Fresh asparagus spears have a mild earthy flavor with a slightly bitter undertone. They’re excellent roasted, steamed, or grilled and partner well with fish and hollandaise sauce.
If you can’t get your hands on any or you want something different, then keep reading. We’ve created an essential guide to asparagus substitutes so that you can finish any recipe without the original ingredient.
What can I use instead of asparagus?
To replace fresh asparagus, use frozen asparagus for best results or the canned variety if you don’t mind a softer texture. Other great options are nopales, broccoli, fiddleheads, or leeks. These vegetables will bring new flavors to the dish, but they won’t be out of place either.
1. Canned or frozen asparagus
Any type of pre-packaged asparagus will work well if you want the same flavor. Snap-frozen bags lock in the nutritional goodness and maintain the vegetable's texture. That makes them your best substitute, but they’re not always easy to find.
Jarred or canned spears are much more common, usually found in the canned vegetable aisle. They’re too soft and mushy to use as a side dish, but they’re fine for adding to slow-cooked food like stews or asparagus soup. The spears are also great for making asparagus rolls for kids' lunches.
Nopales are cactus leaves or paddles that grow on the nopal cactus. They have a mild flavor with a subtly bitter taste and a crispy texture when fresh.
In cooking, nopales are a great addition to garden salads and can be sprinkled over Mexican cuisine. They also make a tasty side dish when boiled, grilled, charred, or sautéed.
The biggest challenge with nopales is that they’re not always easy to find in grocery stores. Mexican grocers will likely have them stocked, otherwise visit a retailer like Walmart that sell jarred nopalitos. These are tender nopale strips that will work in slow-cooked dishes where a firm texture isn’t important.
3. Broccoli stems
You may think that broccoli florets look a lot different than asparagus, and you’d be right. But broccoli stems are a useful substitute, with a firm texture and mild flavor. Based on ease of finding in stores and similarity, broccoli stems are the best asparagus alternative.
You’ll need to buy large florets that have good-sized stems. Slice them off and then cut them julienne style or into thicker strips. Now you can use them as a replacement in your next risotto, add them to pasta, or serve them next to baked salmon or barramundi. Broccoli stems are also perfect for tossing into stir-fries and salads.
Also worth reading: how to freeze broccoli.
Finding fiddleheads isn’t easy as they’re highly seasonal and only grow in the wild. That means you’ll most likely find them in farmer’s markets, rather than supermarkets.
They have an earthy, grassy flavor and a texture that is similar to asparagus. Steam or sauté them first to reduce the bitterness, then use them as a side like you would asparagus, served with your favorite creamy sauce.
Cooked leeks have a very mild taste of onion with a delicious buttery texture. You can find out more about them in our leek flavor guide.
They have a different texture and flavor but will work well in a hearty casserole, chicken leek pie or soup. As a side dish, leeks are hard to beat when fried or sautéed in butter.
Fresh leeks are a good alternative for anyone who doesn’t enjoy the taste of asparagus and wants something different.
If you’re in a pinch then celery can work as a replacement for asparagus. You could use it as a bulking ingredient in slow-cooked recipes or add strips to a stirfry.
Celery has its limitations though, and adding stalks as a sidedish or into a pasta probably won’t appeal to most. Being a highly nutritious vegetable, it’s also likely to appeal to anyone looking for healthy eating options.
Fresh zucchini has a much different flavor and consistency when compared to asparagus. But it’s an excellent side dish, perfect for people who can’t get their hands on asparagus and don’t mind something different.
You may like to buy them in bulk then pre-slice and freeze for later use. Check out our guide to freezing zucchini for more info.
8. Green Beans
Green beans are similar in size, shape, and consistency to asparagus. They also have a mild flavor making them an excellent backup veggie.
As a side, you can fry beans in olive oil with garlic, then sprinkle with sea salt for a healthy, delicious meal option. Beans pair well with most foods and are a versatile option that will work in any asparagus recipe.
Summary table of asparagus replacements
|Frozen asparagus||Perfect replacement for any recipe but may be hard to find.|
|Canned asparagus||Softer, mushier texture, good for slow-cooked meals.|
|Nopales||Great for Mexican cuisine or served as a side dish.|
|Broccoli stems||Excellent all-round alternative, easy to find and in the same ballpark for flavor.|
|Fiddleheads||Similar flavor and texture, but tricky to find and may be expensive.|
|Leeks||Handy choice for building flavor in a dish or as a side. Offers a different flavor with a subtle hint of onion.|
|Celery||Good filler option in casseroles, soups, and pies. Not ideal as a sidedish.|
|Zucchini||Different in flavor and texture, good for those wanting something different.|
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Commonly asked questions
Can I replace asparagus with peppers?
Use green peppers as a replacement for asparagus if you’re in a pinch. Keep in mind that peppers are juicier and sweeter, and overcooking them will result in a much soggier ingredient.
Can I eat raw asparagus?
It’s safe to eat raw asparagus although you’ll want to thinly slice it or marinate the spears to reduce their tough texture. For a softer bite, it’s best to steam or sauté them for 3 minutes – you’ll also keep the valuable nutrients.
Can I substitute asparagus for artichoke?
Artichokes are often compared to asparagus for their flavor, so they'll work as a substitute. However, they’re usually more expensive. An artichoke is also more work to prep compared to the simplicity of an asparagus spear.
Although asparagus is fairly easy to find in most parts of the world, your local store may be out of stock. If that’s the case you can use frozen or jarred asparagus, although the latter option is recommended for slow-cooked recipes.
Nopales, broccoli stems, and fiddleheads are excellent alternatives. Most households will find that broccoli is the easiest vegetable to locate in stores.
Leeks, celery, and zucchini also make good replacements if you’re okay with a different flavored meal.