How to Cook Asparagus 8 Different Ways—Including Grilled, Roasted, and More

Spring's favorite vegetable is back. Here's how to cook asparagus in a myriad of simple ways.

asparagus and poached eggs
Photo: Claudia Totir/Getty Images

One of the first signs of spring is the spears of asparagus that begin to pop up everywhere. Most commonly known for their green, almost too-perfect spears, asparagus can also be found in white or purple varieties this time of year. With only slight variances in flavor and texture, the beauty of any type of asparagus is that no matter how you choose to cook it (there are many ways!), it will always deliver on that fresh, earthy flavor. There is no right or wrong way to cook asparagus, lean into what's more convenient for you and what you're craving.

Before cooking asparagus, trim or snap off the woody ends, which can have an unpleasant, fibrous texture. Freshly cooked asparagus always welcomes a drizzle of olive oil, lemon wedges, or a bit of butter. See a bunch of asparagus as a blank canvas and pair it with punchy vinaigrettes or creamy, rich sauces. A glass of crisp, white wine wouldn't hurt either.

Keep in mind that the thickness of the asparagus will affect cooking time. Pencil-thin asparagus will cook much quicker than thicker spears. The range in cooking times below reflects this, but keep a close eye.

How to Broil Asparagus

Not to pick favorites, but broiling is one of the best ways to cook asparagus. It's in and out of the oven in a snap, and the spears remain perfectly crisp-tender and even pick up some color in spots.

  1. To broil asparagus, preheat the broiler with the top rack 6 inches from the heat source.
  2. Toss asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt and several grinds of pepper.
  3. Broil until crisp-tender—about three minutes for thinner spears, and up to five minutes if your asparagus is thicker.

How to Boil Asparagus

Really, the answer here is blanching, which just means cooking vegetables in boiling water quickly, then plunging them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process (also known as "shocking"). This method sets the color and flavor, and seasons the asparagus from the inside-out.

  1. To boil asparagus, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice-cold water.
  2. Add asparagus to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender and bright green, two to three minutes.
  3. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon, or drain, and immediately transfer to the bowl of ice-cold water. It's striking how the color sets and brightens before your eyes. After a minute or two, drain and pat dry.

How to Steam Asparagus

Much like blanching asparagus, steaming locks in flavor sans adding fat, and allows for tender spears.

  1. To steam asparagus, add about an inch of water to a saucepan with a lid, and set up a collapsible steamer basket inside the saucepan.
  2. Once the water comes to a boil, add the asparagus to the steamer basket and cover the saucepan with a lid.
  3. Steam, until asparagus is crisp-tender, three to five minutes.
  4. Season with flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon, if desired.

How to Roast Asparagus

Roasting asparagus concentrates its flavor and brings out its earthy sweetness. Look for the spears to turn bright green, a tell-tale sign of readiness.

  1. To roast asparagus, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, toss asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet, and season with salt and several grinds of pepper.
  3. Roast until asparagus is crisp-tender and spears turn bright green, 10 to 12 minutes.

How to Grill Asparagus

What's not to love about grilling? The opportunity to infuse a little bit of smokiness and char into a vegetable is just delightful.

  1. To grill asparagus, preheat a grill or grill pan over high heat.
  2. Toss asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and several grinds of pepper.
  3. Place the spears perpendicular to the grates so they don't slip through and grill, turning often, until charred in spots and crisp-tender, three to five minutes.
  4. If the asparagus is picking up more of a char than preferred, simply move them to a cooler side of the grill.

How to Sauté Asparagus

Cutting the asparagus into 2-inch pieces is a great way to start, but not a must, it just makes for more practical tossing in the skillet when sautéing. To sauté simply means to cook something quickly in a skillet over direct heat with some fat.

  1. To sauté asparagus, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high, or a mixture of olive oil and butter (which keeps the butter from burning).
  2. Add the asparagus and cook, tossing often, until bright green and crisp-tender, three to five minutes.
  3. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

How to Cook Asparagus in an Air Fryer

Crispy bits and tender spears are ready in under 10 minutes with this easy, air fryer cooking method.

  1. To cook asparagus in the air fryer, preheat it to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss asparagus with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Arrange asparagus in an even layer in the basket of the air fryer.
  4. Cook, until crisp-tender and golden in spots, seven to eight minutes. Pro tip: you only need about 1 teaspoon of oil per 1 pound of asparagus.

How to Cook Asparagus in an Instant Pot

Think of cooking asparagus in an Instant Pot as a steaming hybrid.

  1. To cook asparagus in an Instant Pot, add one cup water and place a trivet or steamer basket inside.
  2. Arrange asparagus on top and lock the lid. For crisp-tender asparagus, set to the STEAM setting with the pressure setting set to LOW and time set to 0 minutes. Yes, that's right, the asparagus will cook even if it's set at zero minutes because of the time it takes to build up pressure.
  3. Promptly quick-release once the timer goes off to release the pressure, and open the lid.
  4. Transfer asparagus to a serving plate and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
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