20 Minute Cold Chopped Asparagus Salad
Crunchy, flavourful and totally addictive, this cold asparagus salad is lavished with seasoned panko crumbs, fried capers and a delicious garlic vinaigrette. It’s a salad that feels special enough for guests and it comes together in just 20 minutes with 7 ingredients plus dressing! Vegan, gluten free option too.
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You might not think that someone who writes cookbooks would ever get stuck in a food rut, but I do! Somehow, I manage to neatly compartmentalize cooking for work and cooking for eating.
Which means there is a bit of a pendulum swing in how I eat. If I’m cooking for work, my table is filled with delicious plant-based recipes like my kale caesar salad, kale and edamame salad or zucchini fritters.
And if I’m not? Sometimes I just open a jar of pasta sauce and call it a day.
Which is how we get to the story of asparagus: I LOVE it so much (and not just because the dietitian in me knows how good it is for gut health) but I tend to make it the same way EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It’s my (admittedly very delicious) asparagus fries or a lazier roasted version where I just sprinkle with nutritional yeast, crumbs and garlic powder.
So, it is time for me to evolve…I cracked open one of my fave cookbooks, Six Seasons by Joshua MacFadden, and was reminded of his asparagus salad, which became the inspiration for this vegan cold asparagus salad.
I’ve veganized it, swapping in nutritional yeast for parmesan and added a few little touches of my own, like fried capers. It’s a perfect side dish salad for all those warm weather meals to come, paired with anything from grilled tofu to a vegan burger to takeout pizza.
Looking for more flavourful, simple gut-boosting recipes? My latest cookbook, Good For Your Gut, is jam-packed with goodies!!
Gather your ingredients and let’s make a cold asparagus salad!
Crispy, salty, crunchy, fresh…this salad only has 7 ingredients, plus dressing, but it’s WAY more than the sum of its parts!
- Asparagus: choose asparagus with firm stalks and closed tips which indicates freshness. You’ll snap or trim off the woody ends.
- Panko crumbs: panko crumbs have a fantastic crisp texture and you can find gluten free versions if needed
- Nutritional yeast: nutritional yeast adds a burst of cheesy, umami flavour and is packed with B vitamins, including B12, so important for those on a plant-based diet
- Lemon zest: a fragrant burst of flavour that compliments asparagus so nicely
- Almonds: raw chopped almonds add heft and crunch to the salad. If you’re allergic, you can opt for any other nut or seed you like!
- Fresh Mint: I’m firmly in my ‘eat more herbs’ era, and fresh mint is so fragrant and lovely and I really think it adds something special to this salad. Plus, it grows like a weed so if you have it in your garden, you need recipes that use a handful, not a sprinkle.
- Capers: did you know that capers are actually a pickled flower bud? And that fried capers are one of the most underrated salad toppers? They take just 4 minutes to make – and add a salty tang. In a pinch, you can drop these for an extra pinch of flaky salt but I LOVE them!
- Garlic vinaigrette: one of my most popular recipe basics, this rich, flavourful garlic vinaigrette is just the sass this salad needs. Make a double batch to have on hand for a few days…and try not to drink it straight up (it’s that good!)
Plus salt, pepper and oil….you know, the usual.
How to make this chopped asparagus salad
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: there are 3 cooking steps in this recipe? Which is a bit more involved than tossing some ingredients in a bowl….but/and/also…there is not a lot of chopping here, so and the steps are SO QUICK so this salad still comes together in about 20 minutes and I promise you, it’s worth it. You’ll be obsessed with this cold asparagus salad.
But first, some thoughts: raw asparagus salads are nice in theory, but you need to have that perfect, farmer’s market asparagus and then shave it really thin. So, as most of us buy our spears at the supermarket, a quick blanch does wonders – making the asparagus bright green and tender crisp, plus mellowing out any off flavours. It’s easy!
How to blanch asparagus for salads
- Trim – or snap – off woody ends of asparagus. Then, slice spears into 1 – 1 ½ inch pieces (2.5 – 3 cm). Add some ice to a bowl of cold water and set aside.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add asparagus and blanch in boiling water for 1 minute for pencil thin asparagus and up to 2 minutes for thicker asparagus. You want it tender crisp – NOT soft.
- Drain asparagus then add to ice bath to halt cooking and chill until you’re ready to toss the salad.
Now that that’s done, you’re ready for step two…
Step Two: Toast and season panko crumbs. Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat. Add panko crumbs and stir CONSTANTLY until they turn golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Place in a small bowl and stir in lemon zest, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Step Three: Fry capers. Pat capers dry with paper towel to avoid spitting oil when you cook. Wipe out the skillet and place back over medium heat with a generous drizzle of avocado oil. Once hot (add a caper and when it starts sizzling, it’s ready!), add the capers and let them sizzle until they “bloom” and turn golden brown. Let drain on a paper towel.
Step Four: Assemble the salad. Drain the asparagus well and add to a salad bowl with the almonds, mint, fried capers and seasoned panko crumbs and toss. Serve with dressing on the side to preserve the crunch of the crumbs.
Why asparagus is so dang good for you
Asparagus is incredibly nutritious…here are just a few of the nutritional benefits of this springtime treat:
- Asparagus is packed with prebiotic fructans that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut as well as containing dietary fibre – 2 grams of fibre per 6 medium spears.
- Asparagus is a surprising source of plant-based iron: 2 mg of iron per 6 spears. It also contains small amount of minerals important for energy metabolism, such as copper, selenium and manganese.
- Asparagus is a plant-based source of choline in addition to antiinflammatory carotenoids and vitamin K and folate.
Tips, Tricks and Substitutions
- You can easily make the components of this salad a day or two in advance and just toss before serving. Also, this salad keeps well, tossed but undressed, for up to two days.
- Have really nice asparagus and want to make a raw asparagus salad? Very thinly slice your spears on the bias, like ⅛ inch (¼ cm) thick.
- Want to make this a complete meal? Double the garlic vinaigrette and marinate a can of drained white beans or chickpeas in half the vinaigrette as you prepare the salad, then add them to the salad and toss!
More Vegan Spring Salad Recipes
- 30 Minute Low FODMAP Quinoa Salad and Dressing
- Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Roasted Buckwheat and Creamy Ginger Cashew Dressing
- Easy Vegan Pasta Salad
- Italian Farro Salad with Arugula
20 Minute Cold Chopped Asparagus Salad
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into roughly 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces
- ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs, regular or gluten free
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- zest of half a lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- ½ cup almonds, chopped
- ½ cup mint, thinly sliced or torn
- ¼ cup capers, patted dry
- avocado oil, for frying capers
- 1 recipe garlic vinaigrette
- Start by blanching the asparagus: Fill a medium bowl halfway with cold water and add some ice. Set aside. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Place asparagus in the boiling water until tender crisp. 1 minute for pencil thin asparagus, up to 2 minutes for thicker stalks.
- Remove the blanched asparagus to the ice water and let chill until ready to use.
- Next, toast your panko: heat a small dry skillet over medium heat. Add crumbs and stir constantly until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Place crumbs in a small bowl and stir in nutritional yeast, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Then, fry the capers. Wipe out the skillet you just used, place it back on medium heat with about a tablespoon of oil. When hot (drop a caper in and when it sizzles, you're ready!) add the capers and let them sizzle until they appear to bloom and get golden, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a piece of paper towel to drain.
- Toss drain asparagus thoroughly and place in a salad bowl. Add chopped almonds, mint, seasoned panko and capers and toss. Serve salad with garlic vinaigrette on the side.