Asparagus Salad

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This Asparagus Salad combines crisp roasted asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes, garlicky couscous, and feta cheese with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. It makes the perfect spring salad that’s a hit wherever it’s served!

If you’re making Asparagus Salad for Easter dinner, I’d recommend pairing it with this Grape Salad, Dinner Rolls, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Overhead image of the Asparagus Salad

Asparagus Salad

Roasted asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes, garlicky couscous, and feta cheese with a simple vinaigrette. A great Spring or Easter side dish! via chelseasmessyapron.com

Asparagus Salad is perfect for springtime and an absolute must-have on our Easter dinner table!

It’s simple to make, presents so beautifully, and is downright delicious. Growing up, my mom made a similar salad to this every year for Easter and everyone always went crazy for it (especially that tasty roasted asparagus!) Perfectly roasted, slightly caramelized asparagus is a treat — it has a strong and distinct taste with a mild sweetness and an accentuated flavor from the oil and seasonings.

When paired with garlicky couscous, salty feta cheese, and fresh, vibrant cherry tomatoes, there are few salads that can compete!

Couscous packaging

Let’s talk couscous

One of my favorite things about couscous is how fast it is to prepare. From start to finish it can be ready in 10 minutes or less.

For Asparagus Salad, I use a boxed and seasoned couscous mix for a couple of reasons. First, it’s very fast and convenient, and second, it adds an amazing flavor to the salad without requiring any additional ingredients on your part. Our favorite couscous mix is the one pictured above — a couscous mix that is “Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil” flavored.

That said if you’d prefer not to use a boxed couscous, use plain couscous in its place. There are several different types of couscous, so make sure to get the small (Moroccan) couscous so it cooks up in this short amount of time and integrates into the salad nicely.

Process shots: making couscous

Let’s chat roasted asparagus

  • When purchasing asparagus at the store, look for straight (not saggy) and plump asparagus spears, avoiding asparagus with dry or split ends. Purchase the freshest possible asparagus and use it within 1-2 days of purchasing. Wetness and slime are signs that asparagus is no longer good. If the asparagus has a bad odor it’s likely not good anymore. Fresh asparagus should have no odor.
  • Clean and prepare the asparagus by rinsing the asparagus spears under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Dry the spears by rolling them between two kitchen towels.
  • Snap off the ends. The bottom inch (or so) will naturally break off. This breaking point is where the woody part ends and the tender stem begins. This is why it’s best to break with your hands instead of cutting all at once. By cutting all at once you might cut too much of the tender stem off or not enough of it.
  • Roast the asparagus on a large sheet pan and toss first in olive oil and seasonings. Roast until perfectly caramelized (more on this in FAQs section below).

QUICK TIP

Did you know asparagus thickness is an indicator of flavor? Thinner stems are sweeter and more tender. Thicker stems have a stronger asparagus flavor and a more “meaty” texture.

Process shot: roasting asparagus

Asparagus Salad FAQs

1Can you eat asparagus raw in a salad?

You can eat asparagus cooked or raw; it is perfectly safe to eat raw. That said, I think it tastes best being roasted– which is how we prepare it for this salad.

Because it does have a rough texture and intense flavor, roasting asparagus is very popular — the high heat, olive oil, salt, and pepper add a wonderful flavor and texture.

2What goes well with asparagus?

Some of our favorite meals using roasted asparagus (besides as a side dish or in this salad) is this One-Pan Potatoes and Sausage or this One-Pan Lemon Chicken.

Asparagus pairs really nicely with meaty main dishes or grilled meat/seafood. We love it on the side of this grilled chicken or grilled flank steak.

3Can you eat cooked asparagus cold?

Yes! Roasted asparagus is especially delicious chilled. It is meant to be served cold (or at room temperature) in this Asparagus Salad recipe.

4Can you eat the top of asparagus?

You can enjoy the entire asparagus spear except for the woody stem towards the bottom. The woody stem naturally breaks off and is discarded, but the rest of the asparagus (including the head) is delicious!

5How do I know when asparagus is done cooking?

Roasted asparagus is done when it’s bright green and tender but still has a slight bite to it. You can pierce the spears with a fork or take a quick bite of one to gauge how crisp-tender they are.

  • Difficult to chew? Undercooked
  • Mushy? Overcooked

Err on the side of undercooking because you can always add it back to the oven for another minute or two. Roasting time for asparagus can vary greatly depending on how fresh the asparagus is and especially how thick the asparagus stems are.

Process shot: making balsamic vinaigrette

Asparagus Salad Dressing

  • Prepare the dressing 1-2 days in advance and store it in a Mason jar. Don’t be concerned if the dressing separates or forms clumps — this is just the olive oil solidifying– which it does at cold temps. Take the vinaigrette out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes or so before you need it to bring it back up to temperature; then shake it up to remix.
  • Adjust garlic to personal preference. There is garlic flavoring in the couscous and in the dressing. If you don’t love garlic, you may want to leave it out of the dressing.
  • Watch the balsamic vinegar closely. The dressing calls for reduced balsamic vinegar which is very easy to make. Just add regular balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and boil until reduced. With such a small amount of balsamic vinegar, it does reduce very quickly. Keep your eye on it and watch it carefully.
  • Chill the dressing before topping the salad. Since the balsamic vinegar is heated up to reduce its volume, the dressing as a whole needs to be chilled before topping the salad. 

