These crispy, spicy Brussels sprouts are crazy addictive—and easy to make at home. 

Grace Elkus

Though I’ll eat pretty much any vegetable tossed in oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot oven, adding a little something extra never hurt anyone. In fact, it’s often what can take a side dish from good to great. Just last week, I added chicken broth to roasted potatoes to make melting potatoes and it totally blew our minds. This week, I tossed roasted Brussels sprouts in a homemade Kung Pao sauce, and they’re slightly (okay, very) addictive.

I first discovered Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts on Pinterest, where I quickly began skimming through the recipes. I noticed many of them had upwards of 13 ingredients, some of which are only available in specialty grocery stores (such as sambal oelek, a type of hot chili paste, and dried chiles de arbol). Some recipes also called for hoisin sauce, a store-bought condiment often filled with artificial coloring and preservatives. Most were thickened with a cornstarch slurry (a mixture of cornstarch and water), which I had a feeling I could eliminate altogether. Instead of refined sugar, I was determined to use maple syrup. To make it spicy, I opted for crushed red pepper flakes, which worked like a charm.

The result is the easiest Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts recipe we’ve seen on the Internet, using ingredients you likely have in your pantry already. Serve alongside chicken, tofu, or beef and a side of rice for an easy meal that’s better than takeout. Here’s how to do it:

Heat oven to 425°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Toss 2 pounds Brussels sprouts (trimmed and halved) with 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. You know those outer leaves that come loose when you cut the sprouts? Scoop 'em up and make sure they make it onto the sheet tray. In fact, the more, the better—they get extra charred and crunchy.

Transfer half the sprouts to a second rimmed baking sheet and spread them out so they’re not overlapping (this will prevent them from steaming). Roast, tossing once and rotating top to bottom halfway through, until browned and tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 4 chopped garlic cloves, the white and light green parts of 4 chopped scallions (save green parts for serving),1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger, and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup tamari or soy sauce, 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar. Increase heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour the sauce over the sprouts and toss. Serve directly on the sheet tray, or transfer to a platter and top with reserved scallion greens, chopped salted roasted peanuts, and more crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Serve immediately, or wait to toss the sprouts with the sauce until just before you're ready to eat. 

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