This Pan Fried Asparagus is infused with smashed garlic and butter, and then finished with a touch of fresh lemon juice and sprinkle of parmesan cheese. It is a fantastic springtime side dish, ready in under 10 minutes.
Although asparagus can be found year round, nothing compares to the fresh, tender and vibrant ones available during the spring season. The season typically begins in late February and continues through June, but it peaks in April and May.
With vivid green color, crunch, tender and light in flavor, it lends perfectly to roasting, grilling, air frying or pan frying on the stove top. You might also love this air fryer asparagus recipe.
It is the quickest way to prepare asparagus and is much more flavorful than steaming. You can have a perfect springtime side dish for dinner, that can go from fridge to platter in under 10 minutes like this air fryer roasted broccoli.
All you need is some butter or olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, then enough time on the skillet to achieve a crisp tender vegetable glory!
Although, it’s a bit more hands-on cooking when compared to oven roasting, this pan fried asparagus dish is a super quick way to make side dish, on a busy weeknight or if you have your oven occupied with the entree.
Tip: If you want to take the pan fried asparagus up a notch, when they're done, drizzle them with some balsamic vinegar or sprinkle toasted almonds or pecans.
Why this recipe works?
Pan fried asparagus is a simple yet stellar way to achieve crisp, tender and evenly browned spears. Nobody wants bland, limp aspargus that look like they’ve been boiled or steamed!
The high heat completely transforms the asparagus, intensifying the natural flavor, browning the outsides, and get sweet and tender. Smashed garlic perfumes the vegetable and we all know butter means flavor! Let me show you how it’s done!
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Asparagus - Use thick or thin spears for this pan fried asparagus (we have included cooking time and method for both in the recipe notes). Wash your asparagus and be sure to dry them well on a kitchen towel to make sure, it crisps nicely in the pan without steaming.
- Garlic - It does make everything tastier! You can use whole smashed garlic clove or use finely chopped garlic but add it halfway through cooking so you don’t end up with little burnt garlic bits.
- Butter - Butter means flavor, but feel free to use olive oil instead.
- Flavorings - I simply season with salt, pepper, a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a shower of parmesan cheese.
Here are some flavoring ideas to enhance the flavor of your pan fried asparagus with every day ingredients.
- Sprinkle lemon zest along with juice.
- Give it some heat by adding a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.
- A final drizzle of balsamic glaze.
- Toasted sliced almonds, pecans or pine nuts.
- Add dried herbs like Italian seasoning, parsley or oregano while cooking or finish with chopped fresh basil or parsley before serving.
- Amp up the garlic by adding garlic powder, whole smashed cloves and minced garlic.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
1, 2 & 3. Trim the asparagus
Tip: The ends of asparagus can be unpleasantly tough and woody and should be removed before cooking. This woody section varies from stalk to stalk. There are two methods to trim: bend and break or trim with a knife.
- Bend and break: This method ensures you only remove the tough portions of each stalk, resulting in less waste and guaranteed tenderness. No need to pull out a knife here. Hold the top of the stem in one hand and briskly bend, and the asparagus will naturally snap at the point where the woody part finishes (it's deeply satisfying and a great way for young kids to get involved in the kitchen).
- Trim with a knife: Although a faster method, you might end up wasting edible flesh on some, and miss some of the woody parts of others. If you prefer to trim them with a knife then, hold the entire bunch of asparagus in one hand (this works very well if it’s still rubber-banded together) and trim off the ends about 1 ½ inches or so from the bottom.
4. Smash garlic - Place one or two whole unpeeled garlic cloves on a cutting board and give a gentle smash with a meat mallet or use the back of a small skillet, until it is mostly in one piece.
Tip: If you end up smashing the garlic into small pieces, then simply remove the skin, and add the garlic half way through cooking, so it does not burn.
5. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and add place aspargus in a single layer along with smashed garlic.
Pan to Asparagus Ratio
If you crowd the pan, the asparagus will steam instead of roasting and won’t become as caramelized. For perfect, crispy pan fried asparagus, make sure the spears aren’t touching one another. Use a large 12-inch skillet for one pound asparagus (about one bunch) and a medium 9 to 10 inch skillet for ½ pound.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Cook, turning occasionally, every 30 seconds until tender but still crisp (3 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalk). The medium-high heat yields the crispy and caramelized outside, without burning.
Tip: If you notice that the garlic is turning brown quickly, then place it on the aspargus so it is not in direct contact with the hot skillet.
8. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Asparagus thickness and Cooking time
Pencil thin aspargus - 3 to 4 minutes.
Thin aspargus - 4 to 5 minutes
Thick asparagus - 5 to 7 minutes (cook in medium heat instead of medium-high)
How to serve?
How to store leftovers?
Have leftovers? I like to chop them into 1-inch pieces and toss with scrambled eggs, weeknight pasta dishes or as a pizza topping.
- To Store. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm in a warm pan with a splash of water, or in an air fryer at 350 degrees.
- To Freeze. I don’t recommend freezing pan fried asparagus, because it has a tendency to become mushy.
- Remove woody ends: We recommend trimming off the woody ends because they’re difficult to chew and result in stringy roasted asparagus.
- Cook at a medium-high heat: A higher temperature might burn them before having a chance to cook.
- Don't over crowd the pan - Cook one pound spears in two batches, if you don't have a large skillet.
- Adjust seasoning - Switch up the flavorings based on how you are planning to serve the pan fried asparagus.
- Don’t overcook - If you overcook asparagus, it will become mushy or burn.
Tip: The best way to tell if they are done is to pierce it with a fork. As soon as the fork can pierce the stalks easily, the asparagus is done.
There is no need to soak them before cooking. You will definitely need to rinse well to remove any dirt, and then pat dry with a clean kitchen towel, but soaking isn't needed.
Over crowding the pan will result in them steaming and ending up soggy instead of being a crisp, tender texture. Make sure to cook in batches if you are using a medium skillet.
Thick or thin, they are rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber and delicious. You will need to adjust the cooking time based on the thickness of your stalk.
To tell if asparagus is fresh, the tips should be tightly closed and the stalk have a rich, deep green color that get lighter toward the end of the stalk. Look for stalks that are firm to touch and not limp or have cracked ends.
Asparagus is a very tender vegetable and doesn't need to be blanched before cooking in a skillet.
More easy vegetable side dishes to try
Pan Fried Asparagus
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves (small to medium)
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- lemon juice, for serving
- grated parmesan cheese, for serving
- Trim asparagus - Snap the woody ends off the asparagus base (it will naturally break at the right point) or trim about 2 inches from the bottom end.
- Smash unpeeled garlic cloves with a meat mallet or the back of a small skillet, until it breaks open, but is still mostly in one piece. Tip: If you end up smashing the garlic into small pieces, then simply remove the skin, and add the garlic half way through cooking, so it does not burn.
- Melt butter in a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When butter has melted, place the aspargus in a single layer. Add smashed garlic cloves, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Using tongs, toss asparagus every 30 seconds, cook until spears are tender but still crisp ( 4 to 7 minutes). If you notice that the garlic is turning brown quickly, then place it on the aspargus so it is not in direct contact with the hot skillet.Tip: Cut a small piece from the end of one asparagus to see if it's near tender.Pro tip: Asparagus thickness and Cooking timePencil thin aspargus - 3 to 4 minutes.Thin aspargus - 4 to 5 minutesThick asparagus - 5 to 7 minutes (cook in medium heat instead of medium-high)
- Transfer aspargus to a serving platter, squeeze some fresh lemon juice and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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