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.
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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
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.)
2. Stand the fennel bulb upright and, using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the bulb in half.
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 SaladA right and a wrong way to slice fennel? Who knew? Technique down, we made a lively salad.
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.
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 SaladUnctuous Italian sausages and roasted potatoes and fennel accompany an arugula salad with toasted hazelnuts.
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 FennelWhat's the best way to draw out maximum flavor from this gentle-tasting vegetable?
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.