close up of fennel and orange salad from top view on a white plate
Home » Italian Recipes » Italian Fennel and Orange Salad – A Winter Salad Recipe from Sicily

Italian Fennel and Orange Salad – A Winter Salad Recipe from Sicily

Last updated on March 17th, 2024

Winter time in Italy actually has some of the tastiest lettuce and produce Italy has to offer. Radicchio, blood oranges, fennel, and scarola lettuce are just some of my favorites.

Today I am going to share one of my favorite ways to enjoy two of Italy’s most popular winter ingredients: fennel and oranges. This Sicilian fennel and orange salad is the perfect combination of a sweet and juicy orange and a crunchy bite of fennel. Add a splash of fruity olive oil, salt and pepper – and the salad is done! 

Not only is this recipe a snap to put together but there are a ton of variations.

Originally from Sicily, where most of Italy’s citrus is grown, this salad has fast become a winter staple in Italy, including in our household. We eat this weekly in the winter (and even into March!) because it’s a side dish that my kids will actually gobble up. It’s also chock full of vitamins and goes with so many things, which I will share with you below. 

Insalata di Finocchi e Arance (Fennel and Orange Salad) Pronunciation

top view of marble table with three white plates with fennel and orange salad

Fennel and orange salad in Italian is known as insalata di finocchi e arance, pronounced in-sah-lah-TAH dee feen-OHK-kee eh ah-RAHN-cheh.

Listen to how to pronounce insalata di finocchi e arance:

Nice To Know: Insalata di finocchi e arance is also sometimes called insalata siciliana.

What is Fennel and Orange Salad?  

top vie of fennel and orange salad on white plate on marble board garnished with fennel

The basic recipe for this Sicilian salad is made from thinly sliced fennel and oranges dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Like meat sauce or beef stew, most regions and families have their own variations and preferences in how they like to prepare this dish. Common additions include toasted nuts, raisins, olives, capers and sometimes even small pieces of cured fish on coastal towns. 

More Veg Please: Check out my list of Vegetarian Dishes to Try in Italy.

Ingredients for Orange and Fennel Salad

Colorful oranges and clementines on sale at a market in Italy.

Serves 4 as a side dish. Prep time 15 min. total time 15

  • 2 large or 3 medium oranges
  • 2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step-By-Step Instructions for Orange and Fennel Salad

marble board with an orange with the peals cut of and put on the side from birds eye view
  1. Slice oranges by slicing off both the top and bottom ends so it doesn’t roll when you cut away the peel. Standing the orange on one of the cut ends, cut away the peel being careful not to leave too much of the pith and to not remove the actual fruit. Proceed to cut the orange into round slices.
  2. Arrange orange slices on the serving platter.
  3. Clean the fennel bulbs: remove the fronds and set aside for garnish. Rinse the fennel under running water and remove the external, tough “leaves” or most outer shell of the bulb. 
  4. With a sharp knife, slice the fennel as thinly as possible. Better yet, use a mandolin if you have one. Remove the inner core rings of the fennel once sliced (or as best you can).
  5. Gently lay the fennel on top of the orange slices and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. 
  6. Chop the fennel fronds and garnish. 
orange slices on a marble cutting board with rind cut to the side

Classic Italian Additions to Fennel and Orange Salad

four whole fennels in a line on a marble countertop from birds eye view
  • Add two Tablespoons toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I personally prefer walnuts). Toast pine nuts or roughly chopped walnuts over low heat in a saute pan for 10 minutes or so until fragrant and lightly golden. Add to the salad once cooled. 
  • Rehydrate two tablespoons of raisins in orange juice for 15 minutes and add to the top of the salad along with two tablespoons toasted pine nuts. 
  • Dress with a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  
  • Finish with capers that have been drained and rinsed. 
  • Add a handful of black olives, either whole or roughly chopped.
  • Use blood oranges instead of regular oranges.
close up of a white plate with fennel and orange salad finished with black olives in a marble countertop.

What to Serve Fennel and Orange Salad With

top view of marble table with two
white plates with fennel and orange salad

This is an amazing salad because it lightens up so many meals and brings so much color to the table. Here are our favorite ways to eat it in our house.

  • with any grilled meats such as pork chops or ribs
  • following a rich beef stew 
  • with fish that is either pan fried, grilled or baked in the oven
  • as a second course after a soup
  • with a mixed board of crostini and/or cured meats for a light supper or easy lunch

Notes and Tips

top view of marble table with white plate with fennel and orange salad
  • Try to cut the fennel as thinly as possible. It’s very common for Italians to have meat slicers at home (because of all the cured meats they eat) so that is what I use to get my fennel very thin. A sharp knife will do just fine but take your time.
close up of Italian fennel and orange salad on a white plate.

Italian Orange and Fennel Salad

Authentic orange and fennel salad, a Sicilian winter classic!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large, or 3 medium oranges
  • 2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Slice oranges by slicing off both the top and bottom ends so it doesn’t roll when you cut away the peel. Standing the orange on one of the cut ends, cut away the peel being careful not to leave too much of the pith and to not remove the actual fruit. Proceed to cut the orange into round slices.
  • Arrange orange slices on the serving platter.
  • Clean the fennel bulbs: remove the fronds and set aside for garnish. Rinse the fennel under running water and remove the external, tough “leaves” or most outer shell of the bulb.
  • With a sharp knife, slice the fennel as thinly as possible. Better yet, use a mandolin if you have one. Remove the inner core rings of the fennel once sliced (or as best you can).
  • Gently lay the fennel on top of the orange slices and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Chop the fennel fronds and garnish.

Notes

Classic Italian Additions 

  • Add two Tablespoons toasted walnuts or pine nuts (I personally prefer walnuts). Toast pine nuts or roughly chopped walnuts over low heat in a saute pan for 10 minutes or so until fragrant and lightly golden. Add to the salad once cooled. 
  • Rehydrate two tablespoons of raisins in orange juice for 15 minutes and add to the top of the salad along with two tablespoons toasted pine nuts. 
  • Dress with a vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, a squeeze of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  
  • Finish with capers that have been drained and rinsed. 
  • Add a handful of black olives, either whole or roughly chopped.
  • Use blood oranges instead of regular oranges.

Serve With

This is an amazing salad because it lightens up so many meals and brings so much color to the table. Here are our favorite ways to eat it in our house.
  • with any grilled meats such as pork chops or ribs
  • following a rich beef stew 
  • with fish that is either pan fried, grilled or baked in the oven
  • as a second course after a soup
  • with a mixed board of crostini and/or cured meats for a light supper or easy lunch

Notes and Tips

  • Try to cut the fennel as thinly as possible. It’s very common for Italians to have meat slicers at home (because of all the cured meats they eat) so that is what I use to get my fennel very thin. A sharp knife will do just fine but take your time.
Keyword authentic, fresh, winter
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Italian Fennel and Orange Salad Recipe FAQ

Can I cut the orange into segments instead of rounds?

Yes. Peel as indicated above and holding the orange in your hand, slice between the pith and the flesh of the orange slices, creating segments. Squeeze out the remaining pith in your hands and use the juice to dress the salad along with the olive oil. 

Can I make Italian orange and fennel salad in advance?

It’s best not too. The fennel will wilt a little and the feeling of freshness fades with time. You could, however, prepare the oranges, cover them and then do the rest when you are getting closer to sitting down to the table. 

Can I save leftover Italian orange and fennel salad?

You can but they only last a day and even then, the quality and feeling of freshness that this orange and shaved fennel salad brings gets lost. 

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