Asparagus is a tasty and healthy green vegetable that is found in so many dishes during the spring and early summer months. But what if you need some substitutes for asparagus in your cooking?
Let's talk through 10 delicious alternatives to asparagus that can be used to make salads, soups, pasta sauces and so much more!
This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute dietetic advice in any way. It is a broad informational post and may refer to higher histamine foods.
- What is asparagus?
- Health benefits of asparagus
- Why may you wish to substitute asparagus in cooking?
- How to cook with asparagus
- How to prepare asparagus for cooking
- Substitutes for asparagus
- Broccoli and broccolini
- Green beans
- Green bell pepper
- Bok Choy
- Romaine lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
- Frequently asked questions
- More substitute posts
- 💬 Comments
What is asparagus?
Asparagus is a spring vegetable that grows in spears, and is a member of the lily family (BBC Good Food). It has a savory flavor that is often described as being mildly bitter. Asparagus comes in green, white and purple varieties, with green being the most common.
The asparagus growing season is fairly short, and it is typically available in late spring through to early summer, depending upon the location. Therefore you may need an alternative for when asparagus is out of season.
If you are thinking of growing asparagus yourself, the Royal Horticulture Society suggests that it is easy to do so! In their overview of growing asparagus, they describe that plants can be grown from crowns or seed and each plant can grow for up to twenty years.
It is also possible to buy frozen asparagus as well as canned asparagus, including canned white asparagus.
Health benefits of asparagus
In their overview of the health benefits of asparagus, Healthline describes that this vegetable is a good source of folate and antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, flavonoids and polyphenols.
Asparagus is also high in insoluble fiber, as well as a small amount of soluble fiber (Healthline).
For those looking for low histamine recipes, you may be interested to note that asparagus is a source of quercetin (Healthline). This flavonoid has been the subject of research into its effectiveness for 'inhibiting release of of pro-inflammatory cytokines from human mast cells' (Weng et al. 2021).*
Why may you wish to substitute asparagus in cooking?
One of the main reason you may need some substitutes for asparagus is simply that you are out! Or perhaps you go to the store out of season and there isn't any fresh asparagus to pick up.
Asparagus is also a slightly more expensive vegetable than others, so you may like to choose a more affordable option.
It is, of course, also possible that you have a food intolerance to asparagus, or simply do not like the taste.
How to cook with asparagus
Asparagus is a very versatile green vegetable and can be used in both hot and cold cooking. Here are a few ways to enjoy asparagus:
- For a simple side dish, you can steam, griddle, boil or grill asparagus. A drizzle of olive oil or butter makes it even more delicious!
- To use cold in salads, fresh asparagus can be diced very finely and paired with other vegetables or fresh cheese, such as for an asparagus caprese salad.
- Roasted asparagus can be drizzled with olive oil and herbs to serve as a tasty side dish.
- Use to make a spring asparagus soup for lunch or a light dinner.
- Blend into a sauce for asparagus pasta or make an asparagus risotto for dinner!
How to prepare asparagus for cooking
Asparagus is very easy to cook with, but requires one simple step before you add it to your meals.
As we want to use the tender part of asparagus, hold the asparagus spear at each end and then bend until it snaps. Keep the end with the flower, and discard the woody end of the stem as it is tough and fibrous (and not too tasty!).
Substitutes for asparagus
There are many alternatives to asparagus to make your tasty meals, so let's talk about all the green vegetables we can enjoy!
Zucchini (also known as courgette) is a very popular green fruit (not a vegetable!), and has a similar mild flavor to asparagus. It's very easy to find in stores and is quite affordable. Zucchini is also very easy to grow yourself if you have a back yard!
In their overview of the health benefits of zucchini, Healthline describes that it is a good source of vitamin A, antioxidants and both soluble and insoluble fiber.
As a substitute for asparagus, zucchini can be used in many ways. Simply roast, steam or grill your zucchini as a side dish, perhaps with a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs. You can even dice zucchini into batons that are a similar size and shape to asparagus!
You can also use zucchini to make soups, fritters, in warm salads or pasta sauces.
Broccoli and broccolini
Broccoli and broccolini are nutritious green vegetables, with broccolini coming in spears similar to asparagus! Broccoli is part of the brassica family and is particularly easy to find in stores, and is typically available year-round.
As an alternative to asparagus, broccoli is a good choice as it has a similar slightly bitter taste.
In their overview of the health benefits of broccoli, BBC Good Food describes that this green vegetable is a source of fiber, certain phytochemicals, carotenoids and plant compounds.
Broccoli can be enjoyed cold, or hot if you steam, boil, air fry or roast it. As a versatile vegetable, you can enjoy broccoli and broccolini in salads, as a side dish, in sauces and soups.
Peas are tasty substitutes for asparagus, and are popular with both kids and adults alike! Choose from garden peas, sugar snap peas or snow peas, which are all climbing plants and members of the legume family (The Kitchn). Frozen garden peas are found in most homes I think!
Sugar snap peas most closely resemble asparagus in their appearance, as you can eat the whole pod. Although they are sweeter than asparagus, they add a nice nutritious green vegetable to your plate!
Just a note that peas rate as higher histamine per the SIGHI list and so may not suit my low histamine readers.
Green beans have a mild sweetness, and a slight crunch. As they have a similar size and shape, green beans are a good replacement for asparagus. This green vegetable is usually easy to find in stores and are quick to cook by blanching or grilling.
Green beans can be eaten as a hot side dish with a little olive oil or butter or allowed to cool and added to summer salads. And of course, a green bean casserole is a popular Thanksgiving dish!
In their overview of the health benefits of green beans, Healthline describes that they are a source of fiber, plant protein, manganese, folate and vitamins A and C, amongst others.
My low histamine readers may wish to know that green beans rate as 1 on the SIGHI list, with a note, 'can be tolerated in some cases'.
Green bell pepper
Green bell peppers are another green vegetable that can be used as a substitute for asparagus. They are very easy to find in stores and you can grow them yourselves too!
The taste of green bell peppers differs a little depending upon whether you serve them raw or cooked. Raw green bell pepper has a bitter taste, but this mellows a little when roasted or grilled. This bitter taste is due to the fact that green peppers are actually unripe peppers (Good Housekeeping).
Green bell peppers can be used in salads, but also cooked in a stir-fry or casserole or simply steamed, roasted or grilled.
Bok choy (also known as pak choi or pok choi) is a good alternative to asparagus as a side dish as it has a similar, slightly crunchy, texture if not overcooked. This green vegetable was first cultivated in China and is a cruciferous vegetable similarly to broccoli and Brussels sprouts (Medical News Today).
As a substitute for asparagus, you can steam bok boy, cook as air fried bok choy, add to stir-fry recipes, or boil this vegetable. Both the white bulb and the dark green leaves can be eaten. Bok choy is often served with sesame, ginger and garlic flavors.
Bok choy contains folate, vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, as well as selenium, amongst other nutrients (Medical News Today).
Leeks are part of the allium family, and have a distinctive mild onion flavor. Easy to grow yourself (my crop always works well!), and easy to find in stores, leeks are a versatile vegetable that can be used as a side dish or to flavor soups and stews.
As a substitute for asparagus, leeks provide a lot of flavor and health benefits too. As Healthline describes in their overview of leeks, this vegetable is a good source of magnesium, vitamins A, C and K, polyphenols and sulfur compunds.
Romaine lettuce may not look the same as asparagus, but it does have a similar slightly bitter taste. This nutritious leafy green is delicious in salads or warmed through as a side dish. If you haven't tried warm romaine lettuce before then do give it a try, as it brings out so much flavor!
As with many leafy greens, romaine lettuce has a lot of health benefits. As described by Medical News Today in their overview of romaine lettuce, it is a good source of antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, potassium and folate.
Brussels sprouts make a good alternative to asparagus as they have the same slightly bitter taste. Sometimes called 'mini cabbages', Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable and can easily be found in stores as fresh or frozen produce. You can often buy Brussels sprouts on their stalk, especially during the holiday season.
In their overview of Brussels sprouts, Healthline describes that this vegetable is a good source of fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C.
Now a popular side dish, you can boil or steam this vegetable, as well as making roast Brussels sprouts or air fried Brussels sprouts. Enjoy as a hot dish or leave to cool and add to your summer salads!
Celery may seem like an unusual idea, but it makes for a tasty substitute for asparagus in salads. It is a marshland plant with long pale green stems, with a high water content (BBC Good Food). Both raw crisp celery can be used, or cooked celery that has more sweetness and so more likeness to asparagus.
There are many nutrients in celery, including potassium, calcium, folate, vitamin K and flavonoids, as described by BBC Good Food in their overview of celery benefits. Similarly to asparagus, celery is a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Frequently asked questions
Fresh asparagus can be eaten raw in salads. Simply remove the woody end of the stem, then either dice very finely or use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of the asparagus.
Asparagus is in season in the spring months through to early summer.
Broccoli is a good substitute for asparagus as it is affordable, easy to find in stores year-round and can be cooked in a variety of ways, including in stir-fry recipes, casseroles and risottos. It has a similar, slightly bitter, taste to asparagus.
Celery and lettuces are both good alternatives to asparagus in salads. They can be eaten raw, or heated and served in warm salads.
Broccoli and leeks both make good alternatives to asparagus in risotto recipes.
More substitute posts
*Weng, Z. et al. (2012) 'Quercetin Is More Effective than Cromolyn in Blocking Human Mast Cell Cytokine Release and Inhibits Contact Dermatitis and Photosensitivity in Humans', PLoS One. 7(3): e33805.