A Few Words on How to Cook Artichokes

A Few Words on How to Cook Artichokes


This is a primer on how to cook artichokes - if you're going to invest the time into cooking them, you want them to be fantastic. In the spring I tend to cook artichokes once or twice a week, and although the process takes time and attention, I can't help myself. When they're good, there are few things I'd rather be eating. That said, I think a lot of people are intimidated by the process, or they think it's not worth the effort. My friends confirm this. The topic has come up a few times lately, and the conversations are typically punctuated by a confession that they never cook artichokes at home. So I thought I'd do a quick outline of how I handle these armored spring ambassadors. I'd say eight times out of ten I use the cooking method I'm going to outline below. It requires nothing more than good (baby) artichokes, olive oil or clarified butter, and sea salt. If you can pair those ingredients, with a bit of practice, a hint of patience, and a window of time, you can absolutely cook some of the best artichokes. Not kidding. Once you hit your groove with these wondrous thistles, few of you will look back.

I'll also mention that nutritionists celebrate artichokes for a long list of reasons. They're packed with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, and have long been known to support the liver. They don't get as much of the limelight as other ingredients - for example pomegranate, turmeric, acai, etc. - but they bring quite a lot to the table. It's worth incorporating them into your meals, particularly when they're in season.

How to Cook Artichokes
How to Cook Artichokes
How to Cook Artichokes
How to Cook Artichokes
How to Cook Artichokes

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How to Cook Artichokes

More times that not, this is how I like to prepare artichokes. The method works for whatever artichokes look good at the market - baby artichokes are ideal. The gist is - trim, blanch, saute. You end up with beautiful, tender, succulent, golden-crusted artichoke hearts that can be enjoyed straight from the pan, or in any number of other preparations - I outline a few below.

Artichokes
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil or clarified butter
sea salt

Fill a bowl with water, squeeze the juice of the lemon into it. You'll add the artichokes to the water immediately after trimming.

To trim your artichokes: Actually, before I get into the details of trimming, let's just establish what we're after. We're after the tender. Meaning, we want to trim any tough outer leaves, tips, and stem. We want to get down to the tender parts of the leaves, without trimming so much that we have little left. To start, trim the stem. Pull the outer leaves from the artichoke, until you get down to the more tender leaves. Cut off the top of the artichoke (roughly where it begins to taper in), you want to remove the tough part of the tips. I like to use a serrated knife for that cut. From here decide what shape you'd like your artichoke pieces to be. For this preparation, I cut each artichoke in halves, and/or quarters. If you are using larger artichokes, ones that have developed a fuzzy choke, you'll need to use a teaspoon (or mellon baller) to carve the fuzz out before moving on to your final cuts. Work efficiently, and get the trimmed artichokes in the lemon water as quickly as possible to reduce browning from oxidation.

While prepping the artichokes, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Salt well, and use a slotted spoon to transfer them from the lemon water to the boiling water. Boil until just tender, typically a minute or two. Drain well, and set aside. Alternately, you can steam the artichokes - this will keep more of the nutrients intact. Either way, you want the artichokes to be cooked tender (and feel free to eat them at this point)!

I can't resist a bit of crust and crunch to them, so....

Heat a tablespoon of oil or clarified butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, transfer the artichokes to the pan in a single layer. Toss to coat, and add a pinch or two of salt. Allow to saute, tossing every few minutes, until the artichokes are deeply golden and crusted.

You can enjoy these immediately, or at room temperature, or you can save them for a few day, refrigerated, in a coating of olive oil (drain before using)....

A few other notes:

Buying Artichokes: Your success here is going to depend on sourcing good artichokes. Look for tight, dense examples. This is a sign that they have been recently harvested. If you see the leaves have started to flower out, separate, or dry out, give them a pass.

Storage: Store artichokes in a bag in your refrigerator until ready to use. That said, try to use them quickly - within few days of purchase. The sooner the better.

Add-ins: This technique makes beautiful artichokes in their own right, but occasionally I like to flare them out with other things I have on hand. they have a great affinity for olives, orange zest, chopped almonds, chile flakes, fennel, anise, and lemon oil.

Great-on: Once you have a skillet of these, you can eat them on their own, or use them in/on all sorts of things. This artichoke season I've had them on farro risotto, quinoa, frittata, pureed cauliflower soup, and chopped into a ravioli filling. As I'm typing this, I'm imagining they'd be amazing as a component in a dumpling filling, or spring roll.

