Quick and refreshing orange fennel salad with creamy buffalo mozzarella and aromatic rainbow peppercorn scattered on top. Bright and cheerful plate of deliciousness ready to go.
Why You’ll Love Orange Fennel Salad
I’m a big fan of fennel. Crisp raw texture with hints of liquorice is divine in a salad. However, my family does not appreciate fennel as much as I do. So how do I encourage them to eat it? Match it with another ingredient they are familiar with.
Orange and fennel is a classic pairing. The citrus flavours of orange marries so well with the aniseed notes of fennel. Together with mild buffalo mozzarella and aromatic rainbow peppercorn, you get hits of sweet, peppery and creaminess all in one bite.
This Orange Fennel salad is an easy salad you can whip up in minutes. The simplicity helps to showcase the ingredients and let them shine. Plus, who doesn’t like to look a bright and cheerful plate of delicious food in front of them? The orange hues definitely made me smile.
Great addition as a side salad at your next barbeque as the citrus flavours help cuts through the rich and heavier oils. Alternatively, this fennel salad recipe will complement well with grilled fish to help lift the delicate sweetness.
I love it even more because for someone like my mum who doesn’t eat cheese to acknowledge that buffalo mozzarella is a delicious addition makes my heart sing.
How to Pair Fennel?
I love the aniseed flavours of fennel. It’s delicate but aromatic enough to power through a dish. Fennel is a highly versatile vegetable that can be used in so many different ways. You can eat it raw or cooked.
Raw fennel adds crunchy texture and punchy liquorice flavours. However, the flavour profile changes completely when you cook it. I love to grill fennel as it delivers a delicious soft sweetness. Both ways of eating fennel is so tasty.
What is a good match with fennel? The distinct anise aromas lend fennel to be a great partner with citrus fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime. Citrus helps to mellow the liquorice flavours and brings out the sweetness.
Along with citrus, fennel is a great match with fish. The gentle sweetness and fresh ocean flavours mingle well.
You can get more inspiration with our pairings with fennel.
Can You Eat Fennel Fronds?
Of course, you can!
The entire plant is edible from the seed, bulb to the fronds. It is such a waste not to take advantage of this delicate yet flavourful part of the fennel.
The flavour of the fennel fronds is very similar to the bulb. The licorice flavours come through with a slight sweet grassy flavour. You can use it like dill or parsley in certain dishes.
Plus, the wispy fronds look great when scattered on top!
How to Slice Fennel
You can use a sharp knife to slice fennel, but I find using a mandoline is the best way.
My knife skills are not as talented as some, so the slices become too thick when I use a knife. Plus, the bulb tends to fall apart, and I find it hard to control.
I prefer to thin wispy shaved slices of raw fennel in salad. For grilled fennel, chunky slices are fine.
How to Add Cheese in Salads
I often add cheese in salads. Depending on the variety, cheese in salads elevates the savoury flavours and adds an interesting layer of texture. Cheese in salads can also bulk up the volume without extra protein and transforms the salad into a main meal in itself.
So which cheese to add in salads? These few varieties are my go-to for cheese in salads.
Adds delicious salty flavours and crumbly textures that creates a rich savour to the salad. Try our Roasted Green Cauliflower with Feta Dressing.
Distinctive tangy and earthy flavours in a soft cheese that pairs well with many ingredients. Try our Cucumber and Tomato Salad.
Burrata / Stracciatella
Delicate and soft in texture, this cheese oozes a buttery consistency. Burrata is shaped liked a money bag which encases stracciatella. Try our Charred Truss Tomato Salad.
Mild creamy aroma, this semi-soft cheese adds delicious, delicate flavours. Can use large buffalo mozzarella or bite-sized bocconcini in salads. Try our Yellow Doll Watermelon Salad.
Firm cheese with sometimes a squeaky texture. Distinctly salty. Similar to other fresh milk cheeses like mozzarella, halloumi has a layered texture but saltier and firmer like feta. Try our Roasted Beetroot Salad.
