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Italian Orange and Fennel Salad

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Dig in to this sunny stunner.

Citrus shines bright with this Italian orange and fennel salad recipe. Simple to prepare but absolutely fantastic, freshly sliced fennel, oranges, olives, and a citrus vinaigrette combine for a lovely side dish thats enlivens any table.

orange fennel salad

Meet this orange and fennel salad recipe

I very firm believer that the best recipes are often the simplest: a combination of good-quality ingredients that work together to yield a flavorful, honest result. Which is what makes Italian food in general so appealing. Italian food, with its emphasis on fresh ingredients and traditional preparations, feels at once exciting and comfortable.

Exhibit A? This Italian orange and fennel salad recipe, adapted from the bible of Italian cooking (which I recommend to everyone), The Silver Spoon cookbook. A simple combination of fresh oranges, crisp fennel, briny olives, and a fresh lemon-herb vinaigrette, this recipe brightens any table with its simple layering of flavors and texture.

how to slice oranges for orange fennel salad
Here are the simple ingredients you’ll need to make fennel orange salad.

What fruit goes best with fresh fennel?

Fennel, or the fun-to-say finocchio in Italian, is a crunchy vegetable with a mild anise flavor. The entire fennel plant, from white bulb to delicate fronts, are technically edible. But cooks typically — as here — prepare the bulb only, using the green fronds as an accent or garnish.

Fennel’s delicate anise flavor and crunchy texture lends itself to many dishes. Raw fennel pairs particularly well with citrus fruit and crisp apples, pears, celery, and nuts in a salad. Fennel, raw or cooked, also makes a nice accent for Italian-leaning fish and chicken dishes.

How to choose, store, and slice fennel

To select the best fennel:

When choosing a fennel bulb at the grocery store or farmers market, choose fennel with a white, smooth bulb without bruising or browning, and perky green stalks with fresh, bright green fronds.

To store fennel:

Fresh fennel will remain fresh in the crisper of a refrigerator for about five days before the bulb starts to brown slightly.

How to slice or cut fennel for salad:

  1. To slice fennel, use a sharp knife to slice the very bottom base and top (stalks) from the bulb. Reserve the stalks and fronds for now, discarding the bottom stump of the bulb. You now have a baseball-sized white bulb. Give it a rinse. Remove the outer layer if it looks bruised.
  2. Slice the fennel in half from top to bottom. Place each half flat-side down on the cutting board and rotate sideways, so that the top is to the right, the bottom to the left.
  3. Use your knife to thinly slice the fennel. Break the slices apart with your fingers.

You can also use a mandoline to slice the fennel. Set the mandoline to a wide setting to match the thickness of the oranges.

sliced oranges for Italian orange salad recipe
Slice the peel and pith from your oranges before slicing into rounds.

How to choose the best oranges and citrus

I’ve said it once, and I will say it again and again: A big size is rarely your friend when it comes to produce. Bigger is not always better. Why not? Oversized produce (think: softball-sized oranges, giant strawberries) has way too much water content. This dilutes the flavor and color, and may end up forcing you to pay money for little more than water weight.

Instead, choose oranges and citrus that have a vibrant, clean outer peel, and feel heavy for their weight. Avoid oranges that look green, pale, or bruised.

What type of orange to use for this recipe

You’ll want seedless oranges for this recipe. Navel oranges are good choices, but a combination of Navel oranges and Cara Cara oranges and blood oranges will add gorgeous hues and different flavor.

orange and fennel salad slices
Arrange the sliced oranges and fennel on the serving dish before topping with the remaining ingredients. The color mix of navel and cara cara oranges look great together if you can find them.

How to slices the oranges for this orange fennel salad recipe

To slice the oranges for this orange fennel salad recipe:

  1. Use a sharp knife to slice the top and bottom from the orange. Place the orange right-side up on the flat bottom.
  2. Slice the rind’s pith and peel off of the orange in a series of top to bottom cuts, tracing the shape of the orange.
  3. Place the orange back on it’s side, and slice. Repeat with the remaining oranges.
fennel orange salad
It’s a small detail, but the fennel fronds add a delicate touch as a garnish to this salad.

