Asparagus is a super healthy and versatile vegetable. However, it has a unique flavor profile and needs to be prepared and cooked properly to turn out delicious.
What does asparagus taste like? While the flavor of asparagus depends on many things, the general flavor profile of asparagus can be described as earthy and grassy, with hints of bitterness. You can cook asparagus with other foods and using different cooking methods if you want to alter its taste.
This article is your guide to all things asparagus—its flavor, texture, cooking methods, as well as tips on how to make cooked asparagus taste better.
Even if you don’t like asparagus, you’ll definitely want to give it another chance after you’ve read this article.
What Is Asparagus?
Asparagus, also known by the name Asparagus officinalis, is a perennial vegetable that belongs to the Asparagaceae family.
While not everyone loves asparagus, they surely recognize this green vegetable for its long pointy spears and the health benefits it is praised for.
Asparagus is a springtime vegetable. Being a seasonal product, asparagus is expensive compared to other vegetables available year-round.
Though asparagus is now grown in many parts of the world, including the US, China, and Germany, it is native to the Mediterranean. It is believed to be first grown in Greece around 2500 years ago.
Asparagus is rightly considered one of the healthiest vegetables. It contains such key vitamins as vitamin A, C, K, E, and folate.
It is a source of minerals essential for the body, including potassium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc. And what’s better, it contains very few calories, zero fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
Here are a few of the health benefits of asparagus.
- Asparagus is a powerful source of antioxidants.
- Including asparagus in your diet could help improve your digestion.
- Being a rich source of folate, asparagus is said to support a healthy pregnancy.
- Asparagus may help control blood pressure.
With all these benefits, there are still people who don’t like asparagus for one or another reason.
In the majority of the cases, it is the flavor of asparagus that people complain about. Many find asparagus to be bitter no matter how they cook it.
The truth is, it is only good asparagus that channels the true flavor of this vegetable. Additionally, a lot depends on the cooking method and technique you use.
There are a few other factors that can affect the flavor and texture of asparagus too.
What Does Asparagus Taste Like?
The flavor of asparagus can be described differently by people. One thing is certain. Asparagus has a very distinct flavor you won’t confuse with the flavor of any other vegetable, no matter how you have cooked it.
Some people say asparagus tastes like broccoli and artichokes. Alternatively, others find that the flavor of asparagus reminds them of mushrooms or beans.
Asparagus that is fresh and at the height of its season tastes mild, earthy, and grassy, with bitter undertones. Fresh asparagus may also have hints of sourness. Asparagus tastes more bitter when it is past its prime.
The intensity of flavor of asparagus also depends on the thickness of the stalks. Wide and thick asparagus stalks tend to be more fibrous and have less flavor than medium-sized asparagus spears.
What Affects the Flavor Asparagus?
The flavor of asparagus, whether it is raw or cooked, is affected by such factors as the type of the vegetable, the cooking method used to prepare it, as well as foods you pair it with.
The Type of Asparagus
We have already described the general flavor profile of asparagus. However, there are subtle flavor differences that depend on the variety of asparagus.
The basic types of asparagus include green, white, and purple asparagus. Green and white asparagus taste very similar.
However, the flavor of green asparagus is grassier while white asparagus tastes milder, with a hint of bitterness.
The flavor of purple asparagus, on the other hand, is considered to be milder compared to other asparagus varieties. Additionally, purple asparagus contains more sugar which makes it taste sweeter than green and white asparagus spears.
It may be shocking to some people to find out that the cooking method affects the flavor of asparagus too. In fact, this is true for nearly all vegetables.
As described above, raw asparagus tastes grassy and earthy. It is also somewhat bitter with only a hint of sweetness.
If the asparagus is in season and you want to enhance its fresh grassy flavor, you should certainly boil it for a few minutes.
When you remove asparagus from the boiling water, don’t forget to put it into a bowl filled with ice water. Doing this helps maintain the crunch of the stalks and their green color.
You can give asparagus hints of caramelized flavor by sautéing it with butter. This cooking method also makes asparagus softer. Sautéing takes away the grassy notes in asparagus and enhances its sweetness.
If you don’t like the initial flavor profile of asparagus or the vegetable is not at the height of its season, we recommend you roast it or deep-fry it.
So, if you don’t like the favor of asparagus once cooked, try cooking it differently.
Asparagus is often served as is as a side dish for different proteins, including chicken, fish, lamb, and beef. But you can also use asparagus in a range of other complex dishes.
You can use asparagus to make salads, various egg dishes, stir-fries, and pasta dishes.
If you cook asparagus with other ingredients, asparagus will soak up different flavors and ultimately take on a different flavor profile.
If you don’t like the flavor of asparagus cooked by itself, try pairing it with other bolder flavors. Asparagus pairs exceptionally well with such ingredients as garlic, parmesan cheese, ham, rice, tomatoes, and chickpeas.
The flavor of asparagus also plays well with hollandaise sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil.
What Does Asparagus Smell Like?
Fresh asparagus doesn’t smell like anything. If the bundle of asparagus you have just brought home has an off-putting smell, inspect it closely as it may be rotten or moldy.
The Texture of Asparagus
Fresh asparagus should be firm and crunchy. As for cooked asparagus, it is all a matter of preference. Some people like their freshly cooked asparagus stalks to have some crunch while others prefer a tenderer texture.
Asparagus spears that are wider and fatter tend to have a meatier texture although they can also be woody and overly fibrous if there are not in season.
