How to cook asparagus

Discover everything you need to know about cooking asparagus, plus our best recipes...
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  • Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that's also incredibly easy and quick to cook. Follow our simple guide to cooking perfect asparagus every time.

    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. In this article, we look at the following:

    * How to prepare asparagus
    * How to roast asparagus
    * How to griddle asparagus
    * How to blanche asparagus
    * Can you microwave asparagus?
    * How do I know when asparagus is cooked?
    * What is the most nutritious way to cook asparagus?
    * Our best asparagus recipes

    How to prepare asparagus

    Preparing asparagus for cooking is easy. Just follow the simple steps below for perfectly cooked asparagus each time.

    1. To prepare green asparagus start by washing the spears.
    2. 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.

    Top ways to cook asparagus

    How to cook asparagus: roast

    You may not have thought of roasting asparagus before but it’s GoodtoKnow Senior Food Writer Jessica Ransom’s favourite way to cook as it imparts a great flavour on the asparagus. She explains “I love roasted asparagus, especially when it chars a little as it adds even more flavour.”

    Roasting asparagus take longer than other cooking methods, but it couldn’t be easier.

    1. Simply toss the asparagus in oil, salt, and pepper and put it on a baking tray.
    2. 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”.

    You can also add other flavours to your roasted asparagus. GoodtoKnow Food Editor 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.

    How to cook asparagus: griddle

    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.

    1. If using a griddle pan, heat it on the hob to the highest temperature.
    2. Once the pan has come up to temperature brush it with a small amount of oil. This will stop the asparagus from sticking.
    3. Place the asparagus on the pan. A pair of tongs can be helpful here to avoid burning your fingers!
    4. 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.
    5. Next, transfer the asparagus to a serving plate. Sprinkle over sea salt flakes before serving.

    How to cook asparagus

    How to cook asparagus: blanche

    Blanching asparagus is the easiest and quickest way to cook it.

    1. Add the prepared asparagus to a pan of salted boiling water. Cook for 2-5 mins, depending on the thickness, until tender.
    2. 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.

    Can you microwave asparagus?

    Like many other vegetables, you can use the microwave to cook asparagus by steaming it.

    1. Prepare 200g of asparagus and wash it.
    2. Place the wet asparagus into a shallow microwave-proof bowl. Cover with clingfilm.
    3. 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

    Slimming World’s asparagus carbonara recipe

    Slimming World's asparagus carbonara

    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

    Smoked ham and asparagus tart

    Smoked ham and asparagus tart

    This delicious ham and asparagus tart is 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 recipe

    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 recipe

    Griddled asparagus, sweet potato, and poached egg

    Healthy lunch ideas, Griddled asparagus and sweet potato topped with a 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 recipe

    New potato and asparagus salad

    New potato and asparagus salad

    This fresh dish makes the most of two of spring seasons’ best harvests: asparagus and new potatoes.

    Get the recipe: New potato and asparagus salad recipe

    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 recipe

    Salmon and asparagus with tarragon hollandaise recipe

    Salmon fillet recipes, Salmon and asparagus with tarragon hollandaise

    Another fantastic pairing for asparagus is salmon. This splendid dish looks really impressive.

    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.