Comfort Food: Fennel Mashed Potatoes ♥

Russet potatoes with creamy bits of sauteed fennelWell, the pot roast on top (sans mushrooms) was only so-so and got pushed to the side, but the mashed potatoes, well, the creamy-fennel-y potatoes warranted a second helping. If you'd like to notch up mashed potatoes a small notch, with small extra effort, this is your pick.

What do I mean by fennel-y? Lots of people avoid fennel because they think it will taste like licorice. But the cooked form of fennel is entirely different, it's smooth and sweet and wonderful. I could've eaten the whole skillet of sautéed
fennel, hang the potatoes.

This was a weeknight supper so I lightened the potatoes. Still they were plenty rich, not sumptuous but completely delicious. If I'd had fat-free half 'n' half, I'd have used it (and have, in mashed potatoes, with great results) so will include that calorie impact. (Turns out it makes no difference in the Weight Watchers points.)

This is the first time I've used russet potatoes for mashed potatoes but it won't be the last. They cooked and mashed like a dream. Next time I'll try them skins on, which is why I usually used the thin-skinned Yukon golds.

I will cut the fennel into bigger pieces so that once turned into the mashed potatoes, they'll seem less like 'lumps' and more like nuggets of taste contrast.

You can cook the fennel and peel the potatoes in advance. This means that at the last minute, all that remains is cooking and mashing the potatoes. Easy!

Late-winter and early-spring seems to call out for pureed root vegetables, all in the Recipe Box. My "go to recipe" is the oh so wonderful mashed potatoes and carrots.

See what I mean about root vegetables this time of year? A year ago I made this not-quite traditional Irish colcannon with potatoes, cabbage and broccoli rabe.

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Hands-on time: 15 minutes?
Time to table: 45 minutes?
Serves 8

Salted water to cover
2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into six or eight same-size pieces

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed (or fennel powder, I used a mixture)
Salt & pepper
1 large fennel bulb, outside layer trimmed if needed, cored, chopped roughly in fairly big pieces (save some of the frond for garnish)
1/2 cup half 'n' half (or fat free half 'n' half, the inspiring recipe called for at least 1 cup, how much is used may depend on the relative moisture in the cooked potatoes as much as taste preferences)
More salt & pepper to taste (if needed)

Bring the water to a boil. Add the potatoes as they're prepped. (If you do the prep work in advance, peel the potatoes and so they don't brown, cover with cold UNSALTED water. Replace the water before beginning to cook.) Cover and cook til tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. (Here, the inspiring recipe called for returning the potatoes to the hot pan and cooking for a few minutes more to dry a bit. I liked this step but not sure it made a pile of difference so you might want to try it yourself to see.)

While the potatoes cook (or 2-3 hours in advance if you like), melt the butter and fennel seed on MEDIUM in a skillet til shimmery, let bubble a minute. Add the fennel, sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir well to coat with fat and disperse the salt. Cook softly for 15-20 minutes, til soft but not brown. (If you're prepping ahead, stop here.) Add the half 'n' half until just beginning to bubble.

Mash the potatoes with a masher or a hand mixer (NOT a food processor which creates gum). Stir in the fennel-cream mixture. Season to taste and serve.

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Fennel and potatoes is my new favorite combination. The fennel (which I don't like raw, no matter how thinly it's shaved) sweetens when cooked, and it's great in gratins and in soup. I'm definitely going to try it with mashed potatoes -- yum.

  2. I have a beautiful Bronze Fennel that keeps coming back to my ornamental garden each year. I've never cooked with it because I don't know how to harvest it. I wasn't too worried about that since I "knew" I wouldn't like the licorice taste of fennel, but reading this has made me want to rethink that attitude. Thanks! (BTW- the birds LOVE the fennel seeds, and the swallowtail caterpillars love the plants!)


  3. Lydia ~ Oh I'm so sorry fennel doesn't work for you, raw. I love-love it in all forms.

    Willa ~ Oh I grew a bronze fennel in a pot a couple of years ago, it was gorgeous. I don't know if it's really an 'ornamental', however, and edible? It might be 'edible' but not palatable, like the giant sweet potatoes at the base of the sweet potato vines I put into pots as well. Thanks for the tips re the birds, you've got me thinking, Hmm, what should I do with the pots on the patio this year?

  4. Like Lydia, I can't 'do' fennel raw or lightly cooked. But caramelize it 'till sweetened... it becomes a thing of beauty.


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