Fennel can be polarizing. Many people are familiar with it only in the form of the fennel seeds commonly found in spice blends, where they're hidden away among other flavors. As a result, the first time they're exposed to fresh fennel, the mildly licorice-like flavor can be a surprise, and, if they're anything like me, it might take them years to come around to it. Now that I've done so, I can assure you that fennel is both delicious and versatile—crunchy and subtly anise-flavored when raw, and tender and deeply sweet when roasted. Whether you're already a fan of the stuff or need a slow introduction, we've got 16 recipes for you to try, from fall-themed salads made with citrus or grains to rich pastas and slow-cooked pork.
Avocado Toast With Citrus Suprèmes and Slivered Fennel
It's not uncommon for me to spread mashed avocado onto bread, sprinkle on coarse salt, and call it breakfast. And a fine breakfast it is—but think of all the possibilities you're missing out on! If you feel like changing things up, try any one of our avocado toast variations, including this one, topped with thin slices of fennel, citrus suprèmes, and fresh mint leaves. Our step-by-step instructions make cutting the suprèmes a breeze.
Roasted Beet Sandwiches With Ginger, Fennel, and Goat Cheese
Much like fennel, beets are widely disliked, which isn't too hard to understand when you recognize that so many people know beets only in their bland, boiled state. Roasting them, on the other hand, brings out their sweetness and concentrates their earthy flavor. This vegetarian sandwich pairs roasted beets with tangy goat cheese and spicy ginger. Blanched beet greens and crisp sliced fennel make a fresh salad to top off the sandwich.
Slow-Cooker Pork Shoulder With Tomatoes, Fennel, and Pasta
When you want a heart- and soul-warming stewed meal, but don't have the time to babysit the oven, a slow cooker can be a great option: Throw a pork shoulder and a few other ingredients in before you leave for work, and when you come home, you'll be greeted with tender meat coated in a fragrant sauce. Here, the pork is cooked with sautéed fennel and onions, crushed tomatoes, Mediterranean herbs, and white wine. Shred with two forks, mound on top of cooked pasta, and sprinkle with Parmesan for a filling dinner.
Spaghetti With Fennel Pollen, Orange, Garlic, and Mint
If the creamy Swiss chard gratin below is for the fennel skeptics, this pasta is for the true believers. Adding fennel pollen cranks the flavor of fresh fennel bulb up to 11. If you've never tried cooking with it, this simple dish of spaghetti tossed with orange zest, garlic, and mint is a nice introduction, but do be careful—just a teaspoon of fennel pollen is enough for a full pound of spaghetti.
Sicilian Pasta With Swordfish, Fennel, Mint, and Bread Crumbs
Inspired by Sicilian cuisine, which frequently stars both swordfish and fennel, this dish combines pasta with a sauce of cherry tomatoes, mint, chopped fennel, and tender pieces of swordfish. Since a bread crumb topping is another common feature of Sicilian cooking, we finish this dish with a crunchy mix of toasted bread crumbs, almonds, and fennel seeds.
Spicy Stir-Fried Fennel, Celery, and Celery Root With Chinese Sausage
The subtle licorice flavor of fennel is highlighted in this stir-fry when you pair it with celery root, which has its own mild anise notes. We add celery matchsticks and slices of sweet dried Chinese sausage, too, and flavor the dish with nam phrik pao (Thai roast-chili jam) and lots of garlic.
Fennel- and Cinnamon-Rubbed Roast Chicken and Lemons With Potato Wedges
When you know the best way to perfectly roast a chicken, you don't need to flavor it with much more than salt and pepper—but a balanced spice rub will add warm, complex flavor to make it even better. This recipe uses a rub made with fennel and coriander seed, peppercorns, cinnamon, salt, cayenne pepper, allspice, and ancho chili powder. Serve with roasted red potatoes, roasted lemon halves, and a simple white wine pan sauce.
