Asparagus with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs

Asparagus is a super simple side dish to serve for any meal. This recipe is so simple it can be easily pulled off on a busy weeknight, but is also suitable for a dinner party too. Scroll down for instruction on how to grill, roast or air-fry!

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Asparagus with crispy parmesan breadcrumbs on a white plate with serving utensils next to it.

Making Asparagus Elegant or Casual

I’ve always felt that asparagus is a rather royal vegetable. It stands straight and proud and almost looks like a stick person (a really skinny stick person) with a crown on its head. Dressing asparagus up with some crispy parmesan breadcrumbs is just enough to dress up the royal vegetable to give it some pizzaz and it takes just about 3 minutes to do so!

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A bunch of asparagus, a bowl of breadcrumbs and a block of Parmesan cheese on a green cutting board.

Simple Ingredient Side Dish

Because the ingredients are so simple in this dish, it’s important that you use the very best ingredients you can. Asparagus doesn’t last long once purchased, so try to use it within a day or two of buying it. There’s nothing quite like aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and though it is expensive, you don’t need much at any one time because it is so flavorful. This recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons, so go for the good stuff. As for the breadcrumbs, you can use seasoned dry breadcrumbs or you can make your own fresh breadcrumbs – both will toast the same way, but the fresh will just take a couple more minutes in the pan.

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Two hands breaking a spear of asparagus over a green cutting board.

How to Prep Asparagus

Asparagus is always more tender at the top than at the bottom and in fact the spears can get quite woody and tough at the base, so you need to trim asparagus before cooking it. You can grab the spear at both ends and bend and it will naturally break at the point where it should be trimmed. You’ll find that if you bend and break each stalk this way, they will more than likely all break at roughly the same point and end up being the same length. Once trimmed, this asparagus only needs some olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper before being cooked.

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Four photos of asparagus - on a cutting board, on a sheet pan, in an air fryer basket and on a grill.

Grill… Air-fry… OR Oven-Roast Asparagus

Just HOW you cook the asparagus is up to you… You can grill asparagus beautifully on an outdoor grill in just about 8 to 10 minutes. Sure, asparagus spears can fall through grill grates, but that’s why you always put the spears perpendicular to the grates and it shouldn’t be a problem, no matter how thin the spears are. 

Popping your asparagus into an air fryer is another great option. If you have an air fryer oven, the spears should fit perfectly in the basket/tray included, but you can also toss them around in a round basket style air fryer too. It takes about 6 to 8 minutes to air fry asparagus at 400ºF.

Finally, of course you could oven-roast your asparagus. Put the spears on a baking sheet and transfer them to a 425ºF oven for about 10 minutes.

No matter which way you cook the asparagus, the timing will depend on how thick or thin the spears are. The only way to know when the asparagus is properly cooked is to give it a taste. So, be prepared to flex on the timing, subtracting time for thin spears and adding a minute or two for really thick spears.

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Parmesan Breadcrumbs in a skillet with a green towel and wooden spoon.

Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs

The crispy Parmesan breadcrumbs really make this asparagus something special and they only take a few minutes. You can toast them up before you even start cooking the asparagus – they don’t need to be hot when you toss them on the vegetables. Once you see how easy these are to make, and how delicious they are (try not to snack on all of them before you serve), you’ll be tempted to toss them on all sorts of vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc… Please do!

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Asparagus spears fanned out on a white plate.

Two Ways to Dress Asparagus

You have two different ways to serve the asparagus once it is cooked – you can toss the crumbs with all the spears or you can simply spoon the crumbs across the asparagus. It’s totally your call, but whichever way you choose to do it, make sure all the spears are pointing in the same direction for the best presentation. (it’s the little things…)

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Asparagus with crispy parmesan breadcrumbs on a white plate with serving utensils next to it.

What to Serve with Asparagus

Asparagus with crispy Parmesan breadcrumbs can honestly go with anything, but I think it would make a nice side dish to a perfectly cooked filet mignon or some pan roasted salmon fillets. If you can manage the last minute preparation, asparagus would be a lovely side dish next to a baked ham, and this dish could also be a side dish for a brunch buffet next to some eggs benedict bread puddings (you could even dip some of the asparagus in the Hollandaise sauce if you’re a devil!).

Grilled Asparagus with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 10 m
  • Total Time: 20 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned fine bread crumbs
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, until toasted and lightly brown. Turn off the heat and toss in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  2. Pre-heat your grill to medium heat.
  3. Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat each spear and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the asparagus across the grill grates and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the spears a few times during the grilling process.
  4. Transfer the grilled asparagus to a serving platter and immediately sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top. Gently toss to coat the asparagus with the crumbs and serve warm or at room temperature.

Air-Fried Asparagus with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 8 m
  • Total Time: 18 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned fine bread crumbs
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, until toasted and lightly brown. Turn off the heat and toss in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  2. Pre-heat your air fryer to 400ºF.

  3. Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat each spear and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the asparagus in the air fryer basket and air-fry for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the spears partway through the cooking process.

  4. Transfer the air-fried asparagus to a serving platter and immediately sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top. Gently toss to coat the asparagus with the crumbs and serve warm or at room temperature.

Oven-Roasted Asparagus with Crispy Parmesan Breadcrumbs

  • Prep Time: 10 m
  • Cook Time: 10 m
  • Total Time: 20 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned fine bread crumbs
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add the breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, until toasted and lightly brown. Turn off the heat and toss in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 425ºF.

  3. Trim off the tough ends of the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat each spear and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the spears a few times during the grilling process.

  4. Transfer the oven-roasted asparagus to a serving platter and immediately sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs on top. Gently toss to coat the asparagus with the crumbs and serve warm or at room temperature.

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