Braised Fennel

The purpose of the liqueur is to intensify the licorice flavor of the fennel. If you don't have anise-flavored liqueur, or are avoiding cooking with alcohol, you can achieve a similar effect by adding a star anise pod to the stock when you are braising. If you aren't a fan of the licorice flavor, then just skip this step.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 2 large fennel bulbs, rinsed clean
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tbsp ouzo, pastis, sambuca or other anise-flavored liqueur
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fennel fronds
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • Lemon juice


1 Prep the fennel bulbs: Cut the tops off the fennel bulbs, chop 2 tablespoons of the fronds and set aside. Slice the fennel bulbs in half, lengthwise, through the core. Slice each half lengthwise into quarters (you should get eight pieces total out of each fennel bulb), leaving some of the core attached so the pieces don't fall apart as they cook.

2 Brown the fennel quarters in butter on two sides: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and place the fennel pieces in the pan in a single layer. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the fennel pieces, without moving them, for at least 2 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the fennel (the sugar will help with caramelization).

Check for browning, and cook for another minute or two if they're not browned yet. Turn the fennel pieces over and brown the other side.

3 Add ouzo, then stock and water: When both sides of the fennel are nicely browned, add the ouzo to the pan. Increase the heat to medium high. The ouzo should boil down quickly. When it is almost gone, add the stock and water.

4 Cover and simmer: Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat down to low, cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

5 Uncover, reduce liquid to a glaze: Remove the cover, increase the heat to high and let the stock cook down until it is a glaze. Add the fennel fronds and most of the orange zest and combine gently.

Serve garnished with the rest of the zest and a few splashes of lemon juice.

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  • Kayla @ Fitter Than Choc

    I love fennel, and always have it in my salads. I have not tried braised fennel before though! I think the idea of using liqueur is really unique. Ought to try this !

  • Arthur

    Until this post, I don’t think I even knew what fennel was. I am definately getting tired of broccoli and green beans so this will be a great addition.

  • HeatherChristo

    Thank you! I have like 5 fennel bulbs from my weekly produce bin and I have had no idea what to do with them! I am trying to appreciate fennel more, (not really my favorite…) and this looks like a lovely way to try it.

  • Susan

    Will try some of these recipes for a change…However you may not know this very good Sicilian recipe:

    1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
    1 orange sliced thin
    salt and pepper
    Mix all ingredients together for a delicious salad

  • jonathan

    looks great! you need to try that stuffed mushroom w/fennel recipe i posted a few months ago on your stuffed mushroom recipe that you posted a few months ago and i apologize for this run-on sentence okay bye.

  • Katerina

    Lovely! I am recently getting into fennel too. I like adding a few freshly ground fennel seeds to by braised fennel.

  • sally cameron

    We love the taste of fennel. I love cooking with ground fennel, fennel seed and especially fennel pollen. Like you I enjoy shaving it into salads with Parmesan. Have not braised it though and can’t wait to do this recipe. Maybe this evening with roast chicken. Sounds like a perfect combo. And lovely photo. Thanks!

  • Michelle

    Roasted fennel with salmon is one of my favorites

  • Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)

    That’s funny! I just made your roasted fennel recipe last night and it was wonderful. I’ll have to try this one next!

  • Judy

    Fennel is a new find for me too! I now use it in soups, stir fry, sauteed as a bed for salmon, it has become a staple in a short time.

  • Abby @ get the fork out

    I had never really cooked fennel before until we received it in our CSA box this past summer. I have to say that now, given my boyfriend’s licorice love, we are fennel addicts. I recently made a pasta with braised fennel and Italian sausage and it was delicious!

  • Saskia

    I love fennel and eat it often. I always roast it and my favorite dish is roasted fennel risotto with fennel sausages. I’ve never braised it before, so I guess I better give this recipe a try!

  • Alissa

    Good Lord, yes… this sounds fabulous.
    I have had a similar fennel journey over the past year – first discovering its tasty merits in a cream/Parmesan dish – and subsequently finding out, to my delight and my baby’s, that it boosts breastmilk production, ha ha. Can’t wait to try this. Thanks for all the delectable recipes!

  • Karen

    This was really good, something different for me. I had no liquer so I skipped this step. I drizzled about 2 tbsp honey instead of sugar in the pan.I served it as a side dish with dirty rice. .I had a little leftover and added it to my grilled tomato sandwich for lunch the next day. I’m thinking of adding this to our Easter lunch menu. Thank you!

  • sally cameron

    Elise, made this tonight. Oh it was delicious. I used Pernod. It’s so good, I could just eat it all myself and skip the roast chicken. Thinking it could be good just tossed with pasta for a quick vegetarian dinner too. Anyway, so easy and so good. Thank you. Very “bistro” style, which I love.

  • Lora

    One of the most amazing things I have aver tasted! The orange zest!! UUUUUnbelievable!

  • Edith

    Why did I not heed your advice and make extra? Delicious!!! My husband would have loved this, if only he had made it home sooner. :)

  • Dee

    Let me just say that 2 fennel bulbs is not enough.
    Absolutely, delicious.

  • Carla

    Thanks for the inspiration! I’ve enjoyed fennel in salads but had never cooked it until I made this last Sunday. I used Glayva as the liqueur. Glayva has herbal, citrus, and honey flavors with whiskey base. I served it with roasted pork ribs and roasted sweet potatoes (cooked to max caramelization), and totally enjoyed bites of the fennel and sweet potato together. The only change I will make the next time is to use about 1/2 tsp of salt instead of 1 tsp. And I’m dreaming of a one pot dish cooked similar to a beef pot roast. Instead of beef, onions, carrots and potatoes, I’m thinking I’d roast a pork loin, peeled quartered sweet potatoes, and fennel bulbs together and make a glaze to dress them with. This will take a little experimentation…

  • Sarah

    Had never thought of eating fennel in the bulb form until I saw this recipe. Man alive was it delicious! Even the picky eaters in the family liked it! Can’t wait to make it again.

  • jess @veggiepotluck

    Recently braised fennel for the first time – what a revelation!! I added cream which also seemed to help convince the haters… But will definitely be trying this version soon too, thanks!

  • steph (whisk/spoon)

    Made this tonight with fish. Used white wine instead of ouzo, but it was delicious!

  • purrrkitten

    Oh. My. Gosh. My new favorite thing to eat! I absolutely LOVE this recipe. I can’t stop eating it… Thanks for sharing this wonderful way to prepare it!