What Is White Asparagus and How Do You Cook It?

Discover how to cook white asparagus. And find out how this popular vegetable is grown to maintain its white color.

If you’re familiar with green asparagus, you know that it is often one of the first perennial vegetables to peek through the soil in the spring with its green stalks and purple-tinged tips. But what do you know about white asparagus? You may have stumbled across it in a jar or in the canned vegetable aisle, but you likely won’t find a huge supply of fresh white asparagus in most U.S. grocery stores because it’s not widely grown domestically. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a popular vegetable. Discover what makes white asparagus so special that people all over the world are willing to pay more for it than green asparagus. And read on to find out the best ways to cook this universally popular vegetable. 

White asparagus on table
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What Is Special About White Asparagus?

White asparagus looks like a colorless version of green asparagus. Why? Because both green and white asparagus plants are actually the same variety of plant–yes, both plants come from the same seeds. The difference is in the way that they’re grown and harvested. Green asparagus plants grow out of the soil and with the help of sunlight, develop chlorophyll which gives them their green color. White asparagus plants are mostly grown under mounds of soil or coverings that shield them from the sun so that chlorophyll does not develop and the asparagus remains colorless. 

What Does White Asparagus Taste Like?

 Compared to green asparagus, the flavor of white asparagus is much more delicate and mild due to the way it's grown. It’s the vegetable’s unique sweetness and tenderness that drives its worldwide popularity. In fact, Germans refer to the highly sought-after vegetable as “white gold” and from April until June, they celebrate white asparagus season with festivals, farm tours, and pop-up roadside asparagus stands. 

Why Is White Asparagus So Expensive?

The price of fresh white asparagus is usually higher than the price of green asparagus simply because more labor is required to produce and harvest white asparagus. In addition to the labor needed to mound up soil around the asparagus plants, each individual asparagus spear has to be extracted from the soil by hand using a special knife so that the delicate vegetable’s stalk doesn’t get damaged. There’s also the issue of supply and demand—white asparagus season only lasts for 8 weeks, therefore the high demand for fresh white asparagus during a short growing season is also a major factor in its market price.

Where to Buy White Asparagus

While there are some growers that distribute fresh white asparagus to the United States during the mid-spring and early summer months, the majority of fresh white asparagus is grown and distributed throughout Europe from April to June. White asparagus packaged in cans or jars is readily available from most grocery stores or online retailers. 

How to Cook White Asparagus

When making fresh asparagus recipes, it is important to select spears that are the same size so they will cook evenly. You’ll also need to peel white asparagus before you cook it because it is more fibrous than green asparagus and it toughens faster in storage. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the fibrous skin from just below the flower heads. Choose from any of our test kitchen’s easy methods (outlined below) to cook white asparagus to perfection. 

How to Cook White Asparagus in Oven

Cooking asparagus in the oven is simple and delicious. Sprinkling it with parmesan cheese makes it an irresistible roasted vegetable dish. Here’s how to cook white asparagus in the oven so it gets tender.

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus. If desired, scrape off scales.
  • Place asparagus in a baking pan.
  • Sprinkle asparagus with pepper.
  • Drizzle asparagus with one tablespoon oil. Toss asparagus lightly to coat.
  • Roast, uncovered, in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender, lightly tossing twice during roasting. 
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (optional).

How to Cook White Asparagus on the Stove

When you cook asparagus on the stove, it's best to salt the water lightly, which is how to season asparagus as it cooks.

  • Cook, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add some potatoes, evaporated milk, and seasoning and you’re on your way to making a delicious white asparagus soup.

How to Cook White Asparagus in the Microwave

This is the easiest—and quickest—method for preparing asparagus.

  • Place in a baking dish or casserole with 2 tablespoons water.
  • Microwave, covered, 2 to 4 minutes or until tender.

How to Steam White Asparagus

The best way to cook asparagus without adding fat is by steaming it.

  • Place a steamer basket in a saucepan. 
  • Add water to just below the bottom of the basket. 
  • Bring water to boiling. 
  • Add prepped asparagus spears to steamer basket. 
  • Cover and reduce heat.
  • Steam for 3 to 5 minutes.

How to Cook White Asparagus on the Grill

Here’s how to give your asparagus a slightly smoky flavor.

  • Snap off and discard tough, woody bases from stems.
  • Grill 7 to 10 minutes, covered, over medium heat
  • Grill perpendicular to grates so asparagus does not fall through, place on a piece of heavy foil, or use a grill basket.
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