Just in Time For Spring: A Recipe for Tender Air-Fryer Asparagus in Under 15 Minutes

The air fryer is a fast and foolproof way to cook tender-crisp asparagus with a deep woodsy flavor.

air-fryer asparagus hero
Serious Eats/Jen Causey

When spring is in the air and vibrant green vegetables start making their way into my local market, I get so excited you might find me skipping down the produce aisle, joyfully throwing fiddleheads and ramps into the air, and generally causing a scene. But before I'm escorted out for my overenthusiastic behavior, I always make a point to grab my favorite springtime veggie: asparagus. 

Asparagus is a staple green in my weekly dinner rotation throughout the spring and into the summer. With its earthy fresh flavor with a hint of sweetness and its satisfying plump and tender texture, asparagus pairs well with almost any meal. But what I like best is how darn fast it is to prepare. Asparagus is an extremely versatile vegetable that can be cooked many ways. It’s great roasted, grilled, blanched, microwaved, or braised, but my favorite quick and easy way to prepare asparagus for weeknight dinners is in the air fryer.

The air fryer’s combination of high heat and steady airflow wicks away moisture from the asparagus while it cooks and caramelizes the sugars in fresh asparagus, adding a beautiful complexity of flavor. Within ten minutes you’ll have asparagus that is lightly browned and roasty on the outside and tender-crisp inside. Here are a few tips for getting perfect asparagus in your air fryer.

Buying Asparagus

air-fryer asparagus headnote 1
Serious Eats/Jen Causey

In order to cook asparagus really well, you need to start with fresh, high quality asparagus. I’ll echo Kenji’s tips for buying and prepping asparagus and say that whether purchasing green, white, or even purple asparagus, you should always look for the same characteristics: firm, crisp stalks with tight, fully closed budding tips. As the asparagus ages, the petals on the tip will slowly open up, dry out, or fall off—so be on the lookout for these warning signs that your asparagus is past its prime. You also want to steer clear of asparagus with wet or slimy tips or stalks that are limp or bendable. Look for asparagus that appears to be freshly cut and bright, not dry or woody.

When selecting asparagus to cook in an air fryer, I recommend choosing thicker spears—about 1/2 inch thick or larger. Thicker asparagus are more tender due to their higher soluble fiber content and water retention than thinner spears. The thicker spears can cook longer in the air fryer so they get a nice caramelized exterior while maintaining a crisp and juicy interior. Thinner spears will cook more quickly all the way through, which gives less time for the outside to develop a roasty flavor.

Prepping Asparagus for Cooking in the Air Fryer

The only prep asparagus really needs before cooking is trimming the woody ends that are too tough and fibrous to chew. While some people swear by snapping the ends of asparagus off at their natural breaking point, Serious Eats has proven it’s best to cut the ends off. Cutting the tough fibrous ends of the asparagus off minimizes the risk of wasting any unintentionally snapped bits of the tender asparagus, and makes for a nicer presentation. To cut at the right place, simply eyeball where the asparagus lightens in color and feel that area to pinpoint where it becomes more fibrous and rough in texture, then trim off the rough part. If your asparagus is especially woody, you can also use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of the asparagus from the bottom half of the asparagus or all the way up to the tip. I usually skip peeling as I like how the thin, slightly fibrous asparagus skin offsets its fleshy and tender interior.

air-fryer asparagus headnote 2
Serious Eats/Jen Causey

Tips for Cooking Asparagus in an Air Fryer

When asparagus is cooked properly in an air fryer, it should be tender while still retaining a bit of crisp texture in the core off each spear. On the outside, there should be a bit of char and browning, particularly on the asparagus tips. This browning and Maillard reaction is what delivers those roasted/caramelized flavors we want. You want them roasty on the outside and tender within, but not totally limp—fresh spring asparagus is best when it still has some bite left in it.

Preheat the air fryer and cook at a high temperature: Since asparagus spears cook so quickly, you want the exterior to start cooking immediately. The oil-coated asparagus should sizzle slightly on contact with the air fryer, so take the extra five minutes to preheat the air fryer. Cooking at a high heat of 400°F allows the outside of the asparagus to develop a woodsy, roasted flavor and get slightly charred before the inside of the spears overcook.

Don’t overcrowd the air fryer basket: Overcrowding the air fryer basket can prevent proper air circulation and result in uneven cooking of the asparagus. It can also cause the asparagus to steam rather than roast, which prevents the slight browning we’re going for here. Avoid this by cooking the asparagus in a single layer or in batches if necessary. For a six-quart or larger capacity air fryer, one pound of asparagus will fit in one batch, but for a smaller capacity air fryer, you may need to cook the asparagus in two batches. Before cooking, check to see if the asparagus will lay flat into your air fryer. If needed, the asparagus can be halved crosswise to ensure the asparagus fits into your air fryer.

air-fryer asparagus headnote 3
Serious Eats/Jen Causey

Serving Suggestions

Fresh, in-season asparagus that’s been perfectly roasted in the air fryer doesn’t need much adornment. It’s wonderful when you keep it simple with just a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of your preferred vinegar to finish, a few shavings of a sharp hard cheese like Parmesan, and a sprinkle of cut fresh herbs such as chives, parsley, or mint. But if you are feeling inspired to do something a little more complicated, Daniel’s Caraway-Yogurt Sauce or his asparagus alla Milanese and variations are great recipes to dress up this air-fryer asparagus. However you choose to dress up this easy recipe, in about 15 minutes you’ll have asparagus that’s worth making a scene about.

Set air fryer to 400°F and preheat for 5 minutes.

air-fryer asparagus step 1
Serious Eats/Jen Causey

In a bowl, toss asparagus with oil, salt, and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, transfer asparagus to basket in a single layer, and cook until asparagus is browned in a few spots and tender-crisp, 5 to 10 minutes (see notes).

air-fryer asparagus step 2
Serious Eats/Jen Causey

Special Equipment

Air fryer

Notes

If asparagus is too long to fit in the air fryer, halve it crosswise.

I recommend using asparagus that is at least ½-inch thick. The cooking time may vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus

We recommend using a 6-quart or larger air fryer. If using a smaller air fryer, you may need to cook the asparagus in batches to ensure even cooking and spacing.