Fennel is known to have a soft, delicate, licorice-like flavor, which some might be a little apprehensive about when it comes to soup. Afterall – soup and candy aren’t really two things that normally go together! While fennel might have a sort of licorice-like flavor, it’s more of a light and fresh anise similarity which then becomes even more delicate once it’s cooked. When fennel is cooked into soups, it adds a mild fresh sweetness that goes very well with a multitude of other flavors.
While fennel might taste similar to anise and look similar to a leek, it’s actually part of the Mediterranean carrot family. The dill-looking fronds at the top of the fennel have the most aromatic quality and provide the strongest anise flavor note, while the bulb at the other end is more subtle. Slow cooking the bulb in a soup seems to melt the structure of the fennel away, leaving you with tongue-tender pieces and a delicate sweetness left behind much like slow-cooking an onion.
Fennel in its entirety is edible, and you might see it used in different ways in the same soup. The fronds may be placed on top as a tasty herbaceous garnish, while the stalk and bulb is cut and mixed into the soup to provide that deeper sweet flavor and silky texture.
Fennel isn’t just delicious, it’s also good for you. Adding it into a soup does just as much for the nutritional value of the soup as it does the flavor. Fennel bulbs are a great source of fiber, folate, and Vitamin C and B6, making it an excellent choice for those looking to boost mood, improve digestion, and lower blood pressure. Fennel may also provide anti-inflammatory properties, making it a smart choice for those looking to combat everyday inflammation through a healthy and balanced diet.
There’s a multitude of flavors that go beautifully with fennel. In soups, you might find fennel alongside chicken, pork, or fish, as well as vegetarian or vegan options. Chances are, even those who are unfamiliar with fennel have tried it before and subconsciously noticed the delightful, sweet flavor it leaves behind. The next time you stop by a SoLé Soups studio, try something with fennel and try to pick it out amongst all of the other fresh flavors!