The ways to cook asparagus are practically endless – and each way has its own merits. It’s time to learn how to prepare asparagus and how to cook asparagus to perfection.
Is there any vegetable quite as versatile as asparagus? Learning how to cook asparagus, one needs neither time nor patience. It’s quick, easy, and always delicious however you make it. Using my favorite cooking methods, these five healthy asparagus recipes will show you how easy it is to cook this spring and summer veggie.
Benefits of Asparagus
However you make asparagus, there’s no doubt these green delights are packed with nutritional and health benefits.
As well as being low in calories, fresh asparagus is full of vitamins C, A, B6, K and E, as well as fiber. It also packed with folic acid, potassium, small amounts of zinc, and iron. Plus, it is naturally high in antioxidants.
Fresh asparagus also has a huge number of health benefits. Some studies have shown it can support a healthy pregnancy. It may protect the body from free radicals and support normal cognitive function. Asparagus could even be one of the world’s most unlikely hangover cures.
How to Choose the Best Fresh Asparagus
There are three things to remember when picking asparagus:
- Texture: Fresh asparagus will be firm to the touch and able to stand up straight. It should feel smooth, with its tips closed and compact. If it’s wilting, limp, or soft, it’s not fresh.
- Color: You’re looking for a rich green color that turns white as you get to the bottom of the stalk. The tips of the asparagus may also be dark green or purple.
- Size: Asparagus comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses – usually thin, medium, and thick. Try to pick bundles that are similar in size and color.
What’s the Difference Between Green, White, and Purple Asparagus
There are many different colors and different ways of how to cook asparagus – but what’s the difference between them?
Surprisingly, quite a bit.
Green asparagus is more popular in the US, while white and purple are more commonly used in Europe. White and green are particularly different when it comes to texture, taste, how to prepare the asparagus and how they’re grown.
White asparagus is grown underground, preventing chlorophyll from turning the stalk green and giving it a more bitter flavor. Purple asparagus grows the same way green asparagus does. But it has a higher percentage of natural sugars and so, tastes a bit sweeter.
White asparagus also takes a bit longer to cook than purple or green as it’s usually thicker than its colorful counterparts.
How to Trim Asparagus
If you’ve ever wondered how to cut asparagus, wonder no longer.
Before cooking your fresh asparagus, you’ll need to remove the woody ends of the stalks. Traditionally, this involves holding the stalk in the middle and at the end, then bending until the hard parts snap clean off. Though I suggest lining the stalks on a chopping board and slicing the woody end with a knife. The woody hard ends fade into white and that’s how you know how much to cut off.
Now you know how to trim asparagus easily!
If you feel that the skin of the asparagus spears is too rough, you can also peel them with a vegetable peeler.
How to Blanch Asparagus
Blanching is the process by which a vegetable is boiled in hot, salty water for a short period of time. Then it is immediately transferred to ice water, which prevents further cooking. The benefits of blanching asparagus are twofold:
- They help maintain their beautiful bright green color, which can disappear during boiling, broiling, or steaming.
- They partially cook the asparagus, ensuring it becomes crispy when roasted or sauteed.
Prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil, then add the asparagus. If you’re asking yourself how long to blanch asparagus, it depends on the thickness and size of the stalk. However, 3 minutes is my sweet spot.
Remove using a slotted spoon or tongs and place in the ice bath. And voila – you have the perfect blanched asparagus.
Ways to Cook Asparagus
Here are my fool-proof, quick and easy methods for how to cook asparagus.
Boil the Asparagus
Boiled asparagus is probably the easiest (and perhaps healthiest) preparation method. Here’s how to prepare asparagus in this way.
How to boil asparagus:
Bring a pot of water to a boil – though don’t fill it too much or the water will overflow. Just a couple of inches of water are enough. Add the asparagus.
How long to boil asparagus? About 3-5 minutes until the stalks are just tender. It can be up to 7 minutes if the stalks are very thick. Drain the water out.
How to season asparagus when boiled:
Season with salt and pepper or drizzle olive oil over the top.
Steam the Asparagus
Steamed asparagus can be made either in a pot or in the microwave.
In a Pot:
Place the fresh asparagus in a steamer basket. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, then cover.
In the Microwave:
Place the asparagus in a single layer on a microwave-safe container with a lid (or cover with a plate). Microwave on high.
How long to steam asparagus in microwave/pot:
Depending on the thickness, the cooking time can vary. Steamed asparagus in a pot should sit for 5-10 minutes to steam. In a microwave, it should be closer to 3-4 minutes.
