If you're wondering how to cook asparagus best, it helps to know all of the methods that you can choose from so that you can pick which suit your meal! Plus, with all of these easy ways to cook asparagus you're sure to find one that you love!
There are so many ways to cook your tender, fresh asparagus to absolute perfection!
Asparagus is a quintessential summer food in my house. It was always growing in my grandparents’ garden, and it was a staple of my childhood. I have some growing at my home now, but it's ages old and thick as trees (and growing like a weed in my horse pasture)!
This tasty veggie has a delicious savory flavor that goes well with virtually any main dish you can think of. The biggest decision is which of the 8 ways below you will cook it!
There are many ways to prepare this delicious vegetable, and each results in a different variety of flavors. That’s part of what I love about it, it’s diversity.
Whether you like the rich char of the roasted process or the freshly steamed still-slightly-crisp version, this is an excellent side dish–or main course mix-in–for all occasions.
Asparagus Season & Varieties
Asparagus season is typically between February and June, depending on where it is grown. It’s imported from abroad all year, but if you’re looking for something fresh and local, that is your best time to buy.
The thicker the stalk, the longer the asparagus has been in the ground. Both thin and thick stalks are good, but you’ll want to be sure they’re all similar in size for even cooking.
While you might think that the super slender stalks would be the most tender asparagus spears you could enjoy, the mid-size thickness stalks are actually best!
The smaller stalks will actually tend to have more of a woody consistency at their base. You'll end up trimming or snapping more off when prepping to cook.
There are three varieties to watch for. While the most commonly found option is green, you might occasionally see white or purple. While they’re all similarly delicious, you’ll notice subtle differences in flavor.
The green variety has a bit of a grassy flavor, and the white is more of a mild, bitter taste. The purple kind is sweeter and nutty. In fact, there is about 20% more sugar in these. Note that the inside of the purple kind will be green.
How To Cook Asparagus
There are several cooking methods that will result in delightfully tender, tasty asparagus that you can serve up with any meal! All of these methods are truly simple too, making them easy to cook on the side while making your dinner's main course.
Before any method of cooking, asparagus needs to be washed and trimmed. First, rinse the entire stalk thoroughly. Then, either snap or cut off the tough, woody bottoms.
It is usually about 1-2 inches worth of stalk, starting where the green begins to fade or turn white. You can also use a peeler to eliminate some of the thicker skin, as needed with thicker stalks. Discard the pieces.
Some people prefer to soak their asparagus before cooking. I find that it’s only necessary if you find gritty pieces of soil hiding in the stalk or tips.
It’s entirely up to you whether or not you choose to do so. Just make sure to dry them off before using dry-heat methods like roasting or sauteing. Extra water will cause them to steam.
1. Sauteed Asparagus
- Begin by heating a skillet, frying pan, or wok and olive oil or butter over medium heat.
- Transfer prepared asparagus to the pan. Be careful of popping if the vegetables still have some water on them.
- Finally, cook for 3-5 minutes. They will turn slightly brown and become tender. This method creates some of the char flavor from roasting but with a much shorter cooking time.
2. Steamed Asparagus
- Fill a sauce-pot with just enough water that it won’t reach the bottom of an inserted steamer basket.
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and lay prepared asparagus in the basket. Cut it in half if needed in order to fit. Cover.
- Cook for 2-4 minutes. Asparagus should be bright green and slightly tender. Don’t cook it too long, or it will become soggy.
- Submerge hot asparagus into a bowl of ice water to stop it from continuing to cook if not eating right away.
- Top with pepper and Parmesan for an added burst of flavor! Leave plain to amplify the natural taste of the vegetable.
- This method preserves more of the nutrients of the asparagus than others.
3. Roasted Asparagus
- Start by preheating your oven to 400℉ (205℃).
- Lay out prepared asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Cook uncovered for 12-15 minutes until tender. This is the longest cooking method but is worth the wait!
- Throw on a few cloves of garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest for additional flavor before putting the baking sheet in the oven.
- Leave an inch or so of space between stalks when cooking so they’ll get a bit crispy instead of steaming.
4. Air Fryer Asparagus
- First, preheat your air fryer to 400℉ (205℃).
- In a large bowl, drizzle your prepared asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then, transfer it into the air fryer basket.
- Cook for 6-8 minutes. Asparagus is done when it’s slightly crispy at the tips and stalks are tender and bright green.
- Never use cooking/aerosol sprays on your air fryer basket. It will start to deteriorate the coating on the metal. Try using a self-filled spritz bottle or brush oil on the basket using a pastry brush or paper towel.
5. Smoked Asparagus
- Start by preheating your smoker to 225℉ (107℃). Check your manufacturer’s instructions for more detailed information. Each smoker is a little bit different.
- Similar to other cooking methods, toss asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl before transferring it to your smoker pan or grilling tray.
- Next, put the asparagus tray in the oven and smoke for around 45 minutes. It will be tender when it’s done. Increase time as needed.
6. Broiled Asparagus
- Start by setting your oven to broil on low and move a rack about 6 inches from the broiling element at the top.
- Then, in a bowl, toss asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Transfer them to a baking sheet, and move them to the oven.
