Pan-roasted fennel

When I first prepared this wonderful method of cooking fennel, I was gob-smacked. It is that good. I am not given to hyperbole, and I get irritated when recipes suggest that “this is wonderful” or “there is no better way to eat this”, but I am almost inclined to use such superlatives here. OK, I’ll resist, but I urge you to try it.


  • 1 fennel (probably enough for 2 people)
  • Large knob of butter
  • Salt
  • Water


  • Skillet with lid


  1. Remove the leafy stalks and discard (or use elsewhere).
  2. Cut the fennel into quarters.
  3. Melt the butter over a medium heat. There should be enough to create a bubbling sea of melted butter covering the whole pan.
  4. Place the fennel in the pan on one of its cut sides and leave it alone for about 3-5 minutes. Turn it over to its other cut side. (There should be strips of chocolate brown running along the exposed side.)
  5. Add a cup of water to the pan, season with salt, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Check from time to time that it hasn’t dried out completely. If it has, add a little more water.
  6. Transfer to a plate and pour over any juices that has collected in the pan.

What you should know

There really is no need to remove outer layers from the fennel (unless they are really, really dirty). Don’t cut too much away from the bottom (if any), or the bulb will fall apart.

Re: Pan-roasted fennel

Add some brussel sprouts and thick-cut bacon to the mix for a little variety and season with a little cinnamon…I just had this concoction for dinner tonight. Very VERY yummy.

Cecily Upton Slow Food in Schools Coordinator Slow Food USA

Re: Pan-roasted fennel

Thanks Cecily. Brilliant suggestion. I bet the bacon worked really well. I might try it with pancetta for extra ooomph (I think ‘ooomph’ works as a cooking term!).

Re: Pan-roasted fennel

We loved this roasted fennel dish. Now what do I do with the leftover stalks? I would hate to throw them away.

Re: Pan-roasted fennel

Fennel stalks are great for putting under fish when steaming. You can also use them in seafood stock which can be frozen for later. Also you can use them in vegetable, chicken or beef stocks, but be mindful of the stronger flavor.

When I make David’s Pan roasted fennel recipe I always strip off the leafy ends and chop them up. I then store the chopped fennel leaves in a small bowl open on the counter to use as seasoning sprinkling on top of everything from salads to chicken and pork.

Re: Pan-roasted fennel