Eating Brussels Sprouts Stalks—Really!

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the colorful leaves, wearing jeans and sweaters, crisp, sunny days, and fall veggies. Brussels sprouts are some of my favorite and I love buying them still on the stalk. They look like some medieval weapon! I don’t buy them on the stalk to beat anyone with or just because it’s cool, I like that I don’t have to trim the ends of the individual sprouts that get hard and discolored in storage at the grocery store, and there’s no wasteful plastic mesh bag to deal with. Plus, they’re usually much fresher on the stalk, lending to better flavor. Brussels sprouts tend to get a stronger flavor when stored, which is probably why a lot of people don’t like Brussels sproutsthey’re eating old, strong-flavored ones.

Brussel sprout stalk

Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, in the cabbage, cauliflower, and kale family. They look like miniature cabbages, which is what the French call them, choux de bruxelles, “Brussels cabbages.” Thomas Jefferson actually introduced Brussels sprouts to the US in 1812. While Brussels sprouts are super nutritious, full of vitamins A, C, K, folate, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and thiamine, their true claim to fame comes from their antioxidant and phytonutrient content, which has the ability to kill more cancer cells than any other vegetable (as noted by Michael Greger, MD of and Jo Robinson of Eating on the Wild Side)! These are vegetables that you do really want to eat.

I posted the picture above on my Instagram last week and one of my followers, green_mama_doc, inquired if I’d ever eaten the stalk. Well I hadn’t, but oddly enough, I was wondering if there was something I could do with it on a zero waste perspective. I love to eat broccoli stems, in fact, I prefer them over the flowery ends, so I was intrigued by this. I did a little research online and found only a couple sources that talked about braising the stalks for hours to cook the core, which they scooped out and spread on breadlike a kind of vegan “bone marrow.” Now I’ve never eaten bone marrow and it certainly does not appeal to me, but I’m all-in to use scraps and reduce food waste!

So I decided to try cooking the stalk in my Instant Pot because I didn’t really want to babysit a braise. I added 2 cups of vegetable stock I’d made from scraps to the Instant Pot and then set to work on cutting the Brussels stalk into chunks that would fit.

Trying to Cut Stalk with Serrated Knife

The stalk is really tough! I was able to cut the top section fairly easily, but none of my knives would cut through the larger sections, and I’d recently had my knives sharpened! I tried sawing with a serrated bread knife, which helped deepen the score line, but it didn’t go through.

Breaking over the Counter

After scoring the stalk all the way around, I just broke it over the edge of my counter.

You can see there is a large pale core in the center of the stalk. It looks a lot like a broccoli stem. I didn’t try to peel this because of all the nubs where the leaf stems and sprouts had attached. And, I wouldn’t recommend this because of what I discovered after the stalks were cooked.

Pale Core in the Center of the Brussels Stalk

I added the chunks to my Instant Pot with the stock and set it to High Pressure for 45 minutes. The notes I’d seen on braising the stalks had said to braise for 2-3 hours, so I figured 45 minutes might do it.

Stalks in Instant Pot

When time was up, I did a quick pressure release because I figured it’d been in there a long time and I was anxious to see how it worked!

The stalks looked and smelled like cooked Brussels sproutsI know, duh! And the outside of the stalk was soft, including the leaf stems.

Brussels Stocks that were Cooked in the Instant Pot

I pulled a chunk out with tongs and worked to split the stalk lengthwise, and it cut through with a little effort.

Splitting the Cooked Brussels Stalks

The inner core was super soft and scooped right out with a spoon. The other part of the round core was hard and wooden, bone-like, so I can see why people would compare it to eating bone marrow. It’s definitely not edible.

Scooping Out Cooked Core

And then I realized that the outer skin was peeling off too! So I scraped it all off, leaving just the empty wooden core. I would have lost all this if I’d peeled the stalk prior to cooking it,

Scraping Off Cooked Skin and Leaf Stems

The Hard Woody Pieces Left From Scraping the Cooked Brussels Stalks

The stalk yielded a ton of pulp, about 4 cups!

