Easy Baked Asparagus is one of our favorite super simple side dishes, especially in spring when spears are at their peak. Balsamic vinegar perfectly complements the buttery bitterness of fresh asparagus. Conveniently enough, balsamic baked asparagus perfectly complements main dishes from beef to poultry to fish and is ready in just 15 minutes!
Asparagus falls on the opposite ends of two very important spectrums. If you’re looking at overall vegetable popularity (based on actual statistics, not, like, Buzzfeed quizzes), asparagus barely cracks the Top 20. If you’re looking at veggie popularity exclusively in my mouth, it’s in a 20-way tie for the #1 spot.
Like much-maligned brassica vegetables, asparagus has… let’s say, distinct characteristics that make most folks lean towards sweeter greens. But the first rule of cooking is cooking things properly, and asparagus recipes are no exception.
Blessedly, these little green “stalkers” make it easy for you because asparagus is SO easy to cook. Very few veggies don’t require extra legwork when cooking (from chopping to peeling), and asparagus is one of the few with a built in prep system – just bend and snap!
And while we love a raw asparagus salad, it’s one of those vegetables that’s downright delicious in all forms. So whether you’re making grilled asparagus, air fryer asparagus, or baked asparagus, it’s even better when you give it a nice big hit of acid. (Not like that.) So I did! Balsamic baked asparagus is a simple twist on a classic that lets both the vegetable and acid to shine, and shine big.
What’s the Difference Between Baked Asparagus and Roasted Asparagus?
Why bake when you can roast? The answer is flavor absorption. You’d be surprised the difference a few degrees can make, and that’s really the biggest difference between baking and roasting. Prevailing wisdom dictates that baking can be done up to 400°F, while roasting happens over 400°F.
While both methods focus on harnessing dry heat to cook food, roasting ensures more browning (try roasted asparagus with lemon and garlic to taste the difference for yourself!).
Baking, which will inherently cook lower and slower, lends itself to better flavor absorption. I prefer baked asparagus when I want the additional flavors to really soak in, like balsamic vinegar or another marinade. A lower and slower temperature allows that sharp, sweet flavor to sink in and caramelize a bit.
Thin vs Fat Asparagus Spears
There are plenty of botany blogs out there far better equipped to explain the genetic differences between thin and thick spears, but for our intents and purposes (i.e. devouring), the girth has no marked impact on the taste and texture of asparagus. In a nutshell, thin vs fat spears come down to the age and varietal of the plant, not the age of the stalks themselves.
But size does matter, and cooking time is where it counts. Choose stalks that are uniform in size for a consistent bake.
Choosing Fresh Asparagus
Spring is peak asparagus season, and with fresh bunches showing up on shelves, you want to make sure you choose the best of those bunches for baked asparagus.
- Firmness is key. Avoid limp stalks that don’t have the strength to snap when bent.
- Make sure the tips are firm and the foliage is tightly-packed. To test, run your finger along the top and if the “leaves” fray or fall off, pass on that bunch.
- Look for uniformly green stalks free of bruising.
How to Trim Spears
No matter how you cook asparagus, the best way to enjoy it is to remove the tough, fibrous ends. The easiest way to do this is to take a cue from Elle Woods – “Bend… and snap!” Hold a spear in each hand, then gently bend – asparagus will naturally break above the woody portion of the stalk.
If you’ve got thicker spears, you can also use a knife to cleanly trim the ends, then shave with a vegetable peeler for a more professional look.
How to Make Baked Asparagus
Baked asparagus with balsamic vinegar is an easy veggie side dish that practically makes itself. Snap off the ends, season right in the baking dish, then pop in the oven. Bake according to thickness and serve with any of your favorite proteins.
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Trim the asparagus, then place into a baking dish. Season with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange the spears in an even layer.
- Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the spears are tender. Serve right away, and enjoy!
- Use fresh asparagus spears. They should be firm and bright green. Make sure they aren’t wilted or mushy.
- Choose asparagus that is uniform in size (thin or thick) for consistent cooking.
- Break off the woody end of each spear by bending until they snap. Optional: Use a chef’s knife to trim the ends for a cleaner appearance.
- To achieve the best flavor, make sure each spear is evenly coated in oil, vinegar and seasonings.
How Long to Bake Balsamic Asparagus?
At 400°F, start with 10-12 minutes for average/medium-sized spears. If the spears are super thin, start with 7-8 minutes; if the spears are very thick, check them at 12 minutes. The asparagus is ready once the tips are slightly crispy and you can easily insert the tip of a paring knife into the center of a spear and meet little resistance.
If you’re at all hesitant, pull them sooner than later – there’s nothing worse than a soggy asparagus spear, and a little crunch is much better than a lot of mush!
Did you try this baked asparagus recipe? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
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15-Minute Balsamic Baked AsparagusPrint Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- 2 Quart Casserole Dish
- 1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste
- ½ tsp ground pepper, or to taste
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the asparagus in a 2-quart baking dish, then drizzle with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss until evenly coated, then arrange into an even layer.
- Transfer to the oven and bake until the spears are tender, 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.
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