Intimidated by artichokes? Don’t be. Learn how to prepare whole globe artichokes with a luscious lemon tarragon aioli for dipping. You can use a steamer pot on the stovetop or make Instant Pot artichokes in under 10 minutes. They’re good steamed, but grilled, smoked artichokes are even better as a unique appetizer or side dish. Let’s get started.
Artichokes are part of the thistle family and the artichoke itself is really a bud from the plant which will eventually bloom into a beautiful violet-blue flower and the telltale fuzzy choke, that we typically cut out when preparing this vegetable, is actually what makes the flower so striking. In the U.S., most of the globe artichokes are grown in California.
How to choose globe artichokes
- Look for tightly packed leaves that are intact.
- A few dark spots are ok.
- The stems should be bright green.
- Though artichokes are at their peak from March through May and again in the fall, California artichokes are available year round.
Though these buds will eventually be grilled and smoked, artichokes should be pre-cooked to a tender state before dropping them on the grill.
How to prepare Instant Pot artichokes
- Trim the tougher bottom 1/2″ to 1″ from the stem . (Stems are edible, so leave the tender portion to enjoy).
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel away the tough outer layer from the stem.
- With a pair of kitchen sheers, trim away the pointy tips of the petals, rotating the artichoke and cutting until each of the petals has been trimmed.
- Use a very sharp chef’s knife to cut away the top 1″ of the globe artichokes and rub the cut portion with half a lemon to stop any oxidizing.
There are many ways to cook artichokes and it really just depends on the equipment you have in your kitchen. If you have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, you can steam artichokes in under 10 minutes. That’s the method I used for this recipe, just to save time. However, I’ve also included a stovetop steaming method in case you don’t have a pressure cooker. It requires a longer cooking time, but it’s just as simple.
Cooking artichokes in an Instant Pot
- Add about 1-2 cups of water to the instant pot. Squeeze the juice from a lemon into the water and toss in the lemon peels.
- Set a steamer basket on a rack and place the prepared artichoke in the basket.
- Seal the lid and bring to pressure.
- Cook for 9 minutes and let the pressure reduce naturally.
Method for stovetop steaming
- Add 2-3 cups of water to a pot with a steamer insert. Squeeze a lemon into the water and add the squeezed lemon peels.
- Set the steamer basket in the pot and add the prepared globe artichokes.
- Place the lid on the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and steam the artichokes for 40 to 45 minutes or until a sharp paring knife stuck into the base of the artichoke goes in and comes out easily.
Sauce for smoked artichokes
These grilled smoked artichokes need a good dipping sauce and while you could just use a simple vinaigrette, I’m partial to a thick, lemon tarragon aioli. Aioli is a simple homemade mayonnaise, that’s punchy with garlic and herbs. The anise-y tarragon and lemon with smoked artichokes is a lip-smacking pairing.
2 ways to make tarragon paste for aioli
You can use a mortar and pestle (that’s what I use) or a Santoku or Chef’s knife & cutting board to make the tarragon garlic paste.
- In a mortar and pestle, combine the minced garlic, kosher salt and tarragon leaves. Mash and rub them together until a thick paste forms.
- On a cutting board add kosher salt to the minced garlic and hold the knife at a low angle (10° to 20°) with the blade resting on the cutting board. Use the edge of the blade and flat side of the knife to rub the salt over the garlic to break it down. Add a few tarragon leaves and continue to cut, mash and rub with the blade and side of the knife until you have a thick paste.
Assembling lemon tarragon aioli
- Transfer the garlic tarragon paste to a small bowl.
- Add an egg yolk and whisk together to combine.
- In a measuring cup, combine the olive oil and vegetable oil. (Note: I use more vegetable oil than olive, because straight olive oil will overpower the flavor of the aioli.)
- Wet a dish towel and squeeze out the excess water. Lay the towel flat on a work surface and put the bowl with the egg mixture on the towel (this will keep the bowl from moving around as you whisk the tarragon aioli with one hand and pour the oil with the other.)
- TIP: When whisking the aioli in the next step, be sure to whisk in the SAME DIRECTION. Yes, it’s tedious and your wrist may get a cramp, but it’s important to keep blending in the same clockwise manner – to prevent breaking the sauce.
- Drizzle the oil in a very slow steady stream into the tarragon mixture, whisking constantly, to create an emulsion. It should take between 5-7 minutes to add the oil into the tarragon mixture. This is important because adding the oil too quickly will also break the sauce. The finished aioli will be thick and creamy.
- Squeeze a little lemon juice into the tarragon aioli and whisk to combine. Continue to add the lemon juice a little at a time.
- Cover and refrigerate the aioli while you make the grilled smoked artichokes.
You don’t have to smoke the globe artichokes, if you don’t want to. Grilling alone is fine, however the wood chips will add a kiss of smoky flavor that’s heavenly (try cherry, apple, oak or pecan). I use dry wood chips here (which frankly, have a tendency to catch fire), but since the artichokes cook in such a relatively short time (5-7 minutes), it doesn’t make much sense to soak the chips and wait for them to smoke. It’s not a deep permeating smoke flavor like you’d have in a slow smoked pork shoulder, but rather, subtle and nuanced. Just have a spray bottle ready in case of an errant flame.
Grilling and Smoking Artichokes
- Preheat the grill to a medium high heat (about 450°).
