MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that play a vital role in the regulation of gene expression. Despite their identification in hundreds of plant species, few miRNAs have been identified in the Asteraceae, a large family that comprises approximately one tenth of all flowering plants. In this study, we used the expressed sequence tag (EST) analysis to identify potential conserved miRNAs and their putative target genes in the Asteraceae. We applied quantitative Real-Time PCR (qRT-PCR) to confirm the expression of eight potential miRNAs in Carthamus tinctorius and Helianthus annuus. We also performed qRT-PCR analysis to investigate the differential expression pattern of five newly identified miRNAs during five different cotyledon growth stages in safflower. Using these methods, we successfully identified and characterized 151 potentially conserved miRNAs, belonging to 26 miRNA families, in 11 genus of Asteraceae. EST analysis predicted that the newly identified conserved Asteraceae miRNAs target 130 total protein-coding ESTs in sunflower and safflower, as well as 433 additional target genes in other plant species. We experimentally confirmed the existence of seven predicted miRNAs, (miR156, miR159, miR160, miR162, miR166, miR396, and miR398) in safflower and sunflower seedlings. We also observed that five out of eight miRNAs are differentially expressed during cotyledon development. Our results indicate that miRNAs may be involved in the regulation of gene expression during seed germination and the formation of the cotyledons in the Asteraceae. The findings of this study might ultimately help in the understanding of miRNA-mediated gene regulation in important crop species.