How to cook asparagus
Learn how to prepare and cook asparagus in a range of dishes. The delicate spears of this seasonal vegetable can be blanched, griddled, roasted or served raw.
When is asparagus in season?
We get asparagus for as little as two months of the year, so it’s well worth making the most of it when it appears, which is somewhere from around the end of April into June.
The earliest shoots are called ‘sprue’. They’re thinner and usually tender all the way through. The later and thicker shoots can have very woody ends that need to be removed. Simply bend each stalk with both hands, gently, until it snaps – the break will happen where the woody part meets the tender part. Sometimes what needs to be discarded can be quite substantial, but you can use these ends to make a stock for soups and stews.
See our ideas for how to serve asparagus below, and also check out our collection of asparagus recipes.
How to prepare asparagus
Watch our video guide for how to prepare asparagus and follow these simple steps:
- Break off any woody ends by bending the asparagus spears until they snap at their natural breaking point.
- Trim off any uneven ends with a sharp knife.
How to cook asparagus
Wondering what the best way to cook asparagus is, and how long to cook asparagus? Get the best from this seasonal veg by cooking it as soon after it’s picked as you can.
Asparagus can be cooked in a number of ways – try roasting asparagus in the oven to serve in a salad, boiling it on the hob or griddling as a side for a roast chicken dinner. The cooking time will of course vary with each method, as will the end result, which depends on which texture you wish to achieve and what dish it is being served in. See our five ways for how to cook asparagus below.
Boiled asparagus (blanch and refresh)
A method we’ve gleaned from restaurant cooking is called blanch and refresh. This is useful for lots of vegetables (particularly green veg), as it helps them to retain their bright colour and flavour after cooking.
- Fill a bowl with water and ice cubes and set aside.
- Plunge your asparagus spears into a pan of boiling water.
- Cook for 1-2 mins or until tender.
- Remove the asparagus with tongs or a slotted spoon and place directly in the bowl of ice water.
Store in the fridge until needed, then simply drain and reheat in a pan with a little butter when you want to serve.
Another way to cook asparagus is to char it, either on a griddle pan or on a barbecue – if the weather allows. Slightly scorching the asparagus brings out a nutty flavour while keeping its distinct texture and vibrancy.
- Coat the asparagus spears in a little olive oil.
- Put your griddle pan over a high heat. When it's heated through, add the asparagus spears and season with salt and black pepper.
- Cook for 1-2 mins, turning occasionally until tender.
Check if the asparagus is done by lifting a spear out of the griddle pan with a pair of tongs. If it bends slightly, it’s ready.
Roasting asparagus is one of the easiest ways to cook this vegetable. Simply drizzle with olive oil and pop in the oven.
- Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
- Snap any woody tips off the asparagus where they naturally break apart. Put on a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for 12 mins until they are tender.
Put the asparagus in a steamer basket and cover over.
- Put the asparagus in a steamer basket and cover over.
- Place over a high heat. Then once steam forms, cook for 2-4 minutes until the asparagus is bright green and tender.
- Move the asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking process if not eating right away.
Peel raw ribbons
Asparagus can be eaten raw, too, as part of a salad. It works very well sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler.
- Start by removing the tougher outer skin and discarding it.
- Peel off long ribbons until you get to the middle, then turn over and repeat on the other side.
How to store asparagus
- Wrap the asparagus in damp kitchen paper, put in a perforated paper bag or wrap and keep in the salad drawer of the fridge. This will keep for up to 5 days
- You can also store it in a glass or jug of cold water in the fridge, with a loose covering on top.
Our best asparagus recipes:
Asparagus fries with baconnaise
An indulgent celebration of asparagus, the coating of crisp breadcrumbs adds texture without distracting from the flavour and pairs wonderfully with the rich bacon mayo.
Asparagus and quinoa salad with eggs & dill
Asparagus is steamed and served fresh here in a wholesome salad, with quinoa, dill, boiled eggs and spring onions. Perfect for a healthy lunch or side.
Asparagus pancakes & smoked salmon
Frame your asparagus spears in these golden pancakes for a picture-perfect brunch dish.
Asparagus, avocado & quinoa tabbouleh
This stunning platter of fresh greens makes a lovely side dish for sharing and it's a great way to serve asparagus raw.
Sesame grilled asparagus rafts
Here's a simple recipe for grilling or barbecuing your asparagus. Fixing a row of spears together makes them much easier to work with.
White asparagus with Serrano ham & chive dressing
White asparagus cooks in the same way as the green variety, but the thicker spears take a little longer to soften. Try this recipe to make the most of their rich, nutty flavour.
Try more awesome asparagus recipes...
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