Kaori’s Caramelized Fennel

I’ve written about fennel on several occasions. It’s an Italian thing – the native Mediterranean vegetable is put on the table after dinner and before dessert…  It’s good for digestion. But really, it’s just a segway to more eating, making it easier to justify indulging in the next course of sweet treats. Italians like eating it raw and dipping it in a mix of high-quality olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, a dash of salt,  ground pepper, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.


But you want to know something… I’ve never cooked it. Fennel, although not a root vegetable, belongs to the carrot family and it’s also an herb. Make use of all parts of this versatile plant for a range of culinary delights!

My friend Kaori and our friends gathered for a little farewell pizza party. Kaori and her man, “Washed Up” Zak were leaving for a three-week journey to Japan to visit family and then they headed to Indonesia to surf! In prep, Kaori cleaned out her fridge and shared some veggies with us. I grabbed the fennel.

I was interested in Kaori’s method of preparing fennel. This versatile herb is also incorporated into various Asian cuisines, lending its distinct flavor to stir-fries, soups, and salads. Kaori mentioned that she makes caramelized fennel, enjoying it with protein or as a snack. She shared her recipe with me and it’s simple and delicious!

Caramelized Fennel

Kaori Caramelized Fennel


2 bulbs fennel
3-4 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 lemon juiced
Coarse Salt, fresh ground pepper


  1. With a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom from the fennel bulbs and then remove tough or bruised layers.
  2. Slice the bulbs in half and then remove the cores from the fennel. Then cut the fennel lengthwise into slices.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the olive oil and then the fennel slices. Spread the fennel out in the pan to encourage browning.
  4. Cook for 10-12 minutes, flipping the fennel slices every few minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Remove the fennel from the pan and drain off excess oil. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste. Serve.

Note: the trick to caramelizing is a very pan. Be careful not to burn the oil or fennel. Avoid layering the fennel; keep all pieces flat on the pan. Do not cover and steam.

I was very tempted to add some garlic cloves, but I wanted to stay true to the recipe. And guess what? The garlic wasn’t needed. The flavor of the caramelized fennel is sweet with a hint of the anise flavor the vegetable is known for. Lemon is the key to brightening and adds a nice flavor contrast.

Follow me in the kitchen on Instagram: @theglorifiedtomato.

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