The Best Way to Boil Asparagus

Side DishPaleoVeganAsparagus

Here's the quickest and easiest way to cook asparagus on the stovetop! Takes only 10 minutes tops.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Hello spring and hello asparagus! What’s your favorite way to cook asparagus?

I love them grilled, roasted, baked in to a frittata, or made into soup. But if I’m honest with you, the method I use most often to cook asparagus is to shallow boil them on the stovetop.

What’s shallow boiling (or shallow poaching)? It’s is sort of a cross between boiling and steaming. You don’t use much water, so it hardly takes any time for the water to heat to a boil.

You don’t have to submerge the asparagus completely in the water. If the water doesn’t cover the asparagus, use a lid to cover the pan to capture the heat of the steam.

boil water for steam boiled asparagus

You can season the water with salt, garlic, herbs, or lemon zest. I usually use a large pinch of salt, a unpeeled garlic clove cut in half, and a strip of lemon zest.

You could add some thyme, oregano, or bay leaf, or just skip the seasoning and use plain water (I do recommend adding salt at least).

cover pot to boil asparagus

You can of course use more water if you want, it just takes longer for the water to heat up, and any flavoring agents you add will not be as concentrated.

That said, if you already have a pot of boiling water going, for example for pasta dish that will be using the asparagus, you can easily boil the asparagus in that.

How long do you cook asparagus?

How long you cook the asparagus depends on their size and how old they are. Skinny asparagus spears will cook up in only a minute or two.

Your average asparagus will take about 5 minutes. Large asparagus can take 6 to 7 minutes, and if they are a bit old and tough, even longer.

The trick with cooking asparagus so they stay vibrant green?

Cook the asparagus no longer than 6 minutes, then rinse them with cool water for a few seconds to stop the cooking. Vegetables will go from vibrant green to olive green at about the 7 minute mark of cooking.

The Best Way to Boil Asparagus

Print
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound asparagus (or up to a pound), thin, medium, or large
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in half (optional)
  • 1 strip of lemon peel (optional)

Method

1 Prep the asparagus: Snap or cut off any woody bottoms of the asparagus spears. If working with medium sized or large asparagus, if you want (for a fancy presentation) you can use a vegetable peeler to peel the outside of the lower inch or two of the asparagus.

2 Heat water in a large skillet: Fill a large, wide skillet with about 3/4-inch of water. Add salt. Add the cut garlic and lemon peel if using. Bring the water to a boil on high heat.

3 Boil the asparagus: Add the asparagus in an even layer. If the water doesn't cover the asparagus, cover the pan. If using thin asparagus, cook only for 1 to 2 minutes. Medium asparagus, 5 minutes. Large asparagus 6 to 7 minutes.

4 Rinse with cool water: Rinse briefly with cold water to stop the cooking and then transfer to a serving dish.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil or butter to serve.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to The Best Way to Boil Asparagus on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Print

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

8 Comments / Reviews

No ImageThe Best Way to Boil Asparagus

Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Bettye W.

    Asparagus on top of the stove is better cooked vertical….. ends down; yes there is a vertical asparagus cooker. In lieu of one, I use a stop top coffee pot. about 1/4 full of water; bring to a boil; add asparagus; cover and cook until crisp tender. Yes, cooking time depends on size of the stems.

  • Phachita Moore

    like the recipe but I gave you the wrong email address. It’s…
    [email protected]

  • Jane

    Once asparagus is au point, I throw in a handful of ice cubes. (I also only use salt in the water, but look forward to trying lemon peel.)

  • Ninfa

    Tasty flavor

  • Bebe

    I cook it about this way. So easy. Skip the salt, skip the lid. Boil enough water in a large skillet to just cover the asparagus. Drop in the asparagus (I do peel mine for my husband!), and then keep an eye on it. When the asparagus stalk bends, it is done. I pull them out as they “bend”, drain them briefly on a paper towel on a platter, remove the towel, add some butter and slip the platter in a just-warm oven to hold until everything else is ready.

View More
How to Boil AsparagusThe Best Way to Boil Asparagus