Asparagus Salad

Asparagus Salad Tips

  • Cheese: We love feta, but goat cheese is another delicious topping with these ingredients. If you aren’t a fan of either, a little bit of freshly grated Parmesan would be delicious (just go light on adding salt to the rest of the asparagus salad so it doesn’t get too salty.)
  • Add cheese last: This salad is best with the cheese sprinkled on right before serving instead of mixing the cheese and then tossing it into the salad.
  • Season to taste: We like this salad more on the salty side, so the asparagus, dressing, and couscous are all seasoned. Plus, feta cheese is naturally salty. If you are watching your salt levels, add salt slowly and to taste.
  • Add fresh lemon: This recipe calls for lemon juice being added to the asparagus, but we love even more lemon juice squeezed over this Asparagus Salad right before eating; it adds such freshness and vibrancy!

Asparagus Salad Close-up

Asparagus Salad Storage

Asparagus Salad doesn’t sit or store well after it’s made. Once assembled, the salad needs to be eaten soon after; otherwise, the dressing begins to break down and soften the ingredients.

To make ahead: Prepare everything, but store ingredients separately in the fridge. Assemble everything right before eating.

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Asparagus Salad

5 from 3 votes
Roasted asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes, garlicky couscous, and feta cheese with a simple vinaigrette. It's a great spring side dish!
Print Recipe

Asparagus Salad

5 from 3 votes
Roasted asparagus, fresh cherry tomatoes, garlicky couscous, and feta cheese with a simple vinaigrette. It's a great spring side dish!
Course Side Dish, Vegetarian
Cuisine American
Keyword asparagus salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 17 minutes
Total Time 47 minutes
Servings 6 as a side salad
Calories 207kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $7.12

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus (~1 lb. 450g)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 package (5.8 oz.; 164g) Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous Note 1
  • 1 cup (150g) ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (1/2 of 1 10.5 oz. container)
  • 1/3 cup (47g) feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons (45g) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon (10g) honey

Instructions

  • ASPARAGUS PREP: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Break the woody ends off the asparagus. Toss the asparagus, 2 tablespoons olive oil, about 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste) together on a large sheet pan. Space out asparagus on a sheet pan so it has plenty of room to roast; if the pan is crowded, it will steam instead of roast.
  • BAKE ASPARAGUS: Bake in the oven for 7-15 minutes (depending on the asparagus thickness; thinner stems will cook very quickly), flipping the spears once halfway into the cooking time. Remove and squeeze 1 tablespoon lemon juice over the spears. Allow to cool and chop into 2-inch pieces.
  • COUSCOUS: Meanwhile, prepare the packaged couscous according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool. (See Note 1.)
  • DRESSING: While the asparagus is cooking, prepare the dressing. Pour the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce until the vinegar is halved (about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons). This happens very quickly once it is boiling, so don't walk away -- watch it closely. Allow to slightly cool and then add to a Mason jar. Add remaining dressing ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. (I add 1/4 up to 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste.) Put the lid on the jar and shake to combine. You may need to stir the dressing to get the honey to incorporate. Place in the fridge to chill until ready to dress salad; shake again before topping the salad.
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: Halve the cherry tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and cooled, chopped asparagus to the large bowl with the couscous. Gently toss. Read the next step and then add dressing to taste with another fresh squeeze of lemon if desired. (We love fresh lemon; it really makes the flavors sing!) Gently toss again and then top with the crumbled feta cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Enjoy immediately.
  • STORAGE: If you don't plan on eating all of the salad, only dress what you will eat, since this salad doesn't sit well with the dressing for an extended time.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: I use a boxed and seasoned couscous mix for this salad. Our favorite couscous mix is made by Near East and is labeled as "Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil" flavored. If you'd prefer not to use a boxed couscous, use about a half cup of plain couscous in its place. There are several different types of couscous, so you want to make sure to get the small (Moroccan) couscous so it cooks up in this short amount of time and integrates into the salad nicely.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 165mg | Potassium: 282mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 820IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 2mg

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe inspired by my Mom’s Easter side salad which she got from AllRecipes.

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I didn’t have couscous so I made this with quinoa, absolutely delicious. Even my asparagus hating husband said YUM!!! this is really, really good. So I am making it again tonight for our meatless Good Friday dinner. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe

  2. I made this today with brown rice since I needed something gluten free. It was amazing! I roasted the tomatoes as well; this definitely made for a messier appearance than your beautiful photos, but the taste was divine. The balsamic reduction was a wonderful idea. Thank you for this recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    This salad is very nice for Christmas, red, green, and white. Something different from the run of the mill side dish. Very tasty!!

  4. A quick easy salad. I made it with plain couscous and added roasted cherry tomatoes which I roasted with the asparagus. I also used 2 bunches of asparagus. We had it with baked salmon and it was lovely. I had leftovers with a couple of boiled eggs for breakfast the next morning. I am planning on making this for meal prep lunches during this time of isolation. (P.S. Hi from Sydney, Australia ;))

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so happy you guys enjoyed this Asparagus Salad so much! Hope all is well in Australia! 🙂

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