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Crispy on the outside, tender in the middle, and full of flavor!
Caramelized Brussels sprouts with bacon and zesty garlic aioli is sure to become a new favorite! Make this as an easy appetizer or side dish.
Quicker than my oven-roasted recipe, these cast iron Brussels sprouts are steamed in the microwave for a couple of minutes to give them a jump start. Then, they are seared quickly in melted butter until charred, resulting in a rich caramelization without burning.
Try another one of my Brussels sprout appetizers with pancetta and pecans or enjoy that same caramelized flavor in a spicy chicken stir fry. I also have plenty more cast iron recipes for you to try ranging from breakfast to dessert!
Key ingredients & substitutions for Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Brussels sprouts — These are typically sold loose or in bags, but they may come still on the stalk. Either way, be sure to trim off the thick ends before rinsing. Choose heads that are a vibrant green and firm to the touch.
- Bacon — Prepare this ahead of time, either on the stove or in the oven. For even more flavor, use a smoked thick-cut version. My favorite for this recipe is Benton’s Hickory Smoked Bacon — there’s just no comparison!
- Garlic Aioli — Combine mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, and salt, then pop it in the fridge so the flavors can meld together. It can be drizzled over the cast iron brussels sprouts or used for dipping.
How to make cast iron brussels sprouts?
STEP 1 | Prep the ingredients
Get the bacon going, then place the vegetables in a colander and rinse with cool water. Pat dry and remove any loose leaves. If the rounds are small, cut them in half through the core. For larger ones, cut them into quarters.
STEP 2 | Cook the sprouts
To jump-start the cooking, steam them in the microwave for two minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a cast iron skillet. Add cracked pepper and saute until sizzling, then place each sprout in the pan cut side down and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, adding in crumbled bacon.
STEP 3 | Prepare the aioli
Do this ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or whisk it up while the vegetables are on the stove. You may use fresh cloves of garlic or jarred minced garlic — either is delicious.
STEP 4 | Serve!
Transfer the caramelized brussels sprouts with bacon to a serving dish and drizzle half of the aioli over the top, reserving the rest for dipping.
- As a Southern cook, my Lodge cast iron skillet literally stays on top of my stove twenty-four seven. There’s no use putting it away between meals since I will most likely use it the next time I cook anyway!
Frequently asked questions
It’s just a fancy name for a very simple dipping sauce — just whisk everything together until smooth! Use it right away or refrigerate for later, though the flavor tends to deepen the longer it sits.
Yes — depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to work in batches or get two going at the same time. This recipe for caramelized brussel sprouts with bacon yields about 4 servings, so doubling is a good idea for holidays or dinner parties.
While some may recommend it, this step isn’t really necessary — a thorough rinse will remove any dirt and sediment. If the leaves are loose enough to hide dirt, I wouldn’t recommend using them.
This recipe is one of my favorite brussel sprout appetizers, but it can also be served alongside roasted chicken, pork chops, or smoked brisket. In fact, I can’t decide if this recipe should be categorized as an appetizer, a side dish, or even the whole meal!
Cast iron brussels sprouts: behind the recipe
While in Franklin, Tennessee for our daughter’s wedding, we stopped for dinner at Gray’s On Main — a trendy restaurant housed in a historic building circa 1876.
Gray’s was once a pharmacy but now “honors the heritage of Tennessee’s culture through soulful sounds, traditional flavors and vintage spirits.” I had the Southern Chop with jalapeño cornbread stuffing and peach chutney — it was excellent, by the way — but I was particularly impressed with one of the brussel sprout appetizers we shared. I almost ordered another all for myself!
Once I got back home, I set out to recreate that amazing dish. Although I’m pretty sure the ones at Gray’s were deep-fried, I opted for searing mine in butter and I must say they turned out pretty darn delicious!
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts trimmed and cut in half or quarters
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- sea salt to taste
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon fried and crumbled
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 pinch salt
- Rinse Brussels sprouts and pat dry. Trim stems and cut each in half lengthwise.
- Place into the basket of a microwave steamer with 2 tablespoons of water. Microwave for 2 minutes. Remove from steamer to stop the cooking.
- While the Brussels are steaming, melt the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add freshly ground pepper and stir until just sizzling.
- Add the Brussels to the skillet in a single layer, cut side down as much as possible. and sprinkle with salt. Cover without turning for 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the Brussels over and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until soft and lightly charred. Add the crumbled bacon and stir.
- To serve, drizzle with half the aioli, reserving the rest for extra dipping, if desired.
- Prepare the aioli by combining the mayo, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Add salt to taste and refrigerate.
About Sheila Thigpen
Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer
Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.