Marinated Asparagus

The true sign of spring in the food world is the abundance of many fresh vegetables. Asparagus is one of the quintessential spring vegetables. This cherished culinary pleasure is so flavorful that you’ll find it in all kinds of dishes.

When purchasing asparagus, examine the tips for signs of freshness, as that is the portion most likely to break or spoil. The young asparagus have purple tips and green stems and grow thicker as they ripen. If served cold, you can cook in advance, but be sure to shock them in ice cold water to stop cooking and keep flavor and color.

My friend Holly Clegg was kind enough to share this recipe with us.

See all spring vegetable recipes.


  • 1 pound asparagus
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons roasted garlic seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

Marinated Asparagus Spears

By: Amy Katz · Published: Mar 29, 2018 · Last modified: Oct 5, 2020 · This post may contain affiliate links. · As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Marinated Asparagus Spears are fresh and flavorful and only take minutes to make with a few basic ingredients. The Asian-inspired dressing compliments the asparagus without overpowering it. This recipe is naturally vegan and gluten-free.

Are you a fan of asparagus?

I try to buy as much of it as I can when it's in season.

Asparagus is rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.

I love adding it to stir fry or enjoying it chilled in green salads with a Dijon Mustard dressing.

(Although you may experience "asparagus pee" . I do! Do you?)

Lemony Marinated Asparagus

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Thank freakin’ goodness. It’s spring! I’m feeling it. Easter is less than a week away, crocuses are already just about done blooming, daffs are due to show their sunny faces any day now, and perfectly green, fresh asparagus is in the market.

Okay, so the first two days of spring were, weather-wise, pretty much the weirdest ever here in the Pacific Northwest. Mega wind gusts, bright shining sun, hail, sleet, rain, more bright shining sun, more wind gusts. And that was just day one. On the second day of spring, we woke up to snow.

Our little gal was wide-eyed as she peered out at the winter-white wonderland, and then even wider-eyed at how the pumped-up dogs spun around the yard in it. “Nahoww! Nahowww!” she ran around saying all day. It took us 15 minutes to bundle her up and get her out there, and about five minutes for her wonder to turn to tears when her mitten fell off and her hand sank into the shockingly cold stuff.

So we went back inside. And we made snow ice cream. And then like that, the winter wonderland was gone – melted by afternoon. But the next day! Gorgeous, sunny, and, yes – spring-like.

Sunny and spring-like, just like this asparagus.

Last year I was all about the balsamic-marinated asparagus, but this year, I’ve been craving something a little lighter and brighter. Lemon was the natural choice. It’s already a solid partner for asparagus, and I’m a sucker for a good lemon vinaigrette. Done.

This super lemony marinated asparagus comes together quickly, and it’s a terrific make-ahead appetizer or side. Par-boiled asparagus chills in a lemon vinaigrette for several hours – then when you’re ready, you just whip it out of the refrigerator and serve.

A little bit of spring on a platter, no matter what kind of craziness is going on outside.

Recipe Summary

  • ice cubes
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Fill a large bowl with with cold water add ice.

Bring a pot of water to a boil cook asparagus in boiling water until bright green, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain asparagus and plunge into ice water to stop cooking. Drain and transfer asparagus to a baking dish.

Whisk soy sauce, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, agave nectar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl pour marinade over asparagus, adding water if necessary to submerge asparagus. Cover baking dish and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Marinated Asparagus

A simple marinade transforms Asaparagus into a lovely side or starter.


  • 1 pound asparagus (choose thick stalks if possible.)
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon oregano


Cook Asparagus until tender crisp. (my favorite method is in the microwave.) Place in bowl and run cold water over until cool, or plunge into a bowl with ice and water. Drain well.

Mix lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano in a small bowl and pour over asparagus. Refrigerate from two to four hours to overnight.

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Thomas Jefferson, Asparagus and American Independence

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800. Courtesy of the White House Historical Association.

In addition to drafting the Declaration of Independence and playing a pivotal role in the formation of the United States, Thomas Jefferson has a firmly rooted presence in American food history. A naturally curious and creative individual, Jefferson embraced the relationship between garden and table. His Virginia plantation at Monticello was a place of horticultural creativity and ingenuity his gardens were home to a number of unique (what would now be considered heirloom) vegetables and fruits. As Minister to France, Jefferson learned a great deal about French cuisine and cooking methods, often recording recipes in his own hand. While in Washington, he became know for hosting the finest dinners the President’s House had ever seen. Jefferson’s Monticello kitchen blended Southern Virginian cooking styles with Continental cuisine the meals also reflected the African cooking influences of his enslaved staff. Jefferson made an important impact on the national culinary consciousness, combining food traditions from the Old World and the New World to create a new and uniquely American approach to cooking.