Prep time: 15 min - Cook time: 10 min

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Comments


Erin B

Thank You so much Heidi! I am determined and have a bag of beautiful baby chokes already waiting in the fridge...
-Erin

May 18, 2015
 

Omg thank you for this! I love artichokes but never knew how to prepare them properly. It no longer seems that daunting (: Saving this post!
xo Jia

May 19, 2015
 

So glad you posted this! Cooking artichokes is one of those very intimidating things for me, although I love them. When ordering at a restaurant, I always try to get a dish with artichokes incorporated in them because I love them so much......just can't cook myself. Always get a little sad when seeing "chokes" in the grocery store thinking to myself....hmmmm....would love to eat those just don't know how to prepare =) Now I do! yay.

May 19, 2015
 

Amber

Thanks for sharing! I've never prepared them myself and have been wanting to. I agree with Laura, I always order anything that contains artichoke when dining out but now I feel capable making them at home!

May 19, 2015
 

gingerdu

Don't toss the stem....it's the best part! Try either leaving it on or chopping it off and incorporating into the final batch. Delicious!

May 19, 2015
 

Such gorgeous photographs. But then, I'm a sucker for a pretty carciofo. But I have a question: why do you blanch them first? In Italy this is never done. Is it because the artichokes are a bit tougher in the States? I'm curious, because I never quite know what type of artichokes people are using when making my recipes.

HS: Good morning lovely Elizabeth! I like to blanch them for the texture - it lends a silky, succulent, tenderness that I just can't get with a straight saute...More of a personal preference than anything?

May 19, 2015
 

I usually cook the artichokes whole in boiling water with lemon & lemon juice and salt so it would be nice to cook them differently for a change. I just bought 8 artichoke at Trader Joe's, here in Los Angeles, for a great price ($1 per large beautiful artichoke). Good post! Thanks

May 19, 2015
 

Thank you for this post!!! I have six artichoke plants that are teeming with artichokes and they can be a bear to cook properly. I have a pasta thing I wanna make and this looks like the perfect way to cook them. Love the sauté at the end.

May 19, 2015
 

Mostly I just love that you've named them "armored spring ambassadors." :)

May 19, 2015
 

pcl

Thanks so much for this outline! Would love to read something similar for other slightly more complicated, not so intuitive, yet versatile ingredients. In Shanghai, where I am for a few months before returning to the Bay Area, my local market has a lot of daikon radishes, yam leaves, and king trumpet mushrooms. Can't wait for next spring's artichokes!

May 19, 2015
 

These look delicious and artichokes are one of my favorite foods! But I never put this much effort into them. I cut off any protruding stem but don't do any more trimming than that, then simply steam them covered. Next to the pot I place an oven-save dish with a little butter in it, which melts while they cook about an hour. You can't eat the entire leaves, of course, but that means you have a handle (the top, inedible part of the leaf) for dipping in the melted butter! The heart is the best part, and just needs to have the hair scraped off and be cut up (and of course dipped in the butter).

May 19, 2015
 

susan

I LOVE artichokes but have never had any luck with fresh ones......I just can't figure them out. I recently found frozen artichokes and I'm in heaven. Much better than canned. I'm thinking I know what is for dinner tonight.

May 19, 2015
 

Kat

I think the very best way to cook artichokes that you intend to eat without stripping the leaves (i.e. eating one leaf at a time dipped in melted butter) is to use a pressure cooker. The flavor is kept in the cooker and you get a bigger burst of artichoke flavor. Yummy.

May 19, 2015
 

You are so right. Artichokes are intimidating to cook for many, I will admit to only cooking them once in a blue moon. The first I tried was in Colombia, where I'm from, and had no idea what to expect. Ended up tossing it out because I couldn't figure it out!
Thanks for the advise!

May 19, 2015
 

Can't wait to try the blanching first. It sounds like the perfect thing for artichoke lasagna.

May 19, 2015
 

Katherine

This is the perfect! I have been waiting for a post on artichokes. Lovely! I am so looking forward to trying this. My daughter has hated most vegetables, but has always loved artichokes. I think having options cooking them is wonderful.

May 19, 2015
 

Yummy!

May 19, 2015
 

I'm definitely referring to them as "armored spring ambassadors" now. :) Love this idea.

May 19, 2015
 

Anonymous

Wait, I see all those leaves torn off and left aside - do you not eat them by biting off the tender bit towards the stem? Especially as a vehicle for melted butter? I can see thais prep if you have alot of smaller arty-chokes (does anyone remember-might choke Arty but it won't choke Stymie). I have two large (LARGE) globes sitting in the fridge waiting for tonight. I can't imagine throwing away a better portion of them by stripping the leaves off for just the two centers. Do you treat the big boys differently?

