How to cook asparagus

Learn how to cook asparagus at home that’s super tender (but not soggy) just like your favorite restaurant. We’ll show you how to roast, steam, grill, or sauté asparagus for a quick weeknight side dish. We’ve even got you covered if need to know how to cook asparagus in the microwave.

If bright green spears of asparagus are your go-to restaurant side dish, you are in for a treat. It’s just as easy to make delicious, crisp-tender asparagus right in your kitchen. (Crisp-tender refers to the ability to sink your teeth into cooked asparagus, but it’s not mushy and still hasn’t lost its firm shape.) With our Test Kitchen’s best tips and tricks, you’ll learn how to cook asparagus in no time. Whether it’s on the grill, stovetop, or oven, here you’ll find all the best ways to make asparagus for your best (and fast!) veggie side dish yet. From there, you can use our best asparagus recipes as a guide to your next comforting meal at home.

Buying and Storing Asparagus

Asparagus is in peak season from March through June, but you’ll find this popular vegetable in markets year-round. Look for firm, bright green spears with compact, closed tips that are not mushy. Spear size ranges from fat (older plants) to pencil-thin. Whether you choose skinny or thick asparagus spears is a personal preference, but be sure to select uniform spears for even cooking.

Plan on cooking asparagus the day you purchase if possible. If not, store asparagus in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to three days. You can also stand asparagus spears upright in a container filled with 1 inch of water. Cover the asparagus and the container with a plastic bag. Then you just have to choose how to cook asparagus your favorite way. Wondering how much asparagus to buy for your next meal? One pound of asparagus equals 18 to 24 spears or four servings.

One of the most common questions we get asked is: Should I choose thick or thin asparagus spears? And lucky for you, there is no wrong answer. Each of these types of asparagus has its fans. Thin asparagus is tender with a slightly crisp center; thick asparagus has a meatier center and therefore more crunch and texture. For thick asparagus spears, peel off the woody outer part (about 2 inches up the stem end) with a vegetable peeler.

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How to cook asparagus

Asparagus is an extraordinarily healthy vegetable, loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. It is available in three different varieties: white, purple, and green, which is the most common grocery-store variety. Fortunately, it is easy to cook regardless of the variety, and many chefs believe that keeping it simple is the best way to serve asparagus. It can be eaten hot or cold. The most popular ways to cook asparagus are to steam, boil, or roast it. Often, it is prepared with just a little bit of butter or olive oil. For a more summery taste, grilling is an easy and delicious way to cook asparagus.

Regardless of the way the asparagus will be cooked, it is generally a good idea to chop off the wide ends, which can be very tough and chewy. If the asparagus will not be prepared right away, banding it together with a rubber band and standing it upright in a glass of water in the fridge is a great way to keep it fresh. Once it is time to cook asparagus, there are a few options. Boiling or steaming asparagus is easy, and is also a very healthy way to prepare vegetables.

There are a few different ways to steam asparagus. The first is to simply lay the asparagus in a bowl with a little bit of water, cover it, and microwave it for a few minutes until it is tender. The second is to band the asparagus together, stand it in a few inches of water in a bot, cover and boil it. The third is to actually use a double-boiler and steam the vegetables that way. Boiling the asparagus flat, in a few inches of water in a saucepan, is another easy way to cook or blanch it, which will require immediately running it under cold water. It can then be served cold.

Roasting or grilling can also be great ways to cook asparagus, and really bring out the flavor. It generally only takes about ten to fifteen minutes in a 400;&deg to 450;&deg F oven (about 200;&deg to 230;&deg C), and many people just drizzle it with a bit of olive oil first. Grilling will only take a few minutes as well. As there are many ways to cook asparagus, there are also many ways to serve it; olive oil and butter are common, and some people also add garlic, parmesan cheese, or lemon juice, just to name a few. Wrapping asparagus in bacon is always a big hit as a savory side dish.

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Discussion Comments

I like to wrap strips of bacon or thin sliced ham around asparagus and then roast it. That’s really, really good!

I have a recipe for a mustard maple glaze for bacon-wrapped asparagus that just takes the dish to the next level. Super easy, but *so* tasty!

It took me a long time to warm up to asparagus, until I had it roasted. Then I really liked it. I still don’t like it steamed, although I will eat it in an asparagus casserole. That’s good, too. It does have a strong taste that takes some getting used to. Pippinwhite July 25, 2014

Roasting asparagus in the oven is the easiest way by far to fix it. All you have to do is place the spears on foil, season with salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil over the spears, and bake for about 15 minutes or so. It never fails.

