America's Test Kitchen LogoCook's Country LogoCook's Illustrated Logo

What Can You Do with Fresh Fennel?

Fennel is an oft-overlooked, underutilized vegetable. Here are some ideas for how to use it.

Published Mar. 22, 2022.

Fennel’s anisey flavor was one I didn’t come to appreciate until later in life, but when I fell for it, I fell hard. The crisp, light texture and sweet flavor are subtle—fennel doesn’t hit you over the head, but that's part of its allure. 

Sign up for the Cook's Country Dinner Tonight newsletter

10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

So just what do you do with fennel? Here are some tips on preparing it plus some of our favorite ways to use it.

How to Prepare Fennel

You’ve picked up some fresh fennel from the store or farmers’ market. Now what? Here’s how to prepare fennel.
Slicing the stalks off a fennel bulb.

1. If your bulbs have stalks and fronds attached, remove those. (Many cooks like to chop the feathery fronds and use them as a fresh herb for garnishing—they have a subtle but fresh licorice flavor; I’ve also seen other cooks throw fennel stalks onto burning charcoal to create perfumed smoke for grilling.)

Slicing a fennel bulb in half.

2. Stand the fennel bulb upright and, using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the bulb in half.

Trimming the core out of a half a fennel bulb (repeat on other side).

3. Remove the tough, woody core at the bottom of the bulb, trim off any dry or dinged-up outer layers, and you’re ready for whatever is next.

How to Use Fennel

Turn it into a simple salad: I particularly love fennel sliced superthin (crosswise to minimize annoying toughness from the celery-ish fibers running throughout) and tossed with lots of chopped fresh mint and a bright vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and Dijon mustard. At first the fennel is a bit harsh and overly crunchy, but after it’s seasoned with plenty of salt and has a chance to sit, its strands slump into submission and the flavors meld beautifully.

Fennel Salad

A right and a wrong way to slice fennel? Who knew? Technique down, we made a lively salad.
Get the Recipe

Roast it: I think the most crowd-friendly way to enjoy the sometimes polarizing bulb is to roast it in a hot, 450-degree oven: Its sharp flavor mellows in the oven’s heat, its crunchy texture turns silky soft, and some caramelization adds a welcome sweetness that diners of all ages can dig. 

Its sharp flavor mellows in the oven’s heat, its crunchy texture turns silky soft, and some caramelization adds a welcome sweetness . . ."

Click the link below for an easy one-pan recipe that incorporates roasted fennel into a tasty dinner of sausages and potatoes with a bright salad of peppery arugula and hazelnuts on the side—I think you’ll be a fan.

Sausages with Potatoes, Fennel, and Arugula Salad

Unctuous Italian sausages and roasted potatoes and fennel accompany an arugula salad with toasted hazelnuts.
Get the Recipe

Braise it: Braising is one of the best ways to draw out maximum flavor from this gentle-tasting vegetable. Start by simmering the fennel wedges in a covered nonstick skillet with some well-seasoned water, which renders them tender and juicy. Another round of cooking, this time uncovered, helps drive off any unwanted moisture and uses the vegetable's natural sugars to achieve well-browned wedges.

Skillet-Braised Fennel

What's the best way to draw out maximum flavor from this gentle-tasting vegetable?
Get the Recipe

Pickle it: Pickling fennel is a great way to preserve some of its crunch, and making your own quick pickles is fun and easy. And with our recipe, it can take as little as a few hours from start to finish. 

Quick Fennel Pickles

Making pickles at home can be a real headache. We sought an easier way.
Get the Recipe

This is a members' feature.