I’ve been growing Brussel sprouts in my backyard garden space for many years now and love the taste of them. But they can be a very divisive vegetable. So much so, that some people won’t have even tried one before as they are put off by the naysayers!
If you fall into that category, this guide is for you. I will describe the taste of Brussel sprouts. But not just based on what I think, but others too.
For example, I love the taste of Brussel sprouts, but haters might describe the taste as like farts, chemicals, gone-off cabbage, soap, broccoli, weed, and even wasabi!
But believe me, they honestly don’t taste bitter to everyone… some people consider them to have a sweet taste.
What do Brussel sprouts taste like?
I think Brussel sprouts taste like a combination of nuttiness, smokey flavor, with a sweet cabbage like taste. However, not everybody thinks like me or tastes like me, and others say sprouts taste disgusting… and I will list those opinions below!
When I plant and grow Brussel sprouts in my garden, I don’t mind if they get a little frost over winter. I find that this makes them taste sweeter and are amazing when harvested for Christmas!
The bottom line is this: Brussel sprouts taste different to every person you ask. Yes, there will be some familiar themes such as bitterness, cabbage, or sweetness. But every person has a different sense of taste, which renders this question tricky to answer definitively.
And here’s why.
What Brussel sprouts will depend on factors including your age, your DNA, where the sprouts were grown, how they are cooked, and how old they are. All these make the flavor completely different.
For example, sprouts grown in my backyard, won’t taste the same as the ones bought in a store. Your taste buds also evolve as you get older, and your DNA and how many taste buds you have will impact your sense of flavor.
I explain this all lower down the page, it’s fascinating. Here’s each different common taste similarity assessed first though.
Brussel sprouts taste like wasabi
One common answer that came up in my research was how Brussel sprouts can taste like wasabi or horseradish to some people. I discovered this is all due to how they are cooked.
When you cook sprouts by boiling them, it will release allyl isothiocyanate (aka mustard oil). This is also found in horseradish and wasabi, hence why some people make the taste and flavor connection.
Brussel sprouts taste like soap
Some unfortunate people will have the genetic make-up that results in Brussel sprouts tasting like soap. Well, that sounds like a Christmas dinner ruined to me!
But why soap?
Well, other foods like cilantro and coriander often have their flavor compared to soap. If either has been added to your sprout recipe, this could account for the soapy taste.
The more likely reason is that there are unsaturated aldehydes in Brussel sprouts. Research shows that some people can taste soap in foods with these in. You can read more on NPR.com.
Brussel sprouts taste like weed
I found some people on Facebook saying Brussel sprouts taste like weed. I can’t confirm or deny that one, but it would not surprise me given how people taste things differently.
Brussel sprouts taste like chemicals
If you think there’s a chemical taste with Brussel sprouts, it likely down to very high levels of glucosinolates which have sulfur and nitrogen in them. This could translate as a chemical flavor to your taste buds.
Another reason for a chemical taste might be when the sprouts have gone bad. Raw sprouts have a shelf life of about a week when kept in the fridge.
Brussel sprouts taste like farts
The taste of farts is commonly quoted by kids who hate the taste of Brussel sprouts. If you fall into the farty smelling camp, try cooking the sprouts differently with butter, pepper, and spices.
Speaking of which, this video shows their reactions to eating sprouts for the first time. It reminded me of being a kid!
Do Brussel sprouts and cabbage taste the same?
Brussel sprouts are not baby cabbages, despite what some people might think. But the reason for this misunderstanding is likely down how they look and taste similar… according to some people.
However, I would say that Brussel sprouts taste like cabbage if you had to pick one similar vegetable. So, yes, they can taste the same, but sprouts tend to be more bitter in taste.
Do Brussel sprouts taste like broccoli?
I find that over-cooked Brussel sprouts taste like broccoli, as any bitter or sweet tastes will literally be cooked off them. This is my opinion anyway, as to me, broccoli is one of those vegetables with a very neutral taste.
If you do overcook the sprouts you grew in your garden or backyard, you will need to enhance the flavor. I recommend chilli flakes, pepper, and lemon zest for a tasty zing.
What do Brussel sprouts taste like when they go bad?
A reason why some people say Brussel sprouts taste like cabbage could be due to them eating ones that are bad or “gone off”.
As sprouts age, they will go bad, and can then taste harsher and stronger, with more of a sour taste like old cabbage.
You can check if your sprouts are bad by peeling back some outer leaves. If you see a yellowing and brownish colour, and possibly soft sliminess, you know the sprouts are bad and will taste terrible.
Why people taste Brussel sprouts differently
As you can see so far, and if you continue to scroll, there are many different takes on what Brussel sprouts taste like raw or cooked. There are good reasons why people taste things differently and why there are so many differing opinions.
