This Microwave Asparagus recipe makes a lightning-quick, healthy side dish. It's the perfect solution when you’re struggling to get something green on your dinner plate.
Steaming asparagus in the microwave is a time saver for those busy mid-week family dinners.
Let’s face it, we've all been there. You’re stressed out, running behind and need to get something fast and healthy—preferably green—to accompany your main course.
Microwave asparagus to the rescue!
The best part is that microwaving doesn't sacrifice texture or flavor. I would argue you can't tell the difference between using the microwave or steaming the old the fashioned way.
Here's an overview of what we're going to talk about:
How to select asparagus
There are three things to look for for when you're shopping for asparagus.
Go for the thick asparagus spears. The taste will not differ much between thick and thin but the thicker spears are more tender and easier to chew.
This is because they have more inner soft, soluble fiber. Thin stalks are almost all skin, which contains crude fiber, similar to the material found in the outer layers of celery.
If you want to know why, Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences wrote a great article explaining this in detail.
Check out the tips
The tips (or flower end) of the asparagus spear have the most flavor. Choose asparagus with firm tips that are tight and compact. Avoid spears where the flowers have spread or separated and you can see seeds.
Also make sure that the tips are not slimy.
Examine the stalks
The stalks should be firm and not wilty at all. If the asparagus is wilted or wrinkly looking, don't buy it. If it's in this condition but already in your fridge, use it to make vegetable stock, but don't eat it as a side.
An example of wilted and wrinkly asparagus is below.
Look for similarity
You want to pick an asparagus bunch where all the stalks are similar in thickness.
This will help the cooking process because, of course, similar size pieces will all take the same amount of time to cook.
Does it pass the smell test?
If it's in good condition, asparagus won't have an odor. But if it's turned to the Dark Side, you'll notice a pungent, foul smell—definitely not good eats.
How to trim asparagus
Trim the woody ends
All asparagus needs their ends trimmed off. The ends have a stringy or woody texture that is unappealing to eat.
Why this happens: As soon as asparagus is harvested, it begins to lose moisture. The sugars within the spear begin to turn to starch, which creates woody tissue.
This woody tissue immediately develops at the cut and begins to work its way up the stalk.
Although a lot of sites will tell you to snap off these woody ends, this actually results in wasting perfectly good asparagus—plus, it's a pain and time consuming to individually snap each spear.
We suggest simply trimming the lower ~1 inch of the asparagus.
You want to be sure to trim off the whitish part of the spear, because these are the parts that will be woody.
Once the ends have been cut off, you can cook them whole or cut them into pieces.
Remove the scales (optional)
You'll notice that asparagus spears are covered with small scales (leaves). I don't usually bother with these, but they can sometimes be fibrous and a bit tough. If you find that this is a problem, you can use a vegetable peeler to trim away the scales.
Your asparagus is now ready for a steam in the microwave!
How to cook asparagus in microwave
Follow the simple steps below and you will have tender asparagus in under 5 minutes.
Prep your steamer
Start by adding about an inch of water to the bottom of the container. Then set the colander inside of it.
Add the asparagus
If you chopped your asparagus, just dump the pieces into the colander bowl.
If you left your asparagus whole, take some care when adding them to the colander. Try to criss-cross the stalks a bit to create some space between them.
After you've added the asparagus, loosely cover the container and place it into the microwave.
How long to steam asparagus
The exact cook time will vary depending on a few details:
- The thickness of your asparagus.
- How soft or crunchy you like it (we prefer ours crisp-tender)
- The power of your microwave.
The chart below is a good starting point. You'll want to adjust these times up or down after the first cook so they match the crunch level you prefer.
|~ ¼ inch
|~ ½ inch
|~ ¾ inch
Season the Asparagus
After microwaving, take the container to the counter and carefully remove the colander of steamed asparagus. Discard the remaining water.
While the asparagus is still hot, dump it back into the container that you just emptied (no need to dry or clean).
Now simply apply your preferred dressing and seasoning, cover the container, and shake (or stir) it around a bit to coat.
I remember that my mom used to make a simple sauce of mayonnaise and a tiny bit of Dijon mustard that she dolloped on top of the asparagus.
Personally, I keep my seasoning/dressing simple. I just add butter, salt and pepper. Then I toss the asparagus a bit until the butter has melted and all the asparagus spears are well coated.
Leave the container covered to keep warm until serving.
There will be times you need to re-microwave your asparagus after it has been seasoned. Maybe the butter didn’t fully melt, or you just want it a bit hotter at dinner time. A simple 15-30 second re-heat (lid on) does the trick.
When I'm ready to serve, I like to arrange the asparagus on a platter.
How to store asparagus
While it’s best to eat asparagus on the same day that it's purchased, this rarely happens in my household.
To properly store fresh asparagus, follow the steps below.
- Start by cutting a ½ inch off the ends to promote water absorption.
- Place the asparagus into a container that is tall enough to keep the stalks erect. Ziploc Twist 'N' Lock (4 cup size) containers are perfect for this.
- Add 1-2 inches of water so that all the ends are submerged.
- Loosely cover the asparagus with a plastic bag and place in your fridge.
Asparagus stored this way will last 4 days or longer. If you notice the tips getting dark and wilted or slimy, use them to make vegetable stock. Or, if they've really gone to the slimy-stinky Dark Side, throw them out.
How to use up leftover asparagus
Leftover steamed asparagus can be used a variety of ways. For example:
- Make Springtime Asparagus-Tomato Pasta
- Make Asparagus Orzotto
- Mix it into an omelet or frittata
- Use it for a great, healthy salad topping
- Add it to a stir-fry
- Asparagus is also a great addition to soups and stews
- Or simply microwave again (about 30 seconds) for tomorrow's dinner!
Is asparagus good for you?
It must be: it’s green isn’t it? While that is not always case, it does apply here. Some of the main qualities of asparagus include:
- It’s low in calories and high in nutrients
- Contains a good amount of antioxidants & fiber
- Helps lower blood pressure
Want more info? Check out Healthline’s article 7 Reasons Why You Should Eat More Asparagus.
Other microwavable meals
- Creamy Chicken Ramen Soup
- Dorm-Room Microwave Queso Spaghetti
- Creamy Microwave Macaroni & Cheese
- Healthy Dorm-Room Microwave Pasta
- 1 lb asparagus (15-20 stalks)
- 2 tablespoon Butter
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Pepper
- Using your hands, snap each piece of asparagus and discard the ends.
- Place whole asparagus spears into a plastic steamer with one inch of water in the bottom. Make sure to layer these in a criss-cross pattern to create space between the stalks.
- Microwave on high for 1:30 min for ¼" thick, 2:15 for ½" thick, 3:00 min for ¾" thick (see Recipe Note #1).
- Remove asparagus from container and drain any remaining water.
- Add hot asparagus back to container along with your butter, salt and pepper.
- Lid the container and lightly shake until asparagus is well coated and seasoned.
- Cooking times will vary based on the power of your microwave and your preference for crunchy vs. tender spears.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 52Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 192mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!