Steamed Asparagus

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Steamed Asparagus is delicious with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of kosher salt, but it’s also a useful culinary technique to master. Steaming asparagus, or any vegetable, is a pro-level tip to prep veggies for quick cooking later.

Steamed asparagus in a steamer basket.


 

Asparagus is a green vegetable with long, slim, spear-like shape and is a member of the lily family. In many professional kitchens, steaming asparagus is a preparation technique. Blanching, par-cooking, and steaming asparagus, and many other veggies, means they can be finished quickly later on a grill or in a skillet.

Whether you want to sauté, stir-fry, or grill asparagus, steaming now means you’ll be able to finish it later with minimal effort. This comes in handy for dinner parties, holidays, and even veggie platters.

Steamed Asparagus is delicious as-is, too, with a drizzle of Hollandaise sauce, shredded Parmesan cheese and fresh lemon, or chilled with a dollop of hummus. Or, add it to meal prep containers, salads, and grain bowls.

Equipment and ingredient notes

  • Steamer basket: This OXO stainless steel steamer basket is simple, but it gets the job done, and it’s been my go-to for years. See more options in The Best Steamer Baskets.
  • Asparagus: Look for firm, thin stalks with tightly closed tips. While available all year round, spring is the best time to buy fresh asparagus. Trim stalks into pieces about the same size and fit in the steamer basket, or chop into smaller pieces so they cook evenly.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a medium or large saucepan on the stove top, add 1 inch of water to the bottom of the pan. Add steamer basket (with feet extended) and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Place asparagus in steamer basket.
Raw asparagus in a steamer basket.
  1. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and steam for 4 to 6 minutes (or until desired doneness is reached).
Steamed asparagus in a steamer basket.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: One bunch (about 1 pound) of fresh asparagus makes 4 servings (½ to 1 cup steamed asparagus each).
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Arrange steamed asparagus spears in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment or waxed paper and put it in the freezer. Once the asparagus is frozen, transfer it to a zipper-top bag and freeze up to 9 months. Remove and reheat any portion size, or thaw the whole bag overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Peeling: If the skin seems thick and tough, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the spears to within about 2 inches of the tip then remove woody ends.
  • Expired: Asparagus tips are the most tender part of the vegetable and always the first to go bad. If the tips start to change to a very dark green color and fall apart easily between your fingers, it’s time to toss.
  • Microwave method: To steam asparagus in the microwave, add trimmed asparagus spears to a long microwave-safe bowl or dish. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water and cover loosely with a lid or plate, or cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap and poke several holes for ventilation. Microwave until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes, adding additional 1-minute intervals until desired tenderness is reached.
  • Skillet method: To steam asparagus in a skillet, arrange asparagus stalks in a single layer in a large skillet. Add just enough water or broth to cover bottom of pan (about 1/4-inch). Cover with lid and steam over medium heat until water is mostly released, about 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover skillet, stir, and continue cooking until asparagus is bright green and tender, and the water has evaporated, about 2 minutes more. (Use a colander to drain if the asparagus is tender, but do not remove all water from the pan.) Substitute water with chicken broth or vegetable broth for extra flavor.
  • Simple ingredients: Serve steamed asparagus tossed with olive oil, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste for a simple fresh side dish. A little butter, a pinch of garlic powder, and grated parmesan cheese works well, too.
  • Sauce it up: Steamed asparagus is delicious with a drizzle of hollandaise sauce or teriyaki sauce.
  • Leftovers: Use leftover steamed asparagus in an omelet or scrambled eggs, in pasta (such as Pasta with Peas and Prosciutto, below), or on a vegetable platter.
A platter of steamed asparagus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I steam vegetables without a steamer basket?

If you don’t have a steamer basket, use a metal colander set in a large pot with a lid. Or, see my microwave and skillet steaming methods above in Recipe Tips and Variations.

Can I steam frozen asparagus?

To steam frozen asparagus, just add the spears or pieces from the freezer to your steamer basket. Cover and steam until heated through.

Is steaming the healthiest way to cook asparagus?

Some research suggests that steaming asparagus and other vegetables is one of the best ways to retain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients among vegetable cooking methods. Source: National Library of Medicine.

More asparagus recipes

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Asparagus in a steamer basket.

Steamed Asparagus

Steamed Asparagus is delicious with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt, but it's also a useful culinary technique to master. Steaming asparagus, or any vegetable, is a pro-level tip to prep veggies for quick cooking later.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Cooling Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings (½ cup each)
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 23
No ratings yet

Ingredients 

  • 1 bunch asparagus spears trimmed and cut to fit in steamer basket (about 1 pound)

Instructions 

  • In a medium or large saucepan, add 1 inch of water. Add steamer basket (with feet extended) and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add asparagus to steamer basket.
  • Reduce heat to medium, cover, and steam for 4 to 6 minutes (or until desired doneness is reached).

Notes

  1. Asparagus: Look for firm, thin stalks with tightly closed tips. While available all year round, spring is the best time to buy fresh asparagus. Trim stalks into pieces about the same size and fit in the steamer basket, or chop into smaller pieces so they cook evenly.
  2. Yield: One bunch (about 1 pound) is enough for 4 side-dish servings, about ½ to 1 cup each.
  3. Storage: Store leftovers covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5 cupCalories: 23kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 2gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.04gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 2mgPotassium: 227mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 851IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 27mgIron: 2mg
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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