Pickled asparagus recipe

Ingredients for pickled asparagus

It’s asparagus season and bunches of them keep appearing in our fridge. I could eat the spears with butter three meals a day but I managed to save a bunch for pickling after a friend’s recommendation. The recipe I used is simple:

-1 bunch of asparagus
-1 or more carrots to fill jar
-4 radishes
-4 cloves garlic
-1 teaspoon coriander seeds
-1 teaspoon black peppercorns
-2 cups water mixed with 1.5 tablespoons salt
-1 wide-mouth, 1-quart mason jar

Note: you can substitute a second bunch of asparagus for the carrots and radishes, depending on space in your jar

Wash the veggies. Snap off the woody bottoms of the asparagus and see how they fit into the jar, heads down. If they stick out from the mouth of the jar, cut more off the bottom until they do. You can toss these bits into the jar or compost them. Cut each carrot lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise again. Cut each of these four carrot lengths in half. Cut the radishes into quarters. Slice the garlic cloves thinly. Add the carrots, garlic and radishes to the jar and spoon in the spices. Pour the thoroughly-mixed salt water into the jar. The water should cover the vegetables completely. If they don’t, you can either add more veggies or more salt water. I put in the carrot and the radishes because I still had space. If you prefer, start with two bunches of asparagus and forgo the root vegetables.

Here they are in the jar:
asparagus ready to pickle

To seal them from the air (which keeps them from molding and allows fermentation to occur), I used a different method than I described in my post on how to pickle anything. I took a smaller jar filled with water and placed it into the mouth of the one-quart jar like this:

Jar sealing pickles from the air

Cover the top with a towel to keep out dust and then put the jar in your cabinet. You might want to put a towel under it, too, in case the carbon dioxide released during fermentation makes some brine bubble over. After a week or two, they should be ready.

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  1. Elissa’s avatar

    I’m so excited to find your site, and see that you’re an Oakland person as well! I can’t wait to try these pickling recipes, I’ve been looking for a good description on how to start. Thanks!

  2. sarah gilbert’s avatar

    thanks for the process… I can’t wait to see how your pickles came out! I started a big batch tonight (six bunches, give or take) with green garlic, hot pepper flakes, peppercorns and nutmeg. oh and a couple of spring onions to fill out the crock.

    but I have a question: all the vinegar pickling recipes I found called for blanching the asparagus for 1 minute or so first, so I went ahead and did it (also, very few recipes on the internet for fermented asparagus pickles!). any thoughts on pre-cooking asparagus? did you consider it?

  3. Eric’s avatar

    Yum, that sounds good, especially with the nutmeg. I haven’t tried blanching my veggies before pickling them, and I’m not sure why it’s done with vinegar pickles. My guess is that vegetables pickled in vinegar need some extra help softening up because they don’t really ferment. I’m curious and I’ll look into it. Write back and let us know how yours come out!

    I let these carrots and asparagus go about a week and a half before I gave in to temptation and started eating them. They were crunchy with a rather mild flavor. I guess my roommates liked them too; they disappeared in two days.

  4. Bekah’s avatar

    Hey, Eric! It’s the end of asparagus season here in Wisconsin, and I’d like to pick up a few bunches tomorrow while we can still get them and either freeze or pickle them (maybe both). I was concerned that the fermentation process might increase the sulfur flavor, as fermentation seems to have a tendency to concentrate all sorts of flavors. Did you notice any of this, or am I just being paranoid? Thanks!

  5. Eric’s avatar

    Hey Bekah, pickling the asparagus does concentrate their, um asparagusness. But it’s not a sulfur flavor. Try it and tell me what you think.

    Also, did you see the recipe for preserved asparagus in the New York Times the day before yesterday? They won’t ferment this way, but they’ll taste good and last a year without being frozen.

    How do you like the water kefir? I’ve yet to try that. I’ve been wondering if I can just plop my milk kefir into some sweetened water, but I get the feeling it’s not that easy.

  6. Abby’s avatar

    Can you pickle asparagus after it has been frozen or does it have to be fresh?

