Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with Barley

roasted brussels sprouts with cranberries and barley

My favorite term of endearment in French has always been mon petit chou chou, which literally translated means “my little cabbage cabbage”. The French use it to mean something like “my sweetheart,” and it may or may not actually refer to a pastry instead of cabbage. Regardless, the literal translation made me giggle when I learned it in high school and it still makes me giggle today. Please, call someone you love a “cabbage cabbage” today and wait for their reaction. If you want to say it in French, chou sounds just like “shoe”. I dare you.

Anyway, my favorite French term of endearment has come to mind often this winter as I’ve sliced up Brussels sprouts to roast for dinner. Having never eaten Brussels sprouts as a kid, I was intimidated by those foreign baby cabbages. This winter I vowed to get over my apprehension. I learned to like them on my first attempt: steamed on the stove and oven roasted under a layer of Fontina cheese. Like turned to love when I learned to roast them, halved, in a cast iron pan, and I officially tombé amoureux (fell in love) when I found a quick sauté and broil method that bakes my little “cabbage cabbages” in under ten minutes.

fresh brussels sprouts

Since falling in love with Brussels sprouts, I have singlehandedly put away at least 10 pounds of roasted sprouts. I love their salty, crispy exterior and softer, steamed interior. Technically speaking, Brussels sprouts are not baby cabbages, but a special kind of miniature cabbage. The flavor is a bit reminiscent of broccoli, which makes sense because they are both Brassicas. Brassicas are notoriously high in anti-cancerous, DNA protective properties.

I crave Brussels every few days, and I’ve developed an odd habit of eating a huge bowlful of roasted Brussels after my weekly yoga class. Desolée, mes petits chou choux, I think as I slice off their tails and cut them in half. By the time I bite into crisp, roasted sprouts, I’m not really sorry at all.

brussels sprouts and barley

In addition to my newfound love for Brussels sprouts, I’ve been becoming more adventurous and knowledgable about various types of whole grains. Every time I visit the new health food store in town, I make a point to buy a new variety. So far I’ve tried wheat berries, farro, Kamut, steel cut oats, and most recently, barley. I like to cook up a big batch of whole grains and try to come up with ways to use the leftovers over the week. I think it’s a good way to become acquainted with a grain, and it’s a very cheap way to eat.

Though I haven’t made any direct taste comparisons, I think that wheat berries, farro and Kamut are all pretty similar in taste and texture, and could easily be substituted for one another. I expected barley to be like the others, with a chewy exterior and soft interior, but I was surprised to find that it is fluffy and soft. Barley seems like a cross between brown rice and oatmeal. Thus it’s a little creamy and almost risotto-like, which makes it the perfect grain to soak up dressing in this recipe.

Another thing I’ve learned about cooking whole grains is that their cooking time varies, sometimes even from the time listed on the bag. I just mixed two cups of uncooked, hulled barley with six cups of water (a 1:3 ratio), let it come to a boil, and then simmered it, covered, for a little less than an hour. One cup of uncooked barley will yield plenty for this recipe and two cups of uncooked barley will leave you with tons of leftovers. I encourage you to get creative and come up with new ways to enjoy barley in your cooking.

roasted brussels sprouts with cooked fresh cranberries
This recipe is one that I’ve been working on for a while now. Brussels sprouts tossed in a light maple syrup and balsamic dressing pair marvelously with sweet, freshly cooked cranberries, and a bed of creamy leftover barley is the perfect final resting place for mes petits chou choux. Tangy Gorgonzola cheese melts into the barley and toasted pecans add a nice crunch.

This dish is easily deconstructed, however. Feel free to roast the Brussels sprouts with this method, and toss them with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice for a snack. Brussels, cranberries and pecans without barley make a great side dish. If you can’t find fresh cranberries, you can substitute dried cranberries (which is a shame, in my opinion, but do as you wish). Just toss the dried cranberries in with the sprouts after they’re done roasting. Vegan? Omit the cheese.

