fennel-and-blood-orange-salad Recipes

fennel and blood orange salad

This salad improves winter morale. It’s for times when all of the usual charms of winter — snow that’s fallen like a cashmere blanket over the city overnight, reducing all of the usual ruckuses (trucks, sirens, deliveries and your own child’s tantrums, which you may or may not have discovered last week you could hear from a full city block away) to the decibel of thick socks padding over hardwood floors — have waned on you; when the “snow” is, in fact, two inches of gray muck, when you are convinced that it will never be warm again and when you fear the next hunt around the apartment for where the snow mittens/hats/scarves/boots were last scattered will be the end of you. Whereas most cold winter comfort foods are soft, rich, carby and white, this is everything but: brightly hued, crunchy and piercingly fresh. It cuts across everything that’s lost its charm; it will be even brighter in your social media feed than the photos of those so-called friends who have abandoned you for sandy shores and island blue skies. This salad has your back.

what you'll need
ribbons of fennel

It falls into the all too thin category of Great Winter Salads. Kurt Gutenbrunner wrote an article about his favorite ones for the New York Times in 2002 that I go back to every winter when I need a reminder that many of my favorite foods are excellent year round — cabbage, fennel, celery root, cucumbers and potatoes. I’m not surprised that this one is clearly still one of his favorites (it’s in his recent cookbook and we even spied it on the menu at Blaue Gans on Saturday night) because it’s perfectly balanced. The refreshing fennel is dressed with lemon for brightness, then tossed with blood orange segments (though I think any orange or grapefruit segment would work), toasted hazelnuts (though he calls for walnuts) and mint leaves. The dressing is just the juice from the blood oranges and olive oil and it’s all so pretty, it’s nothing short of a sun lamp beaming forth from a salad bowl.

thiny sliced fennel, dressed with lemon

to segment the orange
segmenting a blood orange
segmenting a blood orange
segmenting a blood orange
blood orange segments falling on fennel
blood orange fennel salad with mint, hazelnuts

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One year ago: Salted Caramel Brownies
Two years ago: Double Coconut Muffins
Three years ago: Meatballs Subs with Caramelized Onions
Four years ago: Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint (a cousin of this!) and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Five years ago: Chicken Milanese and an Escarole Salad (still a favorite; we make this salad constantly)
Six years ago: Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree and Matzo Ball Soup
Seven years ago: Asparagus, Artichoke and Shiitake Risotto

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
Adapted from Kurt Gutenbrunner via NYT and also his gorgeous book

I find it hard to remember how much I miss good tomatoes and sweet corn when staring at something I could never eat in August, which alone makes this salad nothing short of a miracle. If you think you’re not a fennel person, I beg you to try again. Shaved thinly and tossed with lemon juice and salt, it’s licorice vibe is neutralized, leaving just the refreshing part. Don’t worry if you cannot get blood oranges; any orange variety will do, and I think grapefruit segments would be delicious here as well, giving it a different flavor profile. Gutenbrunner calls for a couple chef-y things in the original recipe I never bother with in my home preparation — 1 teaspoon walnut oil, to toss with the toasted walnuts and 1 tablespoon of Pernod or Ricard to dress the fennel with the lemon. I mean, I’m sure they’re crazy good if you have them around but you will not need them to make this salad delicious and a well-deserved staple of all of your future winter meals. I enjoy the lime zest on top, but for efficiency of ingredients, I think 1 teaspoon of minced fennel fronds (the herb-y looking greens) would work well here too. If you’re looking for meal ideas, he recommends serving this with smoked salmon slices or grilled fillets of sea bass or salmon with skin.

Serves 3

1/4 cup hazelnuts or walnuts
1 medium-large fennel bulb, leaves and stems trimmed off
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large blood oranges
1 small shallot, peeled and cut into paper-thin slices
10 mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lime zest

Place nuts in dry skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, to toast. Let cool. If using hazelnuts, roll them around in a dishcloth (or, if cool enough, in your hands), discarding any loose skins. Coarsely chop nuts; set aside.

Slice about 1/2 inch from bottom of fennel and discard. Slice fennel very thinly on a mandonline, benriner or with a knife, starting with flat bottom side. Toss in serving bowl with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Trim all peel and pith from oranges. Holding peeled fruit over bowl containing fennel, use sharp knife to cut sections from membrane and let them drop into bowl. Squeeze remaining membrane over bowl to sprinkle salad with remaining juice, and discard membrane.Add shallots, mint leaves, olive oil and reserved nuts and toss gently. Sprinkle with lime zest.

Do ahead: While the mint leaves will look and taste best on the first day, I really enjoyed the leftovers from this salad for lunch the next day.

