How Long Does Asparagus Last and How to Tell if It’s Bad?

Here’s all you need to know about the shelf life and spoilage of asparagus. Learn how long asparagus lasts, how to store it, and how to tell when it’s bad.

You bought asparagus, used half of the spears, and stored the rest. And after a day or two, you wonder: how long does asparagus last?

You definitely don’t want it to spoil before you get a chance to use it. Plus, it’s an expensive veggie, and you’re a conscious spender.

Or maybe yours has been sitting in the fridge for a few days and doesn’t look great. That means you need to know how to tell if asparagus is bad.

Sounds familiar? If so, this article is for you.

In it, we cover:

  • how long is asparagus good for in the fridge
  • how to pick asparagus at the store
  • how to store asparagus
  • is freezing asparagus an option?
  • telling if your asparagus is okay to eat

Let’s get started.

Asparagus bunch in hand
Asparagus bunch in hand

How Long Does Asparagus Last?

 Fridge
Asparagus3 – 4 days
Asparagus with a wet paper towel5 – 7 days
Asparagus in a jar with water10 – 14 days
Cooked asparagus3 – 4 days
Please note the periods above are only estimates.

Fresh raw asparagus lasts 3 to 4 days in the fridge. If you wrap it with a moist paper towel, it will keep for up to a week, while if you place the spears upright in a jar with an inch of water and loosely cover them with a plastic bag, asparagus can last for up to two weeks.

As you can tell, the periods vary significantly depending on how much effort you’re ready to put in when it comes to storage.

If you’re willing to spend a couple of minutes to go the extra mile (more on the techniques in the storage section), you can triple the time asparagus keeps for.

If that’s still not long enough for your needs, or you don’t want to play with the methods I mentioned, you can always freeze your leftover asparagus.

(I cover freezing later in the article.)

Now, besides choosing the right storage method depending on your needs, picking up the best available bunch is just as important.

Cooking asparagus on the stove
Cooking asparagus on the stove

How to Choose Asparagus

To help your asparagus last as long as possible, choose the best bunch available in the supermarket or grocery store.

Here’s how to pick asparagus at the store:

  • choose bunches that have bright green spears that are firm to the touch
  • look for a dark green or purple tinge on the tips
  • avoid slimy, limp, or darkening asparagus
  • make sure the ends aren’t yellowing or already dried out

Having that out of the way, let’s talk about cooked asparagus.

After Cooking

Cooked asparagus lasts for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container or lidded pot in the fridge. After cooking, let it cool to about room temperature before refrigeration, but remember to limit the cooling period to 2 hours or less.

The above doesn’t mean that your cooked asparagus will necessarily be bad after four days, but it’s no longer safe to eat. That’s because it’s difficult to notice the first signs of spoilage, and 3 to 4 days is typically how long leftovers stay okay to consume.

If you want to cook asparagus in bulk, e.g., as a part of your meal prep routine, prep enough for the next 3 to 4 days, or freeze the rest if you cook more.

Freezing cooked asparagus is as simple as it gets: you divide it into meal-sized portions, transfer each part into its airtight container, and freeze the containers.

Asparagus prep
Asparagus prep

How to Store Asparagus

Keep asparagus in the fridge, in an unsealed plastic bag. If you want to store it for longer, wrap the bottoms in a damp paper towel, or place them upright in a jar with some water.

Either of those techniques helps asparagus spears retain moisture and quality for much more than they usually do.

Those are the basics, let’s talk details.

First, raw asparagus is sold with a rubber band around the bunch. Do not remove the band when you get home. It will help secure the spears in storage.

Second, unlike some veggies, asparagus thrives in a damp environment. That’s why leaving it in a half-open plastic bag is a decent option. The bag helps the bunch retain moisture but also allows it to breathe.

(Other plants, such as spinach, also benefit from some airflow.)

To help asparagus last longer, you need to supply it with extra moisture, and there are at least two ways of doing that.

The simple solution here is to wrap the bottom of the stalks in a damp (not wet) paper towel and put them back into the bag, leaving it unsealed.

