How to Cook Asparagus: Multiple Methods

Asparagus is my go-to fresh vegetable for spring and summer meals, and I bet it’s one of yours as well. It is extremely versatile, lending itself to multiple cooking methods with tasty results that are all different from each other. And with the proper technique, it is delicious no matter how it’s cooked.

Vertical image of a mound of cooked green vegetable spears and chicken on a plate, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

In this guide, we’ll share three ways to cook the vegetable that are easy to master, and essential for your kitchen repertoire – roasting in the oven, steaming, and blanching.

Which one is the best? It’s tough for me to choose a favorite because the asparagus is transformed in different ways with each method of cooking.

When it’s roasted in the oven, the tips turn golden brown, giving the vegetable a little added flavor. When blanched, the spears are bright green and fresh. And when steamed, it comes out beautifully crisp, tender, and delicate.

These aren’t the only ways to cook this veggie! But if I had to pick, they would be my personal top three, and I love the variety that these cooking methods have to offer.

Vertical top-down image of a rectangular white plate with cooked and simply seasoned green vegetables.

If you already love asparagus, be sure to keep this handy how-to guide close at hand. You can experiment with all three cooking styles and choose your favorite, or rotate between the methods to keep things fresh and enjoy them all as you cook your veggies all season long!

Ready to get started? Here’s what’s to come in this article:

How Do I Buy Asparagus?

This particular vegetable is in season in the US from about February to June, but you can generally purchase it year-round from international sources at your local supermarket.

Vertical image of a row of uncooked and seasoned vegetables on a baking sheet lined with foil.

When you are purchasing your veggies, usually by the bunch, the first thing to look at is whether the stalks are stiff. Limp and floppy spears are past their prime.

In addition, the tips of the spears should not be dry. They should be green and moist, an excellent indicator of freshness. If the tips are mushy and turning brown, they are starting to rot and should be tossed.

For more tips on how to select the best fresh vegetables, read our article.

Serving Suggestions

First and foremost, no matter which cooking method you use, be sure to season the vegetables with salt and pepper every single time.

Vertical image of a plateful of cooked and seasoned asparagus.

For some this will happen before cooking, and for other methods it will happen after. Regardless, a simple dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper always helps to bring out the natural flavor.

If you want to get a little more creative, here are some of my favorite ways to add additional flavor:

  • Add a little garlic powder, melted butter, and lemon juice to the cooked vegetables. You can also add a dash of red pepper flakes for some heat, if you desire.
  • Top with homemade hollandaise (particularly delicious over the spears when they’ve been steamed.
  • Grate some parmesan cheese over the top and melt under the broiler for a minute or so.
  • Chop, add to cooked pasta, and stir in some freshly made pesto sauce.
  • Include the blanched spears on a crudite platter with your favorite dipping sauce.
  • Add some toasted sliced almonds for an amandine dish.

In addition to roasting, blanching, and steaming, it can also be cooked in the microwave, Instant Pot, or air fryer. Don’t be afraid to branch out and try new ways to prepare this family favorite!

How to Roast Asparagus in the Oven

Roasting adds delicious flavor, and the vegetables come out crisp-tender and delicious.

Step 1 – Trim Vegetables and Measure Ingredients

To begin, you will need:

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Wash and then trim the woody ends off each spear.

Horizontal image of a bunch of green vegetable spears with rubber bands and small dishes with oil and seasoning.

After you’ve measured out the other ingredients, preheat your oven to 400˚F, and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Step 2 – Prep and Season

Add the prepped vegetables to the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Horizontal image of a row of green vegetable spears on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Toss everything together with your hands or tongs, and spread the spears out in a single layer.

Step 3 – Roast

Place the pan in the oven and roast for 12 to 18 minutes, until crisp tender.

Horizontal image of a plateful of cooked and seasoned asparagus.

The time required will vary based on the thickness of the spears. For the ones you see here, I roasted them for 13 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and serve as desired.

How to Steam Asparagus

One of the fastest ways to cook this vegetable is to steam it in a pan with a little water. Served with melted butter, I think it’s one of the easiest side dishes you can make.

Step 1 – Trim and Measure

To start, here’s everything you’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Wash the vegetables well. Trim off the woody ends.

Horizontal image of a bunch of asparagus held by rubber bands, a dish of melted butter, and a dish of seasonings.

Measure the remaining ingredients as listed.

Step 2 – Steam

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the prepped vegetable spears in a single layer. Pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.

Horizontal image of steaming green vegetables spears in a pan with water.

For a 12-inch pan, I used 1/3 cup water.

Cover the skillet and steam until fork tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Check the doneness with a sharp knife to ensure it slides in easily before removing the pan from the heat.

If your spears are very thick, you may need to add a minute or two to the cooking time.

Horizontal image of a bunch of cooked asparagus on a gray plate.

Transfer to a serving platter and toss with butter. Season with salt and pepper.

How to Blanch Asparagus

If you like your vegetables crisp and bright, simply blanch them quickly in some boiling water. Follow up with a shocking ice bath to stop the cooking process.

This is a fantastic way to incorporate these veggies into your lunch meal prep, or to get them ready for use in other recipes.

Step 1 – Trim Ends and Measure Ingredients

For this method, you will need:

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Wash the spears, and then trim them and discard the woody ends.

Horizontal image of a bunch of asparagus held by rubber bands next to a dish of oil and a dish of seasonings.

Measure the remaining ingredients as listed.

Step 2 – Blanch

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.

Horizontal image of a colander full of cooked asparagus.

Add the asparagus to the pot of boiling water. Blanch for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, and check for doneness. They should be crisp-tender, vibrant green, and still closer to raw than fully cooked. The blanching time required also depends on the thickness of the spears.

If you prefer to serve them right away, they will continue cooking a bit after they are removed from the water. Drain them immediately in a colander in the sink, and toss in a large mixing bowl with the oil, salt, and pepper, using tongs or your hands. Serve immediately.

Horizontal image of the tips of asparagus on a white plate.

Otherwise, prepare an ice bath by combining ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl. Drain the vegetables, and place in the ice bath for a few minutes, to chill and stop the cooking process. Drain, then season as desired, store in the refrigerator, or prep for use in your favorite recipes.

How Will I Know When the Asparagus Is Done?

Determining doneness depends in large part on personal preference, and the thickness of the spears.

Very thin ones require barely any cooking, and crisp-tender steamed or blanched stalks will have a vibrant green color. Thicker stalks will take a little longer.

Horizontal image of a plateful of cooked green vegetable spears and chicken.

Roasted, you should look for a deep golden brown color, particularly on the tips. And it’s up to you if you wish to let them go a little longer in the oven to build that caramelization, depending on your preferences for texture and taste.

Feel free to use a knife or fork to pierce a spear as a test for doneness, and adjust the cooking time as needed. You should be able to pierce the thickest part of the stalk without too much force.

If you like your spears cooked until they’re a bit on the softer side rather than crisp tender, you can cook them a little longer.

Hungry for more? Try these side dish recipes from Foodal next to prepare your favorite types of vegetables:

Which cooking method will you try first? Tell us in the comments below!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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