  7. Eric’s avatar

    That’s a good question. I haven’t ever made salt brine pickles with frozen veggies, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. You’d want to be sure to let them defrost first, and it might help to add some fresh stuff, like onions and carrots, too. The asparagus might not come out as crispy as it would have if it had been used fresh, but the pickling process should still work. As for vinegar pickles, I’ve definitely seen recipes for them that use frozen vegetables.

  8. Abby’s avatar

    Thanks, after I try it I will let you know if it works.

  9. Gizelle’s avatar

    I did pickled carrots and one asparagus spread in the jar. The jars have a white scum on the bottom now…do you have any suggestions on how to salvage the carrots? I did taste them, and they taste good still

  10. Eric’s avatar

    Hi Gizelle, do you mean that you have a milky-colored sediment at the bottom of your jar? That white stuff is a completely natural byproduct of the fermentation, so it’s nothing to worry about. Enjoy the pickles!

  11. Sayre’s avatar

    I’m going to try pickling asparagus tonight. I was going to try to do a water bath. What do you suggest 10min, 20 min. And how long until I can eat you think? Also, do you boil the water/salt mixture before adding it to make sure the salt is completely disolved?
    Let me know, thanks

  12. Eric’s avatar

    Hi Sayre, I’m not sure what you mean by a water bath. As for the brine, I find there’s no need to heat the water. I just use fine salt and a bit of brisk stirring and it dissolves quickly.

  13. Mestebla’s avatar

    My husband and I just did 4 quarts tonight (minus the radishes) and I’m excited to try them! I’m glad I found your blog and this recipe. Thanks!

  14. Angela’s avatar

    I’m pickling asparagus (in a vinegar brine and a boiling water bath) tonight, but next weekend I’m going to buy five more pounds of asparagus and ferment a pound or two. This looks delicious!

  15. Jennifer’s avatar

    I just made this recipe. I have the white sediment also. Its been about 10 days. They taste slightly yeasty and not very sour. Does that mean that they just need a bit longer? Should they taste yeasty at all?

  16. Eric’s avatar

    Hi Jennifer, Yes the sediment is normal and so is a bit of a yeasty taste. They don’t become overwhelmingly sour (the way vinegar pickles do) but if you let them ferment longer their flavor will get stronger. How crunchy are they? Keep in mind that the longer they ferment, the softer they will get. Another option for stronger flavor is to put the lid on and store them in the fridge, which stops the fermentation but giving the seasonings more time to soak into the asparagus spears.

  17. Rheanna’s avatar

    Hi, I made Pickled Asparagus and it has a granular sediment on the bottom of the jars. They are crisp and not soggy or slimey, the brine is clear and they taste good. I do alot of canning but this is the first time I have made pickled Asparagus. Is this normal?

  18. Eric’s avatar

    Hi Rheanna, sediment is normal. Usually it is whitish and cloudy looking and speckled with whatever spices you added. Your pickles sound good to me! Glad to hear they’re crispy and tasty. Out of curiosity, how big are the grains?

  19. Rheanna’s avatar

    Thank you for your reply Eric, The granulars are best discribed as gun powder, light in color (the hillbilly in me comes out in the discription) I am thinking yeast? Like I said the brine is clear and there is no cloudyness in the jars. The jars are sealed well. The recipe I used was my Grandmothers, Pickling Salt, Vinegar, whole Garlic and fresh Dill. I processed in a water bath. I use the same recipe for all my pickles and have never had this sediment. Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

  20. candice’s avatar

    I have made pickled aspargus and noticed in the recipe there is no vinegar. I am curious about that and am almost tempted in trying this recipe. ihave noticed when using vinegar you must be careful on how much you use.

  21. Eric’s avatar

    @Candice Yes, there’s no vinegar in the recipe and that’s by design. The vinegar style of pickling preserves vegetables as they are. The salt style of pickling allows the vegetables to ferment (which also has a preserving effect). Give the recipe a try, no vinegar required.

  22. candice’s avatar

    I am going to try this recipe tonight. I will keep you posted. I actually like that it has no vineagar becauase I found no matter how much you cut the vinegar in other recipes it still is tangy and takes away from the flavour.

