Fermented Fennel Recipe: A Tangy Transformation

A Milder, Yet Crunchy Version of Fresh Fennel That Makes a Great Condiment

by Stephanie Thurow
PHOTO: Adobe Stock by sabino.parente

Fermented fennel is a transformation of fennel like you’ve never tasted before. Fermented fennel is milder, yet still crunchy and is a great condiment to add to your dinner table spread.

Fennel is a very versatile vegetable that many enjoy growing in their gardens. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It adds freshness to soups, salads, stews, pastas, marinades and more. All parts of it can be eaten, the fronds, stalks, and bulb. The fronds have a bit more of a citrus flavor and the stalks and bulb have a mild anise flavor, which if you aren’t familiar with anise, you may know it as the flavor of black licorice.

Fermented Fennel Recipe

Yield: 1 pint


1 lb. fennel, thinly sliced

4 small fennel fronds

10 black whole peppercorns

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1 garlic clove, crushed

1 dried bay leaf

2 tsp. freshly squeezed orange juice

2 pieces of orange peel, no pith

Brine: 2 tsp. coarse kosher salt mixed with 1 cup of water.


Cut the bulb from the stem and reserve the stem and fronds off to the side. Place the bulb on its side and cut away the root end, discard. Wash the fennel and peel away any blemished or bruised parts. Stand the bulb on the root end and cut it in half. Lay the halves down flat and thinly slice the fennel into ¼-1/8” slices.

Wash fronds and trim off 4 or so to add to the ferment.

Pack the fennel into a clean pint jar, beginning with the garlic and peppercorns, then tuck the bay leaf gently on the side of the jar, so not to crush it and fill the jar with the sliced fennel and fronds. Add in the orange juice and peel.

Mix the brine ingredients together until the salt is dissolved and pour the brine over the produce until everything is completely submerged. Be sure to leave ½-1-inch of headspace from the brine level to the rim of the jar.

If you have a small fermentation jar weight, add it to the jar to keep the ingredients completely submerged under the brine. Remove any small pieces of food that float up to the top of the brine.

Clean the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel to remove any food or brine from the rim. Apply the canning jar lid and tightly screw on the lid.


This is a 10-to-14-day ferment, or longer if needed. Ferment at room temperature, ideally between 60-75°F (15-23°C) and keep out of direct sunlight. Check on the ferment daily to make sure the brine stays over the produce. This is a crucial step in all vegetable fermentation, as any produce above the brine is prone to mold.

If the produce is above the brine, use a clean utensil to push the produce back down below the brine. Burp the jar daily – unscrew the lid briefly and tighten it back on to allow any built-up gas to release (and avoid jar breakage).

After one week, taste-test the fermented fennel to see how it’s coming along. It will likely need to ferment over one week unless the space you are fermenting in is on the warmer side. If the fermented fennel still tastes raw, allow it to ferment a few more days and taste test again until it obtains a tangy, fermented flavor. Transfer to the refrigerator once fermented to your liking, with the brine and all.

The fermented fennel will last nearly indefinitely however the texture and flavor will continue to change. Fermentation does not stop once refrigerated, it just slows way down. This ferment is best enjoyed within 6 months.

Fermented Fennel Side Notes

If you do not have a glass jar weight, you can improvise by using an easily removable small food-grade glass dish that fits inside the jar. Or, if you have a smaller glass canning jar that can fit into the mouth of the jar you are fermenting with, you can use that to keep the produce pushed under the brine.

If you are unsure if your water is safe for fermentation, you can boil it and allow it to cool to room temperature before adding in the salt to make your brine.

You may use fine sea salt instead of coarse kosher salt if you prefer. Just adjust the recipe to 1 1/4 tbsp. fine sea salt.

This fermented fennel recipe article was written for Hobby Farms magazine online. Click here to subscribe.

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