Flavour/Texture: Even with cheese in the salad, this orange fennel salad is refreshing and the perfect palette cleanser. The buffalo mozzarella is very mild in flavour and carries the sweet juicy oranges and anise-flavoured thinly shaved fennel so well. The hint of crushed rainbow peppercorns accentuates the flavours and gives you a good hit of heat.
I love the combination of textures with crunchy fennel mixed with the soft white buffalo mozzarella cheese and juicy oranges rounds. Together in one bite is so delicious.
Ease: Easy peasy orange squeezy! Ha. There is no cooking involved. Anyone who doesn’t cook can make this orange fennel salad.
Time: Depending on how fast you can slice, this is a quick salad recipe. Easily whipped up in less than 15 minutes.
Orange: The two main varieties of oranges in Australia are navels and Valencias. As they grow during different times of the year, we get a great supply of sweet and juicy oranges all year round. For this recipe, I used navel oranges.
Fennel: This is a vegetable that can come in various sizes, from miniature to ones with bulbs bigger than the hand. Choose one that is not too big for this salad. Mine was similar to the size of my palm.
If you can’t find a smaller size fennel, save the other half for other fennel salad recipes. You can get some inspo with our pairings with fennel.
Buffalo Mozzarella: A creamy, semi-soft cheese made traditionally from milk from water buffaloes but now most commonly made from cow’s milk. Stored in its original whey, buffalo mozzarella is not aged and served fresh.
Extra virgin olive oil: For a sharper flavour, use a very good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Rainbow peppercorns: A colourful way to add aromatic flavours to a dish, rainbow peppercorns is a combination of different varieties of dried peppercorns, commonly black, white, green and pink. You can easily purchase this mix at supermarkets.
Salt: To taste
How to prepare the Salad
We will use two and a half oranges for slices and half an orange for juice.
Slice both ends of the orange and then hold the fruit on its base. Cutting a downward motion, remove all the peel.
Then turn the orange on its side and cut into 0.5 cm thick rounds. Place aside, ready for assembly.
With the remaining 3rd orange, cut in half. Save one half for juice and then peel the other half and also slice into 0.5cm rounds.
In this recipe, I tried the technique of placing shaved fennel into a bowl of ice water after cutting. I found by doing this, it kept the fennel crisp and crunchy for longer, even when it was dressed.
Prepare a bowl of ice water.
Trim the top of the fennel bulb. Keep the fronds for later.
Cut the fennel in half or quarters depending on size. Using a mandoline, thinly slice fennel. Then place shaved fennel into the bowl of ice water to keep its crispness.
After finish shaving fennel, remove from ice water and shake dry.
In a large mixing bowl, place shaved fennel and squeeze juice of half orange over the fennel. Add 1 tablespoon of extra olive oil into bowl and add a pinch of sea salt. Mix well, so shaved fennel is nicely coated. Let shaved fennel sit in juices until serving.
Slice buffalo mozzarella into 0.5cm rounds (or similar thickness to orange slices).
I used a mortar and pestle to ground my rainbow peppercorns, but you can use a pepper grinder as well.
Place 1 tablespoon of rainbow pepper into mortar and pestle and grind into a fine powder.
How To Assemble The Salad
Use a large platter and place orange and buffalo mozzarella slices alternately, so they are slightly overlapping.
Take shaved fennel fronds from orange juice and extra virgin olive oil mixture and scatter on top.
Sprinkle ground rainbow pepper and sea salt all over the salad.
Drizzle remaining extra virgin olive oil to serve.
Variations and Substitutions
Buffalo mozzarella substitution: If you can’t find large buffalo mozzarella, you can substitute for baby bocconcini. No need to slice; just pull apart and scatter in between orange slices.
Citrus replacement: Oranges are the more common citrus fruit to pair with fennel, but you can also use other citrus fruits that might be in season at the time. For colour and deeper flavours, try mixing navel oranges with blood oranges. For a slightly more tart element, add ruby grapefruit.
What if I can’t find rainbow peppercorns: If you don’t have rainbow pepper in the pantry, you can substitute it for cracked black pepper. Adjust the amount depending on your taste. Black pepper will be more pungent.
