One of my favorite ways to enjoy Brussels sprouts is by roasting the sprouts and tossing them with a flavorful sauce. For this recipe, I tossed roasted Brussels sprouts with a sauce that’s typically used for kung pao chicken. The sauce is mildly spicy, tangy, and a little sweet. I’ve also added peanuts to the dish because kung pao chicken is often served with peanuts. Note that the Brussels sprouts won’t stay crispy because they’ll be covered in sauce. However, I think the flavor more than makes up for the loss of crispy texture.
I like eating this as a side dish for weeknight dinners. To make a complete meal, I serve the kung pao Brussels sprouts with jasmine rice and pan-fried tofu. There will be a lot of kung pao sauce leftover in this recipe. You can pan-fry firm or extra-firm tofu and drizzle sauce over the fried tofu. For more guidance on how to make this pan-fried tofu, refer to my pan-fried teriyaki tofu recipe. Use the leftover sauce from this recipe instead of teriyaki sauce.
HOW TO MAKE KUNG PAO BRUSSELS SPROUTS
PREPARE BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Rinse the Brussels sprouts and quickly dry them with a towel. Trim the bottoms and slice them in half. I usually buy my Brussels sprouts from the farmer’s market. Often times, I get tiny sprouts that are less than 1 inch in diameter. For those sprouts, I roast them whole. If you have very large sprouts (larger than 1.5 inches in diameter), cut them into quarters.
ROAST BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and position an oven rack to the center position.
In a bowl, drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the Brussels sprouts and toss them with a pinch of salt. Spread the Brussels sprouts over the baking sheet. I like placing the sprouts cut side down so that they can brown.
There’s likely a lot of stray Brussels sprouts leaves, which brown faster than the sprout. Halfway through roasting, I remove the leaves from the pan so that they don’t burn. To make them easier to remove from the pan, I gather the Brussels sprouts leaves into one corner of the sheet pan (see photo above).
After 10 minutes of baking, check the leaves. They’re likely still quite green, but it’s a good idea to gauge the roasting process at this point. Roast the sprouts for 2 to 3 more minutes and check again. Once the leaves have browned considerably, take the sheet pan out the oven. Using a spatula, remove the leaves. Then, spread out the remaining Brussels sprouts and bake them for another 10 to 13 minutes. The total roasting time for the sprouts should be about 22 to 25 minutes.
While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, prepare the sauce. Combine water, sugar, soy sauce, dark soy sauce, Zhenjiang vinegar and dried chili peppers into a saucepan and bring everything to boil. Zhenjiang vinegar (aka Chinkiang vinegar, 鎮江香醋) is a rice-based vinegar that has malty flavor. If you don’t have it on hand, you can use rice vinegar or white vinegar.
I bought Chinese dried chilis for the recipe, but dried cayenne peppers work too. If you can’t find that easily, you can use 3/4 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. When slicing the dried peppers, nearly all the seeds will fall out. You can scoop all or some of the seeds into the saucepan.
Bring the liquids to boil. Once boiled, add the cornstarch slurry. The slurry consists of 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water. This slurry will help thicken the sauce slightly without turning it too viscous. If you made the slurry ahead, make sure to stir it thoroughly before adding it to the hot liquids. Cornstarch settles to the bottom quite quickly.
To mimic kung pao chicken, I added peanuts to the dish. My favorite method of preparing is to fry raw peanuts in a bit of oil for 1 to 2 minutes in medium heat. Alternatively, you can buy dry roasted peanuts for the dish. Make sure to toast the peanuts on a pan for several minutes to release the nutty aroma.
FINISH THE DISH
Once the Brussel sprouts are done roasting, transfer them to a bowl. Add the peanuts to the bowl. Toss the Brussels sprouts with 3 tablespoons of the kung pao sauce. Taste the Brussels sprouts and add more sauce, if necessary. Serve with jasmine rice.
MORE BRUSSELS SPROUTS RECIPES
Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Zhenjiang vinegar, (see note 1)
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine, (see note 2)
- 4 dried Chinese dried chilis, sliced (see note 3)
- 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Position an oven rack to the center position.
- Rinse the Brussels sprouts and pat them dry. Trim off the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts and slice them in half. If you are working with very large Brussels sprouts (over 1.5 inches in diameter), quarter them. If you are using very small sprouts (under 1 inch in diameter), you can leave them whole. Transfer the sliced sprouts into a mixing bowl.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the sprouts and add a pinch of salt. Toss to coat the Brussels sprouts with the oil.
- Spread the Brussels sprouts over the lined baking sheet. I like placing the sprouts cut side down so that they brown more. I also like to gather all the stray leaves into one corner of the sheet pan. I remove the leaves halfway through the roasting so that they don’t burn too much.
- Bake the Brussels sprouts for about 22 to 25 minutes. Halfway through baking (about 12 to 13 minutes), check the Brussels sprout leaves. If they have browned considerably, remove them from the pan. If they still look quite green, let them roast for another 2 minutes and check again to see if they’re brown. Remove the leaves from the sheet pan and continue roasting the sprouts for another 10 to 13 minutes.
- While the sprouts are baking, prepare the sauce. Add all the ingredients for the sauce into the saucepan. Bring the liquids to boil. In a small bowl, mix the ingredients for the cornstarch slurry and add it to the saucepan. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat slightly and let the sauce simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it sit while the sprouts finish roasting.
- Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven and transfer them to a bowl. Add the roasted peanuts. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of sauce over the sprouts and toss to coat. Taste a sprout and add more sauce, if necessary. (see note 4 on how to use leftover sauce)
- This is also known as Chinkiang vinegar. I like using this type of vinegar for this recipe because it adds malty flavor to the sauce. If you don’t have Zhenjiang vinegar, use rice vinegar or white vinegar.
- The wine adds depth of flavor to the sauce. You can substitute this with shaoxing wine (紹興花雕酒/绍兴花雕酒), mirin, another cooking wine, or just leave it out.
- You can substitute this with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on your desired level of spice.
- You can use the remaining sauce for stir fries or to flavor fried rice.