How to Cook (and eat) an Artichoke

Today, I bring you a post about my very favorite vegetable: The humble artichoke.


I’ve loved artichokes for as long as I can remember. They’re a family favorite, and I suspect I got a taste for them before I even learned to walk.


So I’ve never not known how to eat an artichoke. Pulling the meat off the leaves with my teeth and scraping out the fuzzy choke is second nature to me. But to the uninitiated, the artichoke can be a confusing vegetable.


According to family legend, my grandpa was visiting my parents in the Bay Area, and dinner that night included his first artichoke. Amid the lively dinner conversation, he didn’t notice that everyone else was discarding the choke before they started eating the heart. Someone asked him how he was enjoying the artichoke, and through a mouthful of fluff he said “it’s a little hairy.”


So if you’re among the uninitiated, fear not. This handy guide will help you figure out which parts are delicious, and which are not. And hurry; artichoke season won’t be with us much longer.


While I generally like anything containing artichokes, I’m a purist when it comes to cooking them. I’ve never stuffed them, or deep fried them, or braised them. I always make them exactly the way my mom does: steamed, with lemon butter for dipping.


This is my tried-and-true method for cooking a perfect artichoke, every time. For me, nothing but lemon butter will do. But I know people who feel just as passionately about mayonnaise (blech) — so feel free to use whatever dipping sauce you like, I guess. Just don’t tell me about it.

Artichokes with Lemon Butter

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Artichokes with Lemon Butter


  • 2 large artichokes (look for artichokes that are heavy and without much browning on the stem)
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp salted butter
  • salt


  1. Fill a large pot with about 2" of water and set it to boil (Ideally, use one with a built in steamer/colander basket to keep the artichokes up off the burner.)
  2. Rinse artichokes with warm water, turning over several times to flush out any dirt between the leaves.
  3. Cut stems to about 1-1/2 inches in length. Some people also cut the thorns off the ends of the leaves; I don't.
  4. When water boils, reduce heat to low and add artichokes along with a squeeze of lemon. Cover and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
  5. Turn artichokes over using tongs, and try to pull out one of the outer leaves. If it holds firm, check it again in 8-10 minutes.
  6. As the artichoke gets close to being done you'll be able to pull out a leaf with a little pressure, test it by using your teeth to scrape the meat off the bottom of the leaf. Initially it will be a little chewy, at this point start checking every 2-3 minutes. Be warned: Artichokes can go from done to overcooked very quickly, and there's nothing sadder than a mushy artichoke. Set a timer.
  7. The artichoke is perfectly cooked when a leaf comes out easily, and the meat on the end of the leaves is al dente.
  8. Remove artichokes immediately using tongs, carefully turning each upside down over the pot first to drain it.
  9. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine butter the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a few dashes of salt. Melt in the microwave (~25 seconds) and stir, you'll want to taste it on a leaf and then add more lemon and salt until it's just right. (Since "just right" is different for everyone, I divide the butter into individual bowls and put lemons and salt on the table.)
  10. To eat:
  11. Place a big bowl in the middle of the table for discards. Everyone will need a knife, a fork, and a spoon.
  12. Discard the small outer leaves at the base of the artichoke, these will be stringy and not very tasty. Cut off the stem, for the same reason.
  13. As you work your way up the outer leaves, dip these in lemon butter and use your teeth to scrape off the little piece of heart at the base. Toss the rest of the leaf, hopefully into the discard bowl and not the laps of your dinner companions (it happens.)
  14. Keep eating until you get to the small purplish leaves, then use a spoon to carefully scrape those out and discard them (they will be very hot.)
  15. Underneath, you'll see the fuzzy choke, use your spoon to scrape this out and discard it.
  16. Now you're left with the heart -- the best part. Cut it into pieces and devour.


2 Thoughts on “How to Cook (and eat) an Artichoke

  1. Do you grow your own artichokes? Can you even do that in Colorado? I would grow them down here (in Austin), but the plants look very much like a giant thistle, and I think my husband would not be happy with a giant thistle in the yard…

    • admin on May 3, 2013 at said:

      Hi Katina!
      I’ve never grown my own artichokes, you can get seeds here but they don’t do well in Colorado. If I could grow them here (and enough of them to support my rather serious artichoke habit) I definitely would.
      Does your husband know how delicious they are? He might be ok with growing giant thistles then… 🙂

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