Side dish

Jalapeño bacon Brussels sprouts gratin

Jalapeno bacon Brussels sprouts gratin DSC9413

If your family is like mine, the week before Thanksgiving is filled with a flurry of messages deciding what everyone is making. There’s been lots of give and take and back and forth. Most of my family has a signature holiday dish but there is always room for improvisation and so I’ve been pondering what I could offer.

When thinking about my contribution, in the past my cranberry and poblano salsa has been popular, so it’ll make a return appearance. This hominy casserole is always welcome. And in my first book, there’s a green chile macaroni and cheese that was a huge hit a year I made it, so that’s an option, too. Those are all welcome choices, but I wanted to cook something new.

Enter Brussels sprouts.

Jalapeno bacon Brussels sprouts gratin | Homesick Texan

Brussels sprouts are a fall vegetable that are a member of the Brassica family, which also includes kale, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Indeed, Brussels sprouts look like miniature cabbages because basically that’s what they are. As such, they can be cooked like cabbage, which means they are often boiled or shredded to make a slaw.

My family has never served Brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving, though we did eat them when I was young. My mom simply boiled them and then smothered them in butter—a classic Texan way to prepare Brussels sprouts. As a matter of fact, for years that was the only recipe offered for this vegetable in Texan newspapers and cookbooks, at least until the 1960s when things got wild and one food writer suggested tossing them in ketchup. Fortunately, that trend did not stick.

Trying to decide what to do with mine, an idea arrived when a friend shared a recipe for a Brussels sprouts gratin full of cheese and bacon. It looked enticing, but I began to think that since the big dinner is already so loaded with food that perhaps a lighter version of Brussels sprouts would be more welcome instead.

To test my idea, I tossed some Brussels sprouts with garlic, olive oil, and salt and threw them in the oven. They came out crispy and were a good dish. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better they would taste if blanketed in cheese and bacon. Sometimes you need to live a little, and because it’s a holiday I decided to try a batch of creamy Brussels sprouts and see how they compared.

For my version of the Brussels sprouts gratin, I took inspiration from Julia Child’s technique in which she smothers hers in a roux-based cheese sauce. Following her lead, I made a creamy, cheesy sauce, and then livened it up with garlic, jalapeños, and bacon. I stirred in some lightly blanched Brussels sprouts, topped everything with more cheese, and then slipped it under the broiler for a minute or two to get the whole thing bubbling and browned.

Cheese, jalapeños, and bacon—I will admit it wasn’t a fair fight and the jalapeño bacon Brussels sprouts gratin was declared the winner of my clash of the vegetables. Yes, I can have a light touch with my vegetables any other day of the year, but since I’m so thankful that I get to spend time with my family, something a little extravagant to celebrate the occasion is in order.

Jalapeno bacon Brussels sprouts gratin | Homesick Texan

In this case, luxury comes in the form of a skillet of Brussels sprouts in a cheesy, creamy, smoky, spicy sauce topped with even more cheese. Sure, it’s a bit over the top but my family is worth it. We can be virtuous again on Friday.

Jalapeno bacon Brussels sprouts gratin DSC9413
5 from 3 votes

Jalapeño bacon Brussels sprouts

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk or half and half
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Black pepper
  • 12 ounces (3 cups) shredded white Cheddar and/or pepper Jack,
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled


  1. On high heat, bring a 4-quart pot of water to a boil. As the water is heating, trim the Brussels sprouts. First, thinly slice off the woody bottom of each sprout, then either cut the sprout in half, if the circumference of the sprout is less than an inch wide, or into quarters, if the circumference is larger than an inch wide.

  2. When the pot of water is boiling, leaving the heat on high, add the salt and the Brussels sprouts to the pot and cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain the Brussels sprouts in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

  3. Preheat the broiler and place a rack 6 inches away from the heat.

  4. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter on low heat and add the jalapeños. While occasionally stirring, cook the jalapeños until lightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Whisk in the flour and cook until lightly browned and fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the milk and whisk until everything is well combined. While occasionally stirring, cook until the milk has thickened, about 5 minutes. Be sure not to let it come to a boil.

  5. Turn off the heat and stir half of the cheese into the sauce until it’s melted. Add the cumin, and cayenne, then taste and adjust seasonings, adding black pepper and salt to taste. Stir in the Brussels sprouts and crumbled bacon until well combined. Evenly top the sprouts with the remaining cheese and place under the broiler for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes or until the top is browned. (My broiler takes 2 minutes but yours may take more or less time so keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.)

  6. Alternatively, if you don’t have a cast-iron or broiler-proof skillet, pour the gratin into lightly greased 2 1/2-quart broiler-proof baking dish and broil it that way.

