bourbon brussel sprouts

Bourbon Brussels Sprouts Flambé Recipe

In Food by Curt McAdams2 Comments

Brussels sprouts have been a much maligned vegetable over the years. Why is this? Mostly because the flavor is strong, and kids have much more sensitive taste buds than do adults, so a child tasting strong flavors gets overwhelmed very easily. Just think of the things that kids notoriously don't like:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Coffee (not a bad thing... can you imagine a 4 year old hyped up on even more caffeine?)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Spicy foods
  • etc.

Basically, strong tastes are too much for kids. I remember hearing that a child's taste buds are 300 times more sensitive than an adults. I also think that's why most people say whiskey is an acquired taste. It's not really acquired; you just kill off enough tastebuds over time that stronger flavors aren't so overwhelming, and you can enjoy what you can still taste.

Because of the number of years that some people have said they don't like Brussels sprouts, it can be hard to get them to even try them. A couple things that may make it more appealing to give them a shot are to get really fresh sprouts, use a good amount of butter to cook them, and add a hefty drop of more of bourbon the mis. The bourbon actually sweetens the sprouts a bit and adds some really nice layers of flavor.

  • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (your choice)
  • Salt & pepper

Cooking Brussels sprouts is an easy task. After getting fresh sprouts (either on the stalk or cut but with ends that aren't dark brown), rinse them and cut them in half from the top through the cut end. This allows the leaves to stay as intact as possible. If the sprouts are loose (not on a stalk), cut the very ends off, but leave as much as you can to hold the leaves together.

The very next thing I do is to put them in the microwave on high for 2 1/2 minutes. this softens them a bit so you don't have to worry about them being too crunchy after cooking them, and it lessens the cooking time on the grill.

On the grill, these work best in a cast iron/carbon steel pan or on a griddle top. Melt the butter in the pan or griddle over a medium fire, and put the sprouts in the butter, cut side down. I start with half a stick of butter, but more can be used if desired.

The sprouts should be left cooking until the sprouts have browned nicely; I start checking after about 3 minutes. It's better to check early than late, as the fire may be hotter than you thought! Once the sprouts are browned well on the cut side, turn them over and cook them for 2-3 minutes to brown the outside of the sprouts, if desired. Sometimes I just leave them with the cut side browned. Regardless, turn the sprouts so they're cut side up for the next step.

Now for the fun part... the bourbon! Move the pan away from the fire, if using a pan over open flame. On a flat top, have a lighter handy, but be careful that you don't pour the bourbon over live flame and burn yourself! Drizzle the bourbon on the sprouts, getting the whiskey on all the sprouts. I like a good dousing, as that leaves a bit more bourbon flavor. Put the skillet back on the grill. If the bourbon doesn't catch fire from the grill, use a lighter to light the bourbon to flambé (and use the lighter on a flat top griddle).

I cook on an Arterflame grill, which has a plancha around the outside of the fire  and burns charcoal and/or wood. The plancha is sloped just a bit toward the fire, so I just drizzle the last bit of bourbon toward the fire, and it catches beautifully! Whichever method you use, though, be safe first, but make sure your family or friends see it... they'll be impressed!

After the fire dies down, the Brussels sprouts are ready. Take them off the grill and add some salt and pepper. This is the perfect time to use that fancy French salt you've wanted to try, but any large flake salt would be great.

These bourbon Brussels sprouts are great as is, or you can even add a sriracha aoli to the mix. If you'd like a recipe for that, just let me know!

This is a great way to do Brussels sprouts and may become a favorite way of having them. That dark, crunchy part is just hard to beat, and the butter and bourbon combo makes just about anything better... but remember first to be safe. Don't get burned when you do the alcohol drizzle; it's better to take the food off the flame and light it with a match than to take a trip to the ER. Also, watch out if you have anything above your grill, as the flames can go pretty high, and you don't need a burned deck that travels to the house, then the garage, then the neighbors' houses just to show off a bit. Play it safe first, but enjoy!

About the Author
Curt McAdams

Curt McAdams

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Curt has a love for things that taste good, starting in barbecue competitions, then moving to teaching cooking classes, writing a food blog and writing for national grilling-related companies, and, currently, as a regular on a local news show in SW Ohio doing food segments (for which he’s become known for his use of bourbon in food). In fact, when interviewed about his top five cooking ingredients, bourbon was included in that list. Curt’s love of whisky goes back years, but, more recently, his wife encouraged him to have more than one partially filled bottle of Lagavulin by buying an Ardbeg for him for Christmas, then letting him add more and more to his collection. Now amassing a pretty nice little group of Scotch, bourbon, and ryes (and a few other whiskeys here and there), Curt enjoys his whiskey mostly with nothing but a couple drops of water (but is fine with a whiskey cocktail now and then, too). Curt’s feeling is that you don’t have to like the same whisky he likes, but he hopes you enjoy yours as much as he’s enjoying whichever is currently in his glass.


  1. Avatar

    It is Brussels Sprouts. Also may be a good idea to proofread. Too many wrong words make this hard to read.

    1. Curt McAdams Author

      I’d actually asked a chef friend of mine about the brussel vs. Brussels, but I did a bit more research, and, apparently 77% of people get it wrong. I corrected it. Most can read through a few proof read errors, but I fixed that, too.

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