Monticello Gardens. Source: iStock Photo

While living at Monticello, Jefferson kept a detailed notebook about his kitchen garden, recording the planting of hundreds of varieties of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. He was always in search of new additions to his garden collection. He and his staff cultivated all kinds of food plants, from Italian grapes to French tarragon to Texas peppers to Irish wheat. He was known to admire Continental gardening styles, and used the book “Observations on Modern Gardening” by British author Thomas Whaley as a resource when planning his own gardens at Monticello. Jefferson was drawn to Whaley’s description of the ferme ornée (ornamental farm) concept, a style of garden that combined the agricultural working farm with the beauty of a pleasure garden. The style is reflected in the ornamental yet functional design of the gardens surrounding Monticello. The records he kept of the various vegetables and fruits he planted have proven extremely helpful to food historians, providing insight into the burgeoning culinary identity of the newly formed American colonies.

Jefferson was intellectually curious about many subjects, and food was clearly a particular passion. He recorded at least 10 recipes by hand, including a classical French cooking practice which he titled, simply, “Observations on Soup”:

Always observe to lay your meat in the bottom of the pan with a lump of fresh butter. Cut the herbs and roots small and lay them over the meat. Cover it close and put it over a slow fire. This will draw forth the flavors of the herbs and in a much greater degree than to put on the water at first. When the gravy produced from the meat is beginning to dry put in the water, and when the soup is done take it off. Let it cool and skim off the fat clear. Heat it again and dish it up. When you make white soups never put in the cream until you take it off the fire.

Jefferson’s House in Paris, courtesy of the University of Virginia.

Jefferson was appointed Minister (plenipotentiary) to France from 1785 to 1789. While in Europe, he spent a good deal of time exploring French cuisine and cooking methods. He brought a trusted slave named James Hemings with him on the journey to learn the art of French cookery.

When Jefferson took the Oath of Office in 1801, one of his first priorities was finding a suitable French chef for the President’s House kitchen. During Jefferson’s time, and for several decades after, Americans considered French food, serving styles and social graces the ultimate in refinement. We can still see this fondness for French food styles in the United States today.

Asparagus became widely available in America during Colonial times, and was a particular favorite of Thomas Jefferson. The recipe that appears at the end of this post is from The City Tavern Cookbook, a terrific collection of Colonial period recipes compiled by Walter Staib. Staib is host of the PBS TV series A Taste of History, as well as executive chef at The City Tavern Restaurant in Philadelphia. The City Tavern opened in 1773, and played host to the Founding Fathers of our country during the late 18th century. The original City Tavern structure was destroyed in a fire and demolished in 1854. In 1948, Congress commissioned the historically accurate reconstruction of the building on the original construction site. The Tavern reopened in 1976, and in 1994 restaurateur Walter Staib took over as chef. Food continues to be prepared at the Tavern in the traditional colonial style.

The City Tavern, Philadelphia, PA. Photo courtesy of Concepts by Staib.

City Tavern was the unofficial meeting place of the First Continental Congress. The dishes in this cookbook were enjoyed by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. Many of the recipes are French in origin. Given Jefferson’s preference for vegetable-based cuisine and his particular love of French food, this dish would likely have been high on his list of favorites. Jefferson had a square in his Monticello garden reserved for asparagus it was one of the few vegetables for which he documented a cultivation technique (the plants were mulched with tobacco leaves). Jefferson recorded its seasonal arrival at his Monticello table 22 times, usually in early April. Given how much asparagus grew in the gardens at Monticello, Hemings may very well have prepared asparagus this way for Jefferson and his dinner guests.

I have adapted this unique Colonial asparagus preparation just slightly by recommending a few minutes for marinating (to allow the flavors to soak in) and an extra garnish before serving. I also recommend using olive oil for the dressing, rather than the vegetable oil called for in The City Tavern Cookbook. According to paperwork found in his archives, Jefferson had olive oil shipped to him from Bordeaux after his time in France, so it would not be out of place to use it in this recipe. The flavor of olive oil suits this dish well. The vinaigrette dressing is mild and infused with fresh thyme. It can be prepared a day ahead if desired– if you do this, the egg pieces will “pickle” in the vinegar and turn a pretty purple color. An additional garnish of hard-cooked egg and fresh chopped parsley gives it a special touch. This is a very unique vegetarian side dish, and a lovely taste of history perfect for celebrating Jefferson and his contribution to American independence.