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108 comments on fennel and blood orange salad

  1. Ooh that looks so good! Can’t wait until I have the ingredients. How are you enjoying the snow where I live in PA there is already half a foot!
    Thanks:)

  2. The only redeeming thing about this time of year is the citrus. I think I bought 4 pounds of mandarins, tangelos, blood oranges, and grapefruit yesterday to try to bring the sun back (it worked, but brought a temp of 3 with it). And how convenient, I have a lone, languishing fennel in my fridge :-)

  3. I am can only imagine what other citrus would work here too. Fennel is so adaptable I am think of a yuzu for a Japanese vibe or lemonade fruit for that twist on the classic. I am not a fan of summer salads as they have no depth but this one is dark, bitter and yet sweet; simply divine combination!

  4. In CA, I’m able to get ahold of excellent fresh oranges at any time during the year. I love citrus fruit in a salad. It’s acidity and sweetness is so similar to that of summers fresh garden tomatoes that I sometimes use them on purpose during the summer. I’ve yet to try fennel, even cooked, so I think this is a great starting place.

    “The entire state building”, too cute! My kids had come up with their own version of things they’d heard, too…and we continue to call them as they had, once upon a time. Love those!

  5. Snow outside the window as I read this- and it looks like a second round of shoveling is coming up… this salad could NOT be prettier or more timely. Hence I will focus on the screen rather than the window because THIS is a “Super Bowl” if I ever saw one! Photo #5 is fabulous too, by the way. Yummmm!

  6. Fennel and orange is my favorite winter salad combination, though I’ve never added hazelnuts and usually toss in a handful of olives instead. I just finished eating a variation with pickled fennel, oranges, avocado, and gravlax which was pretty delicious too!

  7. Such a beautiful salad! I never really know what to do with fennel, but a finely shredded salad is an excellent plan. Plus, who doesn’t want to stuff their face with al the season’s fresh citrus? :)

  8. ooh, i needed a side to bring to a potluck tonight — this will hit the spot. anything i can replace the hazelnuts with for that extra crunch? we have some nut allergies in the group. thanks in advance for the suggestions!

    1. pws — Do you have seed allergies? I love salted toasted sunflower seeds on salads (add right before serving). If that doesn’t work, maybe do some toasted quinoa crunch.

    1. Vicky — My first three reactions: 1. I love this kid. 2. Where is his coat from? 3. And then the words, “No, Jacob, we go to the library to read books not watch videos!” came uncontrollably out of my mouth so I guess that means you’re right. :)

  9. Fennel salads for winter are a fantastic idea. I recently made one with red onions and parsley, but I think I’ll have to try this version with the mint (brilliant!) soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. True fact: I grew up in Brooklyn and I thought it was called the “Entire State Building” until I was 13. That’s right: THIR-TEEN. So, you know, it’s possible.

  11. That is so cute about the Entire State Building. Reminds me of a little boy I used to work with, who participated in the Olympic games at his school and won a Bronx medal.

  12. Pretty salad! I’ve been all over fennel this winter as one of the rare root vegetables that can be refreshing rather than overly sweet and hefty. Plus, points for hazelnuts, which I can find locally here in Washington state. Yay!

  13. Just the colors make this worth making…wow! One small typo: “any orange variety will due”…that is, I would guess, “do”. Thanks for a winter salad. Not something I think of too often when it is cold outdoors, but looks delicious.

  14. I make some variation of this frequently in the winter; beautiful colors and refreshing taste. Sometimes add some Greek style olives or a thinly sliced red onion. Great with a piece of grilled fish or shrimp.

  15. It’s so funny that you posted a recipe with blood oranges since I just dug out your recipe for the blood orange tart which I’m making this weekend. This salad looks excellent, and I think I’ll make it this week too… there’s no such thing as too many blood oranges, right?

  16. Yum. I try to have fennel available in my fridge at all times! I make a similar salad, but with beets. So delicious. And then, try adding some blue cheese. And if you don’t like beets and/or blue cheese, just stick with fennel and oranges and enjoy!

  17. Also, do you toss the salad completely? I would think doing so would die the white fennel pink, and I love the contrast in colors. If you don’t toss, how do you get a distributed coating of dressing??

  18. Back when we lived in NYC, Riposo 46 made an excellent version of this salad with pistachios as the nut and a base of arugula. We have been doing our best to replicate that version at home for the past 6 years (and alas a recent visit back to Riposo 46 revealed that the salad is no longer being served and our favorite bartender finally left).

  19. The citrus salad with feta and mint is the one thing I look forward to amid the post-holiday winter dredge. I’ll have to try this out for a little variety.

