White asparagus with white sauce or sauce hollandaise is the most popular German asparagus recipe, a simple and delicious dish that celebrates the short season.
This recipe for white asparagus with white sauce or sauce Hollandaise is a classic German dish. White asparagus is the “main event” in spring in Germany.
You can buy at the grocery store or farmer's market, people cook Spargel at home, restaurant menus are built around it in spring, roadside stands pop up just about everywhere, and even festivals are devoted to it… an absolute frenzy.
For those who don’t care about making homemade hollandaise, there is even the easy option of buying the sauce in a pack.
I never did; making the sauce is quick and easy; the recipe requires just a few simple ingredients, and the sauce's flavor is so much better.
- German white asparagus
- Recipe ingredients
- Ingredients for the white sauce
- How to cook white asparagus?
- How to make white sauce for asparagus?
- Expert Tips
- Recipe FAQ
- How to serve white asparagus and white sauce?
- More asparagus recipes
German white asparagus
Asparagus is a spring produce we happily anticipate every year. Of course, we could buy it out of season from time to time, but we only eat it during the white asparagus season, between April and mid-June (to be exact, the 24th of June).
Compared to other countries where the green variety is the more popular sort, in Germany, white asparagus enjoys a higher position.
And white asparagus with white sauce or sauce hollandaise is THE recipe! Also very popular is White Asparagus Soup.
Differences between white and green asparagus
- Cultivation: The main difference between them is the way of cultivating it. White asparagus grows under the ground; the soil is mounded around the stalks. This way, no light reaches the plant, resulting in the white color.
- The opposite happens with green asparagus; there is no dirt covering the plant; it grows in the sun, allowing it to produce the substances needed for photosynthesis, making it green.
- Flavor: White asparagus has a more delicate flavor, so a white sauce for asparagus is the best addition.
- But otherwise, don't worry too much about the color; you can swap one sort for the other in most recipes and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- Cleaning: You have to remove the woody end from both sorts of asparagus. However, white asparagus must also be peeled, while green doesn’t.
- Cooking time: It depends on the type of asparagus and the thickness of the spears. The white sort needs a slightly longer cooking time, about 15-20 minutes, depending on its thickness.
- The green one only requires between 7 and 10 minutes, again depending on the thickness of the spears.
Fresh white asparagus:
- It’s preferable to choose spears of a regular thickness so that they all cook at the same time. The thicker they are, the longer the cooking time.
- White asparagus is usually sold in 1.1 lb/ 500 g bundles in Germany. One bundle usually serves one person if served with white sauce.
- Choose white, thick, plump plants with tight, fresh-looking flower heads. The lower ends should not be dry and cracked.
You will also need water, a knob of butter, a little sugar, and some salt to cook the spears.
Ingredients for the white sauce
- Egg yolks: Use medium ones if you live in Germany and large ones if you live in the United States.
- Butter: I recommend using European-style unsalted butter; it has the highest fat percent (81%) and is perfect for making sauce hollandaise.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, fine sea salt, or Kosher salt.
How to cook white asparagus?
- Wash the spears and remove the lower, woody ends (don’t discard them, see Expert Tips).
- Place a stalk on the cutting board and peel it with a vegetable peeler, starting underneath the head of the plant. Keep turning the spear to peel it all over.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a little butter, sugar, and a pinch of salt to the boiling water. Carefully lower the asparagus into the pot, cover, and reduce the heat.
- Cook for 16 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness and personal taste (I cooked mine for 16 minutes, and I like it to still have a bit of a bite).
- Thin asparagus won't need that long.
- Remove the cooked stalks from the water and let them drain well. Then, place them on kitchen towels to absorb the water thoroughly.
- Tip: You can keep the asparagus liquid for making soup.
How to make white sauce for asparagus?
This is the same method I use when making immersion blender mayonnaise, a super easy recipe that never fails.
Important: Use a tall narrow container (I use a measuring cup) that the blender stick fits in all the way to the base. If the container is too large (wide), the sauce will not emulsify.
You will also need a jug cup for the melted butter and an immersion blender (Amazon affiliate link).
- Place the egg yolks, water, mustard, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a good pinch of sea salt in the container (1).
- Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium-low heat, don't let it boil. Transfer it to the jug cup and let it stand for about 20 seconds so the milky whites can settle at the bottom (2).
- Combine: Place the immersion blender into the container with the egg yolks and process briefly to combine (3).
- Add butter: With the blender stick going on full speed, slowly drizzle the melted hot butter in a thin stream into the egg mixture (don’t move the stick while processing); this should take 30 to 60 seconds (4).
- The sauce should be thick, creamy, and pale (5).
How to make a traditional sauce hollandaise?
Meaning without an immersion blender.
While I love the simplicity of using the blender and the fact that today’s recipe uses less butter than the classic one, I still make a traditional homemade hollandaise sauce at least once a year during the Spargel season.
Here is how to do it:
- Melt butter: Start melting 2 sticks/ 9 oz/ 250 g of cubed butter in a small pan on a very low flame; the butter should not get too hot.
- Vinegar reduction: In the meantime, chop one shallot very finely and place it in a small saucepan together. Add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 5 crushed white peppercorns, and 5 tablespoons water.
- Bring to a boil and allow to reduce for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Sieve through a fine-meshed sieve and catch the liquid in a small metallic bowl that you can use for the bain-marie. Discard the shallot and the peppercorns.
- Bain-marie: Fill a pan about halfway with water. The pan should have a size allowing the metallic bowl with the ingredients to sit on top of it. Heat the water but don't let it boil.