Bake and Roast the Asparagus
For baked asparagus, season the stalks well and place them into your air fryer at 400ºF/200ºC until browned and tender. The thickness of the stalks will determine how long to bake asparagus. I would check it in ten-minute intervals until done.
For oven-roasted and oven-baked asparagus, follow a similar method. Drizzle with olive oil and minced garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then place the asparagus in the oven for around 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the stalks.
Roasted asparagus can be taken to the next level with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese!
Broil the Asparagus
For broiled asparagus, preheat a broiler to high. Toss the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer. Then broil asparagus in the oven.
For this broiled asparagus recipe, broil until tender – around 8-12 minutes – flipping midway through. You can flip more than once if you prefer.
For sauteed asparagus, melt some butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Then, sauté the asparagus stalks for 5-10 minutes until they are tender.
At the end of cooking, add a squeeze of lemon juice while the asparagus is still in the pan. For more tips, check my Perfect Sauteed Asparagus recipe.
And these are my top ways for how to make asparagus into a delicious dish.
What’s the Best Way to Store Fresh Asparagus
Asparagus is best stored in a cup or fridge-safe container. Fresh asparagus should be placed with a little water in a container and kept in the fridge.
How to Freeze Asparagus
Asperigus doesn’t do well in the freezer, but if you must freeze it, blanch it first. Follow the blanching method above – either with boiling water or by steaming it – then submerge in ice water. Drain, pat dry, spread on a baking sheet, and freeze for 1-2 hours.
Once frozen, you can transfer it to freezer-safe bags. Keep in the freezer for up to 6-8 months.
What Goes with Asparagus
If you’re wondering how to season asparagus or indeed, what to serve with it, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s not much it doesn’t go with.
- At breakfast, serve it with a poached or soft-boiled egg.
- Use it to complement an avocado toast (or your favorite toast topping).
- Asparagus is also great with seafood, particularly salmon.
- It’s a delicious side dish for chicken.
- Roasted or grilled asparagus is great with Hollandaise sauce.
- You can also add it to baked feta pasta.
Fresh asparagus is a vibrant green, firm to the touch, and able to stand on its own. If the stalk is soft, has an odd smell, or indeed, has mold on it, it’s gone bad.
Slightly – but it depends on how you cook it. Thicker spears have a better texture when cooked, but there isn’t much difference between the two.
In the fridge, fresh asparagus will last up to a week. When frozen correctly, asparagus will last for up to 6-8 months. But best to use it within a couple of months of freezing.
Only if you’re using white asparagus or if your green asparagus is thicker and has a tougher peel. It can help them cook more evenly, though it’s not necessary.
It depends on how you cook asparagus. Before boiling and steaming, it can be useful to retain color. But for roasting, baking, or sautéing, it’s not necessary.
More Healthy Asparagus Recipes
- Cream of Asparagus Soup
- Oven Roasted Asparagus
- Quick Pickled Asparagus
- Air Fryer Asparagus
- The Perfect Sauteed Asparagus
If you try any of these methods for how to cook asparagus, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
How to Cook Asparagus to Perfection
- 14 oz asparagus fresh is best
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter, if needed for roasting or sautéing
- water if needed for steaming or boiling
Boil the Asparagus
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Just a couple of inches of water are enough. Add the asparagus.
- Boil asparagus for about 3-5 minutes until the stalks are just tender. It can be up to 7 minutes if the stalks are very thick. Drain the water out. Season with salt and pepper or drizzle olive oil over the top.
Steam the Asparagus
- In a Pot: Place the fresh asparagus in a steamer basket. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot, then cover. In the Microwave: Place the asparagus in a single layer on a microwave-safe container with a lid (or cover with a plate). Microwave on high.
- Depending on the thickness, the cooking time can vary. In a pot, the asparagus should steam for 5-10 minutes. In a microwave, it should be closer to 3-4 minutes.
Bake and Roast the Asparagus
- For baked asparagus, season the stalks well and place them into your air fryer or oven at 400ºF/200ºC until browned and tender. The thickness of the stalks will determine how long to bake asparagus. I would check it in ten-minute intervals until done.
Broil the Asparagus
- For broiled asparagus, preheat a broiler to high. Toss the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer. Then broil asparagus in the oven.
- Broil until tender – around 8-12 minutes – flipping midway through. You can flip more than once if you prefer.
Sauté the Asparagus
- Melt some butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Then, sauté the asparagus stalks for 5-10 minutes until they are tender.