- Lastly, broil for 8-10 minutes. Asparagus should be starting to turn a bit brown and will be tender when done.
- Watch asparagus closely while in the broiler. Things cook very fast that close to open flames, and if you’re not paying attention or relying solely on a timer, you run the risk of burned vegetables.
7. Pan-Roasted Asparagus
- Heat a skillet with a lid over medium-high heat.
- Now, put in equal parts olive oil and butter, and wait for the butter to melt.
- Add the asparagus and cover. Cook for around 3 minutes.
- Then, remove the lid and crank up the heat to high.
- Toss with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Sear over high heat using tongs for another 3-5 minutes or until done.
- I love adding a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt, and lemon juice to flavor it while cooking.
8. Boiled Asparagus
- Bring a pot full of salted water to a boil.
- Add asparagus and cook for 1-3 minutes.
- Your finished product should be tender and bright green. This is a great time to utilize an ice bath if you’re not going to serve these immediately after cooking. Just submerge the stalks for a few seconds in order to halt the cooking process.
- This method softens the tip while keeping a bit of natural crunch in the stalk.
To keep asparagus as fresh as possible, trim off ½ an inch off the bottom after purchase and put them upright in a jar. Fill the jar with just a small amount of water, ½ inch to 1 inch.
Keeping stalks submerged will make them squishy, so it’s best to only do so with parts you’re going to cut off anyway. On average, raw asparagus lasts about 2 weeks in the fridge.
Freezing Fresh Asparagus
The key to freezing asparagus is blanching it first. This keeps the flavor in tact. To do this, boil a large pot of water. Separate thick, medium, and thin pieces.
Thick pieces should boil for 4 minutes, medium for 3, and thin for 2. It should turn bright green. When done, use tongs to immediately put each piece in an ice bath until cooled. Pat dry.
Put cooled spears into freezer bags and squeeze out as much air as possible. Keep them in one layer if you won’t be using the entire pack at once. This will make it easier to remove smaller amounts.
Use everything within 8-12 months. Note that thicker asparagus holds up better to freezing and reheating.
Storing Cooked Asparagus
Once cooked, keep asparagus in airtight containers in the fridge for 3-5 days. It becomes very obvious when it has gone bad. Signs include bad smell, extra mushiness, fuzz, etc.
💡 How To Use Asparagus In Other Recipes?
Let’s talk about breakfast. Asparagus goes great with eggs of any style. Sauteed and added to an omelet, mixed into scrambled eggs and feta, highlighted in a quiche or frittata…your imagination is the limit.
Crepes are also a good morning dish. I love pan-fried asparagus with wrapped up in a crepe with bacon and brie. Again, it’s an easy canvas for creativity.
Lunch and dinner can include these delectable greens as more than just a side dish. It’s very complementary to different types of rice or pasta. Try my lemon asparagus orzo! Chop them up in my Hunan Beef stir fry, or use them in my Panda Express Shanghai Angus Steak.
You can even amp up your side dish by doing something like wrapping it in bacon, topping it with Parmesan, or breading and deep-frying it into asparagus fries.
Asparagus is a highly adaptable vegetable that has lots of nutritional value and can be served at any meal.
When picking out fresh asparagus at the grocery store, you should look for several things. Stalks should stand upright without any wilting or squishy parts. The tips should be tightly closed, not spread out like a flower.
Avoid any pieces whose tips are turning dark green or black. Definitely avoid anything that smells. The tip is the first part to go bad, so check there first. And don’t forget to inspect the pieces on the inside of the bunch.
You would think the smallest slender stalks would be best. However, these tend to be "woody". Go for medium thickness when selecting your asparagus.
How to cook asparagus
- 1 lbs asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- each, salt & pepper (to taste)
- Heat a skillet, frying pan, or wok over medium heat with olive oil or butter.1 tablespoon olive oil
- Transfer prepared asparagus into the pan - being careful of popping if the vegetables still have some water on them.1 lbs asparagus, each, salt & pepper
- Finally, saute for 3-5 minutes. They will turn slightly brown and become tender.
- Fill a pot with just enough water that it won’t reach the bottom of an inserted steamer basket and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Lay the prepared asparagus in the basket (cut it in half if needed in order to fit) then cover and cook at a low boil for 2-4 minutes. The steamed asparagus should be bright green and slightly tender.
- Plunge the steamed asparagus into an ice bath to stop the cooking process before serving.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C) while you prep your asparagus.
- Toss the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper on baking sheet then spread in an even layer.
- Roast in the middle of your oven's center rack for 12-15 minutes, or until the asparagus reaches your desired level of tenderness.
Air Fryer Asparagus
- Preheat Air fryer to 400°F (205°C)
- Toss asparagus with oil salt and pepper. Place in basket.
- Bake for about6 to 8 minutes.
- Rinse and trim asparagus, preheat smoker to 225℉ (107℃).
- Smoke for 45 minutes.
- Prepare asparagus - rinse, toss with seasoning and oil.
- Broil asparagus for 8 to 10 minutes.
Pan Roasted Asparagus
- In a large skillet heat equal parts olive oil and butter. Add Asparagus and cover for about 3 minutes.
- Remove cover and increase heat to high. Sear 3 to 5 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes until tender. Serve immediately .
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!