I like roasted asparagus with a sauce made from wholegrain mustard, melted butter and lemon juice, but a lot of people like hollandaise. I have made hollandaise successfully. I used Julia Child’s blender hollandaise and it was great. The recipe is everywhere online. It’s much easier and more reliable than the traditional hollandaise, which will “break” in a heartbeat, if you’re not extremely careful.

This is a great way to cook fresh asparagus that isn’t as tender to cook by other methods. It’s perfect for those thicker stalks, just be sure to trim off the tough woody ends.

How to cook asparagus

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ingredients

2 pounds fresh asparagus, cleaned and about 1 1/2″ cut off the bottoms*
1 can (14.25 ounce size) fat-free chicken broth
1 tablespoon Butter Buds Sprinkles
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

directions

Snap any woody ends from the asparagus.

Lightly grease a slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the broth, butter buds, and garlic salt in the slow cooker until mixed.

Place the fresh asparagus in the slow cooker, it’s ok if the asparagus isn’t covered in the broth or you can cut it in half to fit. The steam that forms inside will cook any exposed parts that aren’t covered by liquid.

Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours or until the asparagus is tender.

crock pot notes

Crock pots/slow cookers all heat differently. There is no standard among manufacturers. Cooking times are suggested guidelines based on our testing. Please adjust cooking times and temps to work with your brand and model of slow cooker.

How to cook asparagus

Photo: iStock

We all love asparagus season but it can be a tricky vegetable to get right if you don’t know what you’re doing. But don’t worry – it doesn’t take much work to cook asparagus like a pro.

Here we’ll show you 7 easy ways to cook the perfect asparagus, whether you want it healthy and crunchy or charred and crispy.

But before we get started, did you know you can also enjoy asparagus spears raw? They make a deliciously sweet and crunchy snack served with dips and are also great sliced up and scattered over salads.

Anyway, back to the cooking. All the techniques outlined below use fairly standard, slim asparagus spears, and it largely makes no difference whether you’re using green or white asparagus. Of course, some asparagus spears are very thin and may not require quite as much cooking time, whereas others can be very chunky, and may require more. For some methods, note that thick asparagus spears may benefit from blanching first.

Before starting, be sure to prep your asparagus spears properly by giving them a quick rinse and slicing off the fibrous ends. If you’re not sure where to cut, simply try bending each of them gently from the bottom of the spear and working your way up until it snaps off. For green asparagus, this is usually where the colour of the spear changes.

Boiled asparagus

The quickest and easiest way to cook asparagus is simply to boil it. Just salt some large water in a pot and bring it to boil. While you’re doing this, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

Once the water is boiling, throw your asparagus spears in and cook until they turn bright green and tender. Depending on the width of the spears, this could take from 1 to 3 minutes. Particularly thick spears may take slightly longer.

Once the asparagus is cooked, remove them from the hot water with tongs and dump them straight into the ice bath. This will stop them from continuing to cook and losing their bite.

Steamed asparagus

How to cook asparagus

Steaming can take a little longer than boiling but the asparagus spears will retain their nutrients much better, rather than losing them in the boiling water.

Simply place your asparagus spears in your steamer basket and cover it (a transparent lid will make this process a lot easier). Set the heat to high and, once steam begins to form, leave for about 2 to 5 minutes depending on the width of the spears. As with boiling, they should be bright green and tender once done.

Transferring the asparagus spears to an ice bath is again recommended, unless planning to eat them immediately.

Roasted asparagus

Preheat your oven to 400°F / 200ºC. Coat your asparagus spears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and place on a baking tray.

Roast the asparagus in the oven for about 9–11 minutes, turning them halfway through. The spears will be done once tender and the tips have browned.

Broiled asparagus

Coat your asparagus spears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fire up your broiler and place the asparagus spears underneath at a distance of about 6 inches / 15 cm from the flame.

Broil the spears for about 8–10 minutes until tender and about to char. If using very thick asparagus spears, it’s advisable to blanche them prior to broiling. Otherwise you risk charring the outsides without cooking them in middle.

Grilled (barbecued) asparagus

How to cook asparagus

If it’s a nice day and you’d rather cook your asparagus outside, then good news: This method is very similar to the two above and just as easy.