Orange Fennel Salad Recipe Ingredients

You will need the following ingredients to make this simple citrus salad:

  • Four to five fresh seedless oranges
  • One fresh fennel bulb
  • One 1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano. Black olives such as kalamata can work as well.
  • Good extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon (substitute fresh orange juice if you’d like)
  • Chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • Fennel fronds
  • Salt, black pepper, and fresh red pepper flakes

I have seen recipes that call for raw red onions in this salad. Red onion is a popular ingredient choice for this type of salad. But I find the flavor of raw red onion to be overpowering for a fennel orange salad, and prefer to let the combination of oranges, olives, and fennel take the lead.

orange and fennel salad recipe

Recipe steps: how to make this salad

This orange fennel salad recipe comes together very quickly, and with zero cooking or special equipment. Here are the directions:

  1. Thinly slice the fennel bulb and oranges.
  2. Roughly chop the olives.
  3. Make the lemon vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together four tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, black pepper, and two tablespoons finely-chopped parsley.
  4. Drizzle the remaining extra virgin olive oil over the base of your serving plate. Arrange the fennel and orange slices on the platter. Scatter the olives over the top, and spoon the vinaigrette over the oranges and fennel.
  5. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh red pepper flakes and several delicate pieces of fennel fronds.

Fennel orange salad is one of my favorite Italian dishes. I hope you enjoy this refreshing, vitamin C filled, delicious salad as much as I do.

Love citrus? Check out these other recipes featuring fresh oranges:

orange and fennel salad recipe

Italian Orange and Fennel Salad

This authentic Italian orange fennel salad tastes just as good as it looks. With chopped olives and lemon vinaigrette for extra flavor and texture, this crisp, sunny citrus salad can be assembled in minutes and brightens any table. Adapted from Italy's iconic cookbook, The Silver Spoon.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian, Italian-American
Keywords:: easy, fennel, orange, salad, winter recipes
Servings: 6 people as a side
Calories: 176kcal
Print

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 seedless oranges, such as Navel, blood oranges, or Cara Cara oranges
  • 1 fresh fennel bulb, with stalk and fronds
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, such as Castelvetrano, drained

For the vinaigrette and to finish

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped Italian parsley
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes, to garnish

Instructions

Slice and chop the fennel, oranges, and olives.

  • To slice the fennel: With a cutting board and a sharp knife, slice the base and top (stalks) from the bulb. Reserve the stalks and fronds, discarding the base of the bulb. You now have a baseball-sized white bulb. Remove the outer layer if it looks bruised.
    Slice the fennel in half from top to bottom. Place each half flat-side down on the cutting board and rotate sideways, so that the top is to the right, the bottom to the left. Use your knife to thinly slice the fennel into half-circle slices. Break the slices apart with your fingers and set aside.
    PRO TIP: You can also use a mandoline to slice the fennel. Set the mandoline to a wide setting to match the thickness of the oranges.
  • To slice the oranges: Use a sharp knife to slice the top and bottom from the orange. Place the orange right-side up on its flat bottom. Slice the rind's pith and peel from the orange in a rotating series of top to bottom cuts, tracing the shape of the orange. Place the orange back on it's side, and slice into rounds. Repeat with the remaining oranges.
  • Roughly chop the olives and set aside.

Make the Vinaigrette and Assemble the Salad

  • For the lemon vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together four tablespoons of the olive oil, the fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and the finely-chopped parsley.
  • To assemble and finish: Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil over the base of your serving plate. Arrange the fennel and orange slices on the platter. Scatter the olives over the top, and spoon the vinaigrette over the oranges and fennel.
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh red pepper flakes and several delicate pieces of fennel fronds and serve.

Notes

A note on ingredients and substitutions:
  • Black olives can be used as a substitute for green, but are not preferred
  • My preference is to use a variety of oranges, if you can find them. Navel oranges alone will be fine, but a combination of navel, blood, and cara cara oranges will really make this pop.
  • Some orange and fennel salad recipes call for raw red onion. I find this flavor to be too harsh and overpowering against fennel's mild flavor. 
 
Storing and serving this salad:
This salad is best fresh at room temperature, but can be held in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 24 hours. For best flavor, do not serve the orange and fennel salad too chilled.
A note on brands and products used in this recipe:
You'll notice that I've linked to several trusted, recommended items in this recipe:
Each of these products I personally recommend and used for this recipe, without sponsorship of any kind. These are Amazon affiliate links, meaning I receive a small commission on these items (thanks for helping to keep the lights on!) should you purchase any of them. Please see Unpeeled's privacy policy for details.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Sodium: 197mg | Potassium: 344mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 407IU | Vitamin C: 58mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Nutrition information is provided for courtesy purposes only, and is an estimate not verified by medical or nutrition experts. Read the full nutrition disclaimer.

1 comment

  • 5 stars
    I really enjoyed this recipe. I always see fennel at the supermarket and never buy it because I’m not sure what to do with it. But I saw this recipe and decided to give it a try. We loved it! Easy to make, too.

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