Whipped up in less than 15 minutes, this quick and refreshing orange fennel salad with creamy buffalo mozzarella and aromatic rainbow peppercorn is perfection! No fuss, no cooking and just 5 ingredients, we adore this cheerful side salad recipe.
- Why You’ll Love Orange Fennel Salad
- How To Cook Fennel?
- What Flavours Match With Fennel?
- Can You Eat Fennel Fronds?
- How to Slice Fennel
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
- Great Mains for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love Orange Fennel Salad
I’m a big fan of fennel. The crisp raw texture of fennel with hints of liquorice is divine in a salad.
However, I know not everyone loves it as the aniseed taste of fennel can deter. So how do you encourage them to try fennel? Match it with another popular ingredient they are familiar with.
Orange and fennel is a classic ingredient pairing. The citrus flavours of orange marry 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 with this fennel salad recipe.
No fuss, no cooking, this Orange Fennel salad is an easy salad you can whip up in less than 15 minutes. And with only 5 ingredients, the simplicity helps to showcase the ingredients and let them shine.
Plus, who doesn’t like to look at a bright and cheerful plate of delicious food in front of them? The orange hues really make me smile.
I adore fennel and orange salad as a side salad at a barbeque or roast chicken dinner as the sweet citrus flavours help cut through the rich and heavy oils. Alternatively, this fennel salad recipe will complement grilled fish to help lift the delicate sweetness.
How To Cook 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. I love to use raw shaved fennel in a salad, just like this orange and fennel recipe or our zucchini and grapefruit salad.
When you cook fennel, the flavour profile changes completely. My favourite way to cook fennel is to grill it as it delivers an unexpecting sweetness, just like our Charred Fennel and Bresaola salad. You can also saute shaved fennel or cut into wedges and roast in oven.
I like both cooked and raw fennel in recipes.
What Flavours Match With Fennel?
The distinct anise aromas lend fennel a great partner with citrus fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit and lime. The orange in this fennel salad helps to mellow the liquorice flavours and brings out the sweetness.
Along with citrus, fennel is also a great match with fish. The gentle sweetness and fresh ocean flavours mingle well.
We love to mix and match flavours with fennel.
Can You Eat Fennel Fronds?
Of course, you can!
Fennel is one of those vegetables you can eat the entire plant – from the seed and 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.
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.
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 orange 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 fennel side dish.
Time: This is a quick salad recipe depending on how fast you can slice. Easily whip up in less than 15 minutes.
Ingredients you’ll need to make Orange Fennel Salad:
Orange: Choose your favourite variety of oranges for this recipe. Make sure your oranges are firm and heavy for their size. Avoid any oranges that feel spongy or have soft spots on them.
Fennel: This is a vegetable that can come in various sizes, from miniature to ones with bulbs bigger than the hand. Choose one about the size of your palm for this salad recipe.
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 is served fresh. Popular on pizzas and we love to add to salads as well.
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.
Extra virgin olive oil: For a sharper flavour, use a very good quality extra virgin olive oil.
Variations and Substitutions
Buffalo mozzarella substitution: If you can’t find large buffalo mozzarella, you can substitute it for baby bocconcini like in our Bocconcini salad recipe. There is no need to slice; just pull apart and scatter 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 or cara cara oranges. For a slightly more tart element, use ruby grapefruit.
Substitute 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.
Step by step instructions for how to make Orange Fennel Salad:
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 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, peel the other half, and slice into 0.5 cm 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 mandolin, thinly slice fennel. Then place shaved fennel into the bowl of ice water to keep its crispness.
After finishing shaving fennel, remove from ice water and shake dry.
In a large mixing bowl, place shaved fennel and squeeze the juice of half orange over the fennel. Add 1 tbsp 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.
Drain buffalo mozzarella and pat dry with a paper towel.
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.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Use an ice bath to keep the fennel crispy: In this recipe, I tried the technique of placing shaved fennel into a bowl of ice water after cutting. I found that doing this kept the fennel crisp and crunchy for longer, even when it was dressed.
Pat dry buffalo mozzarella: To reduce the liquid on the plate, make sure you pat dry the buffalo mozzarella after you remove it from the storing liquid. The juice from the orange slices and fennel fronds will seep into the buffalo mozzarella as you let the salad sit.
Serve immediately after assembly: As the juices will seep out from the oranges, it is best to serve this salad immediately after assembling.
Great Mains for This Salad
This Orange Fennel Salad is a highly versatile side salad that can pair with a myriad of main dishes. Here are some main recipes for inspiration for your next dinner!
Salmon in Roasted Pepper Sauce is an absolutely scrumptious meal, worthy of a special occasion that is done in 20 minutes.
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.
We love mixing oranges in our salad repertoire as you will find in fennel, orange and courgette salad recipe.
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, but either one will be fine.
When cara cara oranges or blood oranges are in season, try those varieties as well. The reddish-pink flesh fruit will look amazing against the white buffalo mozzarella.
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 in less than 15 minutes, this juicy orange fennel salad recipe will make everyone happy for sure.
Orange Fennel Salad
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- Peel 2 oranges and slice into 0.5 cm rounds. With the remaining 3rd orange, cut in half. Save one half for juice, peel the other half, and slice into 0.5 cm 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 finishing 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 the fennel is nicely coated. Let shaved fennel sit in juices until serving.
- Slice buffalo mozzarella into 0.5 cm rounds (or similar thickness to orange slices)
- Place 1 tbsp 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 it for baby bocconcini. No need to slice; pull apart and scatter in between orange slices.
- Rainbow pepper can be substituted with cracked black pepper.
- 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 or cara cara oranges. For a slightly more tart element, use ruby grapefruit.
- To reduce the liquid on the plate, ensure you pat dry the buffalo mozzarella after you remove from the storing liquid.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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