brussels sprouts with cranberries and barley recipe

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries with Barley
4.7 from 3 reviews
Serves: 2
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, tips cut off, discolored leaves removed and sliced in half (smaller sprouts are better than large sprouts)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • ⅔ cup fresh cranberries (or ⅓ cup dried cranberries)
  • ⅓ cup crumbled Gorgonzola or goat cheese
  • ⅓ cup freshly toasted pecans
  • 1½ cups cooked barley, reheated (see instructions above)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
  1. Preheat your broiler.
  2. Set a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat on the stove. Let it heat up for two to three minutes. It should be so hot that a few drops of water sizzle and quickly disappear after contact.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, toss the prepared Brussels sprouts with olive oil and salt. Toss well, so that the sprouts are evenly coated in a thin layer of oil.
  4. Once the pan is hot, dump the sprouts into the pan and quickly rearrange them so the flat sides are face down. Let them cook for two minutes.
  5. Toss the fresh cranberries into the pan and transfer the pan to your broiler. The pan will be heavy and hot so use oven mitts and be careful! Let the Brussels broil for about three minutes. Check the sprouts for doneness—their tops should be a little browned and the bottoms caramelized. How long you should leave them in there depends on your preferences and your oven. The cranberries should have started popping by now; set the hot pan on your stovetop for a couple of minutes while you reheat the barley.
  6. Toss the warm barley, sprouts, cranberries, cheese and pecans in a bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Season with salt, divide into smaller bowls, and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Love and Lemons' maple and balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts recipe and one of Mark Bittman's recipes in The Food Matters Cookbook. The quick-roasted sprouts method is adapted from The Kitchn.
Serves two.
Make it vegan: Omit the cheese.
Make it nut free: Omit the pecans, or if you feel like experimenting, try adding pumpkin seeds instead!
Recommended equipment: I highly recommend using a 12-inch cast iron skillet rather than a large oven-safe, non-stick skillet because typical non-stick skillets release toxins at high temperatures.
Preparation tips: Brussels sprouts are best cooked flat side down because the heat gets trapped inside the sprout and, in effect, steams it. It's the best way to get crispy flat sides and cooked insides.
A note on the pecans: If you're adding pecans, I recommend toasting the pecans over medium heat in a separate pan. They will burn over high heat.


    • says

      Merci beaucoup, Jess! We’d love for you to participate or help spread the word. Perhaps our recipe selection could coincide with your weekly theme sometime!

  1. says

    Looks so colourful and delicious. Tart cranberries, hearty brussels and fluffy barley sounds preeeetttty good right now. And that little tumbler of wine doesn’t look bad either :)

  2. kirsten says

    I love those brussels sprouts! I made a version of this for a christmas side dish! Just the roasted brussels with carmelized balsamic and dried cranberries. can’t wait to try with the barley. yum yum. :)

  3. says

    Gorgeous composition on that first shot, Kate. Love it. Saw a recipe similar to this using roasted grapes in Whole Living last month, this is just a lovely.

    • says

      Thanks, Kelsey! I’m heading to the store to buy grapes right now. I haven’t seen the Whole Living recipe, but I’ve seen roasted grapes popping up all over the place lately (like that baked sweet potato you pinned). It is time to give roasted grapes a try!

  4. says

    I have a newly born love for brussels sprouts, too. I made them with pomegranate and pecans as a side dish for Thanksgiving ( and I loved it, and yesterday i tried to roast them with some chestnuts, also very good. Now that you make me think of it, I actually never mixed them with grains –and I am one that love grains like farro and barley– but now that you make me think of it, I will surely try! Great one-dish complete meal, colorful and balanced. Bravo (pronounced with a French accent :D)!

  5. says

    I love everything about this recipe! Roasted Brussels have become one of my very favorite winter side dishes, and the trio of cranberries, pecans, and blue cheese is fantastic. I have also been experimenting with different varieties of whole grains, and barley is on my list! I am definitely going to be making this =).

  6. Jacqui says

    Aren’t brussels just the best that way! Your recipe is making me salivate! I’m trying to branch out and experiment with more with grains lately too and always make a big batch so I can figure out what to do with them later in the week.

  7. says

    Beautiful pictures! They just might convince me to try brussels sprouts again, which have NOT been my favorite, to say the least. But cooked this way and with these flavors? Seems like that could make all the difference.

    As for the Food Matters project, I’ve actually been looking for something like that! And I can’t think of a better vehicle for keeping a heathy new year’s focus than using that book. I’m in!

    • says

      I think you would like these crispy brussels sprouts, Marcia! I don’t like them steamed or cooked whole, but these are truly addictive.

      So glad to have you on board with The Food Matters Project, too!

  8. says

    I love that expression too – it’s such a sweet term of endearment and displays such affection :-)

    Also loving that you’re still cooking sprouts – so many people just eat them at christmas but I think they’re so delicious and love finding new recipes like this one.