  20. Girlfriend- it looks like a jellyfish exploded all over your salad. Your ability to think out of the box astounds me- keep it up Deb

  21. I love fennel + orange salad. I usually like to throw in a couple of peppercorns to add some bite. Other than that this side dish is perfection in its simplicity!

  22. I love-love-love fennel. In Spain it’s not very usual, but sometimes I find it and make fantastic salads with orange, like yours. I will try walnuts next time.

  23. Pretty in Pink…oh my gosh yes…and YES…A generous “splash” of Ricard would be MOST appropriate..as well as a bit of hazelnut oil to amplify the wonderful filbert addition you suggest…Pink peppercorns would be nice for that “peppery bite” and color-pop factor…although the gorgeous hue of your sauce is largely sufficient..

    I am imagining this with seared ginormous sea scallops and tossing a handful of my remaining pomegranate arils or pink peppercorns…Lush recipe…thank you for such continuous inspiration.

  24. This is a common salad in Sicily and I often make a similar version. Delicious! Did you know that fennel bulbs can be male or female (male are rounder and whiter, female ones are thinner and often have more of a white-green hue – the one in your picture looks like a female one)? Apparently male bulbs are better to eat raw and female are better in gratins, roasted etc. I know you love food trivia, so thought this might interest you.

  25. Deb, I was able to run away for a couple weeks to sunny Florida, but I am still going to make this salad for lunch while I’m here, it is just that awesomely terrific. I need to buy a mandoline, which will wait until I return to the cold snowy New England tundra-land, but would love a recommendation from you on a mandoline. Which do you use? Or better yet, which do you covet? Let us know, when you have a moment. Thanks, Deb. for ALL you do!

  26. When you toast hazelnuts and then rub off the skins, doesn’t that discard most of the toasty taste? I’ve got to go toast some and see if I can answer this question myself. I’d love a recommendation for a mandolin too as I’m tired of carting mine back and forth on vacation…

    1. esmee — No, most people find the skins bitter; they also flake off a lot and leave unpleasant papery bits in stuff. But, no reason to remove them if they don’t bother you. I find the best flavor comes from toasting them so that the centers are a good milky coffee color.

      Debra — I use this mandoline and definitely recommend it. I talk about it more over here.

      Nuts about food — No! I had no idea. That’s fascinating. Great, one more thing to whine about at grocery stores, “but I wanted a maaaaaale bulb!” :)

      Danielle — I cut up a few, but then I started using the very tiny ones in the center of each branch. I definitely used more than 10 of the minuscule ones.

      ATG — I tossed it lightly. It does turn the fennel pink. However, I tend to build salad in layers and my husband and I will scoop top-to-bottom to make sure we get everything.

      JP/Cumbers — Thanks, now fixed.

  27. Sounds delicious. I’ve just been looking at salad recipes, needing a good one for my book group’s lunch next week – this will fit the bill. Thanks! xo

  28. I have a fennel bulb sitting in my produce drawer, very sad that I didn’t make what I planned to with it. Now it shall be happy, as I also have a bag of blood oranges!

  29. Beautiful and perfect, since I just experienced the diabetic coma in a cupcake that is your (amazing) Irish car bomb cupcake for Super Bowl. It was a hit, but it (along with the pulled-pork-bbq-fest of the bowl party) pushed me over the edge and now the rest of Feb looks like it’s going to be a heroic attempt at raw vegan delights. You read my mind with this gorgeousness – thank you! lovely!!

  30. Deb! Stunning pictures. Wow. Do you have any suggestions as to what this would pair with for a main dish + salad sort of dinner? I wouldn’t want bold flavors to compete and my ideas so far are making for a pretty eclectic spread. Would love your input! Thanks so much for all you dream up, test, make, and share with us!! SK is a (reliable and delicious) staple in our kitchen!

  31. All I could think of when I saw this was when my mom made a blood orange/vidalia onion/fennel salad the first time my high school boyfriend came for dinner. Sabotage!

  32. I always do a blood orange and fennel salad this time of year. This version looks yummy.Gotta downsize since only my son and i love raw fennel but its so worth it. Fresh when you can’t wait for spring!

  33. I am sick of everything I am eating and very tired of winter snow, again! This recipe hit me, in the perfect spot. I had a main course planned that went with it exactly right and I had everything on hand for the salad! Everything! And it was everything I needed for a winter pick me up. Reminded me of summer breezes without making me angry with what is really outside. I am refreshed and ready to take on the cold snowy world again. Thank you. Perfect timing and excellent recipe.

  34. This looks and sounds delicious! I love blood oranges and they finally had them in my local farmers market last Saturday. Will have to get some more this weekend and some fennel and mint to make this… Yum!