HS: Sometimes! I also like to boil the leaves into a nutritious tea, or broth, or use that as a sauce component. You can always steam the big globes, and then take the dunk and scrape approach.

May 19, 2015
 

beth

thank you for both the detailed explanation, and the pictures - being able to see the outcome of each step is very useful!

May 19, 2015
 

Jacob R Clark

I'll try this! Thank you for your awesomeness, Ms. Swanson. Definitely one of my favorite sites! I winnowed down my email subscription recently; of course, you weren't chopped! Looking forward to the book Near & Far.

May 19, 2015
 

4376ab - not anonymous anymore

Thanks Heidi. The tea is a revelation - what an idea! My liver could use it after prolonged and enthusiastic celebration of the return of Rose weather

May 19, 2015
 

SuzinSantaCruz

Lovely post, Heidi. I'm looking forward to trying your cooking technique. One artichoke affinity that you neglected is GARLIC. As a 3rd generation Califoria Artichoke eater, I'm used to adding chopped garlic to the cooking water. Yum! With your version, it could be sautéed along with the chokes. Thanks as always, Heidi

May 19, 2015
 

Heidi, this is such a lovely post. You know, working with artichokes used to be a daunting task for me, but after I carefully figured out what works best, now it feels very easy and of course, I love eating artichokes! Can never have enough! Also, home cooked are so better than canned.

May 19, 2015
 

Susan

In New Orleans and probably most of southern Louisiana, we have a totally different way to prepare and eat artichokes. The stems are trimmed and only the very few small leaves are taken off. Then the artichokes are placed upright in a large pot with about 1 1/2 inches of cold water and put on medium heat until they come to a boil. Then they are simmered with the lid on fo at least 45 minutes. To test for doneness, see if one of the large leaves are loose and scrape with your teeth to see if the bottom part is tender yet. All of the leaves are eaten in this manner. Each leaf is removed, dipped in a vinegarette, and scraped in your mouth. When you get to the choke, take it off with a knife and cut the bottom into the dressing. This way each person has their own artichoke for a meal starter. The tough part of the leaves are discarded in a circle around the plate...nothing is wasted.

May 19, 2015
 

Robyn

First catch your rabbit....... I do occasionally see massive artichoke plants in culinary gardens here, but have never seen artichokes on sale at any greengrocers. Any NZers [Aucklanders :-) ] reading this know where can get them in this quantity & size in spring?

The tutorial is great, thanks Heidi.

May 19, 2015
 

When cleaning artichokes, the larger ones at least, I personally find it is worthwhile keeping the stems, at least an inch or two of them. You peel the tough, stringy outer skin with a peeler. They taste just like the heart (which is no surprise, as they are a natural extension of it) and you can cook them along with the rest.

May 20, 2015
 

Vanessa

I made artichokes for the first time last night, thanks to you! They always scared me, but now I see how simple and delicious they are to prepare. My family thanks you :-).

May 20, 2015
 

Janet

I'm glad I was raised eating artichokes as they've never confused me at all. Now that we're growing our own in Northern-northern California, the first step is to always turn them upside down to bang out the earwigs - preferably in the chicken coop! Then just steam them until the stem is tender to a knife and/or the leaves pull off easily. Dip in 1/2 yoghurt/1/2 mayo or olive oil with garlic salt/Italian herbs. Discard the fuzzy choke and enjoy the heart last. My bro-in-law spends the time cutting off each thorny end and pointy top to simmer them in water upside down with long stems attached. They stand up on their own on a serving plate that way. Very fun. Yours sound great too. Who doesn't like crispy buttery crunch over tender smooth yumminess?

May 20, 2015
 

Yes! I love artichokes, but oh man, working with them can be intimidating. This makes it all seem really approachable. Now all I need is a knife sharp enough to actually slice right through those tough leaves... :)

May 21, 2015
 

Stephanie

I'm another voice for the whole veggie! I love artichokes, and grew up eating them leaf-by-leaf. If I'm going to eat just the hearts and the wholly-edible leaves, I'll buy frozen ones.

Trim the bottom of the stem, take off a few of the small outer leaves near the stem, use a sharp knife to cut the top inch off so you get the prickers off the closed portion, then use kitchen shears to trim the other prickers off. Drop in acidulated water until they're all done. Then steam, over water with a bay leaf in it (smells better in the house), until you can pull out a big leaf from toward the center and easily scrape off the meat.

My favorite sauce is sliced garlic toasted in olive oil. Then I melt butter into the hot oil, add a little salt and a huge squeeze of lemon.

