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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but sometime in the past few years Brussels sprouts have gone from the super nerd of side dishes to the “it girl” of the winter vegetable world…

At Mario Batalli and Nancy Silverton’s Mozza in L.A., they’re pan-roasted in olive oil and covered in herbs, sourdough bread crumbs and bacon; at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Brussels sprouts are served with chestnuts in a sage brown butter sauce; and at Robert DiNero’s Locanda Verde restaurant in New York this fall, oven roasted sprouts tossed with chewy lardons of bacon and sharp Pecorino Romano were a delicious alternative to the usual starter of salad.

And even in more humble cafes and diners, in the last month alone, I’ve had them coated in a miso-glaze, shredded with kale and tomatoes and showered in feta.

But while Brussels sprouts are usually a natural weight loss food (at just 50 calories a cup, the dense globes are loaded with tummy filling fiber and disease fighting nutrients), once you start fooling around with the veg–adding in loads of oil, cheese, butter or breadcrumbs–that little superstar of weight loss starts to dim.

The good news is, by cooking Brussels sprouts at home, you can use a few simple tips and tricks that will help you spruce up the sprouts without spiking the calorie count.

In this recipe, instead of using 1/2 cup of oil (1000 calories) to pan roast the sprouts like most recipes do, you’ll use almost calorie free broth to add moisture and flavor.

Rather than chunks of cheese, a shower of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano will spread that sharp and savory taste over the entire dish for far fewer calories.

And by letting smoked sun-dried tomatoes and applewood seasoned salt impart the bacon-y flavor, you not only trim calories, you cut out the heart clogging fat that real bacon brings to the dish.  (Yes, I know that some of you aren’t buying the whole “sun-dried tomatoes are the new bacon” bit…for you, there are instructions on using the real thing at the end of the post!)


Brussels sprouts grow on stalks that are about 3 feet high at harvest, with the older, tougher heads at the bottom and the smaller more tender heads at the top.  It’s a bit of work, but try and pick out the smallest heads with tightly compacted leaves; no matter how you prepare them, they’ll usually taste better and cook faster than the larger ones.


1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, sliced in half, lengthwise

1 1/2 t applewood, hickory, or bacon seasoned salt (*see note below for more)

1/2 t black pepper or red pepper flakes

2 large shallots, sliced

1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), sliced

1-2 T garlic, minced or sliced

1/2 c chicken, ham or vegetable broth

1/4 c fresh basil, cut into chiffonade

2 t olive oil

1 T fresh lemon juice

2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Note: don’t buy generic supermarket Parmesan, it won’t have the kick this dish deserves..)

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and spray generously with cooking oil.

After 20 seconds, drop in the Brussels sprouts and let cook, without stirring, for 3-4 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium low, stir,  and let cook another 3 minutes.

When the sprouts start to color, add the salt and pepper, the shallots, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and cook just 2 minutes more.  (If you’re not using sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, you’ll need to add 1/2 teaspoon of oil here to help the garlic cook properly.)

Add the 1/2 cup of broth to the pan and cover.

The broth will steam and soften the heads, turning them bright green.

After 3-4 minutes, remove the lid and allow what broth remains evaporate.

Turn off the heat, stir in the basil, and drizzle with the 2 teaspoons of good quality olive oil and the lemon juice.

Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and taste for seasonings, adding more lemon, pepper or salt (plain or seasoned) as needed.


Though this recipe calls for basil, Brussels sprouts play well with lots of herbs…. Try thyme, bay leaf, dill, chives, fennel seeds, coriander, even nutmeg.  And lemon isn’t the only acid that has an affinity for sprouts, cider vinegar and white balsamic are also good.

If you don’t want to use stock in place of the 1/2 cup of olive oil, try cooking with white wine or vermouth, they’ll get the job done just as well.  And, for a little kick, try adding in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard when you add the wine.

And for those of you who really do want a wee bit of pork in the dish, try and find a good organic bacon instead of the conventionally factory farmed variety… and use just one piece, you can always freeze the rest.  Just cook it on medium heat until all of the fat is rendered and remove to drain on a paper towel. Use that little bit of fat instead of cooking oil spray to cook the sprouts and crumble the bacon on top of the dish when serving.


If you have some already cooked sprouts in your inventory, try turning them into a topping for a skinny crostini…

Simply chop the sprouts with some fresh grape tomatoes and feta cheese and serve over light Wasa bread… it makes a great quick and skinny snack!

*Note: Though I love the flavored salts from Hepp’s Salt Barrel, if you’d rather not order on-line, check your local Whole Foods for other gourmet salts.  And, if that’s not an option where you live, J-D’s Bacon Salt –now widely available in supermarkets–will do in a pinch

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
This entry was posted in Fit For Kids, Quickies, Skinny Sides, Skinny Snacks and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pingback: Brussels Sprouts With Shallots, Garlic and Sun Dried Tomato “Bacon” | Food and Everything Else

  2. Kenn Myers says:

    Hey Lisa – So excited to have stumbled across your blog last night!! I have lost 45 lbs. (Mario has lost 86 lbs.!!) and kept it off for two years with Weight Watchers and doing exactly as you are!! I have printed your Brussels Sprouts, Chowder and Duck Salad recipes already and can’t wait to try them. Yummy!!

    Congrats on The Skinny and your own path to better health for your family. Would love to see you again sometime!!


    • Lisa McRee says:

      So great to hear from you Kenn! And congratulations on your weight loss!! We just finished shooting 3 days of The Skinny here in my kitchen “set!” Will send out a shout when they’re going to air! Hope to see boys again soon, too! xolmc

  3. Karin Kelly says:

    Yes! I’ve noticed too – Brussel Sprouts are everywhere these days and 5 years ago I couldn’t get anyone to eat them. This is a great recipe idea! Never thought about adding sun dried tomatoes. Lisa – you are doing such a great job with this site. Clever, colorful, inspirational! I’m a fan!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Thanks so much, Karin! Coming from a chef’s wife, I am so honored! Maybe my next skinny-fied recipe can come from Saint-Emilion?? (promise not to tinker too much…hate to mess with perfection!)

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