- Add 3 large egg yolks to the vinegar reduction. Place the bowl on top of the pan (make sure it doesn't touch the water) and whisk thoroughly until the sauce thickens (I use a hand-held mixer, it goes quicker than a regular whisk).
- Add butter: Remove the metallic bowl with the eggs from the bain-marie. Start adding the warm butter to the egg yolks very slowly while whisking all the time; I use the regular whisk now.
- Adjust the taste with some salt and a few drops of lemon juice.
The most important tip: Use an appropriate container to make the sauce; if the container is too large, this easy hollandaise sauce will fail. Use a tall narrow container (a measuring cup is excellent) so that the blender stick fits all the way to the base. See photographs.
Cooking time always depends on the spears’ thickness, so you need to check and not just rely on the cooking times indicated in a recipe. If you overcook the spears, they will be mushy and unpleasant.
- Don’t discard the woody ends and the peel; use them to make asparagus broth, which is excellent for making soup or risotto. If you don’t have enough of them or don’t have the time to do it immediately, freeze them until you have enough.
- To make the broth, cook the ends and peel for 20 minutes in water with 1-2 tablespoons butter, some salt, and lemon juice. Strain the liquid into jars or bottles, let it cool, and refrigerate it for up to 1 week or freeze it for 3-4 months.
Eggs: The sauce is made with raw egg yolks. To avoid bacteria, use very fresh eggs and (if you can get them) pasteurized eggs.
Butter: Use the best quality butter you can find; it makes a difference. European-style butter with 81% is perfect, don’t use fat-reduced butter. Unsalted butter is my first choice, but salted is ok; adjust the salt in the sauce accordingly.
Sure, but adjust the cooking time accordingly; the green sort needs a shorter cooking time.
It would be best if you served the sauce immediately.
However, if it needs to wait a few minutes, transfer the white sauce to a serving bowl or gravy boat and immerse the bottom of this container in a bowl with hot water. Stir well before serving.
No, this recipe is not suitable for making in advance.
White sauce or sauce hollandaise should be served immediately while the sauce is still warm. If the creamy asparagus sauce stands, the butter will start to solidify.
However, you can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Reheat very gently and under frequent stirring in the microwave or a double boiler (bain-marie).
How to serve white asparagus with white sauce?
The traditional German way is to serve asparagus and white sauce as a main dish with cooked ham and boiled potatoes (preferably but not mandatory small new potatoes).
More asparagus recipes
German Asparagus with White Sauce (Hollandaise)
- Large saucepan or pot
- Immersion blender Note 1
- Jug for the sauce (measuring cup) Note 2 – Very important!
- Jug cup for the butter
- 4 ½ lbs white asparagus 2 kg Note 3
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter Note 4
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
White sauce hollandaise (Note 5):
- 2 eggs yolks Note 6
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 stick unsalted butter 4 oz/ 115 g
- parsley and lemon wedges to serve
- Peel asparagus: Wash the spears and remove the lower, woody ends (don’t discard them, see Expert Tips). Place a stalk on the cutting board and peel it with a vegetable peeler. Start underneath the head of the plant and keep turning the spear to peel it all over. 4 ½ lbs/ 2 kg white asparagus
- Cook asparagus: Fill a large saucepan or pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add salt, a little butter, and sugar to the boiling water. Carefully lower the asparagus into the pot, cover, and lower the heat. 1 tablespoon salt + 1 tablespoon butter + 1 teaspoon sugar
- Cook for 16 to 20 minutes, depending on thickness and personal taste (I cooked mine for 16 minutes, and I like it to still have a bit of a bite). Thin asparagus won't need that long (Note 7).
- Drain: Remove the cooked stalks from the water and let them drain well. Place them on kitchen towels to make sure the water is absorbed thoroughly.
- Place the egg yolks, mustard, water, lemon juice, and salt in the appropriate container )(Note 2). 2 egg yolks + 1 teaspoon mustard + 1 teaspoon water + 1 tablespoon lemon juice + ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Transfer it to the jug cup and let it stand for about 20 seconds so the milky whites can settle at the bottom. 1 stick/ 115 g butter
- Combine: Place the immersion blender into the container with the egg yolks and process briefly to combine.
- Add melted butter: With the blender stick going, slowly drizzle the melted hot butter in a thin stream into the egg mixture; this should take about 30 to 60 seconds; don’t move the stick while processing; keep it at the bottom of the container. The sauce should be thick, creamy, and pale.
- Serve immediately sprinkled with a little parsley and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Immersion blender: This recipe is only suitable for an immersion blender. If you want to use another kind of blender, you must use another recipe.
- The size of the container matters! You need a jar or measuring cup that tightly fits the blender’s head. Ensure it’s not too large. (See photographs in the blog post).
- Asparagus: Green asparagus can be used instead, but white asparagus is traditional.
- Butter: Use European-style butter with 81% fat. Unsalted is perfect, but salted is also ok; adjust the salt accordingly.
- Make a traditional sauce hollandaise using the instructions in the blog post.
- Eggs: Use large egg yolks if you live in the US and medium ones in Germany. If you are worried about raw eggs and food poisoning, use pasteurized (or irradiated) eggs.
- Cooking time greatly depends on the thickness of the asparagus spears. Ideally, they should be thick, and the cooking time should be as indicated in the recipe, but the thickness can vary, affecting the cooking time. Start checking soon enough; the asparagus should be cooked al dente and not be too soft or mushy.