Asparagus storage in jar with water
The ultimate storage method: asparagus in a jar with water, covered loosely with a plastic bag

The Best Way To Store Asparagus

If you need the stalks to stay fresh for a week or more, you can try a more sophisticated method of storing the spears in a jar with some water.

To do that, you need a jar or container (or a cup, as you can see in the photo) with about an inch of water.

Place the asparagus upright in that container and loosely cover the top of the stalks with a plastic or freezer bag. Do not secure the bag, just drape it over the bunch. The vegetable still needs some air circulation to keep fresh.

Last but not least, change the water if it gets cloudy.

Asparagus spears
Asparagus spears

Does Asparagus Need To Be Refrigerated?

You don’t need to refrigerate asparagus if you’re going to cook it the same day you buy it. But if you want it to retain quality for longer, put it in the fridge.

Refrigerated asparagus lasts between 4 days and 2 weeks, depending on the storage method of choice.

Can You Freeze Asparagus?

Even if you follow the fancy storage methods outlined above, asparagus still does not last that long. And it’s way too pricey to leave it to waste.

Fortunately enough, it freezes fairly well. So if you bought too much on a sale or your plans have changed, and you aren’t able to cook it within a few days of buying, freezing it is the way to go.

Ground pork potatoes and asparagus
Ground pork potatoes and asparagus

How To Freeze Asparagus

This freezing method is quite similar to what I do to freeze broccoli (read more in my article on the storage time of broccoli).

Here’s how you freeze asparagus:

  1. Prep. Wash, trim and cut the asparagus.
  2. Blanching. Now it’s time to blanch it. Before you put the asparagus into the boiling water, sort the stalks by thickness. You should blanch the spears for between 90 and 180 seconds, depending on how thick they are. Generally, each spear should take on a bright green hue after blanching.
  3. Cooldown. After the boiling period, transfer the stalks into cold water.
  4. Dry thoroughly. Drain the water, and let the spears dry for 10 – 20 minutes. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  5. Packaging. Divide the stalks into a few portions if you won’t need them all at once and put each one into a separate freezer bag. Then squeeze as much air out of the bag, and seal it tight. Add a label with a date if you like.
  6. Freeze the bags.
Cooked asparagus
Cooked and seasoned asparagus

How to Tell If Asparagus Is Bad?

Discard asparagus if:

  • There’s mold. If there’s any fuzzy action on the spears, or there are black spots here and there, that asparagus is no good.
  • It’s soft or mushy. The tips usually darken and go limp first, then the stalks go wrinkly. It’s a spectrum, of course – you can use somewhat softish spears, but if slimy residue sets it, they need to go.
  • It smells funky. Asparagus doesn’t really smell like much, so if yours develops an off odor, it’s time to let it go. Trust your nose.

Besides the above, your asparagus spears might start to lose color. Discoloration is a sign that they won’t keep for much longer, and it’s best to eat them as soon as possible.

Like with other veggies, you can cut out the bad parts (and some extra), or discard only the spoiled spears and use the rest. However, if most of the stalks are done for, you probably should throw out the whole bunch altogether.

Before cooking the veggie, give it a good whiff. If it doesn’t smell fresh but has a rotten, acrid smell to it, throw it out.

Asparagus Shelf Life and Spoilage Summary

Thank you for reading this short guide on asparagus. Let’s briefly recap what we’ve covered above:

  • How long does asparagus last? Fresh asparagus lasts between 4 days and two weeks in the fridge, depending on the storage method. If you just chuck it in the refrigerator, it’ll keep for about 4 days. But if you place the spears upright in an inch of water and drape them with a plastic bag, they can last up to two weeks.
  • How to tell if asparagus is bad? Asparagus is spoiled if the spears are super soft or mushy, there’s a lot of mold or black spots, or if it gives off a funky smell. Somewhat soft asparagus is still okay to use, and you can cut off the spoiled areas (with excess) if they’re small.
  • Does asparagus need to be refrigerated? You want to refrigerate asparagus if you’re not going to use it the same day you buy it. Placing it in the fridge prolongs its storage time from 1 – 2 days to 4 – 14 days, depending on your chosen method.