Believe it or not, the already sweet anise or licorice-like flavor of fennel makes it a common ingredient in desserts. These easy DIY recipes for both candied fennel bulb and candied fennel seeds will give you a whole new perspective on the oftentimes perplexing vegetable that is fennel.
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I have to admit, I’m not usually a fan of candying vegetables. Or anything, really. I have a slight mental aversion to sugar, but only because it’s just so darn delicious and I stubbornly don’t like to admit its power over me. It’s a classic and cliché love-hate relationship that I explain/publicly declare in this post. Are there other bakers out there that can relate?
The Health Benefits of Fennel
Fennel is an incredibly nutritious plant all around. While the bulb and seeds contain relatively the same nutrients, the bulb is much higher in vitamin C, a vitamin with potent antioxidant properties that is critical to immune health.
However, the seeds are much higher in manganese, a mineral vital to bone development and blood sugar regulation amongst other things. This slight difference in nutrient composition, between the seeds and the bulb, really speaks to the synergism of whole plant and whole food nourishment.
All parts of the fennel plant are rich in antioxidants and other organic compounds that contribute significantly to its health benefits.
Anethole, for example, is an organic compound found in the essential oil of fennel that is not only responsible for its characteristic anise-like smell, but has also been found by many preliminary studies to have anticancer, antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
This is a plant you want on your plate. Real food truly is unparalleled medicine.
The Medicinal Properties of Fennel
As a medicine, fennel is a superstar when it comes to digestive health. It’s commonly used as:
- Antispasmodic (can help to relax muscles and prevent muscle spasms)
- Carminative (can help to ease and sooth the digestive processes)
- Demulcent (forms a protective film to help relieve irritation and inflammation)
- Expectorant (can help to loosen mucus for a more productive cough)
- Galactagogue (can help to promote lactation)
- Nervine (helps to nourish and support the central nervous system)
Want to learn more about the food and medicine of fennel?!
Check out this post: The Benefits & Uses of Fennel
Lovin’ on Fennel? You’ll Love These Recipes Too!
- Fennel, Orange Blossom, & Almond Tea Cookies (vegan)
- Saffron & Garlic Braised Fennel Bulb (vegan & gluten-free)
- Caramelized Fennel & Herbed Polenta with Mushrooms (vegan & gluten-free)
- Fennel, Earl Grey, & Grapefruit Mocktail Spritzer
How to Make Candied Fennel Seeds
Making candied fennel seeds might be the easiest thing on the planet. If you can cook rice, you’re way ahead of the game. It’s as easy as making a simple syrup, stirring in the seeds, and watching them crystallize into little crunchy sprinkles right before your eyes.
You may have come across candied fennel seeds at Indian or Pakistani restaurants or food markets. They are often brightly colored, sometimes a rainbow of white, pink, orange, and yellow, and are meant to be eaten after your meal as a breath freshener or digestive stimulant.
They oftentimes also include unnatural food dyes to get these bright and enticing colors. If you try to avoid artificial dyes in your diet, making your own candied fennel seeds is, like I said, easier than cooking rice.
- Small Saucepan
- Heat-Resistant Rubber Spatula or Wooden Spoon
- Granulated Cane Sugar (I do not recommend using any other sweetener.)
- Fennel Seeds (You can purchase high-quality, organic seeds HERE.)
- Make a simple syrup: Bring water and granulated cane sugar to a boil.
- Stir in fennel seeds: You have to work kind of quickly here. Use a heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon to continually stir the fennel seeds around in the bubbling simple syrup. They will clump together at first. But as the sugar crystallizes, the fennel seeds will start to separate.
- Cool thoroughly: As soon as the seeds are crystallized, pour them out onto a plate, separating them as much as possible. Allow the candied fennel seeds to cool completely.
- Store properly: Once the seeds are cooled completely, store them in an air-tight container in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight. I love THESE glass spice bottles with cork tops; they look so pretty on the dining table.
How to Used Candied Fennel Seeds
My favorite uses for these candied fennel seeds are sprinkled over some vegan vanilla ice cream or in a hearty fresh veggie salad. It’s an unbelievable pop of flavor in your mouth.
But when there is no ice cream, these seeds live in a small spice jar on the dinner table to enjoy with or after a meal. If you’re prone to digestive upset, consider chewing on some homemade candied fennel seeds after you eat.
And if you don’t care to candy them, they’re pretty enjoyable just as they are.
For more plant magic and herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my herbal eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts and Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery, or subscribe to the Botany Culture newsletter. If you make this recipe, don’t forget to tag @_botanyculture_ on Instagram and hashtag it #botanyculture. I’d love to see all the plant magic you make happen!
How to Make Candied Fennel Bulb
Regardless of my rocky relationship with sugar, I think candied fennel is my new favorite dessert vegetable!
I left the fennel bulb slices soft. It was more like making a fennel-infused simple syrup, not a chewy candy. But you can also cook it down further until the syrup thickens, then let the slices dry overnight in a single layer on parchment paper if you want.
You could even use a dehydrator, and then take it a fancy step further and coat your dried slices in extra fine granulated sugar. These would make great cake decorations.
You can also reserve the left over syrup for drizzling over oatmeal or ice cream, or stirring into soda water for a DIY spritzer.
The syrup will contain all the medicinal benefits of fennel, as it’s essentially a super sweet fennel tea.
If you struggle with digestion and experience bloating, gas, painful stomach cramps, or any other symptoms of poor and sluggish digestion, fennel tea might be an effective remedy for you. Try taking a spoonful of this fennel-infused syrup after you eat.
- Small Saucepan
- Parchment Paper
- Sheet Pan
- Fennel Bulb
- Fennel Seeds (optional, but add extra fennel flavor)
- Granulated Cane Sugar (I do not recommend any substitutes.)
- Slice the fennel bulb: First, you’ll cut the fennel bulb in half and then slice into 1/4″ slices, cutting through the core so that each slice holds together (as pictured below).
- Make a simple syrup: Add water, sugar, and if using, the fennel seeds, to a small sauce pan and bring to a slow boil. Stir frequently until sugar is entirely dissolved.
- Add in sliced fennel bulb: Add your slices of fennel bulb to the simple syrup and simmer until slices become soft and translucent.
- Drain the fennel bulb: Use a fork or slotted spoon to carefully remove the fennel from the syrup. Shake off as much of the liquid as possible and transfer to a piece of parchment paper to dry.
Save the syrup! You can save the syrup leftover from making the candied fennel slices. It’ll keep in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for a week or so. Take it by the spoonful before or after a meal to help with digestion, use it to make cocktails and mocktails. Or drizzle it over oatmeal or ice cream.
- Optional – Toss the fennel slices in sugar: After fennel slices are mostly dry, but somewhat still sticky, you can sprinkle them with or toss them with a fork in some finely granulated cane sugar. This gives the slices an extra fancy touch.
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DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.