Roasted fennel is a delicious side dish that’s a little crispy and beautifully tender all at once. It’s coated in flavorful vegan parmesan cheese. Serve with pasta or other Italian-style dishes. Vegan and gluten-free.
Have you ever tried fennel?
Because of its color, texture, and the way it falls apart in slices, fennel is somewhat reminiscent of onions. However, this layered, bulbous vegetable is a member of the the carrot and celery family.
Fennel has a licorice or anise flavor. It can be enjoyed raw, added to soups and stews, or sauteed. It can also be roasted, which is my favorite preparation.
When roasted, fennel becomes beautifully buttery and tender. The licorice quality becomes less pronounced, and the other seasonings become more prominent. Plus, with vegan parmesan sprinkled on top, it gains some extra texture.
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Roasted fennel recipe inspiration
This summer I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture). When you join a CSA, you pay a few hundred dollars to a farmer in the spring while they’re preparing and planting their crops. Then as the crops ripen, you get a share of the bounty.
Because you’re eating whatever is in season, the vegetables are incredibly delicious and full flavored. It’s a great excuse to make vegetables the star of every meal, because you know that the next week, you’ll be getting another big bag of produce. You’ve got to work through all of it, so that nothing goes to waste.
It also means you’re eating whatever is ripe that week, which can force you to break out of your usual dietary habits.
For a while this summer, we had week after week of fresh fennel. We’d get several bulbs in a week’s haul. Before joining the CSA, I could easily go a whole year without eating fennel. So having to find new things to do with it really forced me out of my routine.
I fell in love with fresh fennel. And now that the CSA is done, I’m still buying it!
Over the course of the CSA growing season, I used fennel several different ways. But this roasted fennel was easily my favorite. I kept coming back to it again and again.
Plus, roasted fennel reheats beautifully in the air fryer. So even if you don’t finish it all the first night, you can easily finish it off later.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
Fennel bulb: Look for a fennel bulb that’s bright whitish green with no browning. You’re going to get the freshest fennel when you buy it with the stalks and frilly fronds still attached. However, depending on where you buy it, the bulb may have already had its stalks removed.
Ideally, the freshest fennel is best. However, if you can only find it sold by the bulb, that’s okay. Other than optional garnish, you don’t need the fronds for this recipe.
Avocado oil: This is my preferred oil, but you can use any neutral-flavored cooking oil you like.
Salt: A pinch of salt makes the flavors pop.
Vegan parmesan cheese: I recommend making your own vegan parmesan cheese. My recipe includes raw cashews, hemp hearts, nutritional yeast flakes for cheesiness, herbs, and other seasonings.
However, if you’d prefer, store-bought vegan parmesan will also work. Be sure to buy the kind that has a grainy texture (like a vegan version of the parmesan you’d see sitting on tables at a pizza place), not the freshly grated variety.
Tip: If you’re using store-bought vegan parmesan, consider sprinkling on some dried basil, dried oregano, granulated onion, and granulated garlic for extra flavor.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Start by cutting off the root end of the fennel bulb, as well as the celery-like top with fronds.
(Set the fronds aside & finely chop some of them for garnish, if you like.)
Stand the fennel bulb on its end, and cut it into thin slices. Aim for ⅛ to ¼ inch in width.
Put the fennel slices onto a non-stick rimmed baking sheet. (If your baking sheet isn’t non-stick, line it with parchment paper first.)
Toss the fennel slices with avocado oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Roast the slices in the oven until browned on one side.
Once the fennel has browned on one side, flip the slices, and add a generous sprinkling of vegan parmesan cheese.
Then roast for another 5 minutes until fork-tender and browned.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate or platter.
If you like, garnish the roasted fennel with another sprinkling of vegan parmesan cheese and chopped fennel fronds for color.
Tips for perfectly roasted fennel
Don’t roast the stalks. You may feel tempted to roast the stalks as well, but I recommend against it. They are tough and fibrous, making them unpleasant to chew. If you like, you can save them for making homemade vegetable stock.
You can use the fennel fronds as an herb. Finely minced fronds can be used as a flavorful garnish on roasted fennel bulbs, soups, salads, and pasta. I’ve even added it to hummus. (It’s a strong flavor, though. So don’t go overboard!)
This recipe is easy to double. If you’d like to make enough for four people, simply roast another bulb in the oven. Be sure to use a second baking sheet, rather than overcrowding one. Fennel that’s crammed together will steam instead of roast.
For best roasting, dry the fennel bulb. Make sure your fennel is completely dry by rubbing it with a clean kitchen towel. Damp veggies don’t brown well. They are more likely to steam instead.
Cooking times may vary. Depending on the size of fennel bulb, as well as how dry or fresh it is, it may cook more quickly or slowly. Very fresh fennel has more water inside, which can make it take a little longer to roast. While older fennel is often more dried out, and will roast more quickly because it’s already on the dry side.
Older fennel may need more oil. Older fennel that is browning around the outside may also need a little more oil, or else it will get tough or leathery to chew. I recommend peeling or paring off any brown parts.
Leftover roasted fennel will soften in the fridge. If you notice too late that your roasted fennel is dry, store it in the refrigerator overnight. It will soften in the fridge. Then reheat in the air fryer or microwave.
The flavor of fennel is often associated with sausage. (Fennel seed is a regular addition to prepared sausage and pepperoni.)
So serve this roasted fennel anywhere that you think sausage would fit. I especially like it alongside a big bowl of pasta with marinara, as shown below. You can also use it as a pizza topping.
Or you can use roasted fennel as a side dish for any of these main courses:
Store leftovers in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for about 4 days.
Reheat in the microwave until warm, or use the air fryer (my preferred method).
How to reheat leftover roasted fennel in the air fryer: Put leftover fennel in an oven-safe dish. Then air fry at 370 degrees until warmed throughout and crispy on top.
(The timing will vary, depending on how much fennel you have leftover. I usually start checking on it after 4 minutes or so.)
Roasted fennel with vegan parmesan
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 Tablespoon avocado oil plus more if needed
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons vegan parmesan cheese
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 410 degrees. If you like, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. (If your baking sheet is very non-stick, you can skip this step.)
- Cut the root end off the bottom of the fennel bulb. Then cut off the top with fronds. (If you like, reserve and finely chop some of the fronds to use as garnish.) Stand the fennel bulb on its end, and cut it into thin slices, about ⅛ to ¼ inches thick.
- Put the sliced fennel on the baking sheet. Toss with avocado oil and make sure all of the slices are evenly coated. (Add more oil, if necessary.)
- Spread the fennel slices across the baking sheet, being careful not to overcrowd. (If it's overcrowded, the fennel will steam instead of roast. If necessary, use a second baking sheet.) Sprinkle the fennel with salt.
- Put the baking sheet in the oven, and roast the fennel for 13 to 15 minutes, until browned on one side.
- Once the fennel has browned on one side, flip the slices over, and generously cover each slice with vegan parmesan cheese. (You'll need 2 to 3 Tablespoons in total, depending on the size of the bulb.) Put the fennel bake in the oven and bake 5 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and transfer the roasted fennel to a serving plate. If you like, add a few more dashes of vegan parmesan cheese and garnish with reserved chopped fennel fronds before serving.