This decadent gratin is a heavenly side dish that will have you eagerly anticipating fall and winter meals. It delivers layer upon layer of irresistible flavors and textures that come together to create a deeply satisfying, crave-worthy dish.
When this cheesy Brussels sprouts casserole emerges from the oven, it will be bubbling hot with a beautifully crisped, golden brown panko breadcrumb topping that provides the perfect crunchy contrast to the tender sprouts and velvety sauce.
As soon as it comes out of the oven, the incredible aromas of the bacon, Brussels sprouts and melted cheese will fill your kitchen. Take a moment to appreciate how the sharp, aged cheddar imparts a tangy, complex flavor while the bacon renders out during baking to add a smoky, salty, umami richness.
Once you dig your fork in, you’ll discover sprouts with a just-right texture – tender and yielding but still with a bit of pleasant crunch. Nestled among the sprouts are delightfully crispy, crunchy bits of maple bacon that rattle against your teeth and bring pops of smokiness.
The real star is the luscious, creamy cheese sauce that envelops each forkful. It clings to the Brussels sprouts and saturates them with savory flavor. The sauce features melted sharp cheddar that transforms into a silky, decadent liquid gold. It has an irresistible richness from the heavy cream that coats your mouth with luxurious velvetiness.
Every component – the crispy bacon, the sprouts, the crunchy topping and the decadent sauce – complements each other to create an indulgent, crave-worthy side dish perfect for the holidays or anytime you need some comfort food in your life. This gratin is satisfyingly rich and packed with texture and substance unlike any other. Make it on a chilly night and prepare for it to become a new family favorite!
What makes this gratin so special?
The combination of textures and flavors is what really makes this gratin exceptional. Crispy, smoky bacon, tender Brussels sprouts, a crunchy breadcrumb topping and a rich, velvety cheese sauce all come together for an unbelievable eating experience.
What type of bacon works best?
I recommend using a high-quality, thick-cut applewood smoked bacon. The smokiness and strong bacon flavor pairs perfectly with the Brussels sprouts.
Can I prep this gratin in advance?
Yes! You can assemble the entire gratin ahead of time and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking. Just be sure to allow 5-10 extra minutes of baking time.
What sides does this gratin pair well with?
It makes a fabulous addition to holiday meals or dinners with prime rib, roasted chicken, pork roasts or sausages. It also pairs nicely with lighter proteins like seafood.
How do I make sure the topping gets crispy?
Be sure to use panko breadcrumbs rather than soft fresh breadcrumbs. Panko will give you that crunchy texture you want. Also, bake at 400°F until the topping is browned and crisped to your liking.
Can I substitute different cheeses?
Feel free to experiment! Gruyère, fontina, Havarti or gouda would all work well. Just be sure to use flavorful, high-quality cheeses.
How can I change up the flavors?
Try using different herbs like thyme, rosemary or sage in the breadcrumb topping. You can also add minced garlic or shallots to the Brussels sprouts while cooking.
What wine pairs well with this gratin?
I’d suggest a medium-bodied Pinot Noir or a French Burgundy. The earthiness pairs beautifully with the sprouts and bacon.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the dish
- 8 ounces bacon, diced
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat your oven to 400°F to fully heat it. This high temperature will ensure the breadcrumb topping gets crispy and browned.
- Lightly coat a 2-quart baking dish with butter or non-stick spray. This prevents the gratin from sticking as it bakes. Set the prepared dish aside.
- Add the 8 ounces of diced bacon to a large skillet. Cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. This allows the bacon to render out its fat and become fully crispy.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crisped bacon bits to a paper towel-lined plate. Let it drain briefly to soak up excess grease.
- Thoroughly rinse the 1 pound of Brussels sprouts and pat dry. Trim off any discolored outer leaves.
- Use a sharp knife to cut off the hard stem end of each sprout. Then slice each sprout in half top to bottom.
- Lay the sprout halves flat side down and thinly slice each half into strips about 1/4-inch thick. The thinner you can slice them, the quicker they will cook.
- Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in the skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the sliced Brussels sprouts and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sprouts start to brown and soften slightly. They should still have a bit of crunch.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup heavy cream over medium heat until hot and just starting to simmer.
- Turn off heat and slowly stir in 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese until fully melted and smooth. Set aside.
- Spread half the cooked Brussels sprouts evenly into the prepared baking dish.
- Top with half the crispy bacon crumbles.
- Pour half the hot cheese sauce evenly over the bacon layer.
- Repeat layers, ending with a final layer of cheese sauce.
- In a small bowl, toss 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs with 2 Tbsp melted butter. Mix well so crumbs are evenly coated.
- Sprinkle the buttery panko crumbs evenly over the top of the gratin. Press down gently so they adhere.
- Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until piping hot and bubbling around the edges.
- The top should be nicely browned and crispy. If not, broil for 1-2 minutes to crisp it up.
- Let rest for 5 minutes before serving so cheese can set.
- Scoop generous portions of this flavorful gratin into bowls. The interplay of crunchy and creamy textures makes every bite incredible.
- Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3-4 days. Reheat individual portions until warmed through.
Cooking Tips :
- Look for Brussels sprouts with tight, bright green heads. Avoid any with yellowing leaves.
- To quickly trim sprouts, cut off the stem end, then slice the sprouts in half top to bottom.
- For maximum crispiness, make sure to dry the bacon well before mixing it into the gratin.
- Substitute Gruyère, fontina or gouda for the cheddar if you prefer.
- For a browned, crunchy topping, make sure to use panko breadcrumbs rather than soft fresh breadcrumbs.
- Let the gratin stand for 5 minutes before serving so the molten cheese firms up slightly.