Fennel Salad with Yogurt and Sesame Paste (Tahini) Sauce

fennel_yogsesppWhile we all keep on saying taste preferences change with age, I think that, most of all, they broaden. The funny thing is that sometimes a slight difference in seasoning or cooking method makes one fall in love with previously despised food products. Such was the case with my dislike of fennel, tasted only in its cooked – or rather overcooked – form. Now I know that raw fennel is a delicious, crisp, delicately flavoured vegetable and has nothing in common with the mushy, greyish thing I had known for years. This salad showcases perfectly the obvious qualities of this fabulous bulb when kept far away from the stove.

As a new convert I am obviously excited about the fennel’s presence here but actually it’s the wonderful creamy sauce which merits a particular attention. Its recipe comes from Smashing Plates: Greek Flavours Redefined by Maria Elia I have already raved about here. As a quick reminder, it’s a beautiful, highly inspiring book full of recipes with Cypriot and Greek roots and most of all a source of fabulous meal ideas. I have already shared with you my modified version of Maria Elia’s Ouzo, Celeriac and Fennel Remoulade (Fennel and Celeriac Salad with Ouzo Mayonnaise) and maybe this is the reason why, seeing the very tempting sauce recipe, I decided to use it as a dressing for fennel. The author advises to serve this sauce with grilled meats, fish or blanched/roasted vegetables, but it was fantastic with raw fennel two. I can already imagine how pleasant this cooling dressing and crunchy fennel will be on hot summer days.

Toasted sesame seeds are my own initiative. They add an additional texture, but are not necessary. I have used lime juice instead of lemon juice because I had only limes.

TIP: The sauce can be made in advance (or in bigger amounts) and kept for several days in the fridge. It will certainly thicken (sesame paste has a tendency to thicken sauces), so just add some water to dilute it before serving (or more yogurt).

Preparation: 15 minutes

Ingredients (serves two as the only side-dish):

1 big fennel bulb, sliced

125 ml () natural unsweetened yogurt (you can use Greek yogurt of course)

4 heaped tablespoons light sesame paste (also called tahini)

juice from 1/2 lemon or 1/2 lime

1/4 flat teaspoon of ground cumin


(toasted sesame seeds)

Combine all the sauce ingredients (apart from sesame seeds) in a big bowl.

Season with salt.

Throw the fennel slices into the bowl and delicately stir, making sure it’s all laced with the sauce.

Put into a serving bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds if you wish.

26 Replies to “Fennel Salad with Yogurt and Sesame Paste (Tahini) Sauce”

  1. Hi Sissi.
    You got me at fennel. I’ve been a fan of this bulby thing since I can’t remember when. Love it roasted and in pastas. Cooked, it has a lovely sweet flavor. Of course not into the mushy, greyish form you’ve had and disliked. I would think the looks of that alone would put anyone off. Now, fresh and in a salad ….oh yes. You got me again. I’ve been into making my salad dressings with greek yogurt lately. I must try it with tahini. It’s been dijon mustard and some honey so far. Haven’t got sick of it yet. But now, this appeals. A change is coming …. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Ping. I have had lots of dishes when it was braised with other soggy vegetables… so you can imagine. Yogurt mustard and honey sounds like a great sauce too.

  2. I think we may have chatted about this before but I’ve had the opposite experience with fennel. When I first saw it chopped up and being eaten raw with a dip, it reminded me so much of celery (truly the most tasteless and lackluster vegetable to grace the earth — in my quiet opinion 😉 ) so I did not have high expectations. Au contraire – gorgeously crisp and full bodied flavour — instant love :). I’m excited to try tahini in combination with yogurt. I often combine tahini with lime (+ olive oil) for dressing but sans yogurt — not sure why I never thought of it. I think it could give rise to a beautiful, creamy adventure :O). Thanks Sissi.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. Yes, I remember you saying that celery doesn’t have any taste in Canada or US. For me sesame paste and yogurt were also a surprising combination, but so good I have it in my fridge even now just in case I want to have it in a salad (and I certainly will).

  3. I totally agree that our tastes broaden with age, rather than change. Like you, raw fennel is definitely one of those items, I’ve learned to love. However, I do like it better sliced rather thin. This sauce sounds wonderful and I can already taste the flavors combined with fennel. This is going to make a great salad for grilled chicken this season. Thanks Sissi!

    1. Hi, MJ. I realised it when I was thinking that now I like all the things I hated as a child (and much more) but not the other way round and all the adults usually tell me the same. Haha! You got me here: I also prefer it cut thinly, but I am a lazy cook and often just slice the quickest possible (I like the thicker cuts too). The sauce is an amazing discovery indeed. Thank you for the compliments!

  4. Tahini has a very unique and intense flavor. Roasting it makes it even more intense and I love it. A beautiful salad perfect for the warm weather here in Greece!

  5. I’m glad that you’ve begun to like fennel, I love it. Sometimes we grill it too (just slightly charred, never cooked until limp) and it’s so delicious. I recall your remoulade and will go back and bookmark it (we’re going to a BBQ in June and everyone is to bring their favourite sliders to share, I’m doing pulled pork sliders topped with your remoulade on home made pretzel buns!) I love the addition of the toasted sesame seeds too, it adds such lovely flavour and texture.

    1. Thank you, Eva. I’m so happy you will be making the fennel version of remoulade! I only hope you will like it as much as I did. Let me know how it turns out.

  6. I haven’t had a chance to use fennel bulb in salad yet. I always put in my stews and soups (it’s a must) but haven’t eaten as raw yet. I actually learned that we can eat it raw from another blogger… until then I thought we have to cook it (for some reason!). Love the dressing. Sounds perfect for this salad!

    1. Thank you, Nami. I know many people who regularly cook fennel, but never eat it raw too, so it doesn’t surprise me. By the way, I have always thought aubergine must absolutely be cooked… until I pickled it Japanese way!

  7. You are absolutely correct about seasoning and cooking method on food that we used to dislike. I am not much of a fennel eater but I can imagine the crunch of this salad that is very inviting. Thank you, Sissi. 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, Ray. Actually fennel is not as strong in taste when raw! It does have the anise seedy aroma, but it’s quite weak I think in a salad.

  8. This recipe comes at a very timely time Sissi – fennel is something I’m planning on exploring a bit more in the coming weeks. Did you know apparently they eat fennel like a dessert kind of thing in Tunisia? It’s cooling and they’ll just sit there with big heads of it, chomping away as a nice healthy snack.

    This itself looks very good – I bet the tahini really gives it an amazing flavour. By the way, did you try fennel roasted with lemon juice? I’m not sure if I ever posted a recipe for it, but it’s a taste sensation – I love it!

    1. Thank you, Charles. I must say I have been so often put off by the limp overcooked fennel, it will take some time before I roast it… but I will try one day for sure. I had no idea it could be a dessert! (It would be the only North-African dessert which is not too sweet for me 😉 ). On the other hand, it has a bit anise seedy taste… and anise seed is used in sweets.

    1. Thanks a lot, Karen. I have also found this combination very original (and most of all the sauce on its own).

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