Artichokes, which are really edible flower buds, are one of our favorite things about spring—but they pose their fair share of challenges. Their pointed leaves can poke fingers, and their chokes—the furry center—can be really dangerous if eaten. You’ve got to know how to cook an artichoke before you dive in.
There’s a lot of different ways to cook an artichoke: you can steam it, grill it, roast it, or fry it. You can even marinate it. (Okay, that’s not cooking, but it is really nice with some fresh dill.)
Throughout these methods and recipes, you’ll see a few common themes, so it’s best to start with some basics.
How to Trim an Artichoke
Depending on how you’re cooking your artichoke, the amount of trimming you’ll need to do will vary; not every preparation will require you to trim the artichoke down to its heart. But you will almost always start by cutting off the top, the first third or so, creating a flat top. These leaf tips just aren’t pleasant to eat.
If you want to eat the leaves one by one, you can snip off the pointed tops of the remaining leaves, but this isn’t necessary. It’s up to you—some people like a more manicured presentation.
If, however, you’re only interested in the heart, you can use a serrated knife to trim the top and sides in a circular motion until there are no longer spaces between leaves, and you have pared down to the heart and choke. From here, use a spoon to scoop out the choke, giving the heart a rinse to sure not to leave behind any thistles.
Finally, trim the stem. It’s just as good as the heart if you remove its tough, fibrous outer layer with a vegetable peeler. Y-shaped peelers work best, and we list them in our top 10 kitchen essentials. You’ll also want to cut off the butt end of the stem.
Artichokes & Lemon
Just like apples or potatoes, artichokes begin to oxidize once they’ve been cut open. For that reason, and because the pairing is absolutely delicious, you’ll see that most artichoke preparations involve lemons. You can rub some lemon on the cut side of an artichoke to keep it from oxidizing. If you’re working with a lot of artichokes, it’s best to keep a large bowl of lemon water nearby to place them in once you’re done trimming.
Artichokes & Mayonnaise/Aioli
Just as with lemon, artichokes’ other best friend is mayonnaise, or aioli. (Don’t know the difference? Aioli is just a mayonnaise that has had garlic added to it.) And you never see one without the other, since lemon juice is one of the essential ingredients in mayonnaise. It’s really just a trio made in heaven. If mayonnaise weirds you out, try making your own and it’ll become your favorite condiment. It’s so simple, and so versatile—you can add anything to it!
Without further ado, here’s how to cook artichokes.
Perfect Steamed Artichokes
Probably the most common way to cook an artichoke, steaming is super simple and easy to do. It's ideal if you're serving the artichoke as an appetizer. You pick the leaves off one by one, until you eventually get to the heart. Just be sure to scoop out the choke before serving it to your guests. Serve with a delicious spicy mayo for dipping.
Roasted Baby Artichokes
Another super simple method, this recipe only uses three ingredients: baby artichokes, olive oil, and salt. These little guys require minimal trimming: just slice off the tops, pick off the few tough outer leaves, slice in half vertically, and scoop out the choke. Roasting cut-side-down will caramelize the cut surface—mmm!
An Italian classic, these roasted artichokes take the same idea as the previous recipe, but add a little more flavor by basting with a mixture of white wine, oregano, red chili flakes, and garlic while they roast.
Grilled Artichoke with Lemon, Garlic & Ginger
Grilling adds a dimension of smoke and char that provides a delicious contrast to the otherwise floral and vegetal artichoke. In this recipe, the artichoke gets parboiled; marinated in olive oil, white wine, garlic and ginger; and then gets seared on a hot grill.
Grilled Summer Artichokes
A variation on the grilling theme, this time foregoing the marinating step and adding the aromatic ingredients directly into the parboiling water. A delicious mayonnaise recipe is included, flavored with espelette pepper, lemon zest, and paprika.
Fried Artichoke Hearts
This recipe can be made with fresh or canned artichokes, but fresh is always better. The taratur dipping sauce made with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic is to die for!
Yeah, we know—it's not cooking. But marinating is a great way to save and infuse a lot flavore into your artichoke hearts. They'll last for over a year in the regrigerator, and are great shaved with asparagus or into salads.
Truly, making fresh mayonnaise is one of the most rewarding parts of eating artichokes. This is a fairly standard mayonnaise recipe, with the addition of a little chili or jalapeño. We prefer adding about a tablespoon of Sriracha in ours.