Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter Sauce

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter Sauce

What is so great about artichokes? They take almost as long to eat as they do to cook and there is barely anything edible on them in the first place. But there is absolutely nothing else like them.

Easy as Pie

I hadn’t eaten a whole artichoke in about ten years until they showed up in my shiny new California farm share. With bland, canned hearts now a ubiquitous topping for pizzas, salads, and pastas, it is hard to remember what is so unique about them. But you just need to try one to see what all the fuss is about.

Despite their slightly scary appearance, this prickly thistle is surprisingly easy to cook. Set up a steamer, walk away for twenty minutes, and voila! Softened and ripe for the plucking, your artichoke appetizer awaits.

How do you eat an artichoke, anyway?

Slowly. The points are sharp and decidedly, well, pointy. I’m not gonna lie. But there is no need to waste ten minutes fastidiously trimming off each tip. Just pull off each scale (they aren’t actually leaves) one at a time. Dip the scales in a sauce like hollandaise, fresh mayonnaise, or lemon butter sauce and eat the soft edge.

As you get further into the whirl, you can eat more and more of each scale, especially on the small artichokes. In the middle, there are tons of small, thin, creme colored pieces that look like you can just take a bite out of the thing. Please don’t! These piece still have spines, and they will get stuck in your throat and make you hack like a kitty with a hairball.

Once you have made it through this thicket of mini leaves, there is a bushy, furry section. This part is not edible either! Sigh. It is called the “choke,” and while it isn’t poisonous, the prickly parts can get caught in your esophagus in a very unpleasant way. But once you pull them out (here is a great visual guide), you can enjoy the artichoke heart and the top of the stem, which are delicious and worth the effort.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Butter Sauce

Prep time: 30 mins
Serves: 6 (as an appetizer or side)
Adapted from About


  • 6 small artichokes
  • half stick of butter (1/4 cup)
  • two cloves of garlic
  • half a lemon
  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • dried thyme
  • or Italian herb blend


  1. Fill a large pot with one to two inches of water, cover, and bring to a boil.
  2. Set the artichokes in a steamer or colander, cover and cook for 25 minutes.
  3. Over medium heat, melt the butter.
  4. Peel and mash the garlic, then add to the melting butter along with a half teaspoon of each of the herbs.
  5. Once the better has melted, add the juice from the lemon.
  6. The artichokes are ready when the scales easily peel away from the stem. Remove from steamer and run under cold water to cool them before serving.
  7. Quickly reheat the butter sauce and serve in a shallow bowl alongside the artichokes.