This asparagus with brioche crumbs is proof that steamed asparagus needs little more than a sprinkling of buttery bread crumbs and lemon zest to shine.

Curious about this asparagus with brioche crumbs?  We don’t really need to say anything. Her simple and savvy strategy is, we think, pretty self-explanatory. Not to mention stunning. Use as much or as little butter as you please. Asparagus not in season? No brioche to be found? No problem. Challah or croissants make swell stand-ins for buttery brioche. And virtually any sturdy green vegetable–we’re thinking green beans or sugar snaps or even broccoli (florets and stalks)–would work swell in place of spring spears. We haven’t heard this from the lovely Alice, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for this recipe (which we always refer to as Asparagus by Alice). But somehow we have a feeling she’d be okay with whatever swap the situation demands.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Asparagus with brioche crumbs piled on a white serving platter.

Asparagus with Brioche Crumbs

5 from 1 vote
This asparagus with brioche crumbs is proof that steamed asparagus needs little more than a sprinkling of buttery bread crumbs and lemon zest to shine.
Servings4 servings
Calories174 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 1 bunch asparagus trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon or so unsalted butter
  • 1/2 to 1 cup day-old brioche crumbs (simply pulse day-old brioche or croissants in a food processor until fine crumbs form)
  • Grated zest from about 1/2 small lemon plus more for garnish if desired
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste (optional)


  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil or prepare a steamer set over but not touching simmering water. Cook the asparagus spears until just tender or done to your liking, 1 1/2 minutes or more, depending on the thickness of the spears.
  • Drain the spears and pat them dry. Transfer the asparagus to a platter.
  • Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter for starters in a skillet over medium heat. Add the brioche crumbs along with the lemon zest and cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are golden and lightly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. (You may need to add more butter, depending on just how buttery you like your bread crumbs. If your bread crumbs become a single mass of buttery goodness, you got a little overzealous with the butter and now need to add more crumbs.) Transfer the crumbs to a plate and season with salt and, if desired, pepper.
  • Scatter the buttery bread crumbs over the asparagus and strew with more lemon zest, if desired. Escort the asparagus to the table and accept accolades.

Adapted From

Vegetarian: A Delicious Celebration of Fresh Ingredients

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 174 kcalCarbohydrates: 18 gProtein: 6 gFat: 10 gSaturated Fat: 6 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 58 mgSodium: 138 mgPotassium: 228 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 2 gVitamin A: 1191 IUVitamin C: 6 mgCalcium: 45 mgIron: 3 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Alice Hart. Photo © 2012 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a wonderfully fresh way to top your vegetables. My family is crazy for asparagus. I couldn’t find any brioche, so I substituted mini croissants. The lemon flavor was subtle and the toasted crumbs were very light. Not much was leftover.

This simple recipe is certainly a keeper as you can adjust the quantities and flavors to suit your taste. The asparagus was steamed until tender crisp.

I usually roast or grill asparagus with just a little olive oil and a sea salt pepper blend and wanted to try something different but still not covered in a heavy sauce. This recipe was perfect for a change.

I used about 1/2 cup of brioche crumbs (the local bread store gave me the day-old brioche rolls at no charge) to half a stick of butter. The lemon zest added a nice hint of flavor but was not strong at all and just complemented the asparagus.

My boys don’t love asparagus but thought this was good and said they would try the same technique on broccoli or green beans.

We eat asparagus weekly (if not daily) this time of year and this was an easy yet welcome departure from my ususal method of grilling or roasting it. Everyone loved it!

This dish was quite popular with my family. I used 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, and 2/3 cup bread crumbs. It was very well received with bright flavor and a crunchy texture.

The lemon zest is what makes this work. The buttery brioche crumbs don’t hurt, of course. I used one bunch of asparagus (unfortunately did not weigh or count stalks). I used 2 tablespoons of butter to 3/4 cup of brioche crumbs and they browned up nicely. I went a little overboard with the lemon and used more like the zest from 3/4 of a lemon than 1/2, but the lemon is what really gave this dish its zing. NOTE: There were more (tasty!) bread crumbs than needed for the amount of asparagus.

It’s nice to have a little crunch with asparagus, especially when it’s steamed. The lemon is a nice touch and really brightens it up. I used a hunk of challah bread that made about 2 cups of bread crumbs with two tablespoons of butter and the zest of half a lemon. I sprinkled the crumbs over the asparagus, and that was very nice, but it was really good when I rolled the slightly damp spears in the crumbs so they were completely coated. (By the way, the leftover crumbs were great on pasta.)

This is a easy and very tasty recipe. The bitterness of the asparagus is well complemented by the butteriness of the brioche crumbs and the lemon zest gives it the needed zing. I did not have brioche handy so I used 2 large croissants which I chopped into pieces and set out to dry on a baking sheet on the counter top.

It’s a perfect summer time vegetable and a great side to any main dish.

It’s that time of year to eat a lot of asparagus–and I love it! I’m always looking for a new way to prepare this delicious spring vegetable. This recipe was a simple way to prepare asparagus in no time at all, and with ingredients I already had at home.

To me this recipe was really tasty because of the great texture the bread crumb mixture gave the crisp asparagus. I know it read not to use the zest from no more than 1/2 a lemon, but I love lemon so I used a whole one. I blanched the asparagus in the boiling water (be careful…it only took about 1 1/2 minutes to cook them because they were the thinner asparagus). I actually added some pepper to the bread crumb and butter mixture, which I thought was a nice addition.

I think this topping would be good on other vegetables cooked similarly. Squash? Green beans? Snap peas?

This is a nice recipe for someone who wants a variation for asparagus. I roasted the asparagus because I can’t bring myself to boil or steam it. Nothing is like roasting asparagus for great flavor. I used 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. The crumbs crisped up nicely. It might be helpful for folks who don’t cook a lot to mention that you really need to stir the bread crumbs and not leave them unattended.

I sprinkled some of the crumbs on a few pieces of asparagus, just to test it out. We were very pleased with the result. After plating all of the asparagus, and sprinkling on more crumbs, we still had quite a lot of crumbs left, even after being very generous with them. Unfortunately, after eating for a while, I wished that I had used even fewer crumbs. I would recommend using less brioche to begin with or save the rest of the crumbs for something else.

Originally published March 29, 2020

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I, too, love asparagus. I realized the other day that my son’s girlfriend did not know how to trim asparagus? Little things we already know, others may not. LOL. This is fantastic.

    1. Terrific to hear that you like this, Mary! It’s so simple and yet in some ways rather novel. Let us know if ever you vary it at all, whether swapping one citrus zest for another or adding crushed hazelnuts to the bread crumbs or such. We love to hear what happens in others’ kitchens…

  2. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I love asparagus, and the brioche crumbs look like a fantastic/delicious topping!

  3. wow that looks delicious! i love asparagus! and i bet its delicious with the buttery brioche! thanks for sharing! love your blog!

  4. Seriously great! Why do I never think to use egg-rich sweet breads like brioche and challah for cooking? Actually for anything other than eating as is? This looks fabulous!

    1. I find it nearly impossible to resist eating them as is, Jamie, so they never quite last long enough to cook with. But they do such wonderful things in other recipes! I love seeing brioche in a savory dish.