  23. MikeRoBrew’s avatar

    I am repeatedly getting white scum and nasty looking stuff on the surface on my dill pickles after as little as a week at 75degF. I had a few pickles break the surface, and I tried your technique of a weighted jar, but one STILL got full of 1/2″ of yucky looking something, maybe wild yeast. Is this normal? I would love to avoid this if possible! Thanks

  24. Eric’s avatar

    @MikeRoBrew, Yes, mold and scum are common on the surface of your fermenting pickles. Here’s an example picture of mold on the surface of sauerkraut from a nice recipe for making kraut. One option is to spoon the mold out as it occurs. If you want to avoid mold in the first place, check out this post about using an airlock.

  25. MikeRoBrew’s avatar

    Thanks a lot, I am already a homebrewer (thus the name) and I will try this out ASAP and report back. I was surprised when my instructions for pickling did not include the same rigorous sanitation as for brewing. I will now apply those techniques and see if I can ferment ‘bloom’ free. I can’t help but think the bloom is wild yeast after seeing a few failed brews where the fermentation bucket was not sanitized correctly. Usually though, the beer has too much off-taste to enjoy and must be discarded, unlike pickling. Thanks again~!

  26. Eric’s avatar

    @MikeRoBrew You’re right, there’s no homebrewing-like sanitation, and that’s because keeping the veggies under the brine already assures that the lactobacillus will triumph–other yeasts and molds need oxygen to grow. Sanitizing wouldn’t hurt if you use the airlock system to protect your pickles, though. Once you start the pickles, I’m curious if and how quickly CO2 will force all the oxygen out of the jar. And will the airlock actually bubble? I’ll have to give it a try. I have been using the Harsch fermenting crock, which also makes an airlock, to make sauerkraut and so far I have had no mold.

  27. RH’s avatar

    Hello. I was wondering how long the jars of asparagus will keep stored in jars on the shelf. Are they meant to be eaten right away? Or do they store well?


  28. Eric’s avatar

    @RH, When they’re ready, it’s best to put a lid on em and put em in the fridge. So they’re not like canned pickles that you stick in the pantry and save for the apocalypse. But the asparagus will last for weeks or even months in the fridge, just keep an eye on them because they will keep fermenting slowly–they won’t go rotten but at a certain point they may get softer than you like, which is a kind of (non-poisonous) bad. I keep big jars of sauerkraut and kimchi in my fridge for months on end.

  29. Leona’s avatar

    For a dill taste add a sprig or two of dill to this Recipe.

  30. jarubla’s avatar

    So I am looping back on the 5 quarts we did back in March 28th, 2010. We let them ferment for 14 days, then pressure canned them. I opened my first jar tonight (Aug 18th, 2012) and they are incredible! Fragrant, flavorful, crisp and complex. This was my first foray into fermented foods (whew…alliteration), and is exactly what I was looking for. A singular example of preserving a tasty vegetable; the bonus came when my children each had a first bite (and I expected them to promptly spit it out and ask for a glass of water) and then asked for 2nds and 3rds. Thank you for sharing such a simple and beautiful fermented food!

  31. Shannon’s avatar

    Will definitely be trying this recipe soon. I just prepared 2-2 Quart jars of Brussel sprouts today! I can’t wait to try these.

    Jarubla~ I’m curious as to why you pressure canned them?? Are you aware that heat destroys the beneficial bacteria(ie Pro-biotics and the nutritional value in your product??

    It has multiple health benefits as described by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions:

    “The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”
    If your goal was to can and store on a shelf then why waste 14 days. Just use vinegar and boil away!

  32. jarubla’s avatar


    The main reason why I recommend fermenting them over simply pickling them is that they taste 180 degrees different than those of the normal pickled ilk.

    I can’t think of any other way of storing them long term; those ones I ate were nearly two years old (and still amazing). Going to do more soon.

    No need to pressure can them if you just plan on keeping them in the fridge; if planning on storing them to deepen your grubstake (and aren’t necessarily solely looking for the probiotic benefits), I highly suggest the canned route. Very tasty!


  33. jarubla’s avatar


    My better half corrected me; I did not pressure can these, instead they were water bath canned.

    Apologies at the mix up on my part.

    I am sure the probitics were still killed off, as the water bath method gets the contents 212 degrees (and poof, dead probiotics) but it does allow long term storage.

    Semantics, I know, and as this page *really* is devoted to microbe herding, admittedly unorthodox. However, they were truly epicurean…



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