When it’s springtime, it’s asparagus season*. Preparing asparagus is a simple, straightforward affair that can be accomplished by sauteeing, grilling, or steaming the spears until crisp-tender. Those preparations don’t need a recipe, just some good quality olive oil and sea salt (and maybe a little common sense). However, to make a vegan or vegetarian roasted asparagus soup you do need a recipe like this one to achieve a creamy consistency without any dairy. The trick is to use a small amount of arborio rice to thicken the soup and roast the asparagus to bring out its best flavor.
*Springtime also means Tulipmania is in full swing at my house. Scroll down past the recipe to see photographic evidence.
One way to thicken a soup without using cream is to use a veloute, a French sauce using flour and stock as a roux. If you want to go that route, a fussy recipe for Asparagus and Tarragon Veloute on Serious Eats uses 8 ingredients that aren’t asparagus and skips the crucial step of roasting the asparagus spears. I prefer using arborio (risotto) rice because the rice soaks up the flavor of the stock while keeping the pure, bright asparagus flavor front and center.
Roasted Asparagus Soup Recipe
The myth about bending a fresh spear of asparagus so it breaks off the woody section is actually untrue. Depending on where you grip it and bend it, you can break it off anywhere you want. The better way to trim asparagus is to line them up evenly by their bottoms and cut off about a half inch from the bottom of all the spears. Next, use a peeler to peel about 2 inches of the outer layer at the bottom of each spear. It takes time to peel a pound of asparagus in this manner but it wastes less than other methods and yields fantastic results. In addition, the trimmings can be simmered in stock to infuse asparagus flavor to soups or sauces.
The trimmed spears (not the trimmings) get tossed in oil, lightly salted, and baked in a hot oven until they are soft and browned in spots. They are ready to eat and delicious at this point but their higher purpose is to become a healthy, creamy soup without any actual cream.
If you want to keep this roasted asparagus soup recipe vegan or vegetarian, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock. Whichever route you choose, double-down on the asparagus flavor by simmering your asparagus shavings in the stock before straining it for use in the recipe. The soup can be pureed with an immersion blender in your pot but beware: if you are using a wide pot, splatters are not just possible, they are practically guaranteed. If you puree the soup in your blender, cover the open top with a paper towel to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters. A Vitamix blender makes a supremely smooth puree. It goes without saying that we should all aspire to world peace, silky-smooth pureed soups, and professional-grade Vitamix blenders.
The Fun of Fixin’s
An unadorned bowl of roasted asparagus soup is fine, and indeed healthy, without toppings but makes for boring photos. A crusty loaf of bread and squeeze of lemon juice should be mandatory but you may shy away from the fried shallots, green onions, mint leaves, cucumber slices, or pickled vegetables I used in my photos. Vegans won’t want to add a dollop of sour cream or homemade chipotle-lemon creme fraiche (see comments below) as I did, but it can add another nice layer of flavor. If I could do it again, I would still add the tangy creme fraiche but I would remove the chunks of lemon confit from it so that I could delicately squeeze ribbons across the surface of the soup from a squeeze bottle. Alas, I actually ladled spoonfuls in and spread it with a knife for this photo. It looks rustic, bordering on amateur, but tasted just fine. I implore you to do better and share your triumphs with #morselsofparadise on social media.
- 1 pound asparagus
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tablespoons arborio rice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash the asparagus, cut off bottom ¼ inch, and trim outer 2 inches of bottoms with vegetable peeler. Reserve trimmings.
- Toss trimmed asparagus with 1 tablespoon of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender and browned in spots, about 20 minutes.
- Add asparagus trimmings to stock and simmer until asparagus is done roasting. Strain stock to remove trimmings and discard trimmings.
- In a medium pot or enameled cast-iron casserole, heat remaining one tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped onion and cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the roasted asparagus, stock, arborio rice, and nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat until the rice is very soft, about 20 minutes.
- Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until very smooth. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with your choice of fresh herbs or a dollop of sour cream.