  9. says

    Y’know, there are times that I decide what grain I’m going to serve for dinner based on how long it will take to cook! Which means that there’s not as much brown basmati rice served around here as one might think. Ha!

    Love the Food Matters Project! I’m a huge Bittman fan myself, so I will definitely be following!

  10. says

    Ooh, what a fun project, I’d love to participate! I’m glad you liked my recipe – I’ll have to try the skillet-in-the-oven method next time!

  11. says

    Brussel sprouts are the single vegetable that I usually don’t care for. However, this recipe may change my mind. Usually they are a tad bit too bitter for my taste, but heck…maple syrup and cranberries! Sign me up. This looks delicious. Also, uber excited about your new Mark Bittman project. Love him. Thanks!

  12. Grace says

    I made this on Sunday for my weekly dinner with my sisters. Everyone loved it. I can’t believe how fast it was to make once the barley was prepared! The only thing i would do differently next time is to let the dish cool just a bit before i mixed in the cheese crumbles, or to mix everything together and crumble the cheese on last. Because, I eagerly threw everything together, mixed it all up and my crumbles turned into a cream cheese like coating. :/ That’s not to say that it did not taste awesome (cuz it did!). But it didn’t look as pretty as your picture :) I plan to try, try again. yum :)

  13. says

    Hi Kate! Just came across your blog and so happy I found it. It’s lovely. Beautiful photography and so many recipes I can’t wait to try. This one looks great. I love brussels sprouts. I am your newest follower!

  14. says

    This looks good. I’m addicted to cranberries these days and this seems like the perfect thing to stave off the slight bitterness that brussel sprouts have.

  15. Taylor says

    This recipe has inspired me to buy one of the giant stalks of brussels sprouts at the farmers market this year and experiment. The ones trucked in out of season at the store just aren’t as good as the ones the visiting chef cooked up at the market last year. Plus, the stalks look like some kind of alien hatchery and it’s fun to introduce my little one to new things.

  16. Andrea says

    I made this for dinner tonight and loved it! It was the first time I have tried barley before, too. I love trying new grains! And I really liked how you added cranberries to this recipe, the extra pop of flavor AND color was perfect! :) I think I just might have to make a version of this with different flavors tomorrow night. I’m thinking garlic and onion? Yum. The possibilities are endless.

    • says

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the barley, Andrea! I think it’s fun to try different whole grains. If you liked this Brussels sprout recipe, I suspect you’d also love my baked pasta recipe with Brussels sprouts and apples… sounds weird, I know, but it’s so great!

  17. Martha Alliegro says

    I just made this…so easy and so good! I’ve never been a huge fan of Brussel Sprouts but this is absolutely delicious! I used goat cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries. Will make this again for sure.

    • says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe, Martha! This is by far my favorite way to cook Brussels sprouts that I have found so far. Thank you for commenting!

  18. Elizabeth says

    I just made this. It’s spectacular! Taste, colors, everything. I subbed red wine vinegar in for balsamic and honey for maple syrup, because that’s what I had on hand, and it turned out great. Thank you!

  19. says

    Thank you for sharing this! I just made this dish minus the barley and cheese and it was AMAZING! Brussels sprouts never tasted so good. My new favorite recipe for sure.

  20. Christine says

    Thanks for sharing! Made it tonight for company and wowed them! It was delicious and unique. I’ve never cooked ith barley before, but now I think I’ll use it more. I did make the mistake of think 1 1/2 cup uncooked barley = 1 1/2 cup cooked barley. Now I have a lot of barley to use this week.

  21. Stefany says

    This recipe rocked my world! Used walnuts instead of pecans and dried cherries instead, but it had incredible flavor and filling for a Meal by itself!

  22. says

    hello Kate, I was immediately in love with this great recipe, so much so that I scrolled further and saw your other great Brussels sprouts pasta bake recipe and decided to make them both as autumn salads on my blog. If you see an increase of Belgian visitors in the coming days… I am to blame! thank you for all your recipes they are inspiring and yummie!

  23. Catharine says

    LOVED this recipe! I used organic quinoa in place of barley and it was AMAZING! What a great intro to brussels sprouts for my family :)

    • says

      Yes, I think it would, Steph. Or if you could warm it in the oven beforehand, that might be even better. Either way, I would suggest adding the cheese just before serving.

