Ina Garten's Tip For Cooking With Fennel Seeds

Did you know fennel seeds are a spice? That's right, according to Web MD, fennel is harvested from several varieties of the fennel plant. The seeds have a strong, perfumy, robust flavor similar to anise or licorice (via Thrive Cuisine). When dried, fennel seeds are chewy and tough but can be softened through cooking, releasing the aromatic oils and flavor.

Fennel seeds are used medicinally worldwide to treat ailments associated with intestinal discomfort and menstrual cramps (via Web MD). Fennel is a high-fiber food that satisfies hunger longer, and this may help stave cravings and reduce calorie intake, resulting in weight loss (via Healthify Me). According to BBC Good Food, fennel may also help maintain a healthy heart, support healthy skin, reduce inflammation, and improve anemia.

Fennel is highly nutritious and an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and manganese (via Healthline). With so many nutrients, it's no wonder Ina Garten has a handy tip for cooking with fennel seeds.

Chop the fennel seeds

Rather than use a mortar and pestle, Ina Garten prefers to chop her fennel seeds. In a Food Network YouTube video, she says that chopping them yourself is better because it releases oil from the seeds. The Barefoot Contessa roughly chops the fennel with a knife. She explains that as the fennel cooks, it softens, releasing all of the delicious flavors. Garten says that ground fennel loses its flavor, another reason she prefers chopping whole fennel seeds for her Penne Arrabiata recipe.

Fennel seed incorporates well into various recipes that require the spice. The New York Times lists recipes ranging from pork and fennel sausage rolls to melon and avocado salad with fennel and chili. Love and Lemons explain that fennel caramelizes as it cooks, transitioning to a sweet and tender textural flavor; raw fennel is crisp, with a fresh celery-like, licorice root flavor. Next time your recipe calls for fennel, skip the mortar and pestle and chop the seeds instead.