Do Brussel Sprouts Go Bad?

You probably hated brussel sprouts as a child. But now, as a grown-up, you decided to give them another chance. That’s why you’ve bought a bunch on the farmer’s market.

Having zero experience with these veggies, you need a quick primer. After all, you don’t want the brussel sprouts to go bad. And that’s why you need to learn how to store them, how long can you keep them in storage, and how to tell good brussel sprouts from bad ones.

If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in.

Brussel sprouts on wooden table
(credit: Keenan Loo)

How To Store Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts come in two forms: attached to the stem, and off the stem. The second option is far more popular and you need the sprouts off the stalk before proceeding. If you’ve bought a stalk with the brussel sprouts attached to it, remove them from the stem and discard it (PU).

Tip

It might be tempting to wash or remove the outer leaves once you get home, but you should leave that until you’re ready to use the brussel sprouts (MSU, PU).

When it comes to storage, put the brussel sprouts in the fridge. Use a ventilated plastic bag (PU, MSU), or a storage container that allows some airflow. For bonus points, Put a damp towel in the bag or container, so those little heads of cabbage won’t dry out as quickly.

You can, of course, keep them on the counter or in the pantry, but they will deteriorate within a couple of days. In short, keep them at room temperature only if you’re going to use them the same day you’ve bought them, or the day after.

If you need to keep the brussel sprouts for a prolonged period, freezing is the way to go.

Brussel sprouts in pot of veggies
(credit: Joseph Gonzalez)

How To Freeze Brussel Sprouts

You’ve probably seen frozen brussel sprouts in the supermarket’s freezers, so you know freezing them is an option. It takes a bit of time, but it’s much better than discarding them. Here’s how the process goes (NCFHFP, MSU):

  1. Prep. Trim, get rid of the coarse outer leaves and make sure there are no insects. Then wash the heads thoroughly, and sort them into small, medium, and large ones.
  2. Blanch the veggies. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and plunge the heads into that water. Small heads require 3 minutes, medium ones 4 minutes, and large ones 5 minutes. After cooking for that period, transfer the veggies into a pot of cold water, possibly with some ice cubes, to stop the cooking process. If you’re doing a large batch, change the water when it’s not that cool anymore.
  3. Drain the heads. Leave them on a kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes and remove any water drops from the tops. You want the brussel sprouts to be dry before proceeding.
  4. Portion and package. Transfer the prepped veggies into freezer bags or airtight containers. Label each one if you like.
  5. Put everything into the freezer.

When it comes to thawing, either do it overnight in the fridge or throw the frozen tiny cabbage heads directly into the dish you’re cooking on the stove. The latter, of course, works only for some recipes.

Crispy brussel sprouts
(credit: Nathan Lemon)

How Long Do Brussel Sprouts Last

Brussel sprouts last a day or two when stored at room temperature.

If you follow the outlined storage guidelines, they can last about a week in the fridge (MSU, PU), maybe a couple of days more if you’re lucky.

PantryFridge
Brussel sprouts1 – 2 days7 – 10 days
Grilled maple brussel sprouts
(credit: Isaac Del Toro)

How To Tell If Brussel Sprouts Are Bad?

For starters, a brussel sprout having some coarse outer leaves is perfectly normal, just like it is with cabbage or lettuce. Just remove them when you’re prepping the veggies. The same thing goes for outermost leaves that have brown edges.

When it comes to signs that a brussel sprout is spoiled or should be discarded, look for:

  • Insects between the leaves. Spotting them might be difficult, that’s why it’s essential to wash the heads thoroughly before cooking.
  • Harsh smell. If a brussel sprout smells like old cabbage, and you don’t have to get near it to experience that, it’s done for.
  • Squishy or soft texture. Fresh heads are firm to the touch. If yours start to lose that firmness, it’s now or never when it comes to using them. If they are soft or feel squishy already, discard them.
  • Mold or black spots. I think it goes without saying that you should get rid of moldy brussel sprouts.

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