What are Brussels Sprouts Called in Belgium: Cultural Insights



Brussels Sprouts Called in Belgium

Brussels sprouts are called “choux de Bruxelles” in Belgium. This term directly translates to “cabbages from Brussels”.

Brussels sprouts, the small, leafy green buds resembling miniature cabbages, hail from the Brassica family. Famed for their unique flavor and nutritional benefits, these sprouts have found a place in various cuisines around the world. They are a staple in Belgian cuisine, where they’re traditionally harvested from late autumn to early spring.

Known for their potential health benefits, Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins, fibers, and antioxidants, making them an excellent addition to a balanced diet. As a cruciferous vegetable, they are often enjoyed roasted, steamed, or sautéed, and provide flexibility in culinary preparation to suit a wide array of taste preferences.

Introduction to Brussels Sprouts

A vegetable that often garners mixed emotions at the dining table, they’re a powerhouse of nutrients and a staple for healthy diets around the globe. But what exactly are these miniature cabbages that bear the name of Belgium’s capital? Let’s unravel the mystery behind these little green orbs and discover what they mean to Belgians, and why they might not be called what we expect in the heart of Belgium.

Origins and Botanical Background

Brussels sprouts, known scientifically as Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera, hail from the cruciferous vegetable family. This family includes the likes of broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Contrary to what their name suggests, Brussels sprouts did not originate in Brussels. Their history is traced back to Ancient Rome and later, they found a stronghold in the cool climates of Northern Europe.

  • First Cultivation: It’s believed that sprouts as we know them were first cultivated in what is now Belgium, in the 13th century.
  • Spread in Popularity: Their popularity spread across Europe during the World War I era, thanks to their hardiness and ability to thrive in cooler weather.

The Misconceptions Surrounding the Name

Interestingly, in Belgium, these green gems are often referred to simply as ‘sprouts’ or by their Dutch and French names. The term ‘Brussels sprouts’ is predominantly an English moniker that pays homage to the city where they were once widely marketed and believed to have been extensively cultivated.

LanguageLocal Name
FrenchChoux de Bruxelles

The name ‘Brussels sprouts’ is somewhat of a nod to the city’s past significance in the cultivation of this vegetable. Despite the connection by name, many Belgians may simply refer to them based on their local language without the Brussels prefix. The English term can lead to misconceptions that they are known by this name universally, when in reality, their appellation varies by region and language.

The Naming Conundrum

When we dive into the world of vegetables, few have a name that sparks as much curiosity as the Brussels sprout. Commonly associated with the capital of Belgium, these miniature cabbage-like greens have their fair share of mystery surrounding their name. But what’s truly fascinating is how this renowned vegetable is addressed across different cultures, and most intriguingly, in the very place it supposedly hails from. Stick around as we unravel the naming puzzle of Brussels sprouts and discover what they are really called in Belgium.

Brussels Sprouts in Various Languages

Brussels sprouts have a wide range of names across the globe, a testament to their worldwide popularity and cultivation. Let’s take a quick tour:

  • French – Choux de Bruxelles
  • German – Rosenkohl (‘rose cabbage’)
  • Italian – Cavolini di Bruxelles
  • Spanish – Coles de Bruselas
  • Dutch – Spruitjes

In most languages, the name explicitly references the city of Brussels, adding to the universal brand this vegetable seems to carry. However, the true origin and the local terminology might surprise you.

What Belgians Really Call Brussels Sprouts

In Belgium, the land that seemingly lent its capital’s name to these sprouts, locals refer to them quite differently. The Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, which includes Brussels, actually uses the word ‘Spruitjes‘. This moniker bears no direct mention of Brussels, despite the English name suggesting a strong link.

This linguistic twist adds a delightful layer of irony—it appears that the rest of the world might be more concerned with pinning Brussels to the sprouts than the Belgians themselves. The local term spruitjes straightforwardly means ‘shoots’ or ‘sprouts’, emphasizing the vegetable’s nature rather than its association with any specific locale.

Culinary Culture of Brussels Sprouts in Belgium

The culinary culture of Brussels sprouts in Belgium intertwines with the country’s rich gastronomic heritage. This humble green vegetable, surprisingly, does not get its name from Belgium’s capital city in its native land—known simply as “choux de Bruxelles” or “spruitjes” in Dutch. These mini-cabbages are deeply embedded in the Belgian cuisine landscape, with their earthy and slightly nutty flavor enhancing a variety of traditional dishes.

Traditional Belgian Recipes Featuring Brussels Sprouts

Belgian cuisine, with its focus on heartiness and depth of flavor, truly embraces Brussels sprouts, and several iconic recipes stand out:

  • Gratin de Choux de Bruxelles: A creamy, cheesy gratin that perfectly balances the robust character of Brussels sprouts with a rich, velvety cheese sauce.
  • Spruitjes met Spek: This dish incorporates the smokiness of bacon, which pairs delectably with the slightly bitter sprouts.
  • Gestoofde Spruitjes: Brussels sprouts are slow-cooked (stewed) with butter, stock, and seasonings until they become irresistibly tender.

These dishes not only highlight the versatility of Brussels sprouts but also their capability to complement bold flavors, a trait much appreciated in Belgian culinary practice.

Popularity and Seasonal Consumption in Belgium

True to their winter vegetable status, Brussels sprouts hit peak popularity in Belgium during the colder months. From the onset of autumn through winter, they capture the essence of the season’s cuisine. Local markets teem with fresh stalks of sprouts, encouraging residents to incorporate this nutritious vegetable into their meals. Festive dishes during Christmas and New Year’s celebrations often feature Brussels sprouts, showcasing their importance in Belgian festive feasts.

Seasonality dictates consumption patterns, with Belgians preferring fresh, locally sourced Brussels sprouts during their natural growing season. Out of season, frozen alternatives provide a convenient option, though they may lack the robustness of their fresh counterparts.

For Belgians, Brussels sprouts are more than a holiday side dish; they are a staple in the diet—an emblem of local produce and traditional tastes that stand strong against the test of time.

More: How Long to Steam Brussels Sprouts

The Global Journey of Brussels Sprouts Names

Despite their name, these miniature cabbages are not just beloved in Brussels—they’ve sprouted up in every corner of the world. Let’s dive into the global journey of Brussels sprouts’ names, exploring how they’ve been christened differently across countries and cultures.

Historical Spread of Brussels Sprouts and Its Name

Brussels sprouts, believed to have been cultivated in Ancient Rome, underwent a significant transformation in Belgium around the 13th century—hence their current name. Although these greens have their roots in Europe, by the 1800s, they spread their leafy reach to the United States and beyond. As they traveled, the name ‘Brussels sprouts’ tagged along, sometimes with a linguistic twist to fit the local dialects.

Adaptations of the Name in Different Cultures

Each culture embraced the Brussels sprout and gave it a unique moniker. For instance, in France, they’re known as ‘choux de Bruxelles,’ which directly translates to ‘cabbages from Brussels.’ Germany refers to them as ‘Rosenkohl,’ which means ‘rose cabbage,’ due to their rosette-like appearance. In Spain, they go by ‘coles de Bruselas,’ and Italy calls them ‘cavolini di Bruxelles.’ The adaptability of its name is a testament to the versatility and global acceptance of the vegetable.

Modern International Naming Variations and Marketing

Today, the nomenclature for Brussels sprouts continues to evolve. Marketers and grocers often play with names to appeal to different demographics and regions. You might find them labeled simply as ‘sprouts’ in the UK, while in the US, they might be advertised with fancy monikers like ‘petite cabbages.’ Regardless of the term, the vegetable invariably remains a sought-after choice for its nutritional benefits and distinct flavor.

In Belgium, interestingly enough, Brussels sprouts may not always be linked to Brussels specifically. They are often referred to just as ‘spruitjes’ which tells of their association with sprouts in general. Though, when acknowledging their origin, ‘Brusselse spruiten’ or ‘choux de Bruxelles’ is used, maintaining historical and culinary ties.

Table of exemplary international names for Brussels sprouts:

CountryName for Brussels SproutsLiteral Translation
Francechoux de BruxellesCabbages from Brussels
GermanyRosenkohlRose Cabbage
Spaincoles de BruselasBrussels cabbages
Italycavolini di BruxellesLittle cabbages of Brussels
Netherlands/Belgiumspruitjes/Brusselse spruitenSprouts/Brussels sprouts

In a culinary world that loves to cross-pollinate ideas, the journey of Brussels sprouts and their name continues to be a delicious tale of global travel, language, and gastronomy.

To know more: How to Store Brussels Sprouts on a Stalk


Exploring the identity of Brussels sprouts in Belgium has been a flavorful journey. These nutritious greens, known locally as “choux de Bruxelles,” hold a special place in Belgian cuisine. Whether roasted, steamed, or sautéed, they offer a world of taste within their leafy layers.

Next time you’re in Belgium, don’t hesitate to ask for them by name and savor the local fare.

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