Great Mains for This Salad
Salmon in Roasted Pepper Sauce: Make this absolutely scrumptious meal, worthy of a special occasion. This recipe is an easy one-pan dinner in just 20 minutes and perfectly paired with an orange fennel salad to finish.
Rosemary Pork Tenderloin: This recipe pairs perfectly with this orange and fennel salad. Not only do the flavours of rosemary and fennel compliment each other, but the vitamin C from the oranges will help optimize absorption of iron from the pork tenderloin. Even kids will eat it up!
Slow Cooker Whole Chicken: This recipe gives you flavourful and juicy rotisserie chicken with minimal prep and a few pantry staples. Great for meal prep, easy lunches and suppers served alongside a no-cook, no fuss orange fennel salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can easily transport this salad with all components sliced. Assemble when ready to serve.
You can prepare ahead of time, but I prefer not to assemble until ready to serve. It doesn’t take long to prepare, so you can do it while waiting for other dishes to cook.
Peak growing season for fennel is autumn/fall and winter. You will find the larger bulbs during this time. Some growers will have a small patch for spring/summer as well. I find the bulbs tend to be smaller at this time.
Choose fennel bulbs that have fresh-looking greens on long stems. The bulb should be bright white with no or little brown spots.
If you do have a larger bulb of fennel and can’t use all of it in this recipe, you can store it in the fridge and use it later in a different recipe. Remove any wilted or browning layers.
For any leftover fennel, I would typically cut into wedges or thick slices and grill until gently charred. Top with feta and served on a piece of warm toast. Or you can also try our Charred Fennel Salad.
Rainbow peppercorns is a mix of dried black, white, green and pink berries. Each peppercorn brings a slightly different flavour and heat.
White, black and green peppercorns are from the same plant but processed differently.
Dried black peppercorn, the most common variety, has the strongest flavour and is used in everyday seasoning.
Green peppercorns are under-ripe black peppercorns that are generally soaked in brine, but you can find dried as well. Green peppercorns have a sharper spiciness to the flavour.
When you remove the skins of black peppercorns, they become white peppercorns. I find white peppercorns to have a mild tone but still gives a lot of heat.
And then finally, there is pink peppercorn which is actually not even a peppercorn! Just like Sichuan peppercorns, pink is a berry and is from the cashew family. It is not as hot as the other peppercorns but has a fragrant, floral aroma. And its wonderful colour definitely adds to the visual effects.
This is everything that you want in a refreshing Orange Fennel Salad. The ingredient combination will help lift the taste buds and cleanse the palette. Simple and quick to make, this bright salad will make you happy for sure.
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Orange Fennel Salad
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- Peel 2 oranges and slice into 0.5cm rounds. With the remaining 3rd orange, cut in half. Save one half for juice and then peel the other half and also slice into 0.5cm rounds.
- Prepare a bowl of ice water.
- Trim the top of the fennel bulb. Keep the fronds for later. Cut the fennel in half or quarters depending on size. Using a mandoline, thinly slice fennel. Place shaved fennel into a bowl of ice water to keep the crispness. After finish shaving fennel, remove from ice water and shake dry.
- Place shaved fennel into a mixing bowl and squeeze the juice of half orange over fennel. Add 1 tablespoon of extra olive oil into bowl and add a pinch of sea salt. Mix well, so fennel are nicely coated. Let shaved fennel sit in juices until serving.
- Slice buffalo mozzarella into 0.5cm rounds (or similar thickness to orange slices)
- Place 1 tablespoon of rainbow pepper into mortar and pestle and grind into a fine powder.
- Layer a large platter with orange and buffalo mozzarella slices alternately so they are slightly overlapping.
- Take shaved fennel fronds from orange juice and extra virgin olive oil mixture and scatter on top.
- Sprinkle crushed rainbow pepper and sea salt all over the salad.
- Drizzle extra virgin olive oil to serve.
- If you can’t find large buffalo mozzarella, you can substitute for baby bocconcini. No need to slice; pull apart and scatter in between orange slices.
- Rainbow pepper can be substituted with cracked black pepper.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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