How to Choose the Right Asparagus Substitute

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Asparagus is a popular and versatile green vegetable. However, not everyone can eat asparagus. Sometimes people who want to eat asparagus just don’t have it on hand.

This blog post will explain how to choose the right asparagus substitute based on why you need the asparagus substitute, what you are cooking, and what you have available. 

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Reasons You Might Need an Asparagus Substitute

Asparagus is often a great option for home-cooked meals. However, there are several reasons why you may need a replacement for asparagus. 

These include: 

  • Asparagus Allergy
  • Can’t get it at the grocery store.
  • Chewing problems.
  • Dislike the taste.
  • Don’t have any at home.
  • Food Sensitivity to Asparagus. 
  • GI Intolerance.
  • Swallowing problems.

How Asparagus is Used in Cooking

This beautiful green vegetable has a relatively short cook time and can be used in a variety of ways. It has a unique, bold flavor and can absorb flavors from the other ingredients it is prepared with. 

Asparagus is often used in both side dishes and main dishes. It can be eaten raw or cooked. 

Examples Include:

  • As a green vegetable in pasta dishes
  • As a topping on pizza
  • Chopped in Salads
  • Fried – As an appetizer
  • Gilled
  • Roasted – in olive oil with garlic 
  • Sauteed
  • Soup – Cream of Asparagus Soup
  • Stir-Fried 

How Asparagus is Sold

Asparagus is commonly sold online and in grocery stores and can be found in the following forms:

  • Canned
  • Dried
  • Fresh
  • Frozen

How to Choose

Not all asparagus substitutes will work in all recipes.  It can be helpful to think about the specific reason you need the replacement and how the ingredient will be used in a recipe. 

When You Need a Green Vegetable

If your meal or recipe is pretty flexible and you need a non-starchy green vegetable to replace asparagus, consider one of the following:

  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Bitter Melon 
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli (If you can’t eat broccoli, check out this resource.)
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Celery
  • Chayote 
  • Cucumber
  • Collard Greens
  • Grape Leaves
  • Green Beans
  • Green Onions
  • Green Pepper
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Lettuce
  • Micro Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Okra
  • Spinach
  • Sugar Snap Peas 
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini

These can be used to make a great side dish or add flavor and texture to main dishes. 

When You Need a Softer Vegetable 

If you like asparagus but can’t eat it due to its fibrous texture, consider the following softer vegetables. 

  • Boiled Turnips 
  • Canned Green Beans
  • Canned Carrots
  • Chopped Cooked Spinach
  • Cooked Carrots
  • Cooked Zucchini without seeds
  • Roasted or Boiled Chayote 

Many vegetables can be cooked so they are fork-tender, pureed, or cooked in to a vegetable soup. 

When You Need a Milder Flavor

Asparagus is known for its robust flavor. Sometimes strong flavors are not desired or tolerated. 

The following may be better tolerated if you need to avoid strong flavors or aromas. 

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers 
  • Green Beans
  • Green Peppers
  • Lettuce: Iceberg, Leaf Lettuce, and Romaine Lettuce are good options. 
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Wax Beans  

If strong flavors or aromas are bothersome, consider trying vegetables that are raw, or cooled to room temperature. 

When You Need a Robust Flavor

On the other hand, sometimes you are looking for a flavorful option. Consider these herbs and vegetables which may be used raw or cooked:

  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chili Peppers & other spicy peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Radish
  • Rosemary
  • Turnip
  • Watercress

When You Need a Roasted Vegetable

The following starchy and non-starchy vegetables make great options for roasting:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Potato
  • Sweet Potato

When You Need a Sauteed Vegetable

If you are making a meal that calls for sauteed or pan-fried vegetables, the following may be used in place of asparagus:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Sugar Snap Peas 
  • Summer Squash
  • Zucchini 

When You Need a Similar Shape

Asparagus is known for its long, slender shape. The shape may be important when plating meals and when making appetizers such as fried asparagus. 

The following vegetables may be an option to replicate the shape of asparagus:

  • Fresh Green Beans – also known as string beans or snap beans
  • French Green Beans
  • Italian Green Beans
  • Long Beans 
  • Sliced Broccoli Stems 
  • Wax Beans 

When You Are Making a Cream Based Soup

Cream-based soups can be delicious and comforting. If you can’t have cream of asparagus, consider one of these soups:

  • Broccoli Cheese Soup
  • Clam Chowder
  • Corn Chowder 
  • Cream of Celery
  • Cream of Mushroom
  • Potato Soup

When You Really Want Asparagus 

If you want fresh asparagus but can’t find it at the grocery store, consider buying another form of asparagus, such as:

  • Asparagus Powder
  • Canned Asparagus
  • Frozen Asparagus
  • Pickled Asparagus (or other flavored asparagus sold in a glass jar)
  • White Asparagus
Infographic titled alternatives to fresh green asparagus with images and names of green beans, artichoke, white asparagus, pickled asparagus, frozen asparagus, brussels sprouts.

Conclusion

Asparagus is a unique vegetable. If you need an asparagus substitute, consider why you need to replace it. Then, determine how the substitute will be used in your recipe or meal. This will allow you to replace the asparagus with a great choice that will be safe and satisfying. 

Final Thoughts

Planning your next delicious meal when you have dietary restrictions can be challenging. This is why we recommend choosing groceries made with a single ingredient and focusing on what you CAN eat, not just what you have to avoid. 


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Infographic for Single Ingredient Groceries titled Guide to Asparagus Substitute with images of fresh asparagus, long beans, stir fry vegetables, broccoli and carrots.

Author

  • Lisa Hugh DHA MSHS RD LDN CLT

    Dr. Lisa Hugh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Leap Therapist. She is a Doctor of Healthcare Administration and has a Master's of Science in Healthcare Administration. As a Food Sensitivity Expert, her passion is helping people with complex medical and nutrition needs find food and groceries that are safe and enjoyable. Lisa enjoys helping clients in her private practice.

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