I've made this Fennel Spice Rub since the very beginning of this website. It's one of my favorite seasonings. I use it on salmon and pork, and occasionally on chicken as well.
It's a mixture that takes only a couple of minutes to put together. It's a little spicy, and a little sweet despite no added sugar.
I've adapted this spice rub from Alton Brown's Spice Pomade, which I first made early on in 2010 as part of my 365 recipe challenge. That spice mixture was blended with oil and then coated on salmon. But guess what! It didn't actually need the oil to be delicious.
I generally season meat heavily with this rub. (In fact, it was the only way I seasoned grilled or seared salmon for a few years.) I have full confidence that it would go well on vegetables or be a flavorful addition to a marinade.
What is Fennel?
Fennel can refer to the vegetable, a bulb that has a slight licorice flavor. It's delicious thinly shaved in salads, or roasted in the oven. The fronds can be used as an herb or garnish.
This recipe rather uses the seeds, which also have a licorice flavor. (So does anise.) I don't like licorice the candy at all, but I do like the flavor of fennel the spice.
Fennel is a distinctive ingredient in some pizza sauces and in Italian sausage. I believe it's also what's available at some Indian restaurants by the exit, as a breath freshener.
I call this a fennel spice rub because it's the flavor I notice the most, but it also includes coriander, cumin, black pepper, and anise, which adds an additional licorice or fennel flavor. Cayenne pepper adds a little heat.
I doubled the garlic powder in this and omitted the onion powder from Alton Brown's original recipe; feel free to substitute two teaspoons of onion powder for one teaspoon of the garlic powder.
I bought a large bag of fennel at Penzey's Spices because I enjoy the spice so much, but it can be found in well-stocked grocery stores. You should be able to find everything in the spice aisle of your grocery store. If you have trouble, though, sometimes anise can be found in Mexican or Italian food aisles, and fennel and coriander in Indian food aisles; often the spices are a little cheaper there since they're not name brand spices.
Making and Using Fennel Spice Rub
You can use whole or ground spices in the fennel spice rub, since you grind them all together anyway. No need to seek out whole spices if you can find ground instead. If they're all already ground, you can try just mixing them together; I just prefer the finer texture from combining spices with a grinder.
Use the spice rub liberally on salmon; this recipe will make enough to coat a 3 pound piece of salmon thickly. Fennel spice rub is also good on pork chops. I'm sure it would also be great on chicken, sweet potatoes, potatoes, or other vegetables.
Store any leftover spice rub in an empty spice jar or other glass container.
What Can I Do with Leftover Fennel or Anise Seed?
Try using leftover fennel in tomato-based pasta or pizza sauce. Fennel is also one of many spices that go into some Indian recipes (along with coriander and cumin). Not your style? Try making Fennel-Crusted Pork Loin with Potatoes and Pears.
Like this recipe or have questions? Rate it or leave a comment below!
In the past:
One Year Ago: Confetti Cake
Five Years Ago: Alton Brown's Asian Slaw
Six Years Ago: Date, Rum, and Pecan Ice Cream
Eight Years Ago: Blueberry Cinnamon Swirl Ice Cream
This slightly sweet, slightly hot Fennel Spice Rub takes just minutes to combine. A delicious and different seasoning for grilled salmon or pork!
- 1 tablespoon coriander