  35. Made this tonight! Despite being lazy and not breaking out the mandoline, it was delicious. Next time I’ll cut the fennel thinner, promise!

    1. Frances — Nope, not at all. I do think I get a bit anti-dairy and eggs in January. It’s just swinging back from the richness of everything in November and December — pies and cookies and custards and rich sauces just turn my stomach after the holidays and I only want crunchy, bright or spicy things.

      Hillary — I mention in the head notes that Gutenbrunner recommends serving this with smoked salmon slices or grilled fillets of sea bass or salmon with skin. Do you eat fish?

      Caroline — You could use some minced fennel fronds, since you’ll have them around. Some people use tarragon in lieu of mint, but I’d go easy on it because it has a strong flavor.

  36. Winter in Wisconsin – need I say more? If I roast another veggie I must just die…so this is exactly what I need as I’m sitting here watching it snow yet again. I l-o-v-e fennel and I think I’ll try it with grapefruit! Thanks Deb :)

  37. I love this combination! Recently I made something similar, also wanting something light and delicious but full of taste after all those heavy foods. My red touch were pomegranate seeds :)

  38. The garlicky party bread was great, and contributed to a Seattle win thanks for that.
    I am hoping for an equally great dessert for the 14th of Feb ( one that is much needed) chocolate would be good but not essential.

  39. Le gorg! It’s a snow day in Boston, so I just made this in the “I-don’t-have-” (hazelnuts/blood oranges/mint/shallots) “so-I-subbed” (walnuts/grapefruit/cilantro/red onion) style. And I added a wee drizzle of maple syrup (because grapefruit + maple syrup = LIFE CHANGE). It’s delightful even with all those adaptations, so the source material must be solid gold!

  40. I made this last night to great success, with a few modifications. I couldn’t find blood oranges, so used one grapefruit, which was perfect. I also found that there was a fair amount of juice, so I added a large handful of arugula to add a little more bulk, which was delicious. All in all, excellent.

    One nagging question: what’s the deal with hazelnuts? I’ve tried toasting and rubbing the skins more times than I can count, and it seems to be among those one-line instructions that end up taking five times as long as they should. Is there a trick, or is it just one of those things?

  41. Fortuosity! I came here just to look for a blood orange recipe, because my four year old has recently declared it the best thing ever. Not sure why, although I agree they are darn tasty. Now, if I can just get her to eat fennel…

  42. I bought a fennel over the weekend with no specific plan. Your timing couldn’t have been better on this recipe! I made it yesterday but with orange navels (and a lemon and lime) from my yard. There isn’t much better than having your own citrus trees for a girl who grew up in the midwest and on the east coast.
    Thanks for another great recipe Deb!

  43. Snap, I’ve served this twice in the last week. I used pistachios, a little salt in the dressing and a sprinkle of celery leaves. DH even requested it!!

  44. Deborah Madison has recipes for fennel and blood orange salads in the Greens Cookbook, and a slightly different version is in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. She puts olives and butter lettuce in hers, and it’s amazing… Look forward to trying your version.

  45. I made this salad this week, in fact I made a double recipe so there’d be plenty to serve alongside different proteins this week. Thank you for the yummy recipe and for answering my question about the mint!

  46. Made this last night for a dinner party and it was a hit! Really wish my mandoline had been working but it was a good chance to practice my knife skills. I forgot to get shallots, so I used the white parts of some green onions, sliced super thin. Delicious!

  47. I made this twice this week and ate the whole thing in one sitting both times. I used a little more shallot the first time and preferred that – more bite. Regardless, really excellent and am planning to make this on the 14th, with some white fish or scallops.

  48. It’s what’s for dinner.
    Fabulous, just fabulous!
    Hubby said, “I don’t know what this is, but it’s really good!” As he reached for thirds…

  49. It was delicious!
    Didn’t have all the ingredients, but your recipes always tolerate some changing around. (Thank you for that!) Fennel, shallot and blood oranges were a go. No other citrus, so used more blood orange juice. No hazelnuts, but toasted almond slices were wonderful. Ate half in the first sitting, then added the rest to my weekday salad lunch at the office! Yum!

  50. Hi again, Deb! I commented in #53 and you replied in #71 .. and sorry not to specify initially but yes! A non-fish option is what I seek.

  51. Hillary,

    I know it’s not coming from Deb but I thought about the same thing, and the first thing that came to mind was steak! Usually when i have food pairings in my head, i just search on the items and see what recipes come up – “steak fennel” came up with a raw fennel salad for a grilled skirt steak on Saveur, confirming my instincts (as well as several cooked fennel options elsewhere)

    I think this tangy fresh salad will be just the thing to counterpoint the buttery steak i have in mind for my honey for valentines day.

