Fresh asparagus should be in everyone’s weekly veggie rotation. With dozens of ways to enjoy it and a handful of ways to prepare it, it is hard to grow tired of this versatile veggie. Here is everything you need to know about how to cook asparagus, including how to prepare it, how to enjoy it and why it should be on your grocery list this week.

Quick Asparagus Facts

Asparagus is a former member of the Liliaceae family, which includes onion and garlic, but is now a part of the Asparagaceae plant family that includes almost 3000 individual species.

Varieties of Asparagus

 

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While the most common type of asparagus is the green variety, you may have also seen the white variety at your local farmer’s market, which is more delicate in taste, as well as the purple variety, which is sweeter in flavor. While each variety is nutritious, each provides different ratios of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. For example, purple asparagus is a good source of anthocyanin phytonutrients, while white asparagus lacks chlorophyll since it is grown in the absence of sunlight.

How to Select and Store

Green Asparagus at the Market

Asparagus typically goes on sale in the spring when it is in season. When selecting fresh asparagus, you want to look for stalks that are rounded, firm and thin with closed, deeply colored tips. The cut ends should not be too woody. It is important to use this delicate veggie within a day of two of purchasing to ensure the best flavor, texture and nutrition.

Reasons to Love Asparagus:

Green Asparagus with Carrots and Broccoli

1. Low in calories and high in nutrients

Asparagus is a non-starchy vegetable that is low in calories but rich in water (over 90%), fiber, vitamins and minerals. Just one cup serving of asparagus provides about 27 calories along with essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. It’s also virtually devoid of fat, sodium and cholesterol.

2. Fiber-rich

Fiber is a nutrient that most Americans fall short on, and asparagus is a good source of the insoluble variety. Insoluble fiber is important for digestive health and supporting regularity. Fiber also helps keep you feeling full without the excess calories, so it may help aid weight management.

3. Antioxidant Powerhouse

Asparagus is chockfull of antioxidants, including flavonoids and glutathione, which may help slow down the aging process and protect against chronic diseases.

4. Prebiotics

Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers that help feed the good bacteria in our gut. They are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially asparagus, which contains the type called inulin. Inulin fiber passes through the intestines intact and continues into the colon to selectively feed the good bacteria in your gut, particularly Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These bacteria help stimulate the immune system and fend off unwanted pathogens.

5. Help promote a healthy pregnancy

While doctors recommend that pregnant and child-bearing-aged women supplement with folate, asparagus is a good source of this nutrient. Folate is important for promoting a healthy pregnancy and reducing the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

5 Different Ways to Cook Asparagus

There are many ways to cook asparagus, but when it comes to retaining the most nutrition, a shorter cooking time is generally better (while also not undercooking it). Here are five ways to prepare asparagus and get the most out of this nutrient-dense springtime veggie.

1. Steamed Asparagus

 

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  • Serves: 4
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus

Directions:

  1. Wash asparagus and chop off woody ends.
  2. Set aside another large bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes.
  3. Place asparagus in a steamer basket and cover. Cook on high heat for 2-4 minutes or until bright green and tender.
  4. Use tongs to transfer asparagus to the bowl of ice water and dunk a few times. Dry asparagus, transfer to a serving plate and season with salt to taste.

2. Baked Asparagus

 

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  • Serves: 4
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Wash asparagus and chop off woody ends.
  3. Dry asparagus and place in a large bowl with avocado oil and salt to taste.
  4. Spread asparagus in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake asparagus until golden brown and tender (about 15-20 minutes), rolling the asparagus a few times during cooking. Check after 10 minutes if asparagus is thin.

3. Grilled Asparagus

grilled asparagus

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill on medium-high.
  2. Wash asparagus and chop off woody ends.
  3. Dry asparagus and place in a large bowl with avocado oil and salt to taste.
  4. Place asparagus spears on the grill. Close grill and cook for 2-3 minutes. Open grill, turn asparagus with tongs and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Repeat as needed or until asparagus is tender and charred in spots.

4. Blanched Asparagus

 

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  • Serves: 4
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash asparagus and chop off woody ends.
  2. Dry asparagus and place in a large bowl with avocado oil and salt to taste.
  3. Fill a large pot halfway with water and set aside a large bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes.
  4. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Use tongs to transfer asparagus to the bowl of ice water and dunk a few times. Dry asparagus, transfer to a serving plate and season with salt to taste.

5. Sautéed Asparagus

 

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  • Serves: 4
  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash asparagus, chop off woody ends and cut into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Sauté asparagus pieces over high heat in a large sauté pan with avocado oil. Cook until lightly browned and tender, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt to taste before serving.

How to Enjoy It

There are many ways to enjoy this versatile veggie all year round. Add asparagus to your meals for that mild earthy flavor, a pop of color and a nutritious burst of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

1. Stir-Fry

 

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Sauté asparagus with other in-season veggies and a lean protein for a quick balanced, low-carb meal.

2. Frittata

 

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Add asparagus to your frittata with other seasonal veggies for a pop of green and boost of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

3. Pasta

 

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Toss freshly cooked asparagus with pasta, olive oil and simple fragrant spices like thyme and rosemary.

4. Pizza

 

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Asparagus adds filling fiber and minimal calories to your pizza so that you may feel satisfied after two slices instead of three.

5. Salad

Green Asparagus Salad

Add chopped asparagus to a salad for added crunch and texture.

6. Wrapped in Bacon

 

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Serve this effortlessly elegant appetizer at your next party. It’s easy to make and a crowd pleaser.

7. Avocado Toast

 

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Upgrade your standard avo toast with crunchy cooked asparagus and dash of sea salt.

Conclusion

As you can see, asparagus can be nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare. You really can have it all with this veggie! So if you’re deciding how to cook your asparagus, know that there is a plethora of convenient and satisfying options. But if you have a favorite or preferred method (especially one we haven’t mentioned), please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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