Easy One-Pot Chicken Bouillabaisse
Though bouillabaisse is traditionally made with seafood, the tomatoes, saffron, and fennel that typically flavor the stew work just as well with chicken. Serve the dish with a stack of crusty bread slices and our quick version of aioli, made by mixing grated garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and cayenne into store-bought mayo. It's wonderful dolloped into the stew as a garnish or slathered on top of bread.
Salads, Sides, and More
Summer Squash Salad With Goat Cheese, Fennel, and Dill
The very beginning of fennel season overlaps with the tail end of summer, so you may still have access to sweet yellow summer squash. That's lucky, because these two vegetables are a wonderful pair. For this fresh-tasting salad, we slice crisp raw squash and fennel thinly using a mandoline, then dress them simply with olive oil, lemon juice, and dill, finishing with creamy goat cheese.
Winter Greens Salad With Fennel, Citrus, and Creamy Citrus Vinaigrette
Fennel season peaks in the colder months, which is why you'll typically see it paired with other fall and winter produce. In this salad, along with the anise flavor of shaved fennel, we use a blend of bitter winter greens, like radicchio, endive, and escarole, and sweet-tart citrus fruit, like grapefruit, pomelo, and tangerines. Before incorporating the fruit, we cut it into suprèmes and set the pieces into a strainer over a bowl, reserving the drained juices to whisk with mayonnaise, olive oil, and honey to form a creamy vinaigrette.
Fennel and Radicchio Salad With Tangerine Vinaigrette
This easy salad of minimal ingredients is also perked up by the inclusion of citrus fruit—it's a great, bright addition to salads in the absence of warm-weather produce. Crunchy thin-sliced fennel and bitter radicchio are dressed in a vinaigrette of tangerine juice and fennel seed. Because the tangerine juice isn't quite acidic enough to replace the vinegar of a typical vinaigrette, we add an equal quantity of lemon juice, too.
Salmon Bean Salad
Poaching is one of the best ways to produce a well-cooked, moist, and flavorful piece of salmon, and it's our preparation method of choice when we want to flake the fish into a salad like this one. Filling enough to serve as a main dish, this straightforward salad combines flakes of tender salmon, diced fennel, peppery arugula, and plump cranberry beans.
Warm Whole-Grain Salad With Fennel, Arugula, Prosciutto, and Pecorino
Roasting is one of the most reliably delicious ways to prepare fennel, leaving it incredibly sweet and soft, with crisp caramelized edges. This hearty salad combines roasted fennel with warm whole grains—farro, spelt, and rye berries are all good choices. A few handfuls of spicy arugula lighten the salad up just a bit, even as salty prosciutto and pecorino cheese enrich it.
Bright Lentil Salad With Apples, Fennel, and Herbs
When you need to throw together a quick lunch, Puy lentils are a lifesaver—you can even eat them straight out of the can, but you'll thank yourself if you take the small amount of time needed to whip up this fall-appropriate, Provençal-inspired salad. We mix the lentils with diced apple, fennel, and plum tomatoes, then toss the ingredients in a tangy cider vinaigrette. Chopped basil and thyme make a fresh finishing touch.
Swiss Chard, Fennel, and White Bean Gratin
If you're on the fence about fennel, this casserole is a good way to ease yourself into it. Here, we cook the fennel down until it's meltingly tender, then add Swiss chard, white beans, and plenty of half and half and grated cheese—the fennel flavor is present, but restrained. A dash of freshly grated nutmeg leaves the gratin with a warm, aromatic note.
Roasted Fennel Pesto With Fennel Fronds, Toasted Almonds, and Garlic
The best-known version of pesto, of course, is made with basil and pine nuts, but there are numerous variations on the classic sauce. This unusual one replaces the pungent basil with roasted fennel bulb and raw fennel fronds, while swapping the pine nuts out for toasted almonds. Add plenty of extra-virgin olive oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, and kosher salt to taste, then pulse with a blender or food processor until puréed. Try it with pasta, fresh bread, raw or roasted vegetables, grilled fish, and more.