Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad is refreshing and simple to make. Combine juicy oranges with crunchy, subtly licoricey fennel to make an absolute showstopper of a salad. This salad is as much a feast for your eyes as it is for your taste buds.
Just like me this salad has its roots in Sicily. This beautiful island is just covered with orange trees. And there is no shortage of fennel either. So, it is no surprise that the locals found a way to integrate them into all aspects of their cuisine. This salad is one of the simplest ways they make use of these ingredients.
Fennel and orange salad started as a poor man’s dish. They used a fruit that was readily available in a manner that did not require cooking, so it was easy to prepare. These days the salad is often served at the beginning or the end of a special meal.
Benefits of Fennel
If you are not familiar with fennel, it is definitely a vegetable that you will want to become acquainted with. It is a root vegetable in the same family as celery and carrots. Fennel is slightly sweet, although it contains no sugar, and it has a light licorice flavor.
There are many health benefits of eating fennel. It’s high in nutrients, low in calories and has been known to aid in digestion. In Italy it is often eaten raw at the end of a heavy meal.
This salad requires only a few ingredients:
Oranges: A combination of Navel, Mineola Tangelo and Cara Cara oranges provide both sweet and tart flavors.
Fennel: Half of a fennel bulb, which has been washed and thinly sliced.
Red Onion: ¼ of an onion thinly sliced. You can use any onion you have on hand, but the red onion not only provides a savory flavor, but it also adds a beautiful pop of color.
For the dressing:
Lemon: The citrusy flavor and acid from the lemon bring a brightness to the dressing.
Honey: This will add natural sweetness to compliment the lemon.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Make sure to use extra virgin olive oil. The flavor is more robust than regular olive oil that you might cook with.
Salt and Pepper to taste.
How to prepare the fennel and oranges for the salad
Slicing the fennel: Start by washing the fennel bulb, then cut off the stems and the end of the bulb. Remove any outer stalks that are dry or have brown marks. Cut the bulb in quarters lengthwise. Work with one section at a time. Place the flat side down on the cutting board and cut the fennel in 1/8”
slices. You can also use a mandolin to slice the fennel as well.
Cutting the Oranges: Use a paring knife to get the best results. Cut the ends off the orange, then place the orange flat side down on a cutting board and starting at the top of the orange, cut the peel off working your way around the orange. You want to run the knife as close to the outer edge of the flesh of the orange so that you cut off the white pith without wasting too much of the orange.
To cut the oranges into pinwheels lay the orange on its side and cut it into ¼” to ½” slices.
Variations of this salad
Traditionally this salad is made with oranges or lemons, fennel and onion and tossed in a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing. You may find different variations of fennel and orange salad in different areas of Sicily. Sometimes, toasted pine nuts, olives or cracked black pepper are added as well.
Another alternative is to serve this salad over a bed of fresh arugula or baby spinach. You can also make this a beautiful holiday salad with the addition of pomegranate arils. It can be a delicious lunch or dinner entrée by adding a protein such as shrimp, salmon, or chicken.
This is a beautiful salad that would make a refreshing starter to any special meal. It pairs well with poultry, fish, pork or beef.
Yes! I would recommend preparing the oranges, fennel and onion and storing them separately in zip lock bags or in airtight containers in the refrigerator. You can do this a day in advance and then combine them when you are ready to serve the salad. I would not do this more than a day in advance because the fennel may start to brown.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for several days even with the salad dressing on it. But for best results, you may want to dress individual servings of the salad so that your leftovers are not sitting in dressing. The leftover salad will be crisper this way.
Looking for some dishes that will pair well with this beautiful salad? Try one of these:
Would you like a few more salads to try?
Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad
- 1 Navel Orange peeled, pith removed and sliced
- 1 Cara Cara Orange peeled, pith removed and sliced
- 1 Mineola Tangelo peeled, pith removed and sliced
- ½ Fennel Bulb large, stems removed, thinnly sliced, reserve fronds for decorating if desired
- ¼ Red Onion sliced thin
Lemon and Honey Dressing
- ⅓ cup Olive Oil Extra Virgin
- 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 2 tbsp Honey
- 2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Make the Salad Dressing
- Combine the lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar and olive oil in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined.
- Assemble the salad
- Place the oranges, fennel and onion in a large bowl. Toss together and drizzle with the salad dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste.