Swap Caramelized Onions For Roasted Fennel To Brighten Up Your Meals

Carmelized onions are one of the reigning champs of toppings. Whether you use them to add an extra savory layer to burgers, a complexity to soups and stews, or a sweet note to juicy steaks, they're a fan-favorite for many dishes. But if you've had your fill of onions and are looking for a more creative alternative, then grab a stalk of fennel during your next grocery trip.

If you've ever had raw fennel in a citrus salad or a cabbage slaw, you might be confused by this suggestion. It has a distinctive black licorice flavor that, raw, doesn't typically lend itself to meat dishes. But it completely changes flavor profiles when it's roasted or baked, carmelizes, becoming more mellow and sweet, creating a subtle nutty taste. 

When roasted, fennel becomes tender on the outside while maintaining a slight crunch in the center. The oven's heat helps release the natural sugars in the vegetable, resulting in a sweet and savory flavor profile.

What to use roasted fennel in

Roasted fennel can be used in any dish that calls for caramelized onions, but it's primarily used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Roasted fennel pairs beautifully with roasted meats and poultry. Use it as a side dish alongside roasted chicken, pork tenderloin, or lamb. The sweetness and subtle anise flavor of the vegetable complements the savory flavors of the meat.

It's also excellent in pasta or grain dishes. Toss roasted fennel with cooked pasta, or incorporate it into grain-based dishes like risotto, quinoa, or couscous. It'll add a bright flavor to these everyday go-to dishes.

If you're feeling especially wild, you can also use it as a topping for flatbreads or pizzas. Pair it with ingredients like goat cheese or prosciutto for a delicious and aromatic combination. But the best thing to use fennel with is seafood, particularly with grilled or roasted fish like salmon or sea bass. Its mild flavor complements the delicate seafood dishes, making for an especially memorable bite.