How To Cut Fennel

updated Feb 13, 2024

To get the most out of your fennel, you can trim, cut, or even shave the bulb into paper-thin slices.

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Fennel is a vegetable with a lot going for it. (We love it so much we created a whole guide for everything you need know about fennel!) It’s crunchy and sweet when tossed raw in a salad, or caramelized and silky when roasted.

But before you can eat it, you have to slice it. Here’s how to cut fennel and trim it down into bite-sized pieces.

Quick Overview

How To Cut Fennel

  1. Trim off the fennel stalks. Cut them away close to where they connect to the bulb.
  2. Cut the bulb in half. Cut straight down through the root of the fennel bulb.
  3. Cut the halves into quarters. Again, cut straight down through the root.
  4. Peel off any wilted outer layers. If the outer layers feels wilted or rubbery, peel them away and discard.
  5. Slice the fennel crosswise. With the quarter still on its side, slice crosswise to cut the fennel into slices. Start at the top of the bulb and work toward the root.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

How to Buy Fennel

Fennel is at its peak season from late fall to early spring, though it can usually be found year round. Choose bulbs that feel heavy for their size and have tightly packed layers. The stalks, if still attached, should feel firm; not limp or rubbery. Avoid bulbs with very loose outer layers or that look bruised or split on the outside.

Fennel is sold both with the stalks and fronds attached and with them removed. I recommend buying with the stalks attached or at least with some of the stalks still remaining; these bulbs tend to store better and for longer than those with the stalks totally removed. The stalks and fronds are also edible — bonus fennel! The tender, lacy fronds are fantastic in salads and the stalks can be chopped up into stews or used for vegetable stock.

How to Store Fennel

Store whole fennel in the crisper drawer or loosely wrapped in plastic in your fridge. It’s best used within a week, though will often keep for longer. Just peel away the outer layers as they become wilted or rubbery.

To save sliced or shaved fennel for later, submerge the slices in a little water, cover, and refrigerate until needed.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

How to Shave Fennel

If you have a mandoline slicer, it’s the perfect tool to shave fennel into very thin slices for salads. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lay the quarter of fennel with the cut side flat against the mandoline.
  2. Press down with the safety guard to secure the bulb, then quickly run the bulb across the blade to shave it into thin slices.
  3. Adjust the thickness as needed.

What Does Fennel Taste Like?

The fennel bulb can be eaten raw or cooked — both have their perks! When raw, fennel is crunchy and sweet; once cooked, it becomes silky soft. Raw or cooked, fennel has a faint flavor of licorice or anise — not so much that it overwhelms a dish, but just enough that it adds an interesting layer of flavor to the dishes in which it’s used.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

How to Use Fennel

Fennel can be used in a variety of recipes, from raw crunchy salads and slaws to roasted and braised dinners. Here are a few ways to use freshly cut fennel:

How to Cut Fennel

To get the most out of your fennel, you can trim, cut, or even shave the bulb into paper-thin slices.

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 bulb fennel, scrubbed clean

Instructions

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How to Cut Fennel

  1. If the stalks are still attached to your bulb of fennel, cut them away close to where they connect to the bulb. Save the fennel stalks and fronds for something else — the leafy fronds can be eaten raw and the stems are great for soup stock.

  2. Trim a little bit off the bottom of the fennel bulb to make the bottom stable (and cut away any tough root bits). Then, cut straight down through the root of the fennel bulb.

  3. Again, cut straight down through the root.

  4. If the outer layer of your fennel bulb feels wilted or rubbery, peel it away and discard.

  5. With the quarter still on its side, slice crosswise to cut the fennel into slices. Start at the top of the bulb and work toward the root. Cut your slices thick or thin, according to your recipe. Repeat with the remaining bulbs.

How to Shave Fennel

  1. For really thin, shaved slices of fennel, use a mandoline. Lay the quarter of fennel with the cut side flat against the mandoline. Press down with the safety guard to secure the bulb, then quickly run the bulb across the blade to shave it into thin slices. Adjust the thickness as needed.