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If you’re a fan of asparagus, you are probably well-versed in how to prepare asparagus spears to perfection. Usually, this involves blanching, oven-roasting, popping on the outdoor grill, and sprinkling with very subtle seasonings with a splash of fresh lemon juice just before serving. Does this sound familiar?
Of course, I’m also a fan of traditional asparagus recipes. But, there is something fun about adding asparagus spears to an air fryer and enjoying a unique texture and flavor that is ready in minutes. I should note that air frying asparagus will create smaller spears. Watch thin spears and pull them out early, if needed. Though there is less “snap” with spears that have been air fried, the final result is a tasty, crunchy, and fun preparation that is worth trying!
As you’ll see later in the post, asparagus sustainability is a bit problematic. My recommendation (especially for vegans) is to just be aware of how often you’re eating asparagus and noting where it was harvested. If you have access to a local source, or the space/patience to grow asparagus on your property, that is ideal. Otherwise, just be mindful of how frequently you purchase asparagus to help promote a lesser carbon footprint.
What you’ll love about this recipe
Cooking frozen asparagus lends itself to both a unique opportunity and a unique flavor! The air fryer creates a simultaneous crispy texture and caramelized flavor with subtle seasonings.
You can make this in either 15 minutes (or 30 minutes, if you have quite a few spears to cook), making this preparation incredibly simple.
There is no need to thaw the asparagus spears before adding them to the air fryer, making this a straight-forward and time-saving effort in the kitchen.
Frozen asparagus. Choose a brand from your local grocery store or freeze your own!
Extra virgin olive oil. When using olive oil with any air fryer recipe (including this one!), I will always warn that less is more. I keep it easy with one teaspoon of a good-quality olive oil for this recipe, but you could get away with any amount between one-half and one teaspoon olive oil. You are also welcome to use a few pumps of an olive oil spritzer for the most conservative approach. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away if you find you’ve added too much.
Garlic powder. This is an optional ingredient, but I think it adds a subtle depth of flavor to the asparagus spears. Some recipes may caution that garlic can become bitter when cooked at high temperatures (which can happen), but that is not the case with this recipe. The garlic powder can be added at the beginning of the cook time, with the rest of the ingredients.
Kosher salt. The finer grain of the kosher salt will allow you to disperse the salt evenly over the asparagus. For this part of the recipe, I use pink Himalayan sea salt.
Coarse sea salt. This is a nice touch at the end, for an added crunch and pleasing presentation. Of course, this is optional and can absolutely be avoided if you are trying to restrict salt intake.
How to air fry frozen asparagus
Preheat your air fryer to 400ºF. This should only take a few minutes.
During the preheating phase, toss the frozen asparagus spears with the remaining ingredients (except coarse sea salt). Your fingers will get a little cold, but it’s manageable! Massage the asparagus spears until the olive oil and seasonings evenly coat the spears.
When the air fryer is heated, add the asparagus spears directly to the air fryer basket. Enjoy the sound of the sizzle – that’s my favorite part! Shake the basket until the spears are evenly distributed in one layer. Depending upon the size of your basket, this might mean that you need to make these in two batches. It is better not to crowd the air fryer basket and allow for a crispy end result, rather than steam them. The good news is these cook fast!
About halfway through the cook time, remove the air fryer basket to: (a) shake to “flip” the asparagus spears and (b) check for doneness. We are aiming for a texture that is a little crispy on the edges, but is not completely wilted. At this stage, you will either return the basket to the air fryer for the rest of the cooking time, or you will only air fry for 30 seconds to one minute longer, in order to prevent over-wilting.
Remove the asparagus spears when ready and top with the coarse sea salt for added crunch and presentation, if desired. Some like to add a squeeze of lemon, which you can incorporate at this step if you want to add a hint of citrus. Note: You might enjoy the lemon juice better if you avoid using the garlic powder, so the seasonings don’t compete with one another – that is completely up to you, though!
Air Fryer Frozen Asparagus
- 1 air fryer
- 12 ounces frozen asparagus spears
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder optional
- 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pinch coarse sea salt optional, for garnish
- Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While the air fryer heats, combine frozen asparagus spears, olive oil, kosher salt, garlic powder, and black pepper in a medium bowl.
- Gently use your hands to toss the asparagus spears with the seasonings, separating any spears that are frozen together. Toss until the seasonings are evenly distributed.
- Add the asparagus spears to the air fryer basket, shaking the basket until the spears form a single layer along the bottom. *If your basket is small to medium-sized, this means you might need to cook the spears in two batches.
- Cook for 10 minutes, shaking the basket half-way through to "turn" the spears and check for doneness. If the spears are starting to brown, only cook for a few more minutes.
- Remove the spears from the air fryer by pouring onto a plate or removing with tongs. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if desired.
Less is more with this air fryer frozen asparagus recipe! Show some restraint with both the olive oil and the cook time. Don’t exceed one teaspoon of olive oil for about 12 ounces of asparagus, and don’t exceed more than 10 minutes of cook time when you’re at temperatures as high as 400 degrees. Of course, you know your machine best. If you need more or less cook time to achieve your desired consistency, go for it!
Asparagus Sustainability Profile
The sustainability of asparagus is a bit complicated. Just like any other piece of produce we buy from the grocery store, its environmental impact is determined by the source; specifically, how far it’s traveled and what growing methods were used to bring it to your table. If you opt for a locally-grown, organic supplier or grow your own, asparagus is considered a sustainable crop with little impact on its surroundings. Here in the U.S., quite a bit of asparagus is flown to us from other countries, significantly increasing its carbon footprint. Produce that is air freighted to its final destination does create a hefty footprint, which is why I’m intrigued by the concept of frozen asparagus as a possible alternative. Check the label and ask your grocer what options are available for local, organic supply. The good news is that asparagus is listed on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 list, so we will take the victories where we can get them!
Freeze for out-of-season use
What I love about discussing frozen asparagus, in particular, is the option to capitalize on securing a larger batch when you do find a sustainable variety (including your own crop in the backyard!). Asparagus can be frozen at home. Many have experienced the best success blanching the asparagus before freezing, to maintain color and texture. Though asparagus aficionados might find less “snap” to the asparagus after thawing, it is a handy method to keep asparagus on hand, especially if you can find a fresh batch at its peak nutritional value. Since most vegetables are flash frozen by companies at their most nutritious, I believe it is acceptable to treat yourself to some frozen asparagus from the grocery store occasionally.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you cook asparagus after its been frozen?
Absolutely! You do have a few options for sourcing frozen asparagus: either buy it frozen from your grocery store, or freeze it yourself. As mentioned earlier, many who have frozen it at home blanched the asparagus spears before freezing and believe the texture is more similar to raw asparagus once it thaws (in other words, less limp).
Should I thaw asparagus before cooking?
When cooking the asparagus from frozen, there is no need to thaw prior to adding it to the air fryer. If you do allow the asparagus to thaw – we’ve all gotten distracted in the kitchen while in the middle of a recipe – decrease the cooking time by a few minutes. Thawed asparagus will cook faster than straight-from-frozen.
Is frozen asparagus any good?
Yes! A number of reasons exist to consume frozen vegetables. Most are frozen at their peak freshness, allowing their maximum nutrients to wait for you to thaw and enjoy. If you are able to grow asparagus in your own backyard, remember that the best time to eat them is right after harvest. Therefore, if you’re planning to freeze your own, go ahead and complete that process immediately. Frozen asparagus gives you the opportunity to enjoy these delicious vegetables out-of-season.