Brussels Sprouts with Fennel in Sherry Shallot Cream Sauce

Fennel is used three ways in this dish, but Brussels sprouts are still the star.

As the holidays approach, I’m already thinking about side dishes for those feature meals and family gatherings. Often, people look forward to the sides as much as they do the turkey.


I’ve made Brussels sprouts lots of different ways, and most of my family like them best sautéed or roasted to bring out their sweetness, as long as they don’t go too far and get mushy. Nothing is worse than an overcooked Brussels sprout! I have childhood memories.

Sometimes we top them with crispy shallots, other times crisped prosciutto, and you can add either topping to this if you want a crunch. Toasted pine nuts would also be good here.

This time, I thought I would float them in a cream sauce, and fennel came to mind.

Fennel three ways

The fennel is as beautiful right now as the sprouts, so I wanted to highlight that flavor as well, and I’m using it three ways here: the fresh fennel bulb, fresh fronds, and ground, toasted seeds. I started with whole fennel seeds and quickly toasted them in a dry pan. After cooling, I ground them with a mortar and pestle, but you can also use a spice grinder or processor. I ground a lot to save some for another dish.

The sherry in the sauce adds a beautiful, subtle note that brings everything together. However, if you cannot consume alcohol, substitute a little stock or just leave it out.

Look for tightly closed Brussels sprouts, dark in color, and firm to the touch. It’s handy to try to pick out sprouts that are generally the same size so they will cook evenly.

Nutritional powerhouse

Brussels sprouts are loaded with fiber, over 4 grams in a cup, and they are low in calories and fat. They are a great source of protein, B Vitamins, folate, Vitamins C and A, manganese, and Vitamin K. They have been shown to have cancer-preventive properties.

They also taste good!

I made the sauce with 2% milk, but you can use any % or even a plant milk. I know I’ve also used butter her, for the lovely flavor, but if you are watching your saturated fat intact, you can use olive oil or a vegan butter. I use Earth Balance which has about half the saturated fat as dairy butter.

I’ve put the sauce on the bottom so the pretty green and brown of the vegetables are still visible You’ll get plenty of sauce just digging in!


Brussels Sprouts with Fennel in a Sherry Shallot Cream Sauce

The Sauté

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in half

1 fennel bulb, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. ground fennel seeds

Salt and pepper

The Sauce:

1 1/2 cups milk, warmed, any % or plant milk

Few grates of nutmeg

1 tsp. fennel fronds, finely minced

3 tbsp. butter, or vegan butter

1/3 cup minced shallots

2 tbsp. dry sherry

3 tbsp. flour

1/2 tsp. ground fennel seeds

Salt and pepper

Lemon wedges

Heat a large skillet or cast iron frying pan over medium high. Add the oil, and dump in the Brussels sprouts. Turn them over in the pan so the cut side is down, and add the fennel. Cook for about five minutes, or until they are browned on the cut side. Turn, then add the garlic, fennel seed, and the salt and pepper. Cover and cook another few minutes, until the Brussels are just tender. Set aside, covered to keep warm.

brussel sprouts and fennel cooking

To make the sauce, put the milk in a small saucepan to warm. Add the nutmeg and fennel fronds.

In another saucepan, melt the butter, then add the shallots. Cook for about two minutes, or until the shallots have softened with just the smallest amount of brown happening on the edges.

Add the sherry and stir it in well, then add the flour, ground fennel, and salt and pepper. Whisk thoroughly and cook for a couple of minutes.

Cream sauce

Slowly at first add the warmed milk mixture. Once it is all incorporated, bring to a boil, and keep cooking for a couple of minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.

To serve, place the sauce in the bottom of your serving dish and pile the sprouts and fennel on top. Sprinkle with a few squeezes of lemon and a bit more salt.

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  1. YUM!!!!! I love Brussels sprouts.

    1. Me too! I’ll take them any way, except overcooked!

  2. Sweet Beginnings Apiary & Gardens says:

    Sounds delish. Thank you!

    1. It really was, thanks for stopping by!

  3. This dish sounds delicious. Brussel sprouts are much maligned but, for me, as long as they’re cooked and seasoned properly, I’ll eat them with pretty much any meal. The sherry cream sauce would be the icing on the cake!

    1. It was just the right sweet note, but not too sweet.

  4. This looks great! I love fennel and Brussel sprouts so I imagine they must taste good together

    1. I had never put them together before, but they are wonderful friends now!

  5. This sounds so good! I’m curious about fennel, I’m sure I’ve had it at some point but I’ve never tried making it. This seems like a good one to try!

    1. When the fennel is raw, it has a distinctive licorice flavor and has been used as a digestive. When cooked, the flavor mellows quite a bit.

      1. Oh that’s good to know! I don’t like licorice flavor so definitely sounds better cooked.

      2. I know quite a few folks who don’t like licorice flavor, but like fennel once it has been cooked, especially roasted. Worth a try!

      3. Perfect! Excited to try this one 🙂

  6. chef mimi says:

    I really like what you did here, even though I’m not a HUGE fennel fan. But that cream sauce? To die for!

    1. The sauce is really good, and I used low-fat milk (not that it matters with the butter involved). The fennel is certainly optional, but it’s funny how vegetable medleys work, the Brussel sprouts are tamed by the fennel and vice versa.

  7. I love the flavor sherry adds to recipes, subtle but almost umami like to me…the fennel is an interesting choice with the Brussels, it sounds divine!

    1. It was really a good combination that I’ll use again, it was a hit here!

  8. I guess this is the week of Brussels’s sprouts 🙂
    Gorgeous recipe! Super delicious!

    1. They look so good at the farm stands this time of year!

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