Pan-fried fennel has a gorgeous caramelized crust. Its normally intense anise flavor becomes sweet and mellow. Combined with sweet purple onions and baby potatoes that have a crisp exterior and light and fluffy soft center. These Pan-Fried Fennel and Potatoes are an amazing side item perfect with any number of entrees.
I love the flavor of roasted fennel, but in the blistering hot Texas summer, I look for any way to eat well without turning on the oven. Pan-fried fennel is the ideal substitute for roasting, quick and easy, a cast-iron skillet produces beautiful caramelization that I actually prefer to roasted fennel.
Cooking fennel in a pan caramelizes it and gives it a beautiful golden brown color
Ingredients in my Pan-Fried Fennel recipe
- Fennel Bulbs: I use ½-1 bulb per serving depending on the size of the fennel. Trim the stems from the fennel bulb and keep them. Then cut the bulbs into 4 pieces with the root still intact to hold them together while pan-frying the fennel. Reserve the stem and green fronds, the stems can be sliced thinly like celery for salads and the fronds make excellent garnishes.
- Potatoes: For this photograph, I was lucky to find tiny baby potatoes that were perfectly used whole. But sliced potatoes are equally good in this recipe. If slicing the potatoes, I prefer a waxy potato with the skin on, red potatoes or Yukon Gold are excellent.
- Purple Onions: A great addition to the pan-fried fennel recipe. 1/8-1/4-onion per serving depending on the size, sliced through the root to keep the onion intact while pan-frying.
- Olive oil, Salt, and Pepper: The fennel, potatoes, and red onions don’t need complex seasonings. Use a good quality olive oil and pan-fry the fennel slowly over medium-high heat.
How to cook fennel in a pan
- Par-Boil the Fennel: Gently simmering the fennel and potatoes in well-salted water for 10-minutes prior to pan-frying will ensure they are completely cooked and the flavor of the fennel has mellowed. Water for parboiling fennel should contain enough salt so the water tastes like the ocean.
- Pan-Fry: Preheat a cast-iron skillet or a thick-bottomed frying pan, add the olive oil, and place the fennel, cut side down in the pan. Let the fennel fry untouched for approximately 4 minutes until well caramelized, then turn to the next side and repeat the process until all sides are golden browned. Season with salt and pepper, garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds.