fresh green asparagus in bowl on marble background

What Does Asparagus Taste Like?

Asparagus is one of those love ‘em or hate’ em vegetables that people seem have very strong opinions about. It’s known for having a slightly grassy, distinctive flavor, which causes the strong reactions. If you’ve never tried a meal with asparagus before, you may be wondering if this vegetable is worth experimenting with and what it tastes like.


Asparagus has a distinctive flavor that is sometimes compared to green beans, broccoli, and artichoke. When fresh, asparagus has a mild, grassy taste that is slightly astringent. When cooked, the taste can be more pronounced, though it tends to soak up the flavors of other ingredients.

The idea of asparagus’s strong taste and relative expense compared to more readily available vegetables like broccoli or green beans may be off-putting. However, I’m a fan of this particular vegetable, and while the taste may be an acquired one, I think asparagus is a wonderfully versatile vegetable with great health benefits. If you’re selecting the right asparagus and cooking it correctly, you may find that you also enjoy the unique tats e of asparagus.

What Does Asparagus Taste Like?

Asparagus is an excellent addition to many spring meals and has been enjoyed in dishes for over 2500 years by the Greeks and Romans. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that grows back each year, and its slender tips emerging from the soil are a sure sign that spring has come.

The part of the asparagus plant that we eat is the shoot, with its thin stem and tightly packed leaf tip. The younger and fresher the sprout, the better your asparagus will taste. Older asparagus tends to have a more sour or bitter taste, and the stems become woody and less appealing in texture.

Asparagus comes in various colors, though it’s likely that the type you’ve come across is green. White and purple varieties have a slightly different taste to the green asparagus variety: white asparagus is known to have a delicate flavor that is meatier, while purple asparagus is usually sweeter.


Green asparagus has something of an earthy, slightly sour flavor. The closest comparison would be something between a tenderstem broccoli and artichoke. However, like mushrooms, asparagus tends to absorb the flavors of other ingredients with which it is cooked. Asparagus can be eaten raw or cooked, though cooking can decrease some nutrients.

What Does Canned Asparagus Taste Like?

Sometimes you may find it easier to get hold of canned rather than fresh asparagus. Due to the mushy texture of canned asparagus, it is not a suitable alternative for asparagus in salads or as a lightly blanched side vegetable in a meal.

Canned asparagus will have a meatier asparagus taste but will also be saltier from the brine used in the canning process.

The best use for canned asparagus is in cooked dishes that require some asparagus flavor. They can be used to make asparagus soups, as ingredients in quiches and casseroles, and I’ve even seen them as pizza toppings.

When making an asparagus soup, canned asparagus can be a quick and easy option as there is no need to prepare the asparagus by removing the stems, and the softer texture will cook down quickly into soup.

How to Select the Freshest Asparagus

To get the best taste, you need to select asparagus at its freshest. You’ll want asparagus that is tender and young so that the taste is sweeter and milder. The best flavor is in the tightly packed tip, so make sure these are firm and have not wilted or shriveled.


Select asparagus that has firm stalks and tightly closed tips. The stalks should feel plump rather than withered or dehydrated. Aim to choose asparagus spears that are similar in size, with stalks more or less the same size. This helps when cooking so that the cooking time of each stem will not be very different.

How To Keep Asparagus Crisp

Fresh asparagus is a spring vegetable that tastes best in spring and early summer before the weather gets too warm. As such, it is best to keep asparagus cold when storing.

Asparagus should be kept chilled to keep the flavor and freshness.

One good storage tip is to fill a glass container with an inch of water and bundle the fresh asparagus spears upright in the glass so that only the bottom of the stalks are submerged. Cover the upright asparagus with a plastic bag and place the glass container in the fridge.

If you don’t have enough space in the refrigerators to store them upright, you can wrap the spears in a clean, damp cloth – such as a tea towel – and keep them in your fridge crisper drawer.

Stored like this, your asparagus should be good for up to three days. Fresher is better with asparagus, so it’s best to buy fresh asparagus close to the date you wish to eat them and store them only briefly.

How To Trim Asparagus Spears

When you buy asparagus, you will notice that the bottom of the spears may be woody and tough and often a slightly different color. While this part of the stem can be eaten, it’s best to remove it. The larger and fatter your asparagus, the more likely it is that they will have woody stems which need removing.

Younger, tender asparagus will not have as woody stems. The taste will be more delicate and sweeter; however, many people like the larger asparagus spears for their more robust flavor, which has been described as musky and almost meaty.

If you find the thicker white asparagus that has been grown underground, you will have to peel the woody surface. White asparagus has a more robust flavor and holds its shape better as it cooks, making it a popular choice for roasting, and is very popular in Europe, where it is heavily consumed.

Most American supermarkets will stock the more common green asparagus. Fresh green asparagus does not need to be peeled, podded, or scraped to remove thistles and thorns, but the woody stem usually needs to be removed.

The easiest way to judge where the stem should best be cut is to bend each stalk until it snaps. The break will naturally occur where the tender portion of the stems meets the harder, woodier section.

There’s no need to discard this woody stem, as it is edible and makes an excellent addition to stocks and rich, velvety soups.

How To Cook Asparagus

While you can fresh eat asparagus raw, when doing so, it’s best to find the absolute highest quality and freshest young asparagus shoots available. If you find a good supply of young, tender fresh asparagus, you may want to use it as is in a salad or other cold meal. Slice fresh asparagus thinly to allow it to absorb more flavors, and use olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to add seasoning. This will give you a fresh, grassy, green taste that is delicious and not overwhelming.

When cooking asparagus, the buds will cook faster than the stems. Once you have removed the woody section of the stem, you can blanch the bundle of asparagus in some boiling water, stem side down with the tips unsubmerged. This will help keep the asparagus stems tender without overcooking the ends.

When boiling asparagus, do not overcook them. Add asparagus spears to rapidly boiling water and cook for no longer than three minutes, one minute if the shoots are very thin and tender.

You can also steam asparagus in a covered steamer basket. Again, cooking time will be rapid and should not take longer than 2-4 minutes. One way to tell if your asparagus is cooked is if fresh green asparagus turns a bright green color.

If you prefer your asparagus to have a crispier texture, you can roast asparagus in the oven at 400F. A simple method involves coating the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasting for around ten minutes.

Five minutes into roasting, you can shake the roasting pan to move the asparagus around and ensure more even cooking. After ten minutes, your asparagus should be cooked to tender perfection, and the tips should have just started to brown.

Asparagus can also be cooked in a pan, stir-fried or sauteed, or roasted in a dry frying pan. As with other cooking methods, your cook time will be relatively short – under five minutes – and you want your stems to be green and tender and the tips only lightly browned.

Ways to Serve Asparagus

While fresh raw asparagus is terrific in a spring salad, there are many ways to serve cooked asparagus. It’s an excellent side vegetable and makes a suitable replacement for a side serving of broccoli, green beans, or Brussel sprouts.

But asparagus is also excellent when cooked into quiches, used as a topping on pizzas, added to soups or casseroles.

Canned asparagus can be cooked in their liquid to form a vegetable gravy served over mashed potatoes.

The delicate flavor of asparagus is often best complemented by olive oil, Hollandaise sauce, and strong cheeses such as cheddar or Parmesan. If you find you enjoy the taste of asparagus, there are many different ways to serve it or incorporate it into your meal. Here’s one easy and unusual way to serve asparagus as a starter –

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus is considered an excellent source of Vitamin K and B9 (folate). It also provides a variety of nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, as well as the minerals zinc, selenium, and manganese.

Half a cup asparagus (about 3 oz) will provide 57% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDI) Vitamin K and 34% RDI folate. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that supports bone health and blood clotting. At the same time, folate works to help body processes such as cell growth and the formation of DNA. This process makes folate a vital nutrient during pregnancy.

At only 20 calories for a half cup, asparagus is a nutritious and healthy food that aids in weight loss.

Like many green vegetables, asparagus is an excellent source of antioxidants. Our bodies need antioxidants to help protect our cells from the harm done by free radicals in our system. Free radicals add to aging and increase problems like chronic inflammation, which is why health professionals encourage people to eat their greens, such as asparagus.

A Side Effect of Asparagus

You may have heard some people discuss an asparagus ‘pee smell’ and worried that eating asparagus will do the same to you. In a percentage of people, some have noticed that after consuming asparagus, their urine takes on a slightly unpleasant scent which may last for up to seven hours. This smell does not happen to everyone, and many people have not noticed it at all.

Asparagus contains a sulfur compound called asparagusic acid, and it is this sulfur content that may cause this reaction. Studies have shown that 58% of men and 62% of women do not detect this smell at all. Considering this, plus the nutrient benefits and the low calories, it is not a huge obstacle to eating asparagus. Much like garlic, the taste outweighs the smelly downsides.

Alternatives to Asparagus

If you find you really don’t like the taste of asparagus, you may want some alternative vegetables to include in your recipes. If you’re looking for a similar nutrient profile with a different flavor, you can replace asparagus as a side dish with the following vegetables:

  • Broccoli, especially tenderstem broccoli, is an excellent asparagus substitute. Readily available and generally less expensive, broccoli is the closest match for essential nutrients.
  • Green beans are another vegetable to substitute for a green side dish.
  • Leeks do not taste remotely like asparagus, but their nutrient profile is similar, and you may find they make a good substitute in dishes like stir-fries or soups.
  • Celery may work as a fresh substitute in green spring salads. Although the flavor profile differs from asparagus, it may provide texture to salads with a salty, savory taste.
  • Artichokes, nopalitos (prickly pear cactus stem), and fiddlehead ferns are more unusual substitutes for asparagus.