Brussels sprouts have the potential to be delicious, especially when roasted, sautéed or caramelized. These edible buds are rich in nutrients, including fiber and vitamin C, which makes us want to eat them all the more.
But if you’ve ever tried eating them raw in a salad, you may have noticed they’re a little unpalatable ― they’re particularly tough to chew. It turns out the trick to some of the best Brussels sprouts of your life is the simple art of massage.
Massaging your veggies?! Skeptics have a right to be wary, but they should also keep an open mind. The folks at Serious Eats recently recommended massage as a way to make a Brussels sprout salad with less bitter crunch and more of a mellowed-out texture and flavor. The same way we’ve been massaging kale, sprinkling Brussels sprouts with salt and massaging with salt them draws water out of their leaves and renders them softer and sweeter.
We decided to test the method ― step by awkward, rubbing step ― to see if this really works.
Step 1: Salt your sprouts
Step 2: Massage
Step 3: Drain
At this point, Serious Eats suggests you add the juice of a tangerine to the sprouts and put them in the fridge to marinate for 15 minutes to 4 hours, but I’m going for a purer sprout flavor here, so I’m skipping that step.
I tossed my sprout shreds in a colander, shook them around and collected their juices in a bowl to check my progress. Good news: it yielded a little juice! But it wasn’t as much as I had expected ― probably because I didn’t bathe them in tangerine juice.
Step 4: Toss with un-massaged sprouts
Serious Eats recommends mixing your massaged sprouts with an equal amount of un-massaged sprouts for the salad. I wanted to eat only the massaged sprouts separate from the un-massaged sprouts to experience their full effect, so I made three variations to try every possibility. I sprinkled each mixture with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Step 5: Taste and see
I was majorly surprised that massaging the sprouts made them taste so different. Their texture was simultaneously crunchy, chewy and pleasantly slimy, like a good seaweed salad. The salt seemed to have worked its way deep into the sprout fibers, giving them a good tang that only enhanced what I perceived to be increased sweetness. And the moist, juicy texture was just what my bored palate craved.
The half-regular, half-massaged salad was the best of the three, and the salad of entirely massaged sprouts was certainly better than the un-massaged one. My mom agreed, and she ate two whole plates for dessert. I don’t blame her.
Massaging your sprouts is weird, fun and makes a difference. Though it’s a bit of extra work, one thing’s for sure: I’ll never let my raw sprouts go without a good rubdown again.