November 18, 2023

What Does Fennel Taste Like?

Fennel is often overlooked in the produce aisle. Its licorice-like flavor and fragrant aroma can elevate dishes, but the vegetable is also versatile and easy to work with. It's a natural in soups, sauces and stews—especially tomato-based recipes—and is luscious when roasted. And, of course, fennel's fresh, crisp fronds are the perfect garnish to brighten up salads or make an aromatic addition to meaty fish dishes.

When cooked, fennel's licorice-like taste turns mellow and sweet, and even a hint of anise takes over. It's a similar experience to the way that slow cooking transforms onions, and it's what makes this veggie so special.

The flavor of fennel can differ depending on which part of the plant you use: The fronds (leaves), stalks and bulbs all have unique nuances. The bulb, however, is where most of the licorice-like flavor is concentrated. That's why it's so popular in fennel-flavored sauces and salad dressings, as well as in sausage and licorice-flavored Italian bread like finocchio.

It's best to trim and prepare fennel before you cook it, removing tough ends from the stalks and leaves and discarding the triangular core in each half. Once you remove the core, you can then thinly slice the fennel lengthwise or crosswise to create half-moon-shaped pieces. When you're slicing, it helps to rest the bulb on a non-slip cutting board to prevent it from slipping out of your hand. If you're feeling adventurous, try using a mandoline to achieve the thinnest slices possible.

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