Kimchi Brussels Sprouts
There was a point in my life in the not so distant past where, if you told me one of my favorite vegetables would end up being brussels sprouts, there would be no chance I would ever believe you. But here we are in 2021 and these little orbs are now a top on the go-to list when I'm looking for a green veggie accompaniment. I attribute my not liking brussels sprouts in my earlier years to never having them properly prepared—I was only exposed to bland and soggy boiled spouts and never the flavor packed and texturally superior roasted ones. While high heat cooked, crisp and tender sprouts make me happy, the reason they so often become a choice veggie is their versatility—I haven't found a flavor combination that hasn't worked with them yet, and these kimchi brussels sprouts only adds another win on that front.
Although I titled this recipe "kimchi brussels spouts," the Korean flavors in here are actually doubled up, starting with a sauce. I can never get enough gochujang—a Korean fermented spicy red pepper paste—so that served as the base with mirin and brown sugar adding sweet contrasts to the heat. Then I layered in some common ingredients found in Korean seasoning mixtures like soy sauce, garlic, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.
If you go back an peruse my Korean recipes, you'll find I often build even more complex sauces than that, but I knew I wanted these sprouts to feature kimchi prominently, which was going to add a ton of fermented funk, so there was no need to push the sauce further than beyond the basics.
I had some guests over when making these, so I made a recipe on the larger side with two pounds of brussels spouts to feed four to six people. To prep them, I trimmed off the bottom of the core on each, then halved vertically. I discarded the loose leaves that fell of, then transferred all the spouts to a bowl and coated them with oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
I then brought them out to my grill that I had going at high heat with the coals arranged in a two-zone fire. Now I love my cast iron grates, but brussels sprouts are one thing that has me switching back to the standard grates that come with Weber kettles because the gaps between those grates are smaller, making it less likely that the sprouts will slip between them and be met with a fiery death. I arranged all of the sprouts in a single layer close to, but not directly over, the fire, covered, and let them roast until well brown and crisp-tender. With some moving around now and then for even cooking, it took just over 20 minutes time for them to be done to my liking.
Next I moved the sprouts back to the bowl and added in the sauce and chopped kimchi, plus cilantro and mint, then tossed to combine everything together. With the strong pungent, spicy, and herbal elements, this may have been one of the best smelling batches of brussels spouts I've ever made.
I also think they were also the best tasting ones I've ever done too. That statement was previously held by some Thai-inspired sprouts, but a hearty spiciness paired with the fermented flavors were a great match against the lightly bitter and strong charactered sprouts. So much of the savory and spicy characteristics of Korean cuisine were present in each forkful, with the kimchi delivering the most prominent compliment to the sprouts—I'm honestly not the biggest kimchi fan, but I often really love this spicy fermented cabbage when used as a seasoning element to a dish like it was here. It's hard for me to imagine another batch of brussels sprouts I would like more than these, but then again, it's hard for me to imagine a flavor combo that wouldn't work in some way with this veggie, so there's still a lot for me to explore and be surprised by!
Kimchi Brussels Sprouts
- Yield 4-6 servings
- Prep 10 Minutes
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 30 Minutes
- For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic (about 1 medium clove)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped kimchi
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- To make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together gochujang, mirin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place brussels sprouts in a large bowl and toss with oil, salt, and pepper until thoroughly coated and evenly seasoned. Place brussels sprouts on cool side of grill, cut side down, cover, and roast until well browned and crisp-tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer brussels sprouts back to bowl.
- Add in kimchi, cilantro, mint, and sauce to bowl with brussels sprouts and toss to evenly distribute. Transfer brussels sprouts to a serving dish, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.