Fire up your barbecue and then coat your asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They should only take about 5–8 minutes on the grill before tender and ready to eat. Of course, you can choose to char them a little longer if desired.

As with broiling, you may want to blanche your spears in advance if they’re particularly thick.

Sauteed asparagus

How to cook asparagus

Cut your asparagus spears into pieces about 2 inches / 5 cms long. Then heat a small amount of oil and butter in a pan. (You can also do this in a wok if you want to stir fry the asparagus.)

Throw the asparagus pieces into the pan, being careful not to crowd it. Saute for 3–5 minutes depending on thickness, tossing in the pan occasionally to cook the pieces evenly. Then season with salt and pepper and serve.

Pan-roasted asparagus

How to cook asparagus

Heat olive and butter in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and then add the asparagus spears. Cover the pan and leave the spears to crisp for 3 minutes.

Then remove the cover and turn the heat up high. Season the asparagus spears with salt and pepper and sear them in the pan for 3–5 minutes, regularly turning until well browned.

Of course, these cooking methods are focused on cooking asparagus as a lone item. There are many other ways to cook this delectable vegetable as part of a grander meal. Click here for 7 great asparagus recipes.

How to cook asparagus

How to cook asparagus

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Roasted asparagus is one of our go-to side dishes because besides being super versatile and delicious, the veggie is also a wonderful source of vitamins A, C, and E, plus potassium, protein, and fiber. Whether you’re pairing the spears with a piece of fish for dinner or noshing on them on their own, we’ve found out how to cook asparagus perfectly every time. Next time you grab a bunch at the supermarket, heed Chef de Cuisine at Fairway Market Vincent Olivieri’s tips below.

First, find out how to pick asparagus

“Always choose firm asparagus. As it ages, it wilts, and you want to make sure that the asparagus is firm and vibrant, whether it be green, purple, or white,” Olivieri says. “Green asparagus should have a vibrant green color, so if you see it’s browning, it’s probably old. Same with purple asparagus, except when purple ages, you start to see more hints of green coming through. Lastly, white asparagus should be very white. The way white asparagus is grown is by depriving it of light. Asparagus crops are tarped and harvested at night to ensure that there is no direct sunlight on it to trigger photosynthesis [which prevents the production of the green pigment chlorophyll]. If you notice that your white asparagus is starting to turn a greenish-yellow, it’s probably because it’s been out on display for too long.”

Now that you know how to pick the perfect bunch, let’s move on to how to prep asparagus.

How to properly cut the stems

No one wants to spend time chewing on tough, stringy stems—which is why it’s essential to chop them off. “From the crown down, asparagus starts to become more fibrous,” Olivieri says. “Usually, a bunch has two sets of rubber bands on it. What you should do is roll the bottom rubber band upwards about an inch to where you start to see the color change. Keep the rubber band on and cut slightly above the band so that the stems stay bunched and they’re easier to discard. Another way to check where to cut is by gently bending the stalk: it will snap where you want to cut it,” Olivieri says, adding that, “When dealing with white asparagus, make sure to peel the fibrous skin below the crown, as it is pretty much inedible and indigestible.”

How to cook asparagus

Asparagus is a very versatile veggie that can be blanched, steamed, boiled, and grilled, but roasting the veggie in the oven is a foolproof way to achieve a perfect side dish with minimal effort every time. Here’s how to do it:

  1. After you’ve cut the stems properly, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. On a large sheet pan, toss the asparagus with olive oil, and season it with salt and pepper. The spears can be arranged close to each other, but avoid any overlapping.
  3. Roast until tender (about 15 minutes).
    Pro tip from Chef Olivieri: Like any green vegetable, the longer you cook it, the more the color will fade to a dull ugly green. Minimizing the exposure to heat will ensure a crisper texture and a vibrant green color when cooked.
  4. Asparagus pairs well with lemon, Parmesan cheese, and even crispy fried shallots. Feel free to add on top before serving!

Creative ways to spice up your asparagus dish

“Asparagus loves lemon, loves Parmigiano Reggiano, and coincidently loves all other vegetables that are harvested during spring,” Olivieri says. “Whether it be peas, artichokes, carrots, or spring onion, asparagus always acts as a great co-star when combined in a spring vegetable medley.”

While you can definitely jazz up a stir-fry with this springtime superfood, you can also eat it raw! “Being one of the first vegetables to pop out of my garden in the spring, it is always exciting to snap it and eat it right there on the spot and daydream about my future summer harvest,” Olivieri says. “You can use a potato peeler to create asparagus ribbons, which you could toss with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and a bit of Parmigiano to make a quick and easy spring salad.” Talk about an easy and delish way to get your day’s fiber in!