- Add dry wood chips to a smoking box (or fill a small pouch made with tin foil and poke holes all over the pouch. Set aside. Make sure you have a spray bottle handy to handle any flare-ups from the wood chips.
- Cut the artichokes in half vertically and remove the purplish leaves and the fuzzy choke using a spoon.
- Brush the artichokes with a little oil.
- Add the smoker box or pouch to the grill and when it starts to smoke, place the artichokes, cut side down, on the grill opposite the smoker box, over direct heat.
- Grill and smoke the artichokes for about 4-5 minutes to get some char on the leaves, then use a pair of BBQ tongs to flip them. Continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes and transfer to a serving platter.
How do you eat smoked artichokes?
There’s something novel about a platter of globe artichokes and a tempting dipping sauce. Aside from the look, which is definitely unique, the method of eating them is both delicate and hedonistic at the same time. Pulling the petals one by one from the stem, dipping them into the creamy lemon tarragon aioli and scraping off the tender parts of the instant pot steamed artichoke with your teeth. It’s a very hands on, communal experience that you just can’t get with a house salad. This is definitely meant to be shared and I’d recommend it for special date nights and anniversaries.
If you have any of the lemon tarragon aioli leftover, it’s great spread on a chicken sandwich the next day.
More globe artichoke recipes you might like:
- Italian Stuffed Artichokes
- Red Pepper Artichoke Quiche
- Cheesy Spinach Artichoke Dip
- One Pan Mediterranean Chicken
More aioli recipes you might like:
Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Tarragon Aioli
- smoker box
- apple, pecan oak or cherry wood chips
- mortar & pestle
- Pressure cooker, Instant Pot, or steamer pot with lid
FOR THE TARRAGON AIOLI:
- 3 large cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lemon juiced
FOR THE ARTICHOKES:
- 2 large globe artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil divided
FOR THE TARRAGON AIOLI:
- Roughly chop the garlic and add it to the mortar and pestle. Add the sea salt and tarragon leaves and press and grind to break down the garlic and tarragon and a thick paste has formed.
- Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl and add the egg yolk. Use a whisk to combine the herb mixture with the egg yolk. Add the olive oil to the vegetable oil and very slowly drizzle the oil into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. Do not add the oil to quickly or the emulsion will break. TIP: Whisk in ONE DIRECTION ONLY. It will take anywhere from 5-7 minutes to add all of the oil into the aioli. Just be patient and whisk and drizzle until it's completely blended and the aioli is thick.
- Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into the aioli and whisk to combine. Continue adding the rest of the lemon juice from the half of lemon a little at a time, until well blended. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Cover and refrigerate.
TRIM THE ARTICHOKES:
- Cut the stem from each artichoke with a sharp knife, leaving about 1/2" – 3/4" stem remaining. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the outside of the tough fibrous stem down to the more tender interior. Remove the tough outer leaves near the stem of the artichoke and discard.
- Use a pair of kitchen sheers to to cut the end of each petal of the artichoke by about 1/2" so that the spiny tips are flattened and straight. Trim away the top inch of the artichoke using a heavy, sharp knife.
FOR STOVETOP ARTICHOKES:
- Add 2-3 cups of water to a large pot (large enough to fit the whole artichokes). Cut one lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water. Add the lemon halves to the water and set a steamer basket over the water. Add the artichokes to the steamer basket and cover tightly with a lid. Bring to a boil and steam the artichokes for 40 minutes or until tender (you can tell if it's tender by sticking a sharp knife into the center of the artichoke from the bottom. If the knife goes in and out easily, it's done.
FOR INSTANT POT/PRESSURE COOKER ARTICHOKES:
- Add 1-2 cups of water to the pressure cooker. Add the lemon juce and squeezed lemon halves. Fit a steaming rack over the water. Place the artichokes in the steamer basket and secure the lid. Bring to high pressure and cook for 8-9 minutes (1-2 minutes longer for very large artichokes). Let the pressure release naturally
- Use a pair of tongs to lift the artichokes from the basket and transfer to a sheet pan. Let the artichokes rest for a few minutes to cool.
PREP ARTICHOKES FOR THE GRILL:
- Slice the artichokes in half through the stem. Use a spoon to remove the fuzzy choke and discard. Remove the purple interior leaves and discard. Brush the interior of the artichokes lightly with remaining one tablespoon of olive oil.
- Don't soak the wood chips. They should be DRY. Have a squirt water bottle available for any flareups with the wood chips. Place the wood chips in the smoker box and place over the heat on the grill. Heat the grill to about 450°. When the wood starts to smoke, add the artichokes, cut side down opposite the smoker box — over direct heat. (Note: since the wood hasn't been soaked, it may catch fire. Use the squirt bottle to tamp down any flames.
- Grill the artichokes for about 4-5 minutes, then use a pair of tongs to flip the artichokes and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes until they've achieved a light char and smoke flavor. Transfer to a platter and serve with the tarragon aioli on the side.
- To eat the artichokes, peel off each petal and dip the tender interior into a bit of aioli. Put the tender portion (the part closest to the stem) in your mouth and scrape off the soft bits with your front teeth — getting a little aioli with each taste. Discard the petals and continue to work your way through the artichoke. Note: The artichoke heart and stem are edible and should be the most tender part of the vegetable. Add a bit more aioli to them and enjoy.