The longer you let asparagus sit in your fridge the more its texture will change for the worse. While fresh asparagus is crispy, old asparagus is rubbery. The older asparagus gets the wrinklier and less crispy it becomes.
How To Make Asparagus Taste Better
Some people think that asparagus doesn’t taste good no matter how they cook it. But it is not only the cooking method that matters.
The flavor of the cooked asparagus depends on multiple things, from picking good asparagus to the hints of flavor you add at the end of the cooking process.
Picking Good Asparagus
When shopping for asparagus, make sure you are buying ones that are firm and never wilted. Tightly closed tips are also a sign of good asparagus. While asparagus comes in different colors, it should never look faded.
An important thing to keep in mind is that asparagus should be sold standing upright, with the stems in freshwater. Additionally, pay attention to the size of the stalks and buy a bundle that has stalks of the same size.
Storing Asparagus Correctly
Improper storage conditions can affect the flavor and texture of asparagus too. We recommend you use the asparagus the same day you bring it home for the best flavor.
If you are planning to use it within the next few days, store asparagus in the fridge in an upright position, with the stems in water, and covered loosely with a plastic bag.
You can also wrap the ends of the stalks with a damp paper towel and cover them using a plastic bag to keep the asparagus fresh and crispy.
Preparing Asparagus Before Cooking
Cooked asparagus can’t taste good if you haven’t prepared it properly. After you have washed the spears you need to trim the bottom part.
The bottom part of asparagus spears is very tough. Even after cooking, they are rather difficult to chew.
To find out how much of the stem you need to cut off, hold the asparagus in the center and at the end of the stem and snap it. This method will help you find the natural breaking point of asparagus.
And if the rest of the spears are of the same height, use the one you have snapped as a guide to trim the rest.
Not Skipping The Butter
While some cooking methods and recipes will tell you to prepare asparagus without butter, it is one of the key ingredients that make the flavor of this vegetable pop.
So, if you are not afraid of extra calories, we recommend you toss the freshly cooked asparagus with melted butter.
Using Lemon Juice
If you are going to cook asparagus, we highly recommend you have lemon juice at hand. Lemon juice is the magic ingredient that can balance out the bitterness of asparagus and add a note of freshness to it.
Pairing Asparagus with Herbs
Pairing asparagus with herbs is a good way to make this vegetable taste better and richer. To bring out the taste of asparagus, use chives, dill, and tarragon.
As mentioned above, asparagus pairs exceptionally well with lemon. Pair it with lemon balm, a lemon-scented herb. As lemon balm combines the citrusy fresh notes of lemon and hints of mint, it pairs perfectly with asparagus.
How Do You Cook Asparagus?
Many people complain about asparagus tasting bitter when cooked. While asparagus can taste bitter when it is old, the most common mistake that makes these healthy spears taste bad is overcooking.
There are many ways to cook asparagus. So long as you prep the spears properly and don’t overcook them, any of these cooking methods can make asparagus taste amazing.
As we have mentioned earlier in this article, the flavor of cooked asparagus also depends on the cooking method you use. You can try out all of the following methods of cooking asparagus to find out which way makes it taste best for you.
Blanching is one of the easiest ways to enhance the flavor of fresh in-season asparagus.
To blanch asparagus, you need to boil the spears in salted water for 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness of the stems.
Once you remove asparagus from boiling water transfer it into a bowl filled with ice water.
This step not only helps asparagus to retain its green color and crunch but also immediately stops the cooking process preventing asparagus from overcooking.
Steaming is another way of cooking asparagus to accentuate its natural flavor profile. The only difference is that steaming makes asparagus softer in texture.
It is best to use a steamer to steam asparagus. Put the spears on the steaming rack and steam them for 3-4 minutes. When steaming the asparagus, keep the pan covered.
You can roast asparagus either in the oven or on a grill. This is a great cooking method for asparagus if you don’t like the pure flavor of this grassy vegetable.
For oven-roasted asparagus, you will need to preheat the oven to 400°F. Prepare the asparagus spears by washing and cleaning them. Line the baking tray with foil or baking paper and arrange the spears in the pan.
Drizzle the asparagus spears with olive oil. Sprinkle them with some grated parmesan cheese and minced garlic. Add salt and black pepper. You can also use lemon zest if you want the spears to take on a fresh note.
Griddled asparagus is many people’s favorite way of preparing this vegetable as it infuses the grassy stems with lots of flavor and gives them an appetizing charred look.
To make griddled asparagus, first heat up the griddle or griddle pan. Drizzle the cooking surface with oil and add the asparagus spears. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the spears soak up the oil. Once cooked, add salt and pepper to taste.
Asparagus is a common vegetable in Asian cooking and is often stir-fried in Asian-style dishes.
To stir-fry asparagus, heat up your pan really well. If you are stir-frying asparagus with other veggies, make sure to add it toward the end of the cooking process as asparagus needs only 2-3 minutes to cook.
Toss chopped asparagus into the pan and stir it until it’s cooked. Season to taste.
If your oven has a broiler, you can also try broiling asparagus.
To broil asparagus, heat the broiler and prep the spears. Once you have washed and cleaned the asparagus, arrange them evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle the spears with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Broil asparagus for 8-12 minutes. Turn the spears every few minutes to get them cooked evenly.
What Does Canned Asparagus Taste Like?
As brine or salt are used to can asparagus, canned asparagus tastes briney, acrid, and salty.
Canned asparagus is also rather mushy, so it is used in cooked dishes to give them more asparagus flavor than texture. You can use canned asparagus to make soups, casseroles, quiches, and even more!
Up Next: How To Preserve Eggs