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Fennel Pollen

So I picked up this tin of fennel pollen at the Park Slope Food Coop and I have to tell you it tastes delicious on its own. It's like a much smoother anise. I'm curious are there recipes for this exquisite male reproductive flora? Off hand I'm thinking it can be made into a light syrup for ice cream or fresh mozzarella.

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  1. Use it to season porchetta.

    It's part of the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia, so you can buy it from Chinese herbalists where it will be fresher and less expensive. I can't recall its medicinal use.

    1. Fennel pollen is also a traditional ingredient in Tuscan cooking. Try it in a seasoning rub for roast chicken or pork.

      I was just looking through Batali's Babbo cookbook at a couple of recipes - one where he rolls balls of goat cheese in fennel pollen as an antipasto, and a goat cheese tortelloni with a butter/fennel/orange sauce finished by sprinkling with fennel pollen.

      1. Applications for fennel pollen range from dusting over pizza, pasta and risotto to rubbing on wild salmon or roasts. It can be that extra special ingredient in seafood stews, salads, added to bread dough or used to dress olives. The spice is even used in sweet dishes ranging from apple pie to fig and fennel pollen truffles. But with that said, it's very hard to find recipes using fennel pollen, if you come across a good one - please share!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Emily Adamson

          My first time eating fennel pollen was dusted over pizza, and it was absolutely divine. I highly recommend trying it.

        2. I use a lot of fennel pollen. I like it sprinkled on pop corn with sea salt, scrambled eggs, pork chops, on top of thick soups like potato chowder, and in desserts like olive oil cakes.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nicholeati

            these ideas are making me go to my local Chinese medicine store (closer than the Italian deli) first thing tomorrow.

          2. I mix a little with cornmeal to dust my peel before putting bread / pizza on a baking stone. It really adds another dimension to the breads.

            1. I added a few pinches to my French press. The coffee came out pretty good. I will also try using it as a rub on a pork butt I just acquired. Thanks for the info and suggestions...keep 'em coming.

              4 Replies
              1. re: bigmackdaddy

                holy cow, how did I miss the fennel pollen? Is it still there? I see it on cooking shows but never in person....

                mackdaddy, did you know the coop's product blog is on twiiter now?

                1. re: pitu

                  I have enough trouble with Facebook much less Twitter. I haven't seen the fennel pollen for awhile now. Luckily, I'm a glut and stocked up on a few tins. You should ask Joe Holtz (?) to get more. So far, Pitu, I'm sorry to say I've only used it in my French press and not on any meats. I promise to change that.

                  1. re: bigmackdaddy

                    You've been making tea with fennel pollen??
                    Yuri Weber orders the endcap items like that. I'll hunt him down....

                    On the syrup front, I can heartily recommend fresh fennel as the base in your simple syrup for cocktails (or sorbet, I guess)

                    1. re: pitu

                      Coffee my dear not tea. Although tea does sound interesting.

              2. Bill Buford talks about fennel pollen in his book, "Heat," as a "secret ingredient" used by Italian chefs, including Mario Batali. As I recall, it seemed to be used in small quantities for pasta dishes. Anyway, I had never heard of this ingredient until I read the book. Apparently, it is a lot more available in the United States than I thought. It is interesting that it is available at Chinese pharmacies, too. Thanks, Melanie Wong!

                3 Replies
                1. re: gfr1111

                  This is very interesting. Melanie: What is the name in Chinese? Can anyone give a confirmed source in NYC Chinatown?

                  I bought home a jar of pollen from Extremadura, Spain a few years ago; it is still sitting on my kitchen shelf because I have no idea how to use it..it is not fennel pollen,though. Does anyone have any idea about this--the name on the jar is EL TIO PICHO Polen de Flores, (flower pollen) from Las Hurdes.


                  1. re: erica

                    I am not aware of fennel pollen in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia. We use fennel seed which is sometimes translated as fennel fruit and is called xiao hui xiang. Melanie, if you know of anything different, please let me know!

                    1. re: hungryhyena

                      I checked again, this time with my doctor's partner. We looked it up and you're right. Fennel pollen is not part of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, just the fennel seed/fruit. but I'm more bummed to not have an easy source!

                2. Fennel Pollen goes well with seafood and game (duck, lamb, etc.) It's great to make pork and fennel sausage too!

                  You can also use it in baking muffins or scones.

                  1. I've only used it with fish and now all these ideas! I bought mine at Surfa's in Culver City.
                    Unfortunately, it's very expensive.

                    1. I just caught an episode of "Secrets from a Restaurant Chef" on Food Network where she brined and grilled pork chops encrusted with fennel pollen. My mouth was watering: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/an...
                      I just might not wait for my next work shift to shop at the Co-op.

                      1. Have you tried your Fennel Pollen on pork or poultry, yet. It is great on steamed or baked squash. Even on fruits.

                        1. I have been wanting to make this recipe from Wine Spectator's July issue, but can't seem to find fennel pollen. It looks so good!

