How To Make Brussels Sprouts In The Slow Cooker

Skip the sheet pan this holiday season.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Ham and Garlic
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

If Brussels sprouts are on your Thanksgiving or Christmas sideboard this year, chances are you will roast them in the oven on a sheet pan. Roasting is a fantastic way to cook Brussels sprouts, but around the holidays, oven space is the only thing more valuable than your grandmother's Spode turkey plates. So free up some oven space for the slow-roasting turkey, heavenly pies, and favorite casseroles, and let your trusty slow cooker handle the Brussels sprouts this year.

How to Slow Cook Brussels Sprouts

If you've never slow-cooked Brussels sprouts before, you are in for a treat. The slow cooker makes them wonderfully tender through and through with little hands-on cooking. The key is to combine fresh Brussels sprouts with some liquid, like vegetable or chicken stock. For 2 pounds of sprouts, you'll need about ½ cup of liquid. Cook on HIGH until the Brussels sprouts are tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Ingredients to Flavor Your Sprouts

When preparing your Brussels sprouts, you can add whatever flavorings strike your fancy. Some ideas include dried or fresh herbs, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, fresh lemon zest, maple syrup, a ham hock—the more flavor, the better because they will absorb all of that liquid. Here are some more ingredients you can add to your dish:

  • Dried or fresh herbs: Herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary, or parsley can liven up your sprouts.
  • Fresh lemon zest: Freshly grated lemon zest will brighten the dish.
  • Garlic and onions: Try minced garlic, shallots, or a sweet Vidalia onion to really amp up the flavor. Saute first to release the savory scent, then stir in with the sprouts.
  • Ham or bacon: Use a ham hock, diced bacon, or chopped pancetta for salty, smoky undertones in your dish.
  • Soy sauce: Use a tablespoon or two of soy sauce to add a salty, slightly sweet, umami flavor.
  • Sweeteners: Anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup provides a nice counterbalance to the natural bitterness of sprouts and to any vinegar or onions.
  • Vinegar: Balsamic vinegar is often added to Brussels sprouts because of its slightly sweet, syrupy character. Apple cider vinegar is another good choice. You can also use vinegar-based condiments like Dijon mustard for more bite in your dish.

How to Brown Slow-Cooked Sprouts

If your favorite part of a roasted Brussels sprout is crispy, charred edges, you can still get that if you prepare them in a slow cooker. After they have cooked, transfer the cooked Brussels sprouts to a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil. If you enjoy a just-melted, nicely browned sprinkle of cheese on your sprouts, this is a good time to grate some parmesan, asiago, or romano cheese over top. You can also lightly roast nuts along with your sprouts: Toss in walnuts if you prefer a strong, earthy flavor, or pinenuts for a more subtle touch.

Broil your Brussels sprouts until they start to brown. Watch them carefully as this may only take a few minutes, and you don't want your sprouts to burn. Then serve up your tender, flavorful slow-cooker sprouts and enjoy.

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