Pickle & Preserve

How to Make Pickled Fennel

March  7, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Extend the winter vegetable season by a few more weeks by making a jar of pickled fennel from Angela Brown of The Chef's Wife.

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When I was growing up, family gatherings were pretty serious food events. Any time family walked through our door, the dining room table would immediately be loaded with platters of shellfish, pasta, trays of antipasto, and baskets of freshly baked breads.  

Along with these heavier options, there always sat one unassuming platter filled with pieces of roughly chopped fennel, or finochio, as my grandmother used to say. Fennel, which acts as a digestive aid and a fresh, crisp palate cleanser, would remain on the table throughout our meal.

More: Everything you need to know to hack into a hairy bulb of fennel.

The fennel was always my favorite treat to nibble between courses. It was a sort of like vegetable candy, its mild anise flavor similar to the long strings of licorice I used to eat by the handful. 

Fennel season is beginning to wrap up, but it’s possible to extend it into early spring by pickling a bulb or two. Simply slice the raw fennel into thin, crescent-shaped slivers and give them a bath in an orange-infused brine. The final product is a beautiful winter pickle that tastes a bit like black licorice with a subtle orange hint. It’s the ideal way to carry fennel with you even after its season ends.

Pickled Fennel with Orange Zest

Makes about 2 cups

1 to 2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons orange zest


Slice the fennel into very thin slivers. Rinse it thoroughly and set aside. 

Add all of the remaining ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. In the meantime, tightly pack the sliced fennel into a glass jar. 

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the brine to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Next, pour the brine into the jar, being sure to cover the fennel completely. 

Allow the jar to cool to room temperature, then seal it with a tight-fitting lid. 

When kept covered and chilled, the pickles will keep well for 1 to 2 weeks.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Angela Brown

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angela brown

Written by: angela brown


Sarah May 23, 2016
Awesome! I did a similar one here with orange: http://theweeklypickle.com/week-20-pickled-fennel-with-orange/
Sarah May 19, 2016
I did a similar version here: http://theweeklypickle.com/week-20-pickled-fennel-with-orange/ ...check it out!
Jessalynn K. September 21, 2014
Can this recipe be canned in a water bath?
Charles M. July 26, 2014
Your article brought back great memories. My grandfather was of Sicilian decent, and every holiday meal was proceeded by an appetizer of finochio and olives. I can still remember the crazy look the produce guy at Jewel gave me when I asked him where the finochio was. It took me a long time to find out the English name of fennel! Recipe sounds great, I'll have to try it.
tamater S. March 9, 2014
Thanks for this…and while we're talking pickles, do you know of a pickling brine recipe for capers? They're actually nasturtium buds a great substitute for capers, and since capers are so costly, I've decided to plant lots this year.

Recipes anyone?
CarlaCooks March 10, 2014
I just picked up a copy of River Cottage Handbook No.2, Preserves from the library and cam across a recipe for pickling nasturtium capers. It calls for: 15 g salt, 300 ml water, 100 g nasturtium seed pods, a few peppercorns (optional), herbs such as dill or tarragon springs or bay leave (all optional), and 200 ml white wine vinegar. You start by dissolving 15g salt in 300 ml water. Once dissolved, add the nasturtium seed pods and leave for 24 hours to brine. After 24 hours, drain and dry the seed pods. Pack them into two small jars with a few peppercorns and herbs of your choice (both optional). Cover with the vinegar and seal the jars with vinegar-proof lids. Store in a cool, dark place and leave for a few weeks before eating. Use within a year.
Angela B. March 10, 2014
I've never done so myself, though The recipe Carla shared sounds pretty great! I'll definitely have to try it out!!
tamater S. March 10, 2014
Carla, you came through quick!
I'm doing up my nasturtium seedlings this afternoon. For anyone who's interested, these gorgeous flowers aren't hard to grow. You can buy seeds to grow in little bush shapes, or vining ones. And they don't need fertilizer. In fact, you get more blooms without fertilizer.
For some reason I didn't have much luck searching the net at large, for a recipe. This is much appreciated.
Anna H. March 7, 2014
This looks amazing. Any recommendations for things to eat it on/with?
Angela B. March 7, 2014
Hi Anna. I like putting them on sandwiches for a fun, acidic twist. I also chop the pickled fennel slices up into smaller bits and toss them into warm side salads.
Megan March 10, 2014
I made these over the weekend- and really enjoyed them. I tossed some in a salad w/ escarole, orange & tangelo segments, and oil-cured black olives. Used the brine+olive oil for the dressing. It was yummy!
Angela B. March 10, 2014
I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed them! That salad sounds awesome--definitely something I would like!