For example, I know that the longer I leave my Brussel sprouts growing in my backyard, the different tastes I get. I also know that if they get a little bit of frost over winter in the run up to Christmas, they can taste sweeter to me.
When vegetables are exposed to frost, it changes the chemistry of the sprout, which means it might be less bitter, and considered sweeter.
Taste can be different depending on the area they are grown in
Putting my homegrown backyard Brussel sprouts to one side, it’s also possible that where the ones you bought were grown, could make them taste different.
I’ve heard that vegetables can have different tastes depending on the soil and part of the country they grow in. This is likely down to the nutrients in different soil types, but also possibly due to chemicals lurking in the earth.
Taste can be different depending on the person
But this is the biggest reason why Brussel sprouts don’t taste bitter to everyone, and so many different opinions are formed – it’s down to the taste receptors in our mouths.
Every human being has unique DNA. We all know that. But that also has an impact on how we taste food, like Brussel sprouts. How the messages of flavor are sent to our brain and then translated into taste will differ from person to person.
Taste is sent to the brain by chemical receptors in the mouth. We will all have different degrees of sensitivity, as can have between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds in our mouths as adults.
Therefore, Person A might say Brussel sprouts taste like broccoli, but Person B might consider the taste closer to Wasabi or even soap!
What’s also known is that as people get older, they are not as sensitive to bitter tastes. This can explain how adults can grow to love the taste of Brussel sprouts, whereas when they were kids, they might have been repelled by the taste and compare it to farts.
I read something on Quora which explains so well why kids taste things differently to adults. It’s a protective mechanism:
“The standard explanation for why this age-related sensitivity exists is that infants and children need to be warned away from alkaloid-rich vegetable matter since most alkaloids are poisonous. A gag-reflex can be an effective way of preventing overindulgence.”
There are other factors which also affect your taste as you grow older which have been published by the National Institute on Aging.
FAQs on the taste of Brussel sprouts
Do Brussel sprouts taste better now?
During my research into what Brussel sprouts taste like, I discovered something odd. People are saying that they taste better now, compared to when they were kids.
Whilst a lot of that can be put down to how taste evolves as you get older, there were too many comments about them tasting better nowadays to ignore.
And I found out why… on the ChicEats.com website they explain how the bitter taste of Brussel sprouts has been reduced over the last couple of decades. Here’s what they say:
“Farmers have mellowed the unpleasant flavor of Brussels sprouts by breeding a vegetable that contains fewer bitter compounds or glucosinolates. So, Brussels sprouts just taste better than they used to when we were kids. The rub is that glucosinolates help protect sprouts against pests. By improving the flavor, farmers are also lowering the plant’s natural defenses.”
And this leads very well onto the next FAQ about the changing bitter taste.
Why are Brussel sprouts less bitter now?
Due to the change in which sprouts are now grown, has resulted in a less bitter taste. Farmers reduced glucosinolates to make Brussels sprouts taste better for most people.
What do Brussel sprouts taste similar to?
During my research, there were many different things that people said Brussel sprouts taste similar to. These include:
- Old socks
- Sweet Cabbage
What do roasted Brussel sprouts taste like?
If you roast them well, I believe that they taste sweeter than when boiled. You will also get some nutty and crispy tastes, but make sure you oil and pepper them with loads of salt too.
How do you make Brussel sprouts taste better?
If I have guests who don’t like the taste, I will tend to roast sprouts, then go with loads of melted butter, pepper, salt, and spice.
However, despite me having my own backyard vegetable patch, I am no great cook. If you want ideas, go check out this recipe on Erren’s Kitchen.
Why do my Brussel sprouts taste weird?
The weird taste will be down to two things. Either your DNA and how you taste thing, or when the sprouts have gone bad.
Social media comments
Whilst researching all the possible flavors for what Brussel sprouts taste like, I came across some funny comments on social media channels. Here’s a sample:
“If you were to take garbage and boil it in sewage, the resultant smell would give you some idea of what they taste like.”
“They taste like you would imagine dirt would taste.”
“I love Brussel sprouts they taste like fried cabbage, and I love fried cabbage”
“Brussel sprouts are absolute trash and taste like dirt and something spoiled.”
“I’m genuinely terrified of Brussel sprouts but I might try them if cooking them makes them taste different than they look.”
“Do Brussels sprouts taste like soap to anyone else? This is a recent development for me. I’m disappointed and mildly concerned.”
If you decide to grow Brussel sprouts in your backyard or garden and are concerned they might taste disgusting, make sure you sow them in March. By doing so you can harvest them in December time, and don’t be afraid to let the frost get to them a little.
Frost can make them taste less bitter to some people, including myself.
More backyard guides…
Image in header from https://pixabay.com/photos/brussels-sprouts-vegetables-food-7034955/