This asparagus salad features crunchy radish slices and a homemade lemon vinaigrette. It’s an easy side dish for any occasion, from busy weeknight dinners to spring and summer barbecues.
Salads don’t get any prettier than this! Beyond its beauty, this simple asparagus salad is also healthy, delicious and easy to make.
I’ve been testing a lot of dessert recipes lately (omg…. did you see the post on salted caramel blondies?) so it’s time for a healthy asparagus salad recipe! It’s all about balance, right? But healthy doesn’t have to be boring or result in going to bed hungry. Fresh veggies and a simple vinaigrette is my answer for a fresh, quick dinner side that is kind to my waistline.
We’re really spoiled because we can get fresh veggies year round, but I still try to eat seasonally and locally, so asparagus and radishes seemed like a perfect pairing for spring. And because lemons are ALWAYS in the fridge, making a lemon vinaigrette was a no brainer. Simple flavors that add up to a filling and flavorful spring salad without a ton of calories!
Did you know that asparagus has just 3 calories in a spear? Radishes are also low calorie, containing just one calorie each! Which means that the majority of calories in the salad are in the dressing, which is still less than 50 calories per tablespoon. But it’s more than guilt free, it’s also delicious!
So let’s start with the lemon dressing… it’s so simple… just oil, lemon juice, a little bit of sugar and salt and pepper. And to really keep the lemon flavor pure, I prefer to use a lighter oil. I’ve noticed that fresh extra virgin olive oil can be too bitter for delicate vegetables, so I save it for richer salads that contain strong flavors like garlic, parmesan and cured meats. (My brussels sprouts caesar salad is a great example!)
But for simple vegetable salads, I’ve really fallen in love with light olive oil. It makes this dressing taste clean and lemony without being heavy or pungent. That way the crispy radishes and steamed asparagus can shine!
HOW TO COOK ASPARAGUS FOR ASPARAGUS SALAD
My favorite way to cook asparagus is by steaming it in an asparagus steamer. The asparagus stands upright in this special pot, which protects the tender tops during cooking, but it’s also handy because the inside basket is perfect for shocking the asparagus in ice water. This way the asparagus is tender but still crisp and green. After the asparagus is cold, drain it very well (another reason the inner basket is great!).
To give the lemon asparagus salad lots of zesty flavor, I like to marinate the cooked asparagus in the dressing for a bit…. but I learned the hard way that marinating the radishes makes them leach their magenta hue into the whole salad. So it’s best to marinate the asparagus and then toss the rest of the ingredients in right before serving.
Since it’s spring and pansies are aplenty, they are the perfect garnish to make this salad extra sunny. Pansies are edible, but make sure to use organic pansies that aren’t sprayed with pesticides. They grow easily in a pot and will flower well into summer if you deadhead them frequently. I use them to decorate everything from lemon blueberry cake to ice cream sundaes but they can be more than decoration, so throw as many into this asparagus salad as you’d like!
It’s such a pretty salad! Perfect as a side for weeknight dinners, but also easy to double or triple the recipe for parties. It’s naturally vegan and gluten free, so it’s the type of recipe that everyone will love!
Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 5 radishes , thinly sliced
- 3 green onions , sliced green tops only
- lemon zest from one lemon
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon light olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon slices
- Organic yellow pansies
Steam the asparagus
- Start boiling water to steam the asparagus. I used an asparagus steamer, but you can use any method you'd like.
- Prepare a bowl of ice water to shock the asparagus once it's cooked.
- Steam the asparagus 3-5 minutes, or until it's tender but still crisp. Skinny asparagus will take about 3 minutes, while very large asparagus can take up to 5 minutes.
- Shock the asparagus in ice water and then cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces.
- Combine the lemon juice and the sugar and let sit until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- If you have time, marinate the asparagus in the dressing for 30 minutes. If not, let it marinate as long as you can.
- Add the radishes and scallions and toss.
- Garnish with lemon slices and fresh pansies and serve immediately.
- This asparagus salad makes an excellent side dish for parties if the recipe is doubled or tripled.
- When serving this asparagus salad at party, I suggest lightly dressing the salad and serving the remaining dressing on the side. There are no emulsifiers in the dressing, so it's rather thin.
- If you'd like to thicken (and emulsify) the dressing, a pinch or two of xantham gum can be added.
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