the sprouts and allow for stirring. (If the Brussels sprouts will be served hot, make this a microwave-safe bowl.) Have this bowl ready before the sprouts finish, they should be very hot when moved to the bowl, this helps them absorb the most flavor. When the sprouts are cooked, turn them into the bowl and toss well. Let soak for about 15 minutes, tossing every five minutes or so.

TASTE a sprout and season to taste with salt and pepper.

SERVE immediately at room temperature or to serve later, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve later in the day.

TO SERVE HOT, RECOMMENDED Reheat the Brussels sprouts in the microwave for just a minute, just until hot again. Serve immediately.

LEFTOVERS are good both cold and re-heated.

Choose sprouts roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
Frozen Brussels sprouts are not recommended.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .

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Looking for healthy new ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of super-organized quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous Asparagus-to-Zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables. Join "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg to explore the exciting world of common and not-so-common vegetables where recipes range from seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Fall is time for Brussels Sprouts!...I like this recipe--simple and allows their flavor to shine...Have you ever tried to prepare them where they're all cut up, kind of like slivers of the leaves? I keep running into recipes for that, and that would solve my problem of some of the them seeming to cook way before others...

  2. Lisa - I love Brussels too and agree, yes, they're so perfect for fall (and at least according to my mother and her English heritage, Christmas dinner). I've got braised Brussels bookmarked somewhere, sounds similar to what you're suggesting. This version lemon/parmesan thing was actually a "save" because the intended brown sugar/butter/pecan glaze scorched when I left the pot unattended too long. Both will hit the site some time soon, I suspect. Thanks for stopping in -- yours is a new site for me, I've RSSd it and will pay attention now!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna