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Sesame orange Brussels sprouts are a unique take of the classic American adaptation suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike.
Panda Express sucks
Can I just go on a rant for a minute? I grew up in a place where Panda Express didn’t exist and I became vegetarian before moving out of state. When I moved to Phoenix, I was interested in trying out the chain. “Surely the lo mein is vegan,” I told myself.
When I approached the food line, I saw a note on the glass that said “WE HAVE NO VEGETARIAN OPTIONS.” This meant no lo mein, no spring rolls, no steamed veggies. What the heck!? I found out that day that all items at Panda Express are cooked in chicken broth. What a huge miss! I’m pretty sure they even had some tofu dishes that weren’t vegetarian friendly.
In later years the chain added some kind of eggplant thing that turned out to be vegan but it’s such a bummer that they didn’t pull the chicken stock from what already could’ve been vegan with minimal effort.
Anyways, the home of orange chicken? Boo hiss. I’ll make my own sesame orange Brussels sprouts instead.
Brussels sprouts are just the beginning
If you’ve never made your own orange sauce, you’re in for a huge treat. This stuff tastes 100x better than any kind of orange chicken/tofu you’ll find at a typical Asian restaurant. The fresh orange and the orange zest really make the sauce next-level good.
Once you nail this delicious side, there’s no telling what you can do with vegan orange sauce. You can the sauce to crispy tofu and serve it on a bed of rice or make some tempura cauliflower and toss in the sauce. The sky’s the limit.
I thought I’d get super simple with this and make a side. Sesame orange brussels sprouts make a unique side that can be paired with any American style or Asian inspired main.
What you’ll need to make sesame orange brussels sprouts
To make sesame orange brussels sprouts you’ll need a handful of ingredients for roasting the Brussels sprouts and for the orange sauce.
Brussels sprouts and neutral oil: Brussels are the star of this delicious vegan side. You’ll need a pound of these and a half-tablespoon of neutral oil. I used canola oil, but you can use vegetable oil or grapeseed oil.
Orange juice and orange zest: The base of the orange sauce is the juice of two oranges. For an extra orange flavor, you’ll need a tablespoon of orange zest. This really brings out that fresh and bold orange flavor.
Ginger root: Fresh ginger is another ingredient that will really add freshness and flavor to the orange sauce. If you can’t get fresh, shelf-stable minced ginger will do, but you’ll lose some of that “zing.”
Rice vinegar, tamari, agave, and toasted sesame oil: For the rest of the liquids, you’ll need some rice vinegar which brings out some additional tartness. Then, tamari for salt and general Asian vibes, and agave for some sweetness. And lastly, toasted sesame oil. I absolutely love this condiment. It brings out a ton of nutty flavor which balances the acid of the orange, rice vinegar, and tamari.
Garlic and crushed red chili flakes: The rest of the spices are simple. You’ll need one garlic clove and ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes for some heat.
Cornstarch and water: To thicken the orange sauce, you’ll need to make a cornstarch slurry by whisking together the cornstarch with some water until the cornstarch is dissolved. Then you’ll add it to the orange sauce and simmer. This allows the sauce to thicken as it heats.
Sesame seeds: This last ingredient is optional, but if you have them, might as well use them. We use toasted black and white sesame seeds for garnish in sesame orange brussels sprouts.
How do you make sesame orange brussels sprouts?
To make sesame orange brussels sprouts, you’ll need a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, a knife, a cutting board, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a zester, a juicer, a saucepan, a blender, a whisk, a medium-sized bowl, and a silicone spatula.
Start out by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, use a knife to cut the bottom of each Brussels sprout and add to the baking sheet. Toss the sprouts in a neutral oil like canola, vegetable, or grapeseed and spread throughout the pan. Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 25 minutes or until browned.
While the sprouts roast, zest one tablespoon of orange peel and set aside. Then, halve each orange and juice. Next, add the juice to a blender with the agave, tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger root, garlic clove, and chili flakes. Run the blender until the sauce is smooth.
To thicken the sauce, add it to a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Then, whisk together the cornstarch and water to create a slurry and pour into the sauce. Simmer the orange sauce for 3-5 minutes. Then, remove the sauce from the burner and set aside.
When the Brussels sprouts are ready, add them to a bowl and pour the orange sauce on top. Then, use a spatula to stir the sprouts until the sauce is evenly distributed. Serve the sesame orange Brussels sprouts with sesame seeds on top.
This recipe makes two servings but it can easily be scaled up depending on how hungry you are or how many mouths you have to feed.
Substitution ideas and more
I love these sesame orange Brussels sprouts, but I understand that they might not be for everyone! Here are some suggestions I have for substituting ingredients in and out.
Give it more heat: The chili flakes give the orange sauce a heat kick. If you’re looking for more, simply add more chili flakes or a dash of cayenne.
Use a different vegetable: I love a good Brussels sprout, but this orange sauce would taste great with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and more.
Make it a meal: Make sesame orange Brussels sprouts a meal by roasting some tofu tossed in cornstarch and oil at 400 degrees for 40 minutes flipping halfway through, tossing with the Brussels and orange sauce, and serving on a bed of brown or white rice.
Don’t add sugar: Oranges are already sweet so you might not have to add any additional agave to get a great tasting orange sauce. If you’re watching your sugar intake, try the sauce without the sugar before adding it.
Air fry: I wrote this recipe to compliment an oven. If you happen to own an air fryer, you can spray the Brussels sprouts very lightly with oil and roast the Brussels until browned. This should take 5-10 minutes and will cut down on your baking time!
Pair mashed sesame orange Brussels sprouts with…
Looking for a main dish to pair these sesame orange Brussels sprouts with? Check out these suggestions!
- Gochujang tofu salad
- The best beet burger
- BBQ chicken sandwiches
- Chickpea salad sandwiches
- Hot and sour soup
- Roasted sweet potato salad
In this segment, I suggest a song for you to listen to while you make sesame orange Brussels Sprouts! You can even stream it right here in your browser. Today’s recipe jam is Learo You’re a Hole by Archers of Loaf.
If you try this recipe, I want to hear about it! Feel free to post your creations to Instagram or Facebook and tag Hell Yes It’s Vegan or #hellyesitsvegan. I look forward to seeing what you make!
Sesame Orange Brussels Sprouts
- baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- cutting board
- measuring cup and spoons
- medium-sized bowl
- silicone spatula or wooden spoon
- 1 lb brussels sprouts
- ½ Tbsp canola oil, (or other neutral oil like vegetable or grapeseed)
- black sesame seeds, (optional – for garnish)
- sesame seeds, (optional – for garnish)
- 1 tsp orange zest
- ¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice, (juice of 2 oranges)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 Tbsp agave, (or other sweetener)
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp tamari, (or soy sauce if not gluten-free)
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp water
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove ends of Brussels sprouts and halve. Add to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toss in canola oil and spread throughout the sheet. Roast for 20 minutes or until the Brussels sprouts are browned.
- While the Brussels roast, make the orange sauce. Zest orange and set the zest aside. Then juice the oranges and add to a blender with all of the ingredients except the cornstarch and water. Blend until combined.
- Add orange sauce to a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. While the sauce heats, make a slurry by mixing together the cornstarch and water until there are no clumps. Then pour into the sauce and continue to simmer for 3-5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in zest.
- In a bowl, add the roasted Brussels sprouts and the orange sauce and stir with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until combined. Serve with white and black sesame seeds.
Love these-so unique and flavorful!