Blanch asparagus in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, then quickly transfer it to an ice bath. This is how to blanch asparagus properly so that it is crisp-tender and perfectly green. And for a fun and beautiful way to serve it, top your blanched asparagus with a simple Mediterranean-style salsa for an elevated vegetarian side.
Filled with nutrition including fiber, folate, and vitamins C and K, asparagus is a delicious and versatile vegetable that can make a beautiful statement no matter how you prepare it!
I love it quickly sauteed and finished with lemon and feta cheese or tossed in a veggie-forward pasta primavera. And when I’m in the mood for a beautifully composed salad, I often roast my asparagus whole to serve as a bed for a delicious mixture of fresh tomatoes and basil (if you haven’t tried my roasted asparagus salad yet, you need to put it on your list!) I also love it as a one pan Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Dinner situation.
But simple blanched asparagus, finished with nothing more than a drizzle of good olive oil and a good pinch of kosher salt is just as divine. And that’s what we’re doing today in this easy asparagus recipe. We’ll walk through how to blanch asparagus properly so that it is crisp-tender and perfectly green. Simple and delicious!
And I’ll give you one more way to dress up beautiful long asparagus spears with a delicious Mediterranean-style tomato salsa. It's a fun dish to make ahead because you can serve it chilled or at room temperature. And you'll love the fresh and bright flavors!
In this post
What to look for when buying asparagus?
While asparagus can be found year-round, the best time to buy it is between February and June (when it's in season). Here's what you should look for when buying asparagus:
- Long stems should be bright green in color, able to stand straight, and should feel nice and firm. (Both thick and thin asparagus spears are good, as long as the tough ends are trimmed off.)
- The flowery-looking tips should be tightly closed.
- Asparagus skin should be smooth.
- When you squeeze a fresh asparagus bunch, it should give you a bit of a squeaky sound.
How to store asparagus
I like to use fresh asparagus within a day or so of buying it for best flavor and texture. But if you need to keep asparagus fresh for a few days, there is a way to store it!
To store asparagus, place the stalks upright (stem side down) in a Mason jar with a bit of water and cover it loosely with a plastic bag before refrigerating (similar to what I do when storing my fresh greens and herbs). Asparagus will stay nice and fresh for about 4 days if stored like this.
How to cut asparagus spears
Before you blanch your asparagus, it’s important to cut it properly. Both thick and thin asparagus spears have tougher ends, but thicker stalks tend to have woodier, harder bottoms. No matter the thickness, these tough ends become even tougher when cooked, and should be trimmed off. Luckily, trimming asparagus spears is an easy task. Two ways to cut asparagus spears:
You can just eyeball it and, using a sharp knife, trim off the asparagus ends that look thicker are pale green or white. Or, bend one spear to use as a guide. The tough end will naturally snap right off. Use that stalk as a guide to cut the ends off the other asparagus stalks with a sharp knife.
How to blanch asparagus
If you’ve wondered how long to blanch asparagus, I’ve got you covered! Blanching asparagus takes just a few minutes and minimal prep! Here’s how to blanch asparagus:
- Cook the asparagus in boiling water. Boil about 8 cups of water in a large pot on the stove and season with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. After washing and trimming 1 ½ pounds of asparagus, drop it into the pot of boiling water and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or so.
- Shock the boiled asparagus in an ice bath. Have a bowl of ice water ready next to the cooking pot. As soon as the asparagus is cooked, quickly transfer it to the bowl of ice water (I use my tongs to do this, but a slotted spoon would work as well) and leave it for 1 minute. The ice bath method stops the vegetables from cooking more, and keeps the beautiful, vibrant green color. Drain the blanched asparagus.
What goes with asparagus?
Simple blanched asparagus, finished with olive oil, kosher salt, and maybe a squeeze of lemon juice is a great side dish to go with nearly anything you like! Try it next to a baked fish like lemon garlic salmon or roasted mackerel. Or, on a hot day, leave your oven off and poach salmon instead. It’s also delicious next to meat or poultry, like chicken saltimbocca, garlic dijon chicken and grilled lamb chops. For a simple vegetarian dinner, serve with a scrumptious bowl of cacio e pepe.
A little Mediterranean salsa to top your blanched asparagus
For something a little more special, try assembling your asparagus on a platter and top it with my simple Mediterranean-style salsa, made with tomatoes, shallots, and herbs. This fun dish can be served at room temperature or even cold like a composed asparagus salad, so you can prepare it ahead and keep it in the fridge, if you like.
Leftovers and storage
Blanched asparagus will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in an airtight container. The salsa will keep for around 2 days. To prevent the asparagus from getting soggy, store it separately from the tomato salsa.
More asparagus recipes to try
How to Blanch Asparagus
- 1 ½ pounds Asparagus, tough ends trimmed (preferably baby asparagus if available)
- Zest of 1 lemon
Optional Salsa Topping
- 1 Homemade Mediterranean-Style Salsa, see this recipe
- In a cooking pot or large saucepan, bring 8 cups of water, seasoned with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, to a boil. Have a large bowl of ice water ready next to it (this is an ice bath for the blanched asparagus).
- When water comes to a rolling boil, add the prepared asparagus. Boil until tender, 3 to 4 minutes (depending on thickness). Remove with tongs, or drain in a colander, and immediately transfer to the bowl of ice water for 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Drain; set aside to cool down a bit (or if you prefer to serve it as a salad, chill in the fridge for a bit).
- When ready to serve, arrange the asparagus on a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil and lemon zest.
- (Optional) If you like, top your blanched asparagus with this Mediterranean salsa.
- How to store asparagus: It's best to use asparagus within a day or two of buying it for best flavor and texture. But, to make it last a bit longer, place them in a jar with some water (stem side down) and loosely cover with a plastic bag. Refrigerate.
- How to cut asparagus spears: Two ways: Either eyeball it and trim off the white/pale green ends with a sharp knife. Or, bend one spear until it snaps. Where it snaps is where you should cut the rest of the spears.
- What to serve with blanched asparagus: Fish, chicken, and lamb all go very well with asparagus as a side dish. Or, top the asparagus with a simple Mediterranean-style salsa and serve it as a chilled composed salad.
- How to store leftovers: Blanched asparagus will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Visit our Online Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils, all-natural and organic spices, and more.
* This post has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.