I absolutely, positively, indubitably love Brussels sprouts—except frozen ones. I have serious trust issues with frozen Brussels sprouts, because they were one of the most traumatic side dishes of my childhood, the kind where if you go back into your memory enough, you can still taste them. Why are fresh so much better than frozen? Because frozen Brussels sprouts are first steamed or blanched in hot water and then flash frozen. Just as with turnips, cabbage, and all the other cruciferous vegetables, water reacts with the sprouts’ high sulfur content to create something that tastes and smells, shall we say, unpleasant. They’re only par-cooked, so while frozen Brussels sprouts don’t emanate fart-scented chemical compounds the moment you pull them from the bag, they certainly will once you start cooking them. The ones I grew up eating were cooked in microwavable steamer bags, which turns them stinky and mushy.
Not long ago I was talking to a friend in Germany about my frozen-sprout-related night terrors. (It’s very exciting being my friend.) He told me that I was crazy, that the Germans have no such fears, and if they—a cabbage-loving country—could learn to love frozen Brussels sprouts, then I should, too. They key, he said, is to cook them at extremely high heat while they’re still cold; the outside cooks into an ultra-crispy shell, locking cold moisture inside the sprouts and keeping them from developing the noxious sulfuric flavors that come from overcooking. Cooking hot, hard, and fast? Why, this is a job for the air fryer!
With some olive oil, salt, pepper, and high heat, I was able to turn frozen Brussels sprouts into something that makes me take back every bad thing I’ve ever said about them. I had given up on them before giving them a fair shake. Now that I know how to treat them, I’ve air fried ice-cold sprouts with different spices, marinades, and sauces; these Greek-inspired Brussels sprouts are a favorite, because they’re made with ingredients I almost always have in my house. Once you master the method, play around with what you have in your kitchen and make these sprouts your own.
- 1 (10-12 oz.) bag frozen Brussels sprouts
- 1 large lemon
- 2 large cloves garlic, Microplaned
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/4 cup whole pitted olives, like Kalamata
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or labneh
Zest the lemon into a small container and refrigerate. Cut the lemon in half, put into a ziptop bag with the garlic, olive oil, oregano, and salt. Seal, then vigorously massage the bag to juice the lemon and blend the marinade. Add the frozen Brussels sprouts, toss well, and refrigerate for at least one hour. (You can leave overnight, if you wish.)
Preheat your air fryer to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the cornstarch to the bag of Brussels sprouts, reseal, and shake vigorously to coat. Spritz the air fryer basket with a bit of cooking spray, add the sprouts, and air fry for 6 minutes. Give the sprouts a shake, add the olives, and fry for another 5-7 minutes until brown and crispy.
Mix the Greek yogurt with the reserved lemon zest and spread on a plate, then pile the Brussels sprouts and olives on top. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried oregano, freshly cracked black pepper, and good salt.