Asparagus Recipes & How-To Tips

With just 4 calories per asparagus spear, there's no reason not to enjoy this popular green veggie. It's a flavorful addition to main dishes and sides, plus it supplies powerful antioxidants, folate, and fiber to support heart health.

by Marsha McCulloch, M.S., R.D., L.D.

  • view all thumbnails
Power Food: Asparagus

    Every savory bite of asparagus is packed with nutrients that support cardiovascular health, including folate, rutin, glutathione, fiber, and powerful antioxidants. This versatile vegetable is naturally low in calories and can easily be added to many main dishes or served as a savory side

    In eight medium spears (one serving of asparagus):
    24 calories
    5 g carbohydrate
    2.5 g fiber
    256 mg potassium
    64 mcg folate
    968 IU vitamin A

Tips for Buying Asparagus

    Choose firm, green spears with minimal white at the bottom and tightly closed tips. Tips that are partially open mean the asparagus is not as fresh.

    Peak season for U.S.-grown asparagus is March-June, so that's when you'll find the best flavor and prices. A smaller California crop is sold in October. Imports from Peru, Mexico, and other countries ensure a year-round supply.

Should I Buy Thick or Thin Asparagus Spears?

    The choice of thick or thin spears is largely a matter of personal preference. Thick spears typically are meatier and more tender. But most chefs prefer thin spears' delicate appearance.

What's the Difference Between Green and White Asparagus?

    White asparagus is grown shielded from sunlight, which keeps it from producing chlorophyll (which is green). White asparagus is a bit lower in nutrients than green and is often imported. Check for white asparagus in the stores in the springtime.

Is Frozen Asparagus Better than Canned?

    Although many people prefer fresh asparagus, it must be eaten soon after buying it. When fresh spears aren't an option, both frozen and canned asparagus are acceptable. We recommend cans of Green Giant asparagus, 50 percent less sodium and Birds Eye frozen asparagus.

How to Store Asparagus in the Fridge

    Refrigerate fresh asparagus promptly to preserve vitamins and prevent spears from getting tough. Eat within 3-5 days.

    There are two ways to properly store asparagus:
    1. Store spears upright in an inch of water with a plastic bag loosely draped over the top. Or
    2. Wrap a moist paper towel around bottom of spears and place in a perforated (vented) plastic bag. Store bag in crisper.

How to Freeze Asparagus

    Asparagus also keeps well in the freezer. Take the proper steps to ensure the freshest taste.

    To freeze asparagus:
    1. Wash the asparagus and trim the ends.

    2. Blanch the spears in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. (Note: Some people feel skipping blanching leads to freezer-tasting spears.)

    3. Cool quickly in ice water, then blot dry.

    4. Pack tightly in freezer bags. Store up to eight months. Don't thaw before cooking.

How to Prep Asparagus

    Ready to eat your asparagus? Here's how to prep it:
    Step 1: Rinse asparagus in cold running water to remove dirt and sand. To release any sand in tips, dunk them in and out of water, then rinse. If asparagus is thin, simply snap off the bottom at the point where the fibrous, tough part begins (it will naturally break there). If necessary, cut off ends of thick or tough asparagus stalks with a sharp knife. Save the ends for use in soup and broth.

    Step 2: Using a vegetable peeler, start about 2 inches from the asparagus tip and peel downward. (This step is optional based on your taste preference. Peeling allows the stalks to cook at about the same rate as the tender tips and can be helpful if asparagus is woody. Rather than discarding the nutrient-rich peels, add them to soup.)

Five Ways to Cook Fresh Asparagus

    Try these simple ways to cook asparagus. It's ready to eat when the stalks are tender yet firm. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice for extra flavor.

    Ways to cook asparagus:
    1. Steam: Lay fresh asparagus spears in a steamer basket and place over boiling water in a shallow pot. Cover and steam for 5-10 minutes.

    2. Boil: Place asparagus in a shallow pan of boiling water and cook about 5-7 minutes.

    3. Roast: Toss spears with a bit of olive oil and pepper. Arrange spears in a single layer in a shallow pan. Roast in 450° F oven 8-10 minutes. Turn spears halfway through cooking time.

    4. Microwave: Place spears in shallow, microwave-safe dish with tips pointed toward center. Add 1/4 cup water; cover tightly. Cook on high power 4-6 minutes.

    5. Grill: Place wooden skewers through thick asparagus spears laid side by side to make a rack of asparagus. Or cook in grilling basket.

Ways to Eat More Asparagus

    If you're still struggling to add more asparagus to your meals, try these simple ideas:

    -- Add cut, cooked asparagus spears to your pizza as a fresh topper.

    -- Toss a few cut spears into casseroles, quiches, souffles, and soups.

    -- Chop raw, tender asparagus spears to toss into a salad.

    -- Dunk raw asparagus spears in a light dip.

Asparagus-Zucchini Frittata

    Get your day started with a warm asparagus-and-egg casserole, complete with loads of other heart-smart veggies including zucchini and peppers.

Asparagus-Basil Soup

    As a side dish or appetizer, this 119-calorie warm soup comforts while providing you with a filling take on classic asparagus dishes.

Asparagus and Shrimp Salad

    Here's a salad that will get you out of a rut -- shrimp, asparagus, oranges, and green onions mix in a lunch that shakes up expectations.

Sesame Asparagus

    Why hide the veggie you love? This dish keeps asparagus front-and-center, dolled up with a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds.

Asparagus and Tofu Quiches

    Complement the savory taste of asparagus with creamy soy cheese and tofu. Mushrooms add an air of sophistication to the dish.

Linguini with Asparagus and Vegetables

    Fresh and light, this pasta toss features white wine, Roma tomatoes, basil, and, of course, asparagus in a dinner with less than 300 calories.

Popular Slideshows
Eat your way to better health. Our list of superfo...

America's top heart hospital, the Cleveland Clinic...

No deprivation here. These hearty meals are lower ...

Top Brands

Related Links
Eat your way to better health. Our list of superfo...

America's top heart hospital, the Cleveland Clinic...

No deprivation here. These hearty meals are lower ...

A three-step makeover lets this living room accomo...

Share Your Thoughts