Blanched asparagus looks so elegant, but there’s nothing fancy about this easy cooking technique, which makes your favorite spring vegetable even more delicious. Here’s How to Blanch Asparagus perfectly to enjoy in salads, pasta, or all by itself.
In need of blanched asparagus recipe inspiration? Make the best Hollandaise Sauce ever, and add some spears to Alice Springs Chicken. Or try the tasty Asparagus Salad, loaded with veggies and not a leaf of lettuce in sight. For a fast salad, dress whole blanched spears in Balsamic Vinaigrette and a handful of crumbled blue cheese.
Can you blanch asparagus ahead of time, for a large dinner party? Yes, you can–it’s easy! Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Why blanch asparagus?
For starters, blanching makes certain vegetables more tender, flavorful, and enjoyable to eat. Add blanched asparagus to a veggie tray and chances are you’ll wish you made more. Blanching leaves the asparagus bright green and slightly crisp, yet soft enough to bite through when rolled into a sushi roll or sandwich wrap.
Blanching asparagus is also a fantastic way to pre-cook it beforehand for another cooking method later. Grilling asparagus takes half the time and yields better results when you blanch it first.
Asparagus—thick or thin spears?
No matter what size of the asparagus, fresher is always better. Pencil thin spears can be tough and woody if not super fresh; the same goes for the giant ones.
It’s better to consider a few other factors when buying asparagus: freshness, appearance, and what recipe you’re planning to make with the asparagus.
How to select asparagus:
Storage. How is the asparagus stored at the store? Unless you’re buying the freshest of fresh asparagus right from the farm, asparagus should be stored upright in the produce section, in ice or in a little water, to keep the vegetable hydrated.
Appearance. Look for straight, sturdy spears that are firm, not wrinkled. Asparagus should be bright green with a gentle purple hue at the tip. Check the bottom of the bunch to see if the stalks are wrinkled, completely dried out, or too woody—avoid them if they are.
Finally, inspect the tops of the asparagus. When the tips of the spears start to open, darken or appear slimy, skip it and look somewhere else.
How to store fresh asparagus at home:
At home, trim off the ends with a sharp knife and place the bunch upright in an inch or so of cold water inside the refrigerator until you need it. A square-bottomed mug or ramekin works great for this.
How to trim asparagus:
Contrary to popular belief, if you snap off the asparagus where it naturally breaks, you might be losing precious inches of this sought-after vegetable.
Instead, cut off the bottom inch or two of the whole stalk with a chef’s knife. If your asparagus came rubber banded together, keep the band on to help you make the cut.
Peeling asparagus: yes or no?
Although it depends on your recipe, sometimes peeling the bottom few inches of very large asparagus spears can help with even cooking.
In general, you shouldn’t have to peel asparagus at all for every day eating, but some classical culinary preparations do call for it.
Small, pencil-thin spears of asparagus should not need peeling.
How to blanch asparagus:
- Once you’ve trimmed the asparagus, you’re ready to go. Bring a stockpot or Dutch oven filled with an inch or two of salted water to a boil. Salted water seasons the vegetable beautifully, so don’t skimp!
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. If you’ve run out of ice, or someone forgot to fill the trays last night, don’t fret. Just spread out a clean kitchen towel on the counter, instead.
- Once the water boils, add the asparagus and cover. Cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the size of your asparagus. (Cut up pieces of asparagus and very thin asparagus cook even quicker.)
- Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the asparagus and immediately plunge the spears into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
- Allow to cool for one minute, then remove from ice bath and pat spears dry with a towel.
Blanching asparagus without ice: remove asparagus from boiling water and spread out on the dry kitchen towel to cool.
How to blanch asparagus in the microwave:
Microwaving asparagus is easy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.
- Dampen a few sheets of paper towel. Spread them out and lay the asparagus on top of them.
- Roll up the asparagus in the dampened towels then lay the bundle, seam side down, in the microwave.
- Microwave on high until the asparagus is just crisp tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Remove from the microwave using tongs and carefully unroll. Plunge the asparagus in ice bath to cool, or spread out on a clean kitchen towel.
How to freeze blanched asparagus:
If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy asparagus in bulk, you can freeze it to enjoy through the year. Blanching asparagus for freezing works the same way, except you may need more water and ice.
Once the asparagus has been blanched, chilled, and dried, place the spears or pieces in freezer safe bags or other containers. Don’t forget to label and date, so you know what you’ve got.
If you want to keep the asparagus from sticking together while freezing, flash freeze them beforehand. To flash freeze asparagus, spread the blanched asparagus in a single layer on baking sheets. Freeze for 1 to 2 hours, then transfer to freezer bags.
More ways to eat up blanched asparagus:
Crudité. Cold veggie platters just got more edible with tender spears of asparagus and your favorite dip.
Eggs. Eggs and asparagus go together, like birds of a feather. Poach an egg to serve over a pile of tender asparagus, a little salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Or add to a frittata or quiche.
Sir-fry. Vegetable Fried Rice for a last minute dinner with absolutely zero complaints.
How to Blanch Asparagus
For the salad:
- 2 pounds asparagus trimmed
- 1 tablespoon salt optional
To blanch the asparagus:
- Fill a large bowl with water and ice. In a large saucepan or stockpot, bring 1 inch water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil. Add asparagus, cover, and boil until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Immediately remove from boiling water and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking. When completely cool, drain well and pat dry.