How to Cook Asparagus 6 Ways

5 from 9 votes
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How to cook asparagus in 6 ways: steamed, boiled, roasted, broiled, air fried, or sautéed – with simple step-by-step instructions for prepping and cooking + FAQs!

Roasted asparagus on a plate with lemon slices

Asparagus is one of my favorite spring vegetables. When cooked well, it’s perfectly tender-crisp, vibrant, with a slightly earthy yet sweet taste I love. Cooked badly, it can become waterlogged and mushy. That’s why I’ve pulled together my top 6 methods for how to cook asparagus!

Asparagus is a low-calorie yet nutrient-dense vegetable loaded with antioxidants, prebiotic fiber, and plenty of vitamins and minerals. That makes it a healthy and versatile side for dozens of dishes – eggs, pasta, risotto, salmon, steaks, etc.

Not only does it cook in as little as just a few minutes in some cases, but this ingredient requires just a little prep and not much more than salt & black pepper to make its flavors shine (though a little garlic, lemon, butter, and/or parmesan will never go amiss!). Looking for more ways to enjoy asparagus? Check out my asparagus soup or quick pickled asparagus recipes.

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How to Select 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 a compact/tight tip. 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. 
Different sizes of asparagus stalks

Note: there are three types of asparagus: green, white, and purple. Purple can be treated the same as green asparagus, but white asparagus must be peeled and well-cooked (not until just tender-crisp).

How to Prepare Asparagus

First up, before cooking asparagus, comes how to prepare asparagus. Don’t skip trimming the stalks. Otherwise, you may end up with a mouthful of woody, fibrous pieces!

  1. Wash the asparagus in a large bowl of water, swishing it around, as the spears can hide grit/sand in the crevices. Then pat them dry.
  2. Then it’s time to trim them. The quickest way to trim asparagus is to bend a single stalk near where the green is fading into white. The stalk should naturally snap at the correct point to remove the woody ends.
  3. Using a sharp knife, then line up the ends of a handful of asparagus spears (at a time) and trim them all in the same spot.
Trimming the ends of asparagus

If you have really thick spears, their peel can be fairly tough. If so, place a spear flat on your work surface and use a vegetable peeler to peel about halfway up the spear. Repeat with the remaining spears.

How to Cook Asparagus

Choose from 6 easy ways to cook asparagus based on the time, tools, and effort level you’d prefer.

Steamed Asparagus

You can steam asparagus on the stovetop in minutes for perfectly tender-crisp, flavorful results. Plus, this method helps preserve many of its water-soluble vitamins (unlike boiling).

  1. Bring about an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan (or use a multi-teared steaming pan/steamer), then reduce the heat to a simmer and place a steamer basket/insert within the pot, with the asparagus inside it.
  2. Cover the pot with a lid and steam the asparagus until vibrant and tender-crisp. This can take 4-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus stalks.
Steaming asparagus in a pot

Alternatively, steam asparagus in a microwave by placing it in a single layer in a lidded microwave-safe container. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 minutes until tender-crisp.

Boiled Asparagus

Boiling asparagus is super quick and easy. Just make sure not to overcook the stalks; otherwise, they may become waterlogged/mushy.

  1. Bring a pot of water (enough to submerge the asparagus without overflowing) to a boil and add the asparagus.
  2. Boil for 3-5 minutes (up to 7 for super thick stalks) until tender-crisp.
  3. Then drain, season, and enjoy.

If you’re just looking to blanch asparagus, cook it at a rapid simmer in well-salted water for 1 minute, then immediately transfer it to a bowl of ice water (with tongs) to halt the cooking process.

Boiling asparagus in a pot

Roasted Asparagus

While roasting asparagus takes the longest time, cooking asparagus in the oven helps caramelize the veggie, adding a slightly crisp texture and a heap of extra flavor.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC.
  2. Arrange the asparagus on a baking tray with space between, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Roast the asparagus until tender-crisp inside with lightly browned, caramelized edges, shaking the pan halfway.
    • Thin: 8-11 minutes,
    • Medium: 12-15 minutes,
    • Thick: 16-20 minutes.

Toss the roasted asparagus with butter or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for even more flavor when serving. For more tips, check my dedicated post for roasted asparagus.

Asparagus on a baking tray

Broiled Asparagus

This method adds more char and crisp texture than roasting asparagus and is ready in under 15 minutes.

  1. Preheat the broiler to high. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spear with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  2. Spread the spears in a single layer across a baking sheet and place it about 6 inches beneath the heating element.
  3. Broil until lightly browned and tender (about 8-10 minutes), flipping every few minutes to avoid burn.

Air Fryer Asparagus

Learn how to cook fresh asparagus in an air fryer to achieve the same roasted results in a fraction of the time (here is my full method and tips).

