Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and pine nuts

This recipe’s touch of sweetness mellows out the Brussels sprouts’ bitterness.

Contributed by Linda Shiue, MD

Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and pine nuts

I recently learned that there are a few people out there who do not enjoy Brussels sprouts. Even grown-ups. Even doctors. In fact, when I was proposing menus for a cooking demonstration I did a while back for a large group of my colleagues, my Brussels sprouts idea was immediately nixed by the organizers. “Eww. I hate Brussels sprouts.” “Please, no Brussels sprouts!” Both of these sentences from vegetarian, healthy-eating Californian doctors well into adulthood. I was momentarily stunned. Then, I replied out loud, “Perhaps you haven’t had them prepared properly.”

That’s why I’m sharing my family’s favorite Brussels sprouts recipe, which I created several Thanksgivings ago for a vegan friend. I call these my “gateway Brussels sprouts” because even true Brussels sprouts haters will admit, if you can convince them to taste these, that they’re “not bad.”

I love Brussels sprouts served in any form, and there is a lot to love from a nutrition standpoint as well. Brussels sprouts are a fantastic source of fiber, as well as potassium, vitamins C and B, and they are naturally low in sodium. The trick in cooking Brussels sprouts is to not overcook them into pastiness. In this recipe, I also add the sweetness of caramelized onions and maple syrup to mellow out the bitterness some people taste in Brussels sprouts. The pine nuts add crunch and richness to make this a festive Thanksgiving side dish or entree for your vegan friends.

Servings: 12


  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 small or 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup, preferably Grade A (medium amber) or Grade B
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water, as needed for cooking


  1. Heat a dry frying pan over medium-low heat, then add pine nuts. Allow to toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir every minute or so to prevent burning. Remove the pine nuts from the frying pan once toasted.
  2. In the same pan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat, then add sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Cover and allow to cook slowly over medium-low heat until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes, each time adding a bit of water if the onions begin to dry out. Remove from heat when onions are brown and soft. [Note: This is the point where you may need to divide and cook in two batches.]
  3. In another frying pan, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and warm over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and sauté until golden, then remove and reserve on a plate. Add Brussels sprouts, cut sides down, in a single layer. (Some leaves may fall off — add these too.) Sprinkle evenly with a few pinches of salt and pepper. After a minute, check to see if the cut side has browned. When lightly golden, turn over Brussels sprouts with a spatula.
  4. Add 4 tablespoons of water, cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 3 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the Brussels sprouts are fork-tender. If they are not tender, add another tablespoon of water and cook for another minute. (Brussels sprouts should be al dente and bright green, not soft and mushy.)
  5. Add the maple syrup, stir, and increase heat to medium. Cook uncovered until syrup begins to bubble, a minute or less. Turn off heat.
  6. In a serving bowl or platter, toss Brussels sprouts with previously sautéed garlic, caramelized onions, and pine nuts.

Note: Depending on the size of your frying pan, you may need to cook this in two batches.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 135
  • Total fat: 9 g
  • Sodium: 32 mg
  • Total sugars: 6 g
  • Protein: 3 g