  52. Hillary — Really, it can go with anything that you like. You can tilt it more Italian (meatballs + polenta or garlicky bread) or more German/Austrian (which Gutenbruner is) with a chicken/pork or veal schnitzel. I think this is a very flexible salad, light too, so it goes with almost anything.

  53. We had brunch for 20 after family/friends preformed a benefit music concert the night before, based on your great recipes/tips (this recipe + how to host brunch and still sleep in + spinach/cheese strata; doubled most of the recipes) and local food* (small agricultural island off the pacific northwest coast – long way from new york :-)). The raves from guests, including some from Hawaii, were out of this world; I would post them but it would be too long! So will just recommend the following to all: fennel blood orange salad, winter fruit salad, spinach/gruyere strata (used fresh spinach), potato latkes (incredibly tasty yet easy day ahead item), bloody marys, mimosas, tea, coffee etc, pumpkin bread* bagels*, uncured bacon*, breakfast sausage*, smoked salmon*, spinach salad*, cheese*, butter*, jam* cream cheese*….plus a wee bit of scrambled eggs, hash browns and GF bread for the GF. thank you thank you thank you for helping me figure it all out and make everyone happy.

  54. I just made this, exactly as written, as it was delicious. I don’t have a decent mandiline, and now I am motivated to get one. I served over arugula, which was a nice addition.

  55. I love the combination of fennel and oranges, but I’d never have thought of adding mint to fennel – my loss, it’s absolutely delicious. However, I really don’t like hazelnuts in salads, so I used pine nuts instead, and as argan oil goes so very well with them, I used that instead of olive oil.
    I posted my version of the recipe on my (german) blog and hope that’s fine with you.

  56. Just thought I’d add to some other people’s comments to say that adding an avocado to this is really delicious, and it makes a full meal out of it. Yum!

  57. I’m not much on citrus fruits because of the membrane, grapefruit is fine because you’re eating around it. However, the membrane on blood oranges is almost non-existent I found. This was beautiful and tasty; used walnuts and mint. What a nice break from the basic greenery. Many thanks!

  58. Your beautiful salad will cheer up even the most winter-depressed and fennel-averse. Would never have thought of adding toasted hazelnuts – which BTW are even easier to skin rubbed between hands in rubber gloves; saves cleanup, too!

  59. You posted this on Facebook and I had actually just posted a blood orange and fennel salad on my blog! Must be that time of year! Mine has arugula too, and I made it a main dish by adding chicken and apple sausage. I bet it would be good with nuts like your recipe! It’s really a great ingredient combo, isn’t it? Yum! And so nice and refreshingly light after all the holiday food.

  60. This recipe was awesome! I hadn’t used fennel at home before and this was a great introduction. I substituted clementines as I don’t know we get blood oranges in Washington (I couldn’t find any at least).
    Also added a bit of honey, as my husband felt it needed a bit more sweet. Could probably just add more citrus though I think.

  61. I just made this last night, and it was FANTASTIC. I paired it with Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cake, and it made for a bright and delicious vegetarian winter dinner. Thank you!

  62. Can we talk about how segmenting fruit is the most time consuming, terrible task ever? Every time I make this, I swear never again. Do you have any tips to make it easier?

  63. This recipe is fabulous – I will definitely be making it again. So light and refreshing and the mint added some additional zing. I still haven’t quite mastered the art of toasting and de-skinning hazelnuts – might started to burn in places before I could get them toasty brown. For Lizzie who had the comment on how to make segmenting fruit easier – I use razor sharp chef’s knife to cut away the peel/pith and then a razor sharp paring knife to quickly work out the segments. It’s super satisfying to then just squish the juice out of the orange remains into the salad.

  64. I made this for Easter brunch and it was delicious. I used walnuts instead of hazelnuts because my grocery store didn’t have them and golden nugget mandarin oranges instead of blood oranges for the same reason…
    I might add a few more mint leaves next time because it was barely noticeable. Everyone loved the salad. I’m not even much of a fennel fan, and I loved it too.

  65. I come back to this recipe again and again. It’s a showstopper for guests with blood oranges, but I even make it with a regular orange as the perfect desklunch for one, leaving out the mint and replacing the hazelnuts with a handful of roasted slivered almonds. It gets better after a night in the fridge, too! Magic. For those who don’t like segmenting fruit, I’ve also been known to save time by trimming the peel of the orange, then slicing it into half-inch thick rounds, which I break apart into segments with my fingers over the bowl. Not as fancy, but still delicious, and easier to eat.