Add Fennel To Tuna Salad For A Uniquely Flavorful Crunch

Is your go-to tuna salad feeling a little frumpy? Gussy it up with a scattering of fresh fennel to give it extra body and lend it a uniquely flavorful crunch.

Traditionally, chopped celery is the classic veggie of choice that lends tuna salad its characteristic crunch, along with other add-ins like flavor-packed pickles and onions. However, celery stalks can be annoyingly stringy and their succulent flesh can occasionally taste overly bitter, or even be a bit flavorless, and worst of all, become limp when forgotten in the recesses of the fridge. Instead, choose the refreshing and bright anise flavor of fresh fennel (courtesy of an aromatic compound called anethole that's also found in star anise, peppermints, and lemon balms). It's a fantastic alternative, or even supplement, to celery that gives tuna salad a crunchy little attitude that really sings.

Frying, braising, or baking fennel dampens down its natural licorice-like flavor, which is ideal if you prefer a mellower, sweeter-tasting vegetable. However, eating fennel in its raw state guarantees that its anise undertones and all that refreshing crunch get top billing. It also ensures that the nutritional benefits of this super veg are retained. Naturally high in fiber, fennel is believed to support collagen production and help maintain a healthy heart as well as boost breast milk production, according to BBC Good Food, making it a superb addition to post-partum meals. 

Fennel fronds are packed with flavor

Adding fennel to your tuna salad is as easy as chopping it into chunks, and stirring it through your mayo dressing. You could even slice it thinly using a mandoline for a fancier finish and finer texture that looks impressively professional. 

If you're lucky enough to find fresh fennel that still has its feathery green fronds intact, don't discard them. You can chop them up and add them to your tuna salad too, much like you'd use fresh carrot tops or soft herbs as an appetizing garnish. Aromatic and uber-pretty, these delicate fennel fronds lend tuna salad an extra pop of vibrant color and a new depth of aniseedy flavor. Any leftovers can be used to make pesto, added to pasta sauces, or tossed into a pan of simmering chicken stock to impart a mild aniseed note to your favorite dishes. The combination of the crunchy fennel and the softly-textured fronds adds interest to your standard tuna salad, which should be the perfect consistency for scooping up with crackers, dolloping on toasted sourdough, or spreading on bread for a hearty sandwich.

So, the next time you run out of celery for your tuna salad, or simply want to change up your regular recipe, substitute it with a handful of chopped fennel. It's a simple swap that breathes new life into a classic dish, lending it heaps of flavor and a mellow aroma.