Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that's also incredibly easy and quick to cook. Follow our simple guide on how to cook asparagus perfectly every time.
From steaming to roasting, from blanching to cooking on a griddle pan, we've rounded up the best ways to cook asparagus including a selection of our best asparagus recipes to inspire too. Green asparagus is versatile and can be cooked in a variety of ways. It doesn't take very long to cook and the cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the spears.
Fresh green asparagus is best in spring, which is when it's in season. However, can be found in supermarkets year-round. White asparagus is less commonly eaten in the UK but is popular in France and Germany. White asparagus has a more stringy texture than its green counterpart. Therefore, it is important to remove the woody ends and also peel them before cooking them.
If you are planning on roasting or griddling white asparagus it's a good idea to par-boil it first as it takes longer to cook than green asparagus. As white asparagus is less common, the cooking methods below are best suited to green asparagus. However, they will also work with white asparagus that has been par-boiled.
How to cook asparagus
Preparing asparagus for cooking is easy. Just follow the simple steps below for perfectly cooked asparagus each time.
To prepare green asparagus start by washing the spears. Next snap the woody ends off. To do this bend the end of the asparagus spear and it will naturally snap at the perfect point. Your asparagus is now ready to cook.
The snapped-off ends are edible and have a good flavour, but have an unpleasant stringy texture. They can be used to flavour stock or make soup instead of eating as they are.
How to roast asparagus
You may not have thought of roasting asparagus before but it's Senior Food Writer Jessica Ransom's favourite way to cook as it imparts a great flavour to the asparagus. She explains "I love roasted asparagus, especially when it chars a little as it adds even more flavour."
Roasting asparagus takes longer than other cooking methods, but it couldn't be easier. You can also add other flavours to your roasted asparagus. Food writer, Samuel Goldsmith likes to take his roasted asparagus a step further by sprinkling it with a novel ingredient.
Samuel says "I like to roast it and then cover it in bacon dust - finely chopped bacon." Or if he has vegetarian friends around he opts for roasting it with more veggie-friendly "garlic cloves and lemon halves" to bring out the lovely fresh flavour.
- Simply toss the asparagus in oil, salt, and pepper and put it on a baking tray.
- Cook in an oven pre-heated for 200C for 15 -20 mins. Jessica suggests adding asparagus "to your regular roasted veg tray 20mins before the cooking has finished so it still keeps some bite".
How to griddle asparagus
Griddled asparagus is one of our favourite ways to cook it as it retains the crunch and is delicious both hot and cold. You can either use a griddle pan on the hob or for a lovely smokey flavour take your asparagus outside to the BBQ.
- If using a griddle pan, heat it on the hob to the highest temperature.
- Once the pan has come up to temperature brush it with a small amount of oil. This will stop the asparagus from sticking.
- Place the asparagus on the pan. A pair of tongs can be helpful here to avoid burning your fingers!
- Reduce the temperature to medium-high. Allow the asparagus spears to blacken a little where the ridges touch them. Then use the tongs to rotate them so they cook evenly. It will take about 5 mins in total.
- Next, transfer the asparagus to a serving plate. Sprinkle over sea salt flakes before serving.
How to blanche asparagus
Blanching asparagus is the easiest and quickest way to cook it.
- Add the prepared asparagus to a pan of salted boiling water. Cook for 2-5 mins, depending on the thickness, until tender.
- Drain and if serving hot transfer to a serving plate. A little butter wouldn't go amiss here. Alternatively, if you would like to serve the asparagus cold plunge the hot asparagus spears into a bowl of ice water. Doing this will cool the asparagus rapidly meaning it will retain its vibrant green colour.
How to steam asparagus
Like many other vegetables, you can use the microwave to cook asparagus by steaming it.
- Prepare 200g of asparagus and wash it.
- Place the wet asparagus into a shallow microwave-proof bowl. Cover with clingfilm.
- Heat on high for 2 mins (thick asparagus may require longer). Carefully peel off the clingfilm and the asparagus will be cooked to perfection.
How do I know when asparagus is cooked?
Asparagus doesn't take long to cook at all, it can even be eaten raw. Perfectly cooked asparagus is tender but still retains a crunch. Check the texture by inserting a knife into the asparagus. It should be soft enough to pierce the vegetable skin without effort with a slight 'crunch' or 'pop' feel.
If your asparagus is super soft you may have overcooked it so remove it from the heat immediately. Overcooked asparagus is ok to eat but we wouldn't recommend it as it won't taste anywhere near as nice. It will also contain fewer nutrients than raw or perfectly cooked asparagus so always keep an eye on your spears when cooking.
What is the most nutritious way to cook asparagus?
To retain the most nutrients in vegetables avoid overcooking them. Asparagus is nutritious as it is high in vitamins and minerals. It is also a very good source of fiber. Most vitamins break down as they are heated so to keep them intact cook the asparagus until just tender, or even not at all. Shavings of fine young asparagus are lovely in a salad.
Our best asparagus recipes
Asparagus truly is a versatile vegetable that can be paired with plenty of different meats and veg to make a mouth-watering breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
1. Slimming World’s asparagus carbonara recipe
This tasty pasta dish is ready in under 30 mins. It cuts down on calories by swapping oodles of cheese for fat-free natural fromage frais. It's the perfect way to serve asparagus.
Get the recipe: Slimming World’s asparagus carbonara recipe (opens in new tab)
Smoked ham and asparagus tart
This delicious ham and asparagus tart are ideal for light lunches and picnics as it can be served hot or cold. It's a great way for using up any asparagus you have left in the fridge or glut you've picked from your garden.
Get the recipe: Smoked ham and asparagus tart (opens in new tab)
3. British asparagus and pea risotto
Asparagus is often the star of creamy risotto. If you haven't made risotto before it's actually very simple to make. However, it does require contrast attention. We always pick a good podcast to listen to before embarking on cooking risotto!
Get the recipe: British asparagus and pea risotto (opens in new tab)
4. Griddled asparagus, sweet potato, and poached egg
Egg and asparagus make for a dream combination. We can't resist dipping the spears into a gorgeous oozy egg yolk.
Get the recipe: Griddled asparagus, sweet potato, and poached egg (opens in new tab)
5. New potato and asparagus salad
This fresh dish makes the most of two of the spring seasons' best harvests: asparagus and new potatoes.
Get the recipe: New potato and asparagus salad (opens in new tab)
6. Ham-wrapped asparagus with dip
For a special treat, we love to serve these dippy asparagus spears wrapped in Parma ham with a pre-dinner aperitif
Get the recipe: Ham-wrapped asparagus with dip (opens in new tab)
7. Salmon and asparagus with tarragon hollandaise recipe
Another fantastic pairing for asparagus is salmon. This splendid dish looks really impressive.
Get the recipe: Salmon and asparagus with tarragon hollandaise (opens in new tab)
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Rose Fooks is Deputy Food Editor at Future Publishing, creating recipes, reviewing products and writing food features for a range of lifestyle and home titles including GoodTo and Woman&Home. Before joining the team, Rose obtained a Diplome de Patisserie and Culinary Management at London’s Le Cordon Bleu. Going on to work in professional kitchens at The Delaunay and Zedel.