  24. Jenny says

    Hi Kate,

    I really want to try to make this dish for Thanksgiving. I’m wondering how well the brussels sprouts hold up as oven space is going to be hard to come by. Will they still be good if I make the a few hours ahead of time and then warm them up? Or should I maybe just make them another time?

    I’d love to hear back from you! Thanks for your time and the awesome recipe!

    • says

      Great question, Jenny. I think the dish will still be great if you do as you mentioned. I remember enjoying the leftovers quite a bit the next day. You might want to wait to add the cheese until after you reheat the dish, just because the dish looks prettier if the cheese isn’t totally melted and mixed in.

  25. rebecca says

    I’m going to make this tomorrow for Thanksgiving cause it looks so good, but I don’t have a cast iron skillet or gas stove. Do you think it will still be good using a reg. skillet and electric stove? If so is there anything I should change or know? Thanks! :)

  26. says

    I love what you had to say about the Food Matters cookbook! I had not heard of that book but am immediately adding to my christmas list! I started a food blog myself last May, primarily for the reason that as a vegetarian I want to support and witness to this diet because it is So much better for the environment. So far I have had a lot of support and love seeing other people out there like you with similar energy for healither lifestyles and a healthier earth. I am trying this delicious recipe tonight and cannot wait to taste it! It looks absolutely delicious. Thanks for all your work!

    • says

      Thank you, Sarah! I think you will enjoy his cookbook. It’s always great to hear from another like-minded eater. Best wishes to you and your blog.

  27. Cisca says

    Hi Kate!

    I love your blog. I recently found it after starting my own blog and wanting to check out the competition. Yours is absolutely amazing. I really can’t compete. I saw your recipe for Brussels sprouts and immediately was drawn to it. I like them a lot myself. The funny thing is that where I live (the netherlands), they’re really old fashion. My mother never made them when I was young, because of the smell and the bitter taste. But now I really like them. I used to have this fase, trying to make them less bitter by adding fruit, cinnemon and stuff. Went horribly wrong, not nice at all. After that I kept to more traditional recipes. But now… And I’ve got some maple syrup in my kitchen.

    But reading this now…

    • says

      Thank you for your kind words, Cisca. I was always afraid to try Brussels sprouts but I absolutely love them when they are cooked this way. Hope you get a chance to try the skillet method soon!

  28. Alyssa says

    This dish is awesome! I love the fresh cranberries in this dish and the slight sweetness the maple syrup adds. It also looks festive with the red and green! Do you have the nutrition facts? Thanks again!

  29. says

    I found your recipe on Pinterest, and I love it. I’m big on substituting whatever I have on hand in recipes and have used sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts as the crunch, sliced peaches or persimmon as the fruit and quinoa or brown rice in place of the barley (if I even use a grain). The strangest substitution was when I dumped a couple of handfuls of trail mix into it. It worked suprisingly well! Anyway, thank you for sharing this wonderful little recipe with us.

  30. MrsBarker says

    Omg!!! I just made this for my dinner and I want more!!! I only made a serving size because the main squeeze is very picky with his veggies ;) but more for me. I did add turkey bits for a bit of protein. AMAZING!!!! Thank you fr sharing this recipe <3

  31. Angela says

    I just made this as a side with steak. One of the best sides I have ever tasted in my life. It was absolutely delicious. The only thing I changed was: instead of honey/balsamic vinegar, I mixed apple cider vinegar with coconut palm sugar. Thanks for posting this! 5+ stars!

    • Angela says

      I also didn’t use any barley or rice (paleofied it!) and I used slivered almonds because that’s what I had on hand. Thanks again!

  32. Elizabeth says

    I am OBSESSED with this recipe. I have to replace the barley with quinoa due to my allergies, but I am seriously in love with this dish! It is a meal – sometimes a few nights a week. Thank you for sharing it!!

  33. says

    Broiling the brussels sprouts with the cranberries was such a great idea. We just made a vegan variation and it is so good. We put the nuts (we did walnuts) in the broiler with brussels sprouts and cranberries and they burned, so next time we will add them in at the end as you said. But back to how good this was, my fiancé was just stealing some off my plate as I wrote this comment.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  34. says

    My love is in Paris without me (le sigh) He’s not a huge fan of brussels sprouts so I took advantage of the opportunity! Just tried this as written except quinoa instead of barley – delish! Next time I will get the sprouts out of the pan a little more speedily as I like them crispier like they were straight out of the broiler! Maybe if I call him mon petit chou chou when he gets back he’ll let me make this for him :)

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