Gourmet Food

Fennel Seeds

What To Look For

Fennel seeds are sold whole or ground as an ingredient in spice mixes. They retain their green color when dried. Generally, the brighter the color, the better the quality of the fennel. Like all dried spices, fennel has a limited shelf life and should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark space. Roasting the seeds in a pan brings out their aroma particularly well.

How To Use It

True to its Mediterranean origins, fennel seeds are commonly used in the cuisines of France and Italy to lend its sweet flavor to fish and seafood as well as meat and poultry. In France, fennel seeds are particularly popular in Provence where it can often be found as an ingredient in the spice mix herbes de Provence. The seeds are equally popular in Italian cooking where they are often combined with Mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, oregano, and thyme. They are also a commonly found in Italian sausages (e.g., salami) and meat dishes (such as meatballs). The use of fennel seeds is also popular in Middle Eastern and Arabic cooking.

Further north, in central and northern Europe, fennel seeds are a highly popular ingredient in breads (especially rye bread), as well as for pickled vegetables in combination with dill and mustard seed. Like anise, fennel seeds are also used to flavor sweets such as cookies.

In some areas of the Indian subcontinent fennel seeds are used as well, such as in the Bengali spice mix panch phoron. They are an essential part of Sri Lankan cooking where they are roasted and then ground with various other spices to form the basis for vegetable, meat, poultry, and fish curries.

Fennel seeds are one of the main ingredients in Chinese Five Spice Powder.

Learn more about other Spices

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