May 21, 2015
 

Diana Arbex

I love to learn new ways of cooking artichokes but this method wastes so much of it. I typically trim the bottom, cut the very top off the leaves and steam the artichoke whole. It's easy this way because there's less preparation but the cooking time is much longer. I steam it generally for about 45 minutes depending on how many I'm cooking. It's best to pull one of the leaves and scrape off the meat, if it's soft enough, it's ready. You will know. There are all kinds of sauces that can be used for dipping but you can never go wrong with simple melted butter. I also make melted herb butter using culinary sage and thyme chopped very fine. It's fun to eat artichokes this way, leaf by leaf and at the end you get to savor the heart! I've been growing them and eating like this for years!

May 22, 2015
 

Albert V.

This sounds very tasty! We picked some chokes up on today's hunting & gathering expedition. The price has been so high on chokes we have tended to not do them too much but hey, its spring and they're in season again . So your method has caught my attention!

Another way I like to do them is to steam w/ lemon or apple cider vinegar to near doneness and then drain and cut them in half and put them on the grill to finish and develop a nice char. You get the leaves and then the heart. Yum! If your having guests the steam/ boil can be done a day or two ahead then refrigerated till grlling time.
Thanks. Really like your photogaphy of the dishes too!

May 24, 2015
 

Pitix2002

It's very common to eat Artichokes in Spain, specially in Catalonia. Most of the time cook them in the microwave. I peel some of the outside leaves, I hit them on the counter upsidedown to open the leaves a little bit. Place them in a microwave-safe dish. I cook about 4-5 pieces at the same time, not more than that. Just pour some good olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme on top of each one of them. You make sure that you put some extra olive oil inside each artichoke. Cook them on high for about 15-20 min. You will know they are done once you can peel one leave from the inside easily. Another way to add some extra flavour is put fresh sausage or pancetta inside each artichoke. It's easy, and taste just great! It's a very easy dinner recipe!!

March 15, 2016
 

Deborah

In France we eat young, tender artichokes raw, with vinaigrette !

March 15, 2016
 

I love artichokes but I have to admit I have never made them at home - (I tend to order them whenever I see them on the menu of a nice restaurant). I think it is time to give it a go!

March 15, 2016
 

Lisa

I've always prepared them just as you describe, but I've never steamed or put them in to boil. I just add them to the saute pan w/olive oil, lemon, etc., add a bit of water and cover, then uncover and let them crisp up a bit.

March 15, 2016
 

Amber

Thanks for posting this! Like many people, I've always wanted to make them at home but was too intimidated. I'll be trying your method soon!

March 15, 2016
 

Becky

Oh do I wish I could get my hands on some baby artichokes. I live in the east (PA) and our produce is nothing like what you get out west :(

March 15, 2016
 

Kelly

Artichokes are a thistle and, just like a flower, will keep longer if the stem is in water. To store an artichoke, trim the bottom of the stem up past where it looks dried out---usually about 1/2 an inch. Then put the choke in a small bowl of water (preferably one which has a diameter less than the base of the choke). Put it in the refrigerator to store. After about an hour, you'll notice how nice and squeaky the choke has become when you squeeze it—you've revived the plant with water. It's amazing how much of a difference this can make even with overly soft, old artichokes.

If you don't have space for such storage, use folded up wet paper towels to wrap the stems, then secure it with a rubber band. Now put them in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Depending on how long they're stored this way, you may need to refresh the towel.

March 15, 2016
 

I am so intimidated by artichokes. And we have SO MANY varieties at the market in Carcassonne. I feel like the only one not buying them. I did try once, and they were OK, but they seemed to be little more than a delivery system for melted butter, which might be tasty but not very healthy.

March 15, 2016
 

nina

If you roast them you can eat the whole thing, including the thistle, no waste at all.

March 16, 2016
 

jeri kim lowe

Thank you for this. It seems like you always know what I need in the kitchen! Recently the Job's Tears and now this-I am so bad at preparing artichokes. So thanks for the artichoke 101! And for the many 101s!

March 16, 2016
 

ScottGN

I try and pick them small enough so there's no choke. Then I just trim them up a bit and throw them on the bbq. I don't blanch them first. If I have my act together I'll make River Cafe's boiled lemon dressing for them.

March 17, 2016
 

I'm actually a HUGE fan of canned artichokes but I hate them whole roasted! They're just such a high maintenance vegetable. However, this is such a wonderful way to cook them--keeps things easy to eat but still delicious!

March 23, 2016
 

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