  7. Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

  1. Anonymous

    I was force-fed on sprouts by my mother when I was a child, so as soon as I left that house they were off my menu. Every now and again I try them when peeps here in England serve them, but never more than one sprout, butter or not. This recipe could just be the one that makes me give them another go: bacon, jalapeno, and heaps of cheese sound just like they will greatly improve the sprouts' flavor notes. Though given my childhood trauma, I'll need a little more time to decide… 🙂 Cheers Lisa, and happy Thanksgiving everyone. Karen

  2. Forget the Turkey…That dish is good enough to be thankful all on its own!

  3. Lisa Fain

    Karen–In my experience, cheese, bacon, and jalapeños make just about everything better!

  4. Lisa Fain

    Rebecca–The side dishes and pies are always my favorite part of Thanksgiving!

  5. Anonymous

    Looks amazing. The one thing I might try is cooking the sprouts in the iron skillet, rather than boiling them, so they caramelize a bit. Steve

  6. Lisa Fain

    Steve–That sounds like a great idea!

  7. Well, this is probably the dish that would make me eat Brussels sprouts and like them! I don't remember ever seeing them when growing up, nor any time for that matter, but I would definitely try this. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Lisa Fain

    Pam–You're welcome! Hope this changes your mind about Brussels sprouts!

  9. Someone save me! This looks Delish!

  10. Lisa Fain

    Lisa C–You are saved!

  11. Anonymous

    Do you think this would work with cauliflower or broccoli? it looks awesome

  12. Carol Bayersdorfer

    I hated them as a child but for the last 5 years have made them this way and have to keep increasing the amount I make each Thanksgiving because they are the first dish to disappear.
    Here's a rough idea of what I do:
    Cook cut up bacon in large skillet, remove bacon and save the grease.
    I cut the sprouts as you described and cook them in the bacon grease till caramelized on cut side. You can just use olive oil if you prefer. When lately browned they will be al dente. I add chicken broth to cover the sprouts to complete the cooking, don't want them mushy. Then I add heavy cream or half and half at the end and season with S&P and light nutmeg. I do this ahead and just reheat before serving or keep warm in slow cooker. Pretty amazing, could easily add jalepenos or dash of cayenne if you want to spice them up.

  13. Lisa Fain

    Anon–While I haven't tested those vegetables, I think it would definitely work.

  14. Lisa Fain

    Carol-That sounds wonderful!

  15. Anonymous

    Ooh! Low carb!

  16. Jill Westwood

    Oh, that was the only way Grandma made our Brussel Sprouts, Lisa! Thankfully I have found roasted Brussel Sprouts are delish but I will have to try your recipe sometime. Have a wonderful time with the family and give them a hug for me.

  17. Pattinic

    I made these today and this recipe is a keeper! I used Gruyere as my cheese of choice and added some smoked paprika. I also thickened my cheese sauce with xanthan gum since I don't do flour anymore. Next time I will probably chop my Brussels sprouts after cooking them just to have shreds instead of quarters.

  18. I refused to eat those yucky cabbage balls for 45 years. That is until a friend made me some eggs with taters with bacon and BS, Oh my goodness I was in LOVE. Going to try this tonight and I will be completely insane ;O)

  19. mrmikesd

    Made this for Thanksgiving. Was a huge hit! one thing that made it over teh top was I used bacon I had already made. Applewood smoked uncured bacon. Just wow!

  20. Andy Winston

    This was excellent. So rich! Definitely for holidays or special meals. But I will make it again for sure. Thanks for the inspiration.

  21. Austin Realname

    Is that the same dish you made for us on Thanksgiving? I never liked Brussels sprouts before but that was delicious.

  22. Lisa Fain

    Jill–Grandma was an excellent cook and a smart woman! I didn't know she made Brussels sprouts this way but it makes me happy to think that she did.

  23. Lisa Fain

    Pattinic–I love the addition of smoked paprika!

    Lisa–Mixing them with eggs and potatoes also sounds wonderful!

    mrmikesd-I'm so glad y'all enjoyed it!

    Andy Winston–It is very rich but great for special occasions.

  24. Lisa Fain

    Austin–Yes! This is what I made at Thanksgiving. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it!

  25. I am so pleased when you feature older recipes I might have missed. I made a half batch of this recipe to try out before T-day and DH and I gobbled it right up. It’s another winner and a full recipe is going with me tomorrow. I’ve been so disappointed lately with roasted Brussels sprouts I’ve been served both in restaurants and by friends–they are very easy to scorch in the oven, and lots of folks don’t know to remove the tough stems from the bottom. I can cut the stems off at the table, but there is no saving burnt sprouts.

  26. 5 stars
    Made this last night with my Christmas dinner. I did leave out the second half of the cheese (the part you put on top), but I still put it under broiler. Was very delicious and a hit with the ones I served. Thank you very much.

  27. Elizabeth


  28. Elizabeth

    Hpw thick is this dish? I think I’ll try it instead of the bacon jam recipe. Kids might eat the cheese more willingly. I like the greuye idea!!!

    • Lisa Fain

      Elizabeth–It’s creamy and sort of thick but not too much so.

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