Cold Marinated Asparagus Salad

I am so happy to see that spring has arrived, though, much like the rest of the country, we had a bit of a cold snap to usher in the spring season. No snow in the south, but we did get temps down in the mid-30s, even here in south Mississippi. No worries though. won't be long before we'll all be complaining about the heat! My A/C has already been running full time, though truly, I never turned the central heat on one time this winter. The few cold snaps we did have were covered just fine by my little Duraflame fireplace heaters.

I am so happy to see most of the perennials I planted last year poking through the ground, along with far too many weeds. well, all but the lavender at least, which was beautiful, but got pulverized by last summer's heat. My old house had a north/south exposure, and lots of trees, but this house faces west, and without many trees on the property, the sun, and the electric bill, are intense. I'm seriously considering solar panels - feel like I should be harnessing some of that heat, and if the cost weren't so prohibitive, I would have already invested!

I've already received some of my new perennials from Cottage Farms too, so we've been looking a bit like a nursery around here as I held onto the plants inside, first for the cold snap, and now waiting for this next storm to roll through today and this weekend. If you have cats that own you like I do, you know inside cats and inside plants aren't exactly compatible!

Anyway, speaking of this weekend, I can hardly believe Easter is upon us and as usual, another holiday has surprised me - everything comes up and passes so quickly these days. It sure seems like as I inch closer to 60, time is spinning! I have a coconut sheet cake that I have been trying to get posted for I don't even know how many holidays now, and I've still not managed to get it posted. Might as well go ahead and remake it now into a layer cake! Oh well. so I'm not the most organized food blogger.

Since spring is here and Easter is upon us though, I'm bringing you this marinated salad made with fresh asparagus. It is absolutely delicious and perfect for any spring dinner. I wrote the recipe with the holiday in mind, but since there's only two of us, and one of us doesn't eat vegetables, nevermind asparagus, I'm making a half recipe in the photos, using one pound of asparagus. Here's how to make it.

Trim the asparagus and if thick, use a vegetable peeler to peel away the very outer layer of the lower portions of the trimmed asparagus, which may be a bit too woody and tough for a raw salad. You can snap the asparagus where they naturally bend, but I generally just cut off the bottom quarter portion all at once, which seems to work for me.

Cut asparagus into thirds, rinse well and steam or cook until crisp tender. I used my microwave grill pan with a little water for 4 minutes to steam, though stovetop will be close to that too. Just remember you want them to be only crisp-tender and not soft.

Since there are have so many products made specifically for microwave cooking in the past few years, I've really been using mine a lot more beyond the making of popcorn, warming leftovers and heating up my coffee. One of my favorite microwave tools is the Fasta Pasta cooker. I literally use that just about every day for something - potatoes, rice, veggies and, of course, pasta. This grill pan is another favorite. I even make wings in it!

Place asparagus in a lidded storage container. Combine marinade ingredients in a saucepan. Extra virgin olive oil is a bit too strong for this salad, so I prefer using a lighter salad or cooking oil.

Bring to a boil, then stir in the pimentos.

Pour dressing over the cut asparagus, toss, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to two days. Let salad come to room temperature about 30 minutes before serving. I also like to add some grape tomatoes right before serving.

Since I'm not a fan of squirting bite-sized tomatoes, I like to halve them. Adding them too early waters down the dressing, and the tomatoes can suffer in texture too, so I just toss them in right before serving.

You can spoon the salad over shredded lettuce, or just serve it as is.

Recipe: Cold Marinated Asparagus Salad

  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus , trimmed and cut into thirds, cooked crisp tender
  • 1 cup light olive oil or salad oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower, safflower)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons Creole mustard
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 (2 ounce) jar chopped pimentos , drained
  • 1-1/2 cups grape tomatoes , sliced
  • Shredded lettuce , optional

Trim asparagus, cut into thirds and steam or cook until crisp tender. Bring marinade ingredients to a boil, add the pimentos and pour over the asparagus. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to two days. Let come to room temperature about 30 minutes before serving toss in the tomato halves. Serve as-is, or spoon over shredded lettuce, if desired.

Cook's Notes: If asparagus are thick, use a vegetable peeler to peel away the very outer layer of the lower portions of the trimmed asparagus, which may be a bit too woody and tough for a salad.

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