Contrary to popular belief, there are actually a few foods I don’t love. But my philosophy is that I can learn to love almost anything—with the right preparation. And no recipe makes that clearer than this fennel salad. Back in the spring, our team joined the founders of Wonder Valley (our favorite for olive oil and so much more) for a dinner in the desert. Somewhere along the conversation as we prepped dinner, we started talking about the ingredients we don’t like. I very quickly said olives, just as Alison was setting out a beautiful olive salsa verde. Oops!
Luckily, I quickly recovered from my foot-in-mouth faux pas and we continued the conversation during the car ride home. Another ingredient on my hit list? Fennel. Something about its licorice bite just hasn’t jived with me before. But this declaration was received with a lot of surprise. No one seemed to understand why I wasn’t a fan.
The Fennel Salad That Changed It All
A few weeks later, I found myself in London at Kuro Eatery craving a salad alongside the honey and cheese flatbread I ordered. Lo and behold, the only option available was a fennel salad. Call it fate, but it was like the universe saying that my stake in the ground against fennel needed to be uprooted.
So, I ordered it, proceeded to devour it, and asked the waiter for all the deets so I could re-create it at home. And that’s how we’ve ended up here, with a former fennel hater transformed by this easy, fresh, and delicious fennel salad.
Ingredients for This Fennel Salad
This fennel salad boasts a light ingredient list, so be sure to choose the freshest herbs and best-quality ingredients to make everything extra delicious.
- Fennel. Sliced extra thin with a mandolin. It’s the delicious base for this recipe—don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
- Herbs. And I mean, a LOT of herbs. Dill, cilantro, and mint combine for a trifecta of flavor.
- Lime. Both the zest and the juice add acidity that tempes the licorice flavor of the fennel.
- Olive oil. Use the good stuff.
- Honey. A squeeze of honey helps round out the punchy, bright flavors.
How to Prepare This Fennel Salad
While a simple recipe, there are a few tips and tricks to make this extra easy—and delish.
- Use a mandolin for the fennel. Keep the top of the fennel bulb on. This will give you a safe piece to hold onto as you’re running the fennel over the mandolin blade. (Always remember to be extra careful using a mandolin!) If you don’t have one, I would recommend using a vegetable peeler over a knife to get as thin of pieces as possible.
- Less is more, except for when it comes to herbs. I am famously not a fan of greens-based salads. I would almost always rather use a bed of herbs as my greens than a bowl of spinach. The fennel is really to create some heft and texture, but the herbs add that extra bit of ruffage and flavor. The savoriness of the cilantro, the freshness of the dill, and the slight sweet aromatic flavor of the mint balance each other out beautifully. I definitely recommend using all three.
- Freshly grind your pepper. I will always preach that freshly ground spices make a world of difference in flavor.
- Wait to salt at the end. Like adding salt to any vegetable, doing so with the fennel will draw out a lot of water. I recommend waiting to salt until you’re ready to serve since the lime already adds plenty of liquid to this salad.
How to Customize This Fennel Salad
While I think the simplicity of this slaw is what makes it perfect, there are lots of ways that you can customize or add to it to make it your own.
- Adding additional crunchy vegetables like celery and cucumber would make this extra refreshing. You could also add some thinly sliced green apple for a touch of sweetness.
- To make this more filling, adding avocado slices and some crunchy pistachios would also be delicious.
- You could also add a bit of mayo to the salad and add it to a sandwich for something fresh and crunchy, or alongside summer salmon or your favorite burgers.