  1. Toss the spears with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  2. Arrange the asparagus in a single layer with minimal overlapping.
  3. Air fry at 400ºF/200ºC until tender crisp, and lightly golden brown on the edges.
    • Thin: 3-5 minutes,
    • Medium: 6-9 minutes,
    • Thick: 10-15 minutes.
Cooked asparagus in an air fryer

Sauteed Asparagus

Sautéed asparagus is super simple and adds an extra buttery flavor you’ll adore. Thin and medium spears work best. Note this method is practically identical when using a wok for stir-frying asparagus.

  1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the asparagus stalks (whole or chopped into smaller pieces) and sauté for 5-10 minutes until tender-crisp (the exact time will vary based on their thickness). See more details and tips.

I highly recommend adding a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. This version of cooked asparagus also pairs wonderfully with fresh herbs and garlic.

Sauteed asparagus in a pan

After trying out these easy methods to cook asparagus, you might also like to know how to properly store asparagus and freeze it.

More Ingredient Guides and How-Tos

If you try any of these different ways to cook asparagus, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

How to Cook Asparagus 6 Ways

5 from 9 votes
By: Samira
How to cook asparagus in 6 ways: steamed, boiled, roasted, broiled, air fried, or sautéed – with simple step-by-step instructions for prepping and cooking + FAQs!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 
 

  • 14 oz asparagus fresh is best
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter, if needed for roasting or sautéing
  • water if needed for steaming or boiling

Instructions 

Prepare the Asparagus

  • Wash the asparagus in a large bowl of water, swishing it around, as the spears can hide grit/sand in the crevices. Then pat them dry.
  • Trim the stalks. The quickest way to do so is to bend a single stalk near where the green is fading into white. The stalk should naturally snap at the correct point to remove the woody ends.
    Using a sharp knife, then line up the ends of a handful of asparagus spears (at a time) and trim them all in the same spot.
    If you have really thick spears, their peel can be fairly tough, too. If so, place a spear flat on your work surface and use a vegetable peeler to peel about halfway up the spear. Repeat with the remaining spears.

Steamed Asparagus

  • Bring about an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan (or use a multi-teared steaming pan/steamer), then reduce the heat to a simmer and place a steamer basket/insert within the pot, with the asparagus inside it.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and steam the asparagus until vibrant and tender-crisp. This can take 4-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus stalks.

Boiled Asparagus

  • Bring a pot of water (enough to submerge the asparagus without overflowing) to a boil and add the asparagus.
  • Boil for 3-5 minutes (up to 7 for super thick stalks) until tender-crisp.
    Then drain, season, and enjoy.

Roasted Asparagus

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC.
  • Arrange the asparagus on a baking tray with space between, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt & pepper.
  • Roast the asparagus until tender-crisp inside with lightly browned, caramelized edges, shaking the pan halfway.
    Thin: 8-11 minutes,
    Medium: 12-15 minutes,
    Thick: 16-20 minutes.
    Toss the roasted asparagus with butter or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for even more flavor when serving.

Broiled Asparagus

  • Preheat the broiler to high. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spear with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  • Spread the spears in a single layer across a baking sheet and place it about 6 inches beneath the heating element.
  • Broil until lightly browned and tender (about 8-10 minutes), flipping every few minutes to avoid burn.

Air Fryer Asparagus

  • Toss the spears with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
  • Arrange the asparagus in a single layer with minimal overlapping.
  • Air fry at 400ºF/200ºC until tender crisp, and lightly golden brown on the edges.
    Thin: 3-5 minutes,
    Medium: 6-9 minutes,
    Thick: 10-15 minutes.

Sautéed Asparagus

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the asparagus stalks (whole or chopped into smaller pieces) and sauté for 5-10 minutes until tender-crisp (the exact time will vary based on their thickness).

Notes

  • Make sure to trim the spears: The ends are woody and tough.
  • Cooking time will vary: Asparagus comes in thin, medium, and thick spears, which will affect how long they take to cook.
  • The spear thickness: Generally, it’s best to use thinner spears for the fastest cooking techniques (like boiling/steaming) and thicker spears for the longer ones (like roasting).
  • To serve: Asparagus pairs amazingly with garlic, lemon (juice and zest), parmesan, and fresh herbs.
  • Storing cooked asparagus: Cooked asparagus is best when enjoyed freshly cooked. Leftovers will store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • How to blanch asparagus? Prepare a bowl of iced water. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil, then add the asparagus. Blanching time will depend on the thickness and size of the stalk. However, 3 minutes is the sweet spot. Remove using a slotted spoon or tongs and place in the ice bath.
Check the blog post for more tips!
Course: DIYs, Side
Cuisine: African, Asian, European, Global
Shelf life: 3-4 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 51kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 2mg, Potassium: 200mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 750IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 24mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

5 from 9 votes (9 ratings without comment)

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