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Easy Pan-Fried Asparagus With Lemon and Parmesan

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Are you looking for a simple recipe to enjoy during asparagus season? Look no further than pan-fried asparagus. This quick side dish is easy to whip up and pairs perfectly with just about anything. This recipe takes minimal effort, making it a healthy and delicious way to get in some greens on busy weeknights.

Asparagus on a platter with lemon and parmesan cheese and toasted almonds

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How To Make Pan-Fried Asparagus

The full recipe and instructions are located on the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

Equipment

Ingredients

A photo of the ingredients needed for the recipe
  • Olive oil– I like to fry asparagus in olive oil for its flavor and to keep the asparagus from sticking in the pan.
  • Fresh asparagus– Pick stalks that are thicker than a pencil and are a nice green color. Also, make sure the tops of the asparagus spears are healthy looking and not soft and droopy.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper– for flavor.
  • Garlic– for flavor and a little spiciness.
  • Lemon zest– adds a great fresh flavor and zip.
  • Grated parmesan cheese– for some saltiness and nuttiness.
  • Sliced almonds, toasted– for added texture and crunch, I buy the ones from the grocery store already toasted.
  • Lemon juice (optional)– to add a burst of freshness and tang.

Trimming Asparagus

Before cooking, you want to wash and trim the asparagus by removing the woody ends. The ends are just way too tough to eat and won’t cook well with the rest of the veggies.

The easy way I trim is by grabbing an asparagus stalk in my hand, placing my thumb over the stalk, and bending it very gently to find the toughest part–the part that won’t bend easily. Try not to break the stalk at this point.

A photo of a hand bending a stalk of asparagus

When you find the toughest part of the stalk, apply a little pressure with your thumb or use your other hand to bend the stalk and break off the tough part. It will break off easily.

You’ll notice that the thinner stalks will have smaller ends that break off and the thick stalks will lose almost half of the asparagus. But that’s fine!

Instructions

a photo of raw asparagus stalks in a cast iron pan

Add the olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

Once the oil is hot and almost starting to shimmer, add your trimmed asparagus stalks.

Season with salt and pepper and allow the asparagus to cook on one side undisturbed for 1 minute.

*Turn the temperature down to medium heat if you notice the veggies are burning.

Asparagus cooked and browned in a skillet

After a minute, turn the asparagus over and continue cooking until it is bright green with some browned spots, and the stalk is tender when pierced with a fork.

For thin stalks, this will take 2-3 minutes, and for thicker stalks 5-6 minutes. Remove any stalks from the pan that are finished cooking before the others, and set them aside on a plate to return to the pan later.

Once all the asparagus is fully cooked and tender, turn off the heat, and return any stalks that have been set to the side back to the pan. Add in the minced garlic. Toss the garlic and vegetables together for about 30-45 seconds until the garlic is fragrant and the raw flavor has cooked out.

There is enough residual heat in the pan to cook the garlic, so keep the burner off to prevent overcooking and burning the veggies.

Cooked asparagus tossed with garlic and lemon

Once the garlic is cooked, sprinkle on fresh lemon zest and parmesan cheese.

Asparagus with toasted almonds, parmesan and lemon zest in a cast iron skillet

Finish with the toasted almonds, and give the sauteed asparagus a taste.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice or more pepper if desired and serve immediately.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Adding herbs like fresh parsley or dill is a great way to add freshness and extra flavor
  • Omit the salt and drizzle the asparagus with soy sauce after pan frying.
  • Cook a little bit of bacon in the pan and saute the asparagus in bacon fat instead of the olive oil. Make sure to sprinkle on the cooked bacon bits before serving!
  • Add sauteed mushrooms to the pan for a heartier side dish.
  • Instead of lemon juice, drizzle the asparagus with a little balsamic vinegar or a balsamic vinaigrette

Serving Suggestions

A photo of a plate of asparagus with lemons and toasted almonds

This is a really simple sauteed asparagus recipe that goes with anything! My favorite way to serve this dish is alongside a hearty protein like Dijon Chicken Thighs, rich Smoked Salmon Cakes, or a nice creamy Fish Chowder or a Panko Crusted Cod.

Pro Tips

  • Add the asparagus to the pan while the oil is hot. This is the best way to get nice color and flavor on the outside of the vegetables.
  • Add the garlic to the pan off the heat. This will prevent the garlic from burning before the asparagus is done cooking. There is so much heat in the pan, that the raw flavor will cook out in about 30 seconds with just the residual heat of the pan and asparagus.
  • Remove thinner stalks from the pan when they are done cooking, even if the thick stalks are not finished yet. This will prevent mushy overcooked asparagus. The cooked stalks will be added back to the pan at the end.

Storage and Reheating

Store leftover asparagus in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

To reheat, place the asparagus in a skillet over medium-high heat and warm for a minute or until heated through.

Leftovers can also be reheated in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds until warm.

FAQs

How long does it take to sauté asparagus?

The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the asparagus. Thin stalks will cook in approximately 2-3 minutes and thicker stalks will take upwards of 6 minutes.

Do I need to blanch the asparagus before frying?

No. The asparagus will cook completely in the skillet.

Does asparagus need to be peeled?

I do not peel asparagus. I just wash and break off the tough ends before cooking.

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More Delicious Side Dishes

A photo of a plate of asparagus with lemons and toasted almonds

Pan-Fried Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 11 minutes

A simple and quick recipe for pan-fried asparagus This easy side dish takes minimal effort to whip up and pairs perfectly with just about anything, perfect for busy weeknights.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (1 clove) garlic, minced fine
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of sliced almonds, toasted (optional)
  • Lemon juice to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add the olive oil to a large 10" skillet, and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is almost shimmering.
  2. Add the asparagus to the hot oil and season with salt and pepper. Let the asparagus cook undisturbed for 1 minute.
  3. Turn the asparagus and continue cooking and turning frequently until the asparagus is bright green on all sides, has browned in spots, and is tender when pierced with a fork, 2-3 minutes for thin stalks, and 4-6 minutes for thick stalks.
  4. Once the asparagus is tender, take the pan off the heat and add the minced garlic.
  5. Give the veggies a toss to evenly distribute the garlic and allow the residual heat from the pan to cook the garlic until fragrant and mild in flavor, about 30-45 seconds.
  6. Sprinkle on the lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and toasted almonds. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

Notes

Your thinner stalks of asparagus will finish cooking before the thicker stalks. Remove thin stalks from the pan and set aside. Once all the asparagus is cooked through, add the thin stalks back to the pan off heat and toss with the garlic.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 99Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 191mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g

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