Close view of seasoned, plump asparagus on a round white plate with two lemon wheels.

Steamed asparagus is a simple, yet elegant side dish that pairs well with almost every meal. Steaming the asparagus helps you to maximize flavor while keeping the crisp, juicy texture asparagus is famous for. This steamed asparagus recipe is a must-have for your list of favorite side dishes and it’s sure to please even the pickiest of eaters!

Fresh asparagus spears in a steamer basket resting in a skillet.

How to choose asparagus

The key to delicious steamed asparagus is picking good asparagus at the store or farmers’ market. Look at the tips of the asparagus spears first. The buds should be tightly closed, not opening at all. Then, give the asparagus a sniff. It’s easy to tell when asparagus is past its prime because it smells bad right away.

Look for asparagus stored upright in water. The stalk of your asparagus should be firm, with no wilting or wrinkling. Choose a bundle of asparagus with spears all roughly the same thickness, which will help with steaming the asparagus. Spears of the same size cook for the same time, leading to a consistent level of doneness.

Protip: Keep it crisp.

To keep your asparagus crisp, you may want to submerge it in an ice bath for a few seconds immediately after steaming. You don’t want your asparagus to cool down, but a quick shock in ice water will stop the cooking process.

What do I need to make steamed asparagus?

You only need a handful of simple ingredients and tools to make steamed asparagus. For this recipe you’ll need:

  • A medium-sized saucepan with a steamer basket
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Onion and garlic powder
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh asparagus
  • Unsalted butter
Overhead of ingredients needed to make steamed asparagus, including fresh spears, lemon, and seasoning.

How to trim asparagus

When you’re ready to steam your asparagus, it’ll need a trim. Some people prefer to snap the bottom of the stem off the asparagus stalk where it naturally breaks, but I find that creates too much waste. Instead, wash it well under cold water, then look for the area where the stem changes color from white-ish to green. This should be roughly an inch or two up the bottom of the stem. Slice away these tough, woody ends using a sharp knife.

Do I need a steamer basket?

Yes, a steamer basket is necessary for making steamed asparagus. Without the steamer basket, the asparagus would have to sit directly in the boiling water, which is a different cooking method entirely. If you don’t have a steamer basket, an alternative would be to use a large skillet on the stovetop. If you put a bit of water in the bottom of the pan, then add the asparagus and cover with a lid, you get the same steaming effect.

If you don’t have a steamer basket—and you’re hesitant to try using a frying pan—there is another method of cooking asparagus that might be easier. Roasted asparagus is just as delicious as steamed asparagus. You could try some roasted asparagus, or add another side to make some roasted potatoes and asparagus.

Green spears in a metal steamer basket after steaming.
Seasoned, steamed asparagus on a round white plate with lemon slices.

How do I make steamed asparagus?

Steamed asparagus is a delicious side dish that only takes a few minutes to make. Even if you’ve never made it before, you’ll find it easy to learn how to steam asparagus.

  • Wash and trim your asparagus stalks.
  • Bring a cup of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan.
  • Add the steamer basket to the pot, then add the asparagus to the steamer basket.
  • Cover the asparagus with a tight-fitting lid and steam until tender-crisp. Thin stalks take four minutes to cook, while thicker stalks may take up to six minutes to cook.
  • Season to taste and serve.

Wholefully Protip

To keep your asparagus crisp, you may want to submerge it in an ice bath for a few seconds immediately after steaming. You don’t want your asparagus to cool down, but a quick shock in an ice bath will stop the cooking process.

How do you flavor steamed asparagus?

If you flavored your vegetables before steaming, the flavoring would just wash off during the cooking process. So it’s important to add your spices to the asparagus right after it’s finished steaming. To flavor your steamed asparagus, transfer it to a serving dish or bowl, then sprinkle on the lemon juice, butter, and spices. Toss or mix the asparagus gently to combine so every spear is evenly coated. Your asparagus is now ready to serve!

A hand sprinkles dried seasonings from a small white ramekin over perfectly steamed asparagus spears.

Won’t steaming make the asparagus mushy?

Nope! Submerging your asparagus in boiling water usually leads to soggy asparagus. Steaming asparagus leaves the stalks crisp and tender. If your asparagus is getting soggy when you use a steamer, you’re probably cooking it too long. Determining how long to steam asparagus is one of the most important parts of the cooking process. Steam thin stalks for four minutes, and thicker stalks for five to six minutes.

How do I store the leftovers?

Leftover steamed asparagus will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to three days.

A white, rectangular serving platter with seasoned, steamed spears of asparagus arranged with lemon slices and a fork nearby.

What should I serve it with?

Steamed asparagus is incredibly versatile. It tastes great paired with chicken, beef, pork, or even fish! Because it’s a simple, elegant side dish, you can dedicate more time to the main course with less thought needed for your side. Here are some delicious meals to pair with steamed asparagus.

Close view of seasoned, plump asparagus on a round white plate with two lemon wheels.

Steamed Asparagus Recipe

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

A simple recipe for steamed asparagus that gives you maximum flavor and tenderness. This classic side dish is easy to prepare and goes with almost any meal.


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Pour about 1 cup of water into a medium saucepan, and place a steamer basket in the saucepan. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, and add your trimmed asparagus to the steamer basket. Cover and steam for about 4 minutes for thinner asparagus, or about 6 minutes for thicker asparagus. 
  3. Transfer the asparagus to a bowl or serving platter and drizzle with lemon juice, melted butter, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and salt. Toss until coated, then serve!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 55Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 282mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Want more simple vegetable recipes like this one?

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