Par-steaming air fryer Brussel sprouts is a game changer. No more dry, hard sprouts. You will love these crispy, tender Brussels sprouts that are topped with a tangy, sweet, umami-rich glaze.
Air fryers produce magical results with vegetables - most of the time. But in the case of Brussels sprouts, I have eaten quite a few that taste hard and dry on the inside and charred and bitter on the outside. The problem is a lack of moisture.
The convection air frying process leaches all of the moisture out of Brussels sprouts, which makes it difficult to achieve great results. The inside dries out without getting tender and the outside just burns. Here, we briefly par-steam Brussel sprouts, infusing them with moisture before subjecting them to the hot air of the air fryer. The result is Brussels sprouts that are tender and juicy on the inside and perfectly lightly charred and crispy on the outside.
This was inspired by a Melissa Clark recipe in the New York Times. It makes a great side dish for meats, poultry and fish. Pair it with Celery Root Puree with your holiday turkey, ham or roast. Try it also as part of a healthy vegetarian feast, alongside Grilled Eggplant Parmesan.
Ingredients for Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts
When shopping for Brussels sprouts, look for bright green globes with tightly compacted leaves. If you see any yellowing or black spots, that indicates that the sprouts are not very fresh. Older sprouts will produce stronger odors when cooking.
I prefer small to medium Brussels sprouts, cut in half, for this recipe. If you can only find large sprouts, quarter them before par-steaming.
- Brussels sprouts
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- balsamic glaze
- lime juice
- soy sauce
See recipe card for quantities.
Instructions for Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts
Yes, we are adding an extra step here -steaming the Brussel sprouts before air frying them - but it is oh-so-worth it!
Rinse and drain Brussel sprouts. Cut off the woody (usually discolored) stem and any discolored leaves. Slice small and medium sprouts in half. Quarter any larger sprouts.
Place sprouts in a steamer and steam for 3 minutes. The Brussels sprouts will be bright green and look like they have begun to soften. In a medium bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and sea salt.
Pre-heat your air fryer. I use the 7-in-1 Ninja Foodi Smart XL Pro Grill, which also functions as an air fryer. When pre-heated, add the sprouts to the basket and air fry for 5 min. After 5 min, shake or toss the sprouts and then air fry for another 5 min or until exterior leaves are browned and crispy.
While the sprouts air fry, mix balsamic glaze, lime juice and soy sauce. Place the Brussels sprouts on a severing platter and drizzle sauce on top.
It's easy to change up this air fryer Brussel sprouts recipe, based on your mood or what ingredients you have on hand:
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes, a teaspoon of Calabrian chili or a teaspoon of hot honey to the glaze before drizzling over the sprouts. You can also add a few drained hot cherry peppers to the air fryer, along with the Brussel sprouts, if you like it even hotter.
- Garlicky - add slices of fresh garlic to the air fryer at the same time as the Brussels sprouts. They will turn golden and crunchy in the process.
- Naked - forgo the balsamic and lime glaze altogether and just enjoy an extra sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top of your perfectly crispy Brussels sprouts.
Air Fryer: As the name implies, this is a recipe that requires an air fryer. I've tried the same 2-step approach using oven roasting instead of air frying. But the Brussels sprouts just don't get quite the crunchy exterior that I'm looking for.
There are many air fryers on the market. I purchased the 7-in-1 Ninja Foodi Smart XL Pro Grill after a friend gushed about how easy it made dinner preparation for her family of four. She primarily uses the smokeless grill and griddle features, but she loved the air fryer too. I loved the built in probe that cooks your meat and fish to perfect doneness. And I liked the fact that this Ninja Foodi model also functions as a dehydrator. So, it's several appliances all in one package, and every part that gets food on it goes straight into the dishwasher. Magic!
Steamer: Steamer cookware is essential to every kitchen and a good set will last a home chef a lifetime. I'm partial to my All-Clad steamer pot, which I've owned for a decade. This All-Clad Stainless Steel Steamer Insert fits both your 6" and 8" diameter pots and comes with a lid. Or, if you need the pot as well, this All-Clad Stainless Steel Steamer Cookware set is a great choice, for not much more money than the insert alone.
Top tip for Air Fryer Brussel Sprouts
Until you know how quickly your particular air fryer will cook these par-steamed Brussel sprouts, please, please, please check for browning every few minutes and shake or adjust the cooking time as needed. We don't want burned sprouts!
Air fryer Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic and Lime
- 1 Air fryer
- Rinse and drain Brussel sprouts. Cut off the woody (usually discolored) stem and any discolored leaves. Slice small and medium sprouts in half. Quarter any larger sprouts.
- Place sprouts in a steamer and steam for 3 minutes. The Brussels sprouts will be bright green and look like they have begun to soften. In a medium bowl, toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and sea salt.
- Pre-heat your air fryer. I use the 7-in-1 Ninja Foodi Smart XL Pro Grill, which also functions as an air fryer. When pre-heated, add the sprouts to the basket and air fry for 5 min. After 5 min, shake or toss the sprouts and then air fry for another 5 min or until exterior leaves are browned and crispy.
- While the sprouts air fry, mix balsamic glaze, lime juice and soy sauce. Place the Brussels sproutsnon a severing platter and drizzle sauce on top.
If you par-steam the Brussels sprouts, they only need a total of 10 minutes in the air fryer. Make sure you shake or toss the sprouts after about 5 minutes.
Par-steaming Brussels sprouts before air frying imparts enough moisture into the sprouts that the inside can become tender and moist while the outer leaves get crisp. Air fryers vary in power, though, so check the sprouts after 5 minutes and shake or toss. You may need to reduce or increase the cooking time depending on the size of your sprouts and the power of your air fryer.
Brussels sprouts are not a particularly dirty vegetable, so a quick rinse and drain is fine. There is no need to soak Brussels sprouts. The par-steaming method in this recipe infuses moisture into the sprouts that no amount of soaking can accomplish.