caramelized fennel, herbed polenta

Caramelized Fennel & Herbed Polenta with Mushrooms

If you haven’t ever caramelized (or candied!) fennel, your whole world is about to change. The utterly delightful aroma that fills the air as the fennel slices are browning at a slow and sultry sizzle in the pan is better than the smell of bacon cooking.

I personally don’t enjoy the smell of bacon cooking. There’s something about it that lingers in my nose and coats the walls in the house that makes me feel a little unclean. No joke. There’s also something about it that makes people flock to the kitchen, but if you’re open to the idea of there being a better smell than bacon, this is probably it.

caramelized fennel, herbed polenta

This recipe is inspired by Sarah Britton’s recipe from her cookbook My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season. I started following the My New Roots blog probably over a decade ago, back when I would spend hours perusing the internet for vegan and vegetarian food blogs and recipes. Literally hours. Sarah’s blog is full of amazing and super simple recipes, as well as beautiful photos and insightful information on health and nutrition. She’s written two cookbooks and also started hosting wellness retreats not too long ago. I highly recommending checking My New Roots out if you haven’t already. It’s been so incredibly inspiring to witness someone’s growth and evolution over the years, while holding steady to a purpose and passion for whole foods and wellness.

caramelized fennel, herbed polenta
caramelized fennel, herbed polenta

food as medicine

I type up these charts with every recipe I post and even after all my studies in whole food nutrition, I’m still a little shocked to see just how many foods, in their natural state, have incredible antioxidant capacities. I feel like a broken record every time I say this, but it’s the gosh darn truth that warrants repetition: food is medicine. The more we see it as such, the more effectively we can shift our food and farming culture from SAD to legitimately nourishing and life-giving. Imagine that.

This recipe, while light and simple, is still heavy on the nutrition. It’s quick to make, abundantly flavorful, and easy to customize according to your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand. Add as many roasted veggies as you like! You can also pack an extra punch of nutritional and medicinal benefits in by using a homemade veggie or bone broth.

Fennelexcellent source of vitamin C, molybdenum,
dietary fiber, potassium,
copper, & folate;
good source of calcium,
iron, & niacin
Think digestive health!

anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic,
expectorant, galactagogue,
nervine, tonic
Polenta (Corn grits)rich in B vitamins,
selenium, manganese,
copper, magnesium,
phosphorus, iron, zinc,
& fiber

**nutrient content
varies with processing
Mushroomsvaries with variety
& sourcing

high in B vitamins,
selenium, copper,
potassium, fiber
antioxidant, immune stimulating,
some varieties show
anticancer properties
Capersvitamin K, copper,
iron, vitamin C,
folate, magnesium
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, diuretic,
heart healthy
Fresh green herbsvaries widely, but all
are high in vitamins &
minerals, such as
vitamins C & K
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
caramelized fennel, herbed polenta

caramelized fennel & herbed polenta with mushrooms

Recipe by Botany CultureCourse: Main, SideDifficulty: Easy


Cooking time



The smell of caramelized fennel will fill your kitchen with the dreamiest smell. This recipe, inspired by Sarah Britton’s cookbook My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season, is a super quick meal to throw together, and if time is of extra importance to you, prep the vegetables first so that you can caramelize the fennel while the polenta cooks.


  • 3-5 cups vegetable broth

  • 1 cup polenta (or corn grits)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (I used dill & parsley. Chives would be lovely too!)

  • 2 large bulbs of fennel

  • 2 tablespoons fennel seed

  • 1 tablespoon capers

  • 5 oz. (~1 heaping cup) mushrooms (I used shimeji, but cremini, portobello, enoki, or any other will do.)

  • olive oil

  • sea salt

  • green onions, sliced and/or fennel leaf (for garnish)


  • making the polenta
  • In a sauce pan, bring 3 cups of the vegetable broth to a simmer, then pour in the polenta (or corn grits). Use a whisk to break up any clumps that might form initially. Add a few pinches of salt and continue to stir for a couple minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-40 minutes or until the polenta is no longer gritty, but smooth and creamy. Whisk in more veggie broth if the polenta becomes too thick. While the polenta is cooking, caramelize & sauté the mushrooms.
  • Once the polenta is near done, stir in the fresh chopped herbs.
  • prep the vegetables
  • To prepare the fennel, cut off any stalks that might be remaining on the bulb, then slice the bulb in half. If the outer layer of the bulb looks rough and tough, you may want to remove this as well. Once the bulb is in half, slice into ~1/4″ wedges. Set aside.
  • If you are using large mushrooms, you can also slice or chop them into smaller pieces at this time. Set aside.
  • caramelizing the fennel wedges
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add just enough olive oil to the pan to coat the bottom.
  • Once heated, arrange the fennel in a single layer in the heated pan and sprinkle with a little salt. (Work in batches if needed.) Do not move the fennel slices until they’ve caramelized on one side. This usually take 5-7 minutes. Adjust your heat if they are cooking too fast and start to burn. The key to caramelizing is low and slow! Once caramelized on one side, flip and repeat the process on the other side.
  • On your last batch, in the last minute or two of caramelizing, add the fennel seeds to the pan to toast until extra fragrant. Be careful not to burn. Set caramelized fennel and fennel seeds aside.
  • To the same pan, add in the mushrooms and capers and sauté until cooked thoroughly, usually 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • to assemble
  • Use a ladle or spoon to add a little of the herbed polenta to your plate or bowl. Top with caramelized fennel, mushrooms, and capers. Add sliced green onions and a few sprigs of fresh fennel leaf. Enjoy all the deliciousness you just created!
Find Organic Herbs & Spices at Mountain Rose Herbs

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *