Crispy, cheesy Cacio e Pepe brussels sprouts that you can make in the air fryer or the oven! We toss the sprouts in garlic butter, roast them, and then top them with freshly cracked pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese!

Close up cacio e Pepe Brussels sprouts

TRUTH: as a child (and like most children), I despised Brussel sprouts. Swore that the minute I was old enough to cook my own meals, I would not let a sprout near these lips. Growing up, we didn’t have a pet that I would secretly toss unwanted brussels sprouts to under the table when the adults weren’t looking. No, I sat there, grumbled, and ate all the sprouts.

And as an adult, I now not only choose to eat brussels sprouts, but I also prepare them in a variety of ways. I’ll admit, sometimes, I douse them in a honey garlic sauce, and other times, I cover them in a way-too-generous sprinkle of pecorino cheese and make Cacio e Pepe Brussels sprouts! 

brussels sprouts topped with pecorino cheese on baking sheet

I recently purchased an air fryer (affiliate link) when it was on sale, and I can’t say enough about it. Cacio e pepe brussels sprouts were the first thing to come out of my air fryer. I made them one evening to serve alongside a balsamic chicken recipe that I’m testing and I can’t tell you how good they get in just 10 minutes of air frying. 

What is cacio e pepe?

Cacio e pepe is a Roman pasta covered in a creamy black pepper and cheese sauce made with starchy pasta water – it’s way more delicious than I make it sound. Consider it the Roman version of our American macaroni and cheese.

Homemade cacio e pepe Brussels sprouts are basically like swapping out pasta and putting crispy, crunchy, sprouts in its place. A lot lower in the carbohydrate department than consuming pasta, and these sprouts really do taste so cheesy and delicious.

trimmed Brussels sprouts on baking sheet

What ingredients do you need to make cacio e pepe Brussels sprouts?

The ingredient list is quite short on this one!

  • Brussels sprouts 
  • Salted butter: add a small pinch of salt if you have unsalted
  • Garlic powder
  • Freshly cracked black pepper: freshly cracked gives off the best flavor and smell
  • Grated pecorino Romano cheese

What if I don’t have any pecorino roman cheese, is there a substitute?

You can swap the pecorino Romano cheese for grated/shredded parmesan cheese, and that will work in a pinch!

Brussels sprouts ready to go into the air fryer

Brussels sprouts cooked in an air fryer

How to prepare fresh brussels sprouts:

  1. First, give the sprouts a proper washing under cold running water. Then, drain and dry them on a dishtowel or with paper towels. You want to make sure to dry them well so that they brown and crisp up. 
  2. Then, trim off the woody end and remove any loose outer leaves that aren’t entirely intact. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise and set them aside until you’re done with all of them.

To make prep work faster, you can purchase the kind that are already trimmed and cut in half in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

Would frozen brussels sprouts work for this cacio e pepe recipe?

Unfortunately, frozen brussels sprouts won’t work too well for this recipe. They retain a lot of water and won’t roast up in the air fryer/oven the way we need them to for this recipe.

close up of roasted Brussels sprouts with pecorino cheese

What can I serve with cacio e pepe brussels sprouts?

Why we love cacio e pepe brussels sprouts:

  • You can serve them with a variety of main dishes
  • The ingredient list is tiny!
  • They’re fancy enough to serve at a dinner party and good enough to make for a crowd for Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas
  • They take just 10 minutes to make in the air fryer and about 20 minutes in the oven.

Cacio e Pepe Brussels sprouts are sure to become a family fave, they certainly have around here!

roasted Brussels sprouts on sheet pan

Yield: 5 servings

Cacio E Pepe Brussels Sprouts (Air Fryer + Oven)

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Crispy, cheesy Cacio e Pepe brussels sprouts that you can make in the air fryer or the oven! We toss the sprouts in garlic butter, roast them, and then top them with freshly cracked pepper and Pecorino Romano cheese!

Cacio E Pepe Brussels Sprouts (Air Fryer + Oven)


  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (or more)
  • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese (or parmesan)


  1. TOSS: In a medium bowl, toss the brussels sprouts in melted butter, garlic powder, and black pepper until they're evenly coated.


    1. AIR FRYER: Preheat the air fryer at 375ºF. Spread the Brussels sprouts out in the air fryer basket, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, open the air fryer, top with cheese. Close the air fryer and continue to cook for 3-5 minutes until golden and cooked.
    2. OVEN: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the one to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with cooking spray to keep everything from sticking. Add the prepared brussels sprouts to the baking dish in a single layer and roast for 15-18 minutes or until they’re tender and browned. Sprinkle with cheese, and pop under the broiler for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the cheese melts and gets all bubbly and golden.

Have you made this recipe?

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR, I'd love to see what you made!

close up of roasted brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese and pepper