This easy air fryer Brussels sprouts recipe makes them crispy and caramelized outside and tender inside, bursting with flavor! Use fresh of frozen Brussel sprouts – both come out just perfect!
Make the best of your weekday dinners serving these quick and easy Brussels sprouts along keto and low-carb mains like this pepper crusted beef, or make it a fun plating with these keto almond flour meatballs!
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I noticed that Brussels sprouts stir deep emotions on people. It’s a love or hate thing. I love them, but that’s probably because I don’t have any bad childhood memories of soggy and bitter Brussels sprouts.
In fact, don’t have any old memories, because the first time I ate Brussels sprouts I was already in my 30’s, after starting keto.
I love being a grown up and getting to choose what I’m going to eat, instead of being fed by someone else, who might not have the most discerning taste (looking at you mom and your frozen burgers boiled in water!)
My memories of Brussels sprouts are of so much deliciousness that I almost think of them as the main dish – when prepared properly, yes, Brussel sprouts will be the item on my plate that I’ll finish first and go for seconds!
Are Brussels sprouts keto
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable (they are related to cauliflower, broccoli, kale and, if you couldn’t already tell, cabbage) and as such they have a similar nutritional make up as their cousins: plenty of fiber, full of vitamins and minerals, very low in sugar and no starch.
With only 4.5 net carbs per cup, Brussels sprouts are a great low-carb veggie and can certainly be consumed in a keto diet, with attention to the total macros of the meal.
You’ll need only a handful of ingredients for this delicious keto side dish, and you probably already have them all in your pantry:
- Brussels sprouts: they can be fresh or frozen – I usually prefer frozen, as they are super practical to make and taste as amazing as fresh!
- Olive oil: always choose extra virgin.
- Lemon juice: freshly squeezed is much better! You can also use Key lime juice.
- Garlic powder: I use it instead of fresh crushed garlic in the air fryer because the later ends up slipping through the basket holes.
- Salt and pepper: I chose black pepper, but white pepper works too.
- Balsamic vinegar: has a sweet taste and a little bit of natural sugar, which is small enough not to increase the carb count per portion but it helps caramelize and crisp up the Brussels sprouts surface.
See my tips for choosing a keto friendly balsamic here.
How to make Brussels sprouts not bitter
Brussels sprouts have a natural bitterness to them, which is intensified by overcooking. But know that by seasoning and cooking them the right way, they will develop a deliciously rich, nutty flavor with hints of sweetness.
The problem is that too often less experienced cooks will follow the frozen Brussels sprouts package instructions as it were a recipe, which it isn’t. It’s just a way of making them unfrozen, and (barely) edible.
Have you seen the “simply steam” and “microwave right in bag” labels? That’s a traumatizing experience waiting to happen. Please, don’t!
To make Brussels sprouts go from just edible to absolutely delicious you need 2 things:
Dry heat & high temperature
Cook Brussels sprouts at high temperature in dry heat (best done in a large air fryer) to bring out the sweetness by caramelization and make them crispy.
In the other hand, steaming or microwaving until they are soft will cause them to get mushy and bitter.
Use a combination of salt, fat, sour and sweet to attack the bitterness on all fronts and bring out the natural deliciousness that’s hiding in these cute “baby cabbages”.
In this keto air fryer Brussels sprouts recipe I chose to use a combination of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar respectively for the fat, sour and sweet.
Together with the salt, pepper and powdered garlic all spices are suspended in the olive oil to perfectly coat each Brussels sprout and help them get crispy and caramelized in the dry heat.
How to air fry Brussel sprouts from frozen
Follow these simple tips to get the best of your frozen Brussels sprouts – they won’t be any less delicious than fresh ones:
- Do not thaw the Brussels sprouts: they should be cooked directly from frozen to avoid getting mushy.
- Frozen Brussels sprouts tend to be smaller, so generally there’s no need to cut them in half before cooking.
- If they have ice crystals all over do your best to remove them and get the Brussels sprouts as dry as possible. I give them a good rub with a clean kitchen towel before adding the spices.
Tips for fresh Brussel sprouts
- Pick Brussels sprouts that are bright green colored. Choose the ones that are smaller, and look dense and heavy, with the leaves tightly closed. These are freshest and tastiest!
- You can used bagged and washed fresh Brussels sprouts for less hassle. If not, cut off the stump end and discard yellow and wilted outer leaves, then wash well each Brussels sprout.
- If the Brussels sprouts are large, halve them by cutting vertically so they will cook faster and have more surface to brown and get crispy.
- If you have some that are big and others that are small, cut just the large ones in half so that they are all approximate equal sizes. This will ensure that they all get done at about the same time.
- Fresh Brussels sprouts tend to have a firmer texture after cooked (than frozen ones). If you want them really tender inside, quickly steam or parboil them for 3-4 minutes before seasoning and air frying.
How to make
The first thing is to make sure your Brussels sprouts are dry, so that the seasoning will stick better and they will crisp up faster. Attention to fresh ones that have just been washed, or frozen sprouts with ice or moistness in them.
Blot away water or ice crystals in the Brussels sprouts with paper towels or by gently rubbing them with a clean cloth towel until they’re dry.
Using a fork or small whisk, mix all the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl: olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. They will combine to look like a vinaigrette sort of sauce.
Toss the Brussels sprouts in the olive oil mixture to get them all coated with the spices.
Transfer the seasoned Brussels sprouts into the air fryer basket in one single layer, with some space left in between them for the air to circulate. If your air fryer is small, you can cook in batches to guarantee crispy results.
Set the air fryer for 200 °C/400 °F for 15 minutes, and shake the basket at minute 10. When time runs out check if they are ready, by piercing one with a fork.
If you want them softer or crisper/more browned, just shake the basket again and set the air fryer for a couple of minutes more.
Storage and freezing
The cooked Brussels sprouts will keep for about 3 days in the fridge, in an airtight container. Place them back into the air fryer basket to reheat at 175°C/350 °F for 3-5 minutes, just until they are warm.
I don’t recommend freezing the leftovers, as the texture will change and they will become soggy. If that doesn’t bother you, you can store them in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.
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