How to Cut Fennel Like a Pro

Learn how to cut, choose and store fennel—the complex, licorice-flavored vegetable that can be served raw or cooked in soups, salads, pot roasts, and more.

chopped fennel on a cutting board
Photo:

BHG/Alexandra Shytsman

People who've never cooked with fennel bulbs may think this vegetable looks like it came from another planet. The round bulb with feathery stalks is certainly unique. But don't worry, it's easier to deal with than it looks, as long as you've got a sharp chef's knife handy. We'll go through how to cut fennel (including removing the stems, and chopping or coring the bulb) so you can tackle the prep work with confidence the next time you make a fennel salad or a side dish starring the vegetable.

How to Choose and Store Fennel

With its wispy fronds and bulbous base, fennel looks like a feather-topped, potbellied cousin to celery. But its flavor is remarkably different. The white bulb and bright green fronds have a gentle, slightly sweet anise flavor. The stalks are tough, so they're not usually eaten.

  • In many regions, fennel is available year round; however, its peak season is October through April.
  • Look for crisp, clean bulbs without brown spots or blemishes. The wispy fronds on top should be bright green and fresh-looking.
  • Once home, refrigerate fennel, tightly wrapped, up to 5 days.
chopping stems off of fennel

BHG/Alexandra Shytsman

Remove the Stalks

Chopping a fennel bulb is simple, once you know where to make the first cut. Follow these steps.

  • Place the fennel horizontally on a cutting surface. Using a sharp chef's knife, like the Farberware 8-Inch Chef Knife (Target), carefully cut about 1 inch above the bulb to remove the stalks.
  • Cut a few of the bright green fronds from the stalks to save as a garnish for your recipe. To keep the fronds fresh while the dish cooks, rinse them in cool tap water. Pat them dry, then store them in plastic wrap or a resealable storage bag until ready to use.
cutting root end off of fennel

BHG/Alexandra Shytsman

Cut Off the Root End

Before you get started slicing and dicing the fennel bulb, remove the root end. Make sure you have a sturdy cutting board to work on, such as this Architec Cutting Board, $20 (Bed Bath & Beyond), then get started:

  • Remove and discard any wilted outer layers.
  • Holding the top of the fennel bulb to steady it, and using a sharp knife, cut a thin slice off the root end of the fennel bulb. Discard the root.
cutting fennel bulb in half

BHG/Alexandra Shytsman

How to Cut Fennel Bulbs

Once you've removed the root end and any wilted layers, it's time to start chopping fennel.

  • Wash the fennel under cool tap water. Pat dry.
  • Stand the bulb upright on its root end. Steadying the bulb with one hand, cut it in half from the stalk end through to the root end.
chopped fennel on a wood board

BHG/Alexandra Shytsman

How to Chop or Wedge Fennel

Follow the instructions in your recipe as to whether to chop or slice the fennel. If no specific instructions are given, follow these instructions.

How to Chop Fennel:

Cut each fennel half in half again to form quarters. Cut away and discard the tough core portion from each quarter. Then cut the quarters into irregular pieces as follows:

  • For finely chopped fennel, cut ⅛-inch pieces or smaller.
  • For medium size, cut ¼-inch pieces or smaller.
  • For coarsely chopped, cut ¼-inch pieces or larger.

How to Cut Fennel Wedges:

Cutting fennel into wedges makes for a lovely presentation on salads and other dishes that don't require cooking. It's also a nice way to cut fennel for cooked recipes to get bigger punches of flavor.

  • Cut each fennel in half, then half again, into quarters.
  • Cut away and discard the tough core from each quarter.
  • Slice the fennel lengthwise into wedges.

How to Slice Fennel

Some recipes call for thinner slices, so you get a little fennel in each bite. Here's the best way to slice a fennel bulb.

  • Remove the tough core by cutting a wedge-shaped piece from the top of the bulb through the bottom. Discard the core.
  • Place the bulb, cut side down, onto a cutting surface.
  • Using a chef's knife, slice the bulb lengthwise into thin strips.

When you want to bring anise-like flavor and crisp crunch to a recipe, use fennel much like you would celery. Try it chopped or sliced in soups, like our Garlicky Potato Apple Soup, or served raw in this Spring Salad with Grapefruit & Feta, and it's fantastic wedged and cooked with roasts, such as this Fennel Pot Roast. Remember, if you do add fennel to a recipe, save a few of the fronds to sprinkle on top for a garnish.

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