Four Cups of Pulp and the Empty Cooked Brussels Stalks

In the end, I was left with a whole lot less waste and a lot of edible food that would otherwise go into my compost bin. I was amazed how much food the cooked stalk yielded!
So what does it taste like? Well it tastes like Brussels sprouts, but actually taste more like artichoke hearts to me! The inner core is sweeter than the outer skin, and it’s pulpy, like pureed Brussels or artichoke hearts. The outer skin has a texture very similar to artichoke hearts. I think it’s delicious and that it’d be a great substitute for artichoke hearts if you needed a bunch for a recipe and didn’t want to go to all that work to trim artichokes for the hearts. It really would be a cost-effective substitute!

Mock Artichoke and Potato Gratin using the chunks of cooked Brussels sprout stalk.

In that vein, I experimented using the braised Brussels stalk core and skin in making a Mock Artichoke and Potato Gratin. I sauteed some onion and garlic until soft, peeled a mix of potatoes I had from the garden and sliced them 1/4-inch thick on the mandolin, and made a mixture of soy milk and cheezy sauce I had leftover from making mac’n’cheez earlier in the week. I poured a little bit of the cheezy mixture on the bottom of a baking dish, layered the potatoes, onion/garlic mixture, braised Brussels stalk pulp and skin, poured the rest of the cheezy milk mixture on top, covered it, and popped into a preheated 400°F oven for two hours.

It is delicious! And, if you didn’t say anything, no one would realize it wasn’t artichokes! So amazing!

Have you tried Brussels sprouts stalks? What did you think? How did you use them?

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  1. Fe on January 15, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks for the great information! I picked up the seasonal sprouts on the stalk at Trader Joe’s recently and I also didn’t want to waste seemingly edible stalk. So I boiled a few pieces of stalk with three big beets in salted water. I figured I’d try to make a veggie broth/soup base since I wanted to boil my beets and I figured the stalks were loaded with nutrients. I cut the sections length wise, and I was pleasantly surprised to see they came out like a vegan bone marrow! I scooped out the super creamy buttery or ”mashed” core, but I didn’t realize the outer skin had been also rendered edible. So thanks! Going to try this again and scrape the outside off as well.

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on January 16, 2020 at 7:41 am

      That’s wonderful to hear! I think the Brussels sprout stem is absolutely delicious and really contains a whole lot of food. There is a lot of flesh on the outside too, which was an accidental discovery for me as it was just sloughing off while I was scooping out the center. Thank you for sharing. How did you use the Brussels sprout marrow?

      • Pam Heinemann on December 9, 2021 at 11:19 pm

        Been doing this with brussel stalks for years. Now want to make a cheeseball with the pulp. Having trouble making it up. Ideas? Not much available about the pulp. Everyone should know. It’s delish!

        • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on December 10, 2021 at 9:06 am

          I’ve never tried making it into a cheese ball, but with the artichoke-like taste, it probably would be very good. Here’s a great WFPB cheese ball recipe from PCRM, you could probably play around with adding the Brussels Sprouts pulp in it and see how it does

          • Pam Heinemann on December 16, 2021 at 9:07 pm

            Ty. Will try it

    • Lori on November 10, 2022 at 10:24 am

      I’m so glad I found this…I just finished picking the last of my brussels sprouts, and came in to look up what I could do with all those beautiful stalks. I would like to boil mine, too, to make a “marrow” dip. How long did you boil them for, approximately?

      • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on November 10, 2022 at 1:45 pm

        I’d try simmering for 45-60 minutes. Let me know how that works for you.

  2. Laura Honour on December 22, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    do you think you could do this with cauliflower, cabbage and other brassicas stems?

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on December 22, 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Yes, all brassica stems are quite edible. Cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli stems are much more tender than Brussels sprouts stems and I use them all the time in my cooking. Cauliflower and cabbage stems can be chopped up and cooked along with the florets and leaves. I peel broccoli stems and cut them and cook with my broccoli. I chop up kale, chard, and collard green stems and saute like celery for my dishes. The stems and leaves of brassicas are so wonderful and most people throw them away. You can double the amount of food and save money by using them.

    • Netko on December 23, 2021 at 2:35 pm

      I always cut their stems for stir fry. They’re soft enough to not need cooking prior.

      • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on December 23, 2021 at 2:51 pm

        Do you mean broccoli stems? Those are soft enough to cut through and are wonderful to eat. Brussels sprouts stalks are incredibly hard and take a serrated knife or saw to cut through. Plus they have a woody part that’s inedible.

  3. Pamela H. on August 16, 2021 at 12:37 am

    I’m so glad that I found your post!
    Of course I’d seen sprouts on the stem but always had the thought that I’d be paying for something that I couldn’t use!
    This is a game changer fir me!
    Thank You!

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on August 16, 2021 at 8:00 am

      Wonderful! I’m so glad you found the information helpful!

  4. Tracy R. on October 11, 2021 at 4:56 pm

    Do you think I could make artichoke spinach dip with the Brussels Sprout pulp? And do you think it would freeze well since it seems like you got ALOT from one stalk? This article was super interesting and informational. Thank you!

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on October 11, 2021 at 5:06 pm

      I think that would be a fabulous idea! And yes, it would freeze nicely as it’s all cooked. I’m so happy you found it helpful.

  5. April on October 28, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks for putting this out there! I used our wood chopping axe and block to cut it into pieces. I used one brussel sprouts stalk from Trader Joe’s, pressure cooked in water, then scraped out the core and external flesh, mixed with vegan butter, salt, fresh crushed garlic, it’s like a garlicky paté….yum!

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on October 28, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Awesome! I’m so glad you liked it–there’s a lot of food there. The stalk is definitely hard…an axe would do the trick if you don’t have a serrated knife. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Martin Seelig on October 29, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    Trying to cut the stalk, I struggled with a serrated knife. I outsmarted the stem by using a cross-cut hand saw which cut through like a hot knife through butter! To avoid damaging your countertop, cut a little bit all around and then snap the stalk.

  7. Barry on November 27, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    10 minutes in the microwave, split the stalk and scrape out the pith, delicious!

    • Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on November 27, 2022 at 6:31 pm

      Wonderful tip! Thanks for sharing.

    • Caro on December 5, 2023 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you for this comment. I scored the stalk all the way around with a serrated knife and broke it into thirds so it would fit in the microwave. Heated it for 10 mins total. 2 minutes at a time and turning them between each 2 min interval. They came out very soft!

      To slice them lengthwise, I found it was easier to turn vertically and slice downwards from the flat end. The inside was nice and tender!!

  8. Deanna on December 11, 2022 at 4:34 pm

    I just cut one of mine into sections with my chop saw! I am going to put them in the crock pot and see what happens.

    • Cindy Thompson, MS, NBC-HWC | Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching on December 12, 2022 at 12:01 pm

      Wow! Let us know how cooking them in the crock pot goes.

  9. Bill D on December 19, 2022 at 5:17 pm

    I tried this successfully, using the instant pot and nothing but water. The flavor was a couple pegs stronger than I expected – reminded me a little of of mashed rutabaga. Don’t think I’d serve it plain as a side dish, but it was great when I added a a ton of it to the pasta sauce.

    I grow these in the garden and learned of another use. The leaves are good sauteed – even full-sized adult leaves (nearly a foot long). I’ve heard that some farmer’s markets sell them as an alternative to collard greens. A stalk has a LOT of big leaves, so it’s quite a bit of extra food.

  10. Stalks and all on November 21, 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Even though this is a relatively old post, I just came across it. The curiosity bug got me the other day when I bought Brussels sprouts on the stalk. Easy enough to take the little guys off the stalk, but could I use the stalks for anything. I found a great recipe for Brussels sprouts stalks soup using the soft ‘meaty’ inner core of the stalks, add some potatoes, and spices – and I’ll be making it again 🙂

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