What do you know about fennel? Read here to learn what fennel is and how you can use it in easy recipes.
Let’s say you’re at the grocery store picking out produce for the meals you’ll make this week. As you browse through the piles of onions and garlic, you notice a new vegetable: fennel. Suppose you’ve never encountered this vegetable before. In that case, you may not know what it tastes like or how to implement it into your cooking.
Today, let’s go over the basic details of fennel so that you feel ready to add it to your cart and use it in new delicious recipes. After we go over how you can use fennel, we’ll talk about how you can make your grocery shopping quick and stress-free with Jow.
What Kind of Food Is Fennel?
As we mentioned, fennel is a vegetable! It’s a well-known ingredient in many Italian meals, and it’s unique for its many uses. If you’re not familiar with it, learning about its various parts and its unique texture will help you get a feel for how you might use it in recipes. This member of the carrot family is far more versatile than you might think.
The first thing you might want to know about fennel is how it looks. Similar to an onion, fennel grows in bulbs. The fennel plant also features multiple stalks and fronds with yellow flowers extending from the bulb. It might look intimidating at first, but we promise it’s a vegetable that’s easy-peasy to work with.
Side note: In Italian, you’d refer to this vegetable as finocchio (which rhymes with a well-known character and can be very fun to say.)
What Is the Flavor of Fennel?
Fennel originates from the Mediterranean region, and people have used it for years in Italian recipes to add flavor to their dishes. So what does this food taste like?
Although it may look similar to an onion, this vegetable has a distinct and unique flavor. Fennel tends to have a mild anise flavor, but its flavor changes depending on how you cook it.
For example, if you were to dice and sauté fennel, you’d notice a sweetness to it. On the other hand, if you crushed fennel and added fennel seeds to your sauté or soup, you’d notice its licorice flavor coming through more boldly. If you want an even more pronounced flavor, consider cutting fennel and adding it to a salad. Braised fennel stalks also have an extremely pronounced flavor.
Sliced fennel is often paired with Italian sausage or roast chicken for a hearty dish. You can also pair it with parmesan cheese and olive oil for a simple side dish. If you really want to take things outside the box, consider making fennel ice cream or fennel tea to stick on the sweeter side.
How To Use Each Part of Fennel
Fennel has multiple parts! One great aspect of this vegetable is its potential to help reduce waste. With some vegetables, you might find yourself chopping off the ends to throw away. With fennel, you can use almost every one of its parts in a different way.
Here’s a quick look at the varying uses for each part of fennel.
- Roots: Did you recently run out of carrots? Don’t worry. Fennel roots make for a pretty good carrot substitution. You can peel them and dice them as you would carrots. The only noticeable difference is that they’re white instead of orange. Keep in mind that the flavor of fennel root is better when you cook it.
- Bulbs: When you look at this vegetable, you’ll most likely notice the bulb since it’s the most significant part of fennel. You can dice fennel bulbs, cut them into wedges, or peel the feathery leaves back to add to your recipe. You can also enjoy the bulb cooked or raw! When sliced with a mandoline and caramelized, they’re particularly delicious.
- Stalk: This part of fennel is better cooked. One way to use stalks is by adding them to a stew to release the fennel flavor into the dish.
- Fronds: These growths are ultra-thin and appear grass-like. Fennel fronds can make an excellent garnish for salads and other savory dishes when you dry them.
- Pollen: As fennel grows in the ground, it develops flowers that produce pollen. Some people harvest the flowers and dry them to make fennel pollen, a potent delicacy that can add flavor to many dishes.
- Seeds: If someone doesn’t harvest the fennel pollen, the flowers will continue to mature on fennel until they produce seeds. You may notice fennel seeds in sausages. These add a distinct flavor to the other spices.
Tips for Cutting Fennel
When you’re preparing to use fennel in your meals, you’ll likely want to know the best way to cut it. Here are a few simple steps to guide you:
- Carefully cut off the stalks & fronds, removing them from just above the white bulb. Thinly slice off the root on the bottom of the bulb.
- Tear off the tough outer layers. These layers are often dirty from the soil and can use a good rinse. Save these for thinly slicing and adding to a salad!
- Follow your recipe’s cutting instructions and add the fennel to your dish. Remember to keep any parts of this vegetable that you’d like for later use. You can store bulbs in an air-tight container in your fridge and refrigerate fronds and stalks in sealed jars of water.
Can You Substitute Fennel for Other Ingredients?
If you’re missing fennel, you could be searching for other vegetables that could take its place. Let’s check out a few fennel replacements:
- Dill (works as a substitute for the fronds)
- Onion 🧅
- Star anise
- Bok Choy
Is Fennel Good for You?
Like many vegetables, fennel offers a range of potential health benefits in addition to its one-of-a-kind flavor. Some people enjoy fennel for its nutritious value. In fact, one cup of raw fennel bulb contains a significant amount of vitamin C, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese.
Fennel is also high in fiber, which can support your heart and digestive health! In addition to these health benefits, some also believe fennel can promote mental health and reduce the effects of inflammation. Adding fennel to your recipes might provide you with even more benefits than flavor alone.
How To Use Fennel in Recipes
You can try so many possibilities when you have fresh fennel on hand. Although there are many ways you can incorporate fennel into your typical meals, we want to show you two straightforward recipes that can help you get started with this vegetable and enjoy its flavor.
- Sausage and Fennel Pasta: This fancy pasta is flavor-packed with every bite. Even so, you only need a handful of ingredients to prepare it, and it can be ready in just over twenty minutes. It’s quick and easy, making it a terrific dinner option when serving guests.
- Roasted Fennel and Orange Salad: Let’s say you’re trying to add some variety to your usual salads. In that case, you can try this roasted fennel salad recipe. Feta cheese and delicious orange on top make for an exciting, flavorful combination.
Including fennel in your meals can help you mix up your menu while nourishing your body. When you’re looking for recipes that can add more veggies into your life, we’ve got you covered at Jow. We can help you in a few more ways, too.
Preparing Meals Can Be Exciting
Want to eat more meals at home? When you let us help out with your groceries, you’ll have more time to focus on the parts of your life that fulfill you. Cooking new recipes and trying the delicious results can become a highlight of your week!