We’re huge fans of asparagus here at Foolproof Living. From rich, buttery Pan Sautéed Asparagus to tender-crisp Air Fried Asparagus, asparagus recipes are a must in my recipe book. If you prefer to cook veggies in the oven, you could even whip up my healthy yet flavorful Baked Asparagus with just five simple ingredients! These simple veggie sides are just what you need to complete your menu during asparagus season.
Whether you’re making steamed asparagus in a steamer or steaming asparagus in a pan doesn’t matter. You only need one simple ingredient to prepare this nutritious recipe: asparagus! Plus, of course, your favorite seasonings such as butter, a squeeze of lemon juice, and salt & pepper (we’ll cover the seasoning options in detail below.)
You may choose any fresh asparagus for this recipe, including green, purple, and white asparagus.
Keep in mind, too, that the steam time for asparagus directly correlates with the thickness of your stalks—not necessarily the type of asparagus. Therefore, your asparagus steam time may vary depending on the thickness of your spears.
After selecting your asparagus, complete the following steps:
- Rinse it under cool water.
- Dry it with a kitchen towel.
- Remove the woody ends (1-2 inches from the bottom). You can either snap off these ends with your fingers or line up your asparagus stalks on a cutting board and slice them off as a group. Discard the trims or save them for making veggie stock later.
Once prepped, you can cook the vegetable immediately or save it for future use. For more handy tips on storage instructions, check out my simple guide on storing asparagus.
How to Steam Asparagus?
This steamed asparagus recipe comes together with minimal effort and in no time, no matter which method you choose. Select any of these four foolproof cooking styles, and you’ll never have to scramble for side dish ideas again.
With a Steamer Basket
Want to steam fresh asparagus perfectly every time? Learn how to steam asparagus with a steamer basket, and your veggies will come out exquisitely tender without hassle.
- Fill the pot: Select a large pot—one that’s large enough to fit your steamer basket—with a tight-fitting lid. Fill the bottom of the pan with 2-3 inches of water. The water level should reach below the bottom of the steam basket.
- Prepare the steamer basket: Place a collapsible steamer basket (affiliate link) inside the pot. Add the lid to the pot and bring the water to a boil.
- Steam the asparagus: Place the asparagus spears—cut or whole—inside the basket, put the lid back on the pot, and cook for 4-5 minutes for al dente.
- Serve: Carefully remove the asparagus stalks from the steamer basket. Top with your desired seasonings, then serve.
On the Stove
Steaming asparagus on the stove is one of the most hassle-free methods of perfectly cooking your veggies. Using this method, you can still get similar results to steaming asparagus in a steamer without having to own yet another kitchen gadget.
- Prepare the skillet: Fill a large skillet with just enough water to cover its bottom. You shouldn’t have to use more than a cup of water.
- Steam asparagus in the pan: Add the asparagus to the skillet, put the lid on, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Pan-steam the asparagus for 5-6 minutes or until tender.
- Serve: Transfer the pan-steamed asparagus to a serving plate.
In the Microwave
Curious about how to steam asparagus without a steamer? Follow this steamed asparagus recipe that I learned from the folks over at The Kitchn! The steps below will have you steaming asparagus in the microwave in no time.
- Wet the paper towels: Wet four sheets of paper towels with ¼ cup water. Gently squeeze each sheet to remove excess water. Your paper towels should be damp—not soaking wet—by the end of this step.
- Assemble: Stack all four paper towel sheets on top of one another, then arrange the asparagus stalks in a single layer. This step is optional but if you want season the vegetables with salt with a little bit of salt (about ¼ teaspoon.)
- Wrap: Roll the paper towels with the asparagus inside into a semi-tight bundle. When finished wrapping, your bundle should have several layers of asparagus and paper towels inside.
- Cook asparagus in the microwave: Place the asparagus in the microwave with the paper towel wrap. Cook on high for 3 minutes.
- Check for doneness: Remove the microwave-steamed asparagus bundle from the microwave, being careful of its heat. Gently unroll the bundle and pierce one of the spears with a paring knife to check for doneness. If it needs more time, re-roll the bundle and steam the asparagus in the microwave in 1-minute increments until it reaches your desired doneness.
In a Rice Cooker
If you love easy kitchen shortcuts, you’ll adore this foolproof method for fresh steamed asparagus. Put your rice cooker to work and get tender, nutritious spears every time.