Asparagus season is fleeting, with April as the peak time to get it on the table. Learn how to cook it on the grill, in the oven, or on the stovetop with this simple guide (we even included a few good recipes to try).

Pictured recipe: Grilled Asparagus

One of the surest signs of spring is seeing fat, healthy bunches of asparagus showing up in your local market. This distinctive, earthy vegetable is fantastic in everything from omelets to stir-fries and salads, so take advantage of the spring bounty. Here’s everything you need to know about how to buy asparagus, how to store it, and how to cook the choicest in-season stalks once you get it home.

How to Buy Asparagus

Although size isn’t necessarily an indication of quality (thicker asparagus just means it’s more mature), you don’t want droopy, spindly stalks. Look for bright green or violet-tinged spears with compact tips, firm stems and bottoms that aren’t woody. A ripe stalk of asparagus will actually squeak when squeezed.

How to Store Asparagus

1. Snip off those rubber bands as soon as you get home (although convenient for transport and display, rubber bands pinch and bruise the stems). Then trim the stalk bottoms.

2. Place them in a tall glass or vase filled with an inch of water so the stalks are standing up.

3. Refrigerate for up to three days.

Cooking Asparagus

Steamed, sautéed, grilled or even shaved and served raw, asparagus is conducive to just about any preparation. It’s really a matter of preference.

How to Sauté Asparagus

Maybe it’s a weekday and you just want to go super simple (yet satisfying) to get asparagus on the plate. For this, you want to sauté it.

1. Chop your asparagus–it will cook faster and absorb more flavor.

2. Next, sauté some garlic, crushed red pepper and anchovy paste in a glug of olive oil over medium heat. Add asparagus pieces and cook for 5 minutes.

Voilà! The crisp-tender stalks are just a little bit spicy, a little bit salty-and a lot umami.

How to Boil Asparagus

1. To boil asparagus, do as the French do and peel the lower halves of the stalks.

2. Liberally salt a pot of water, and drop your trimmed and manicured spears into the boiling cauldron. You want your asparagus to remain slightly firm, so cook it for only 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Then immediately dress with lemon juice, olive oil, and some flaky salt.

Alternatively, you can remove the cooked asparagus from the pot and shock it in a bowl of ice water.

The blanched stalks can be arranged on a crudité platter or wrapped in a spring roll with smoked salmon, shredded carrot and a handful of fresh herbs.

How to Roast or Grill Asparagus

Cooking asparagus for a bit longer, whether on the grill or in the oven, helps develop and enrich its flavor. You might lose some of the attractive crunch and snap of quickly sautéed or blanched asparagus, but you’ll be rewarded with some added smoky depth.

1. Start by trimming any woody stalk bottoms.

2. Douse the asparagus in olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place the spears on a sheet pan and roast at 425°F until just tender, about 20 minutes.

Take this simple side up a notch by pairing the asparagus with mushrooms and slices of prosciutto.

1. To grill asparagus, preheat the grill to medium. Place the asparagus on an oiled grill rack and grill.

2. Using tongs, turn the asparagus once or twice until tender and charred in spots.

3. Serve immediately.

Asparagus Nutrition Facts

Asparagus, like other green vegetables, is high in antioxidants, including vitamins C and E. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps prevent blood clotting and promotes bone health.

Low in calories, but high in nutrients, just a half cup of cooked asparagus provides 20 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.

What Exactly Is Asparagus?

Asparagus was first grown in Greece more than 2,500 years ago, and was also cultivated and savored by the ancient Romans and Egyptians. It’s now grown throughout many temperate regions of the world.

While most vegetables are annuals, asparagus is one of the few perennials (meaning they come back year after year), along with sunchokes, rhubarb and artichokes. Like most vegetables, asparagus was initially found growing in the wild, and wild varieties pop up in many areas come spring.

And while green asparagus is the most common sight in stores, you’ll also see purple asparagus and the most prized white asparagus. These milder, sweeter stalks, which have inspired whole festivals in parts of Europe, are grown underground to ward off light-and hence chlorophyll production.

Photographer: Jennifer Causey; Food Stylist: Rishon Hanners; Prop Stylist: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

You’ll never make flimsy, stringy asparagus again — we promise.

