Hundred-Year-Old Fried Asparagus Recipe

Fried AsparagusI’ve eaten Fried Asparagus several times in the past year as an appetizer. I was surprised when I saw a recipe in a hundred-year-old church cookbook for Fried Asparagus. It apparently has been around for a long time.

The crisp lightly-browned breading on the asparagus creates an enchanting appetizer or side dish.

The original recipe says, “This is nice and easy to prepare.” I concur. This is a fun and easy recipe.

Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Fried Asparagus

  • Servings: 4 - 5
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pound asparagus

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

shortening or oil

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Meanwhile wash and trim the asparagus spears,  then blanch them by  adding to the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until al dente. Remove the asparagus from the water and immediately put the spears in ice water to stop the cooking.

Prepare a batter by combining the flour, salt, eggs, and milk in a mixing bowl. Beat until combined. Roll the blanched asparagus in the breading batter.

Heat 1/2 inch of shortening or oil in a large frying pan. Carefully place the breaded asparagus spears in the pan in a single layer. Depending upon pan size, the spears may need to be cooked in several batches. Fry for about a minute or until the bottom side of the asparagus is lightly browned, then gently turn and fry until the other side is browned. Remove from pan and drain the asparagus on paper towels. Serve immediately.

And, here is the original recipe:

Fried Asparagus Recipe 2
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, compiled and published by the Willing Workers of the Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)

The original recipe is lacking in details. It tells the cook to dip the asparagus in batter, but fails to tell them how to prepare the batter. Apparently the recipe author assumed that every cook already knew how to prepare batter. Since I didn’t know how off the top of my head, I decided to adapt an old recipe that I’d previously used to make fritters to make a batter that would work with the asparagus.

56 thoughts on “Hundred-Year-Old Fried Asparagus Recipe

    1. Your daughter could substitute a mixture of sparkling water and beer for the batter. It’s very light and you can’t taste the beer, so it wouldn’t drown the subtle taste of the asparagus (I understand vegan beer is readily available).

    1. Often old recipes assume that cooks have a high level of baseline knowledge, but I thought that this recipe expected cooks to be particularly well versed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t just have batter recipes memorized in my head. 🙂

  1. This looks delicious — no question about that. And I have a pound of fresh asparagus from the farmers’ market, so it could be done, lickety-split. But I think I’ll tuck this in the recipe file for a time when I have company, and stick with plain old asparagus for myself. This would make a great appetizer for a group, though — it’s different, and no doubt quite tasty.

    1. It’s excellent. Your guests would like it. You’re so lucky to already have asparagus at the farmers’ market. I’m still forced to use supermarket asparagus, and can hardly wait for the really fresh stuff to start appearing at my local farmers’ market.

    1. It seems strange, but I’m guessing that batter was used much more frequently then than now. Fried foods were more popular a hundred years ago – and I’ve seen numerous old recipes for various kinds of fritters (corn, apple, pear, oyster, etc.) which would have used batters.

  2. This reminded me of a tempura recipe I use to like, only it was just about any veggie fried up [carrot strips, string beans, etc] and not previously blanched – Oh so sweet!! Thanks for reminding me, Sheryl.

    1. I’m glad this post reminded you of the tempura recipe. Now that you mention it, you’re absolutely right – this is similar to some tempura recipes.

    1. This recipe seems surprisingly modern – though I suppose the recipe title might be something other than Fried Asparagus if it was a modern one.

    1. You’re absolutely right. Your comment reminded me of when I was a child growing up on a farm that we ate strawberries at almost every meal during strawberry season, and got very tired of them – but then eagerly anticipated them ripening the next year. Similarly each person ate multiple ears of fresh corn the first time it was served each season- and then fewer and fewer ears with each subsequent meal where it was served. Now with most foods available year-round I don’t think that we have the same sense of anticipation of seasonal foods (or the readiness to move on to the next food as the season begins to wind down)

    1. You may be right – fried zucchini is delicious. I don’t think that I’ve ever had fried tomatoes. I may have to try them this year. 🙂

  3. The asparagus looks so tasty and crispy. I recommend to pat dry the asparagus before placing in the batter, so it will stick to it more evenly.

    It’s always interesting to see the original recipe, this one in particular as it is so short and lacks much explanation. That wouldn’t pass today anywhere, but it seems it worked so well for them. 🙂

    1. I agree – it would be a good idea to pat them dry. I drained the asparagus and let it sit for a little while before putting it in the batter, but it would work well to pat it dry. People back then seemed to have an innate understanding of how to take a very sparse recipe and make sense of it.

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