Learn the simple steps to cut up a fennel bulb. Fennel is a crunchy licorice-flavored vegetable that is delicious roasted and in salads. You just need to know how to prepare it and then you’ll be ready for some delicious flavor! Our Knife Skills series is sponsored by Cutco.
Fennel is a fantastic ingredient, but it may seem confusing if you aren’t sure how to cut this oddly shaped veggie. Well, wonder no more, I will take you step by step so you can confidently cut fennel. Then you’re ready to roast it or add to tasty salads.
What is Fennel?
Fennel is a great versatile vegetable to use in the fall and winter, but you might be intimidated if you haven’t used it before. The white bulb has a sweet licorice flavor and adds great crunchy texture to dishes when used raw but can also be cooked to soften the taste and change it to a more silky texture. The tougher stalks can be used in similar ways as celery, and the feathery fronds can be chopped to use as an herb or garnish like you would with dill. Slicing it for a recipe however can be kind of daunting given its unusual shape. Don’t worry! It’s super easy and will take you no time at all.
How to Cut a Fennel Bulb, Step-by-Step
Step #1 – Remove Stalks
Use a classic chef’s knife to cut off the stalks attached to the top of the fennel bulb. Discard the stalks themselves, but save the soft green fronds attached to them. Those wispy fronds have a flavor similar to dill and are lovely used as fresh herms in salads, dips, and as a garnish.
Step #2 – Cut Bulb In Half
Cut the bulb in half lengthwise.
Step #3 – Remove Core
If using the fennel for salad, you’ll want to cut out the core because it’s tougher than the rest of the vegetable. Make a wedge-shaped cuts into the base of the fennel to remove the core from inside.
If roasting the fennel though, the core will soften, and leaving it in place can help to keep your slices intact and pretty. So, if roasting, just slice off the very end of the core side, and leave the actual core intact inside the bulb halves.
Step #4 – Slice
Place the bulb cut side down on your board and slice the fennel crosswise or lengthwise, depending on what your recipe calls for. Fennel is a bit tough when raw so thinner slices will be best for salads (try a salad with some orange in it!).
If cooking the fennel, thicker slices will get meltingly soft and lovely whereas thinner ones will brown and caramelize. Both are great options, whether roasting the fennel plain or with other flavors like Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
How To Roast Fennel
Now that you know how to cut fennel into perfect little slices, let’s cook it!
First, cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil and lightly oil it. Arrange the slices of fennel on the pan in a single layer.
Brush or spritz or drizzle them with more oil (I like to use an oil mister like this one) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then bake them at 400°F until they’re softened and just starting to caramelize, about 20-25 minutes.
Note that fennel can dry out a bit when you roast it like this. So, what I often do is to let it soften but not really caramelize. And then I put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown lightly in places. The broiler browns more quickly so the fennel doesn’t have the chance to dry out as much.
Roasted fennel is delicious with salmon or chicken, as well as alongside rice or buttered noodles. Enjoy!
More Handy Kitchen Skills
Podcast Episode On Roasting Fennel
Listen to our editor, Christine Pittman, explain briefly about how to make this recipe, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:Print
- 1 fennel bulb
- Use a classic chef’s knife to cut off the green fronds close to the top of the bulb. Save the fronds, because you can chop up the wispy leaves to use as an herb in salads!
- Cut the bulb in half lengthwise.
- Cut a wedge out of the base of the fennel bulb to remove the root and core of the bulb.
- Place the bulb cut side down on your board and slice the fennel crosswise or lengthwise, depending on what your recipe calls for.
This post originally appeared in October 2016 and was revised and republished in August 2023.