Come springtime, asparagus is a side dish on everyone’s table. But this crispy green can also be enjoyed year-round in a number of ways: roasted, sautéed, steamed, grilled, sliced, the list goes on.

If you’re shopping for fresh asparagus, look for bright spears with tightly closed tips. If the roots look dry, that’s an indicator that the asparagus is out of date. Choose the spear thickness that works best for the selected cooking method — thin asparagus for sautéing, fat asparagus for roasting or grilling, and medium asparagus for just about everything else.

The shelf life of asparagus varies depending on how you store it. If you store it in the crisper, it can last up to 5 days. However, if you store the asparagus upright in a cup of water (instructions below), it can last up to a week. We suggest keeping roasted asparagus in the refrigerator for one to two days maximum.

Now, take a look at two of our favorite ways to cook asparagus — roasted and blanched:

Here’s proof that greens can be a crowd-pleaser. Once you properly prep your spears, try one of the two recipes below and serve alongside your favorite dinner entrée.

What you’ll need for Roasted Asparagus:

• 1 bunch thin asparagus

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 1/4 tsp. black pepper

• Lemon zest to taste

• Baking sheet ($24 for two, amazon.com)

What you’ll need for Blanched Asparagus:

How to cook asparagus

There are a lot of vegetables that herald the arrival of spring (fiddlehead ferns, ramps, early peas), but If there is one universally loved and easy to find vegetable that shouts “spring!” the loudest it’s probably asparagus. Although you can find asparagus year-round, the growing season in this country is February through June so when those first spears appear in the markets, you know for sure the winter is in the rear-view mirror.

Cooking asparagus

There are so many ways to cook these lovely green stalks. They can star in a side dish, be a supporting member of a skillet meal, hold their own in a vegetable saute. They can be steamed, boiled, stir-fried, roasted, baked, grilled, broiled — pretty much any way you can cook something, you can cook asparagus (I haven’t tried sous vide yet, but I will!). Also, if your asparagus are very fresh, you can slice them and use them raw in salads, or as part of a vegetable (crudité) platter.

What’s better: Thick or thin asparagus?

Thick or thin? Your choice. I think for a while there was something very sexy and desirable and chic about the very skinny asparagus, but really it’s a matter of preference. The thin ones just need the bottom inch or so cut off, cook faster and work nicely in sautéed or stir fried dishes. The fatter ones take longer to cook, but the thickness provides a much more satisfying bite.

Trimming asparagus

The most traditional kitchen technique for trimming asparagus is to hold the stalk in the middle and by the bottom end and to bend it until it snaps, removing the woody and fibrous bottom few inches from the stalk. I’m not that big of a fan of this method, I think this wastes more of the edible stalk than necessary, especially if you are preparing thick asparagus.

I prefer to cut and, then, for thick asparagus, peel the bottoms to remove the not-so-pleasant tough outer skin of the spear. For any asparagus, you can just cut the bottom inch or so off the asparagus. Then, for thick asparagus, you simply take a vegetable peeler and peel the green outer layer off from the bottom 3-ish inches of the stalk.

How to cook asparagus

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How long to cook asparagus

The answer depends on the thickness of the asparagus, the temperature you are cooking them at, and with some cooking methods, like baking or roasting, how crowded the pan is.

For roasting, the cooking time for thin stalks at 425°F is about 8 to 10 minutes for thin stalks, 10 to 14 minutes for thick stalks. The cooking time depends on the thickness of the stalks, and it really depends on how you like your asparagus cooked. Keep in mind that the asparagus will continue to “cook” after they leave the oven, especially if you leave them on the hot tray. Take them out just before they are as cooked as you would ultimately like them to be.

Crisp-tender? Tender-crisp? Super soft? For quite a while now it’s been the fashion to eat asparagus and many other vegetables quite al dente; well-cooked vegetables have been sneered at as old-fashioned and unchic. And while I think that vegetables cooked into oblivion are not a great thing, I also think you should cook your vegetables to how done you like to eat them. If you and your family are fans of slightly mushy veggies, then you should cook them until they are slightly mushy. You don’t need undercooked vegetables to prove you’re cool.

Storing asparagus

The best way to store asparagus is to trim off the bottom, then stand them in a tall wide glass or vase or pitcher in a few inches of cold water, and store them in the fridge. They should last for 2 or three days that way. You can also leave them in a bag in a produce drawer, but they do tend to get a little banged up and age a bit faster.