- Prepare the rice cooker: Fill the inner pot of your rice cooker (I own an Aroma Rice Cooker – affiliate link) with 1½ cups of water. Place the steamer tray on top.
- Arrange the asparagus: Place asparagus stalks on top of the steamer tray.
- Steam the spears: Close the lid, then turn on your rice cooker. Select the steam setting and set your timer for 10 minutes. Because the countdown timer doesn’t start until the water inside boils, even though the actual cook time is only 10 minutes, it takes about 20-25 minutes to steam asparagus in a rice cooker.
- Remove the steamer basket: After cooking, open the lid and carefully remove the steaming basket using a tong or oven mitts.
- Serve: Transfer the steamed fresh asparagus to a serving platter, season as desired, and serve.
How Long Does it Take to Steam Asparagus?
Wondering how much time it takes to steam asparagus? The quick answer is that this simple recipe usually takes 3-6 minutes to prepare. However, remember that these times are for one bunch of medium-thick spears (about ½-inch diameter).
Below is a quick guide for steaming time for asparagus to an al dente tenderness. If your stalks are different thicknesses, use the following tips:
- If you select thinner stalks, reduce the cooking time by 1-2 minutes.
- If you choose thicker stalks, add 1-2 minutes of cooking time to the recipe.
|Steaming Method||Asparagus Steam Time|
|Using a steamer basket||4-5 minutes|
|On The Stove in a Pan||5-6 minutes|
|In the microwave (high heat setting)||3 minutes|
|In a rice cooker (using the steamer insert)||20-25 minutes|
How to Check for Asparagus Doneness
There are two easy ways to check whether your asparagus is ready to eat:
- Knife method: To check the doneness of your asparagus, insert a paring knife into a spear. If the blade enters without extra effort, your asparagus doesn’t need more time. You may also cook your asparagus to whatever tenderness level you prefer.
- Visual cues: You can also assess whether your asparagus needs more or less time by its color. Perfectly steamed asparagus should have beautiful, fresh green hues. If your spears come out in more of a green-olive color, they’re likely overcooked.
How to Store, Freeze, and Thaw?
Steaming fresh asparagus is the perfect dish for easy meal prep. Store it for simple lunch salads throughout the week, or freeze it for meals months in advance—the choice is yours!
- Storage: Before storing, let your steamed asparagus cool completely. Once room temperature, place it in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Freezing: I recommend flash-freezing asparagus to ensure it maintains its texture. First, let your steamed spears cool completely. Then, lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking tray in the freezer until the asparagus hardens. Once frozen, transfer the stalks to an airtight container, such as a Ziploc bag, and remove as much air as possible. You may then store your asparagus in the freezer for up to a month.
- Thawing: To thaw your frozen asparagus, take it out of the freezer one to two hours before serving.
It doesn’t matter whether you prefer preparing your asparagus in a steamer or making asparagus steamed in the microwave. Here are a few pro tips to help you get tasty and tender asparagus every time.
- Woody ends: Don’t skip trimming off the asparagus spears’ bottom 1-2 inches. These tough ends have a rigid, woody texture and don’t taste good.
- Cut or not: For any of my four cooking methods, you may steam your asparagus spears whole or cut them into smaller, 2-inch pieces.
- Using rice cooker and microwave: Please keep in mind that every rice cooker and microwave is different, so I’d encourage you to look at their user manuals before steaming asparagus. Take my recipe instructions as a place to start and adjust them as necessary, especially when it comes to steaming time.
- Ice water bath: If I am serving y steamed asparagus right away, there is no need to set up an ice water bath. However, if you are planning to serve it later, it is a good idea to fill a bowl with water and ice and place the freshly steamed asparagus stalks in there to stop the cooking. This way it will continue to maintain its bright green color and still be fork-tender when you are ready to serve.
There’s no secret to how to steam fresh asparagus. This handy guide will answer all your questions, from how long to steam asparagus to the difference between cooking methods.
My favorite way to cook asparagus is to steam it instead of boiling it. When you boil asparagus, the vegetables lose some of their nutrients in the water. By contrast, steamed asparagus retains its nutritional value while achieving a warm, tender texture.
You can tell asparagus is done using one of two ways. One method is to insert a paring knife into an asparagus spear and see if the spear is tender enough to allow easy insertion. You can also use visual cues to tell. Appropriately steamed asparagus should have a bright green color, while overcooked asparagus is a lighter green with olive undertones.
If you don’t have a steamer, you can also use the other three other methods I detail above: on the stove, in the microwave, or in a rice cooker.
Unlike steaming, blanching is a form of par-cooking in which you cook asparagus directly in boiling water for 5-6 minutes before immediately transferring it to an ice bath. By contrast, steaming entails cooking asparagus in the steam of boiling water for 5-6 minutes.
Other Asparagus Recipes You Might Like
One bite of this perfectly steamed asparagus, and you’ll be longing for asparagus recipes every night of the week. Satisfy all your garden-fresh cravings with these easy side dishes.
- Sautéed Asparagus and Mushrooms
- Asparagus Tart
- Cold Asparagus Salad
- Sesame Chicken and Noodles with Asparagus
Steamed Asparagus Recipe
- 1 bunch of asparagus rinsed
- Trim the ends: Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears by holding the ends and bending them until they break naturally. Or, if you want to do it faster, you can line them on a cutting board and trim an inch (or two) off the bottom using a knife.
Using a Steamer Basket:
- Prepare the pot: Fill the bottom of a large pot (one that is large enough to accommodate your steamer basket) with a tight-fitting lid with two to three inches of water. The water level should be below the bottom of the steamer basket.
- Assemble the steamer basket: Place a collapsible steamer basket inside. Put the lid on and bring the water to a boil.
- Add the asparagus spears: Place the asparagus stalks inside, put the lid back on, and cook for 4-5 minutes for al dente.
- Season and serve: Carefully remove steamed asparagus stalks from the steamer basket and season it with your favorite seasonings.
In a Pan on the Stove Top:
- Prepare the skillet: Fill a large (10 or 12-inch) skillet with water just enough to cover the bottom of it. No more than 1/2 cup.
- Cook: Add the asparagus, put the lid on, and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Let it steam for 5-6 minutes or until tender. I use kitchen tongs to turn them a few times to ensure that they are cooking evenly.
- Serve: Transfer them onto a plate and season as you wish.
In the Microwave:
- Prepare the paper towels: Wet 4 sheets of paper towels using ¼ cup water. Gently squeeze each sheet of paper towel to remove excess water. They should be dampened instead of soaking wet.
- Assemble: Stack all four sheets on top of each other and spread the asparagus spears on top in a single layer. Season with salt.
- Wrap: Roll the paper towels into a bundle with asparagus spears, forming layers of asparagus and paper towels throughout. It should be a semi-tight bundle more so than a loose one.
- Microwave: Place the bundle into the microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes.
- Check for doneness: Remove the asparagus bundle from the microwave. Being very careful (it is hot!!), unroll the bundle and pierce one of the spears with a pairing knife to check for doneness. If it needs more time, roll it again and microwave for 1-minute increments until it is cooked to your liking.
In a Rice Cooker:
- Prepare the rice cooker: Fill the inner pot of your rice cooker with 1 ½ cups of water. Place the provided steamer tray on top.
- Add the asparagus: Place the asparagus on top. If the full stalks don't fit, you can cut them into smaller pieces.
- Steam: Close the lid. Turn on the rice cooker. Select the steam setting and set the timer to 20 minutes. Please remember that the countdown timer does not start until the water inside the cooker comes to a boil.
- Remove from the rice cooker: When the cooking time is completed (my rice cooker beeps), open the lid and carefully remove the steamer basket using a tong or kitchen mittens.
- Serve: Transfer the steamed asparagus to a serving platter. Season as desired before serving.
- Steaming Time: The time suggested for steaming using every one of these methods is for medium-sized asparagus (about ½-inch diameter) to an al dente tenderness. If your stalks are different thicknesses, use the following tips:
- If you select thinner stalks, reduce the cooking time by 1-2 minutes.
- If you choose thicker stalks, add 1-2 minutes of cooking time to the recipe.
- Seasoning ideas:
Below are a few seasoning ideas that you can use to season your steamed asparagus after it is cooked:
- Melted butter and salt and pepper: Drizzle steamed asparagus with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper: Mix together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 small minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle it over the steamed asparagus.
- Olive oil, parmesan cheese, and black pepper: Drizzle asparagus with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle it with 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Finish it off with freshly cracked pepper. Give it a gentle toss and serve.
- The method for steaming asparagus is adapted from The Kitchn.