                          2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
                          1 tablespoon honey
                          ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                          1 8-pound striped bass
                          4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fennel pollen
                          Salt and freshly ground black pepper
                          12 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandolin
                          3 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
                          4 ruby red grapefruit, membranes removed and segmented
                          2 tablespoons mustard oil

                          1. Preheat an outdoor or stovetop grill to medium heat.

                          2. Prepare the vinaigrette: In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the grapefruit juice and honey until well combined. Whisk in 1?3 cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.

                          3. Prepare the striped bass: Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the striped bass. Dust each side of the fish with 2 tablespoons of fennel pollen and season with salt and pepper. Grill the striped bass for 7 to 8 minutes on each side.

                          4. Assemble: While the fish is on the grill, add the fennel, fennel fronds and grapefruit segments to the vinaigrette and mix until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the striped bass to a long platter; using tongs, place the fennel salad over the fish. Carefully spoon the remaining vinaigrette over the salad. Drizzle the mustard oil around the fish and sprinkle with the remaining fennel pollen. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

                          1. I live in Northern California where wild fennel grows everywhere as a weed. I collected a half cup or so of fennel pollen recently. I cannot imagine using 4 Tablespoons in a recipe. The stuff I collected fresh has a dominating fragrance/ flavor.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Rhee

                              Hi Rhee, I live in Cambria, CA and we also have a ton of wild fennel growing like weeds. I was so excited about collecting some, and then read somewhere that wild fennel should not be eaten, have you cooked with the fennel itself, or just the pollen?

                              1. re: debs20

                                When I was a wee child, my mother and I would walk in Berkeley and she would pick up wild fennel leaves for me to munch on. It is still the taste of comfort for me. Now, I have a dinky little plant growing outside which I nibble on when leaving and entering our house.

                                1. re: debs20

                                  People have recommended not collecting fennel pollen from plants near roadways because herbicides sometimes are used there and there may be high levels of particulate pollution that would settle on the plants. That sounds like good advice, but I've never heard of wild fennel being dangerous in and of itself.

                                  1. re: Zeldog

                                    Anyone else have ideas for using fennel pollen? (I'd never seen it in a shop before and I pounced yesterday when I noticed it at Eataly in NYC; but how to use??)

                                    1. re: erica

                                      Use it anywhere to enhance flavor -- there's a reason they call fennel pollen "Italian MSG".

                                      I also find that a bit of cloves added to fennel pollen really enhances it's flavor -- sort of like injecting steroids to your spices, or MSG for your MSG.

                              2. My neighbor introduced me to the only way I have had fennel pollen: used on pan-fried (or grilled) pork liver wrapped in pancetta.

                                I'm not a liver fan, but the fennel taste really transforms it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: lidia

                                  interesting. that is not something i'd ever have thought of -- that combination.

                                2. I love to add it to salads and when I pickle fennel bulbs. You can pretty much dust it over anything. I love the stuff!!

                                  1. Since fennel pollen is quite expensive (and we do adore it), I tend to use is to finish dishes much as I would use one olive oil for cooking and a high quality evoo for dipping bread or, finishing a dish. If the dish is cooked with fennel bulbs, fennel seeds or powder then the dusting of the aromatic fennel pollen at the end serves to heighten those flavours.

                                    We love it atop:

                                    • Soups
                                    • Pizza
                                    • Pasta
                                    • Grilled meat, fish and poultry
                                    • Roasted Vegetables
                                    • Garlic bread
                                    • Italian salads and antipasti
                                    • Frittata and egg dishes
                                    • I love the combination of anise and orange and have used it mixed in w sugar to dust atop orange loaves (quick breads)

                                    ETA: Oh, I almost forgot...last summer I used it atop ice cream...omg!!! Delicious!

                                    1. I haven't used it but have certainly thought about as. wild fennel grows like weeds in No . Cal (even in San Francisco). Does anyone have experience harvesting the pollen themselves?

                                      Seems like it wouldn't be to hard, but how many plants would it take to produce an ounce or so?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: sparky403

                                        I spoke to a honey vendor at our farmer's market who sells pollen. He said it was incredibly difficult to ensure you have pure fennel pollen as the risk of cross contamination with the pollen from other plants is very high. In his case he harvested his pollen directly from the hives.

                                        I read an article about harvesting pollen from wild fennel in California. They actually shake it off the flower heads...a tedious, time-consuming process as you say. Here's the article jic it's of interest:


                                        The fennel pollen I purchase is from Italy.

                                        1. re: sparky403

                                          Here's a link to a thread on the San Francisco Bay Area board for more about foraging for fennel pollen:

                                        2. I like fennel pollen with yogurt. The Flavor Bible suggests fennel pollen, lemon juice, and yogurt. I can tell you this is very good. I use it as dip for vegetables and a salad dressing.

                                          Breadcrumbs mentions eggs and I second that. I made Turkish eggs with yogurt and chili powder brown butter (cilbir) with fennel pollen. I can't say I've mastered it but will say the fennel did very nicely.

                                          1. How times have changed. It used to be available in Italy but not here. It was either Ruth Reichl or Bill Buford who mentioned in passing that people people were smuggling fennel pollen into the United States from Italy. There was never any explanation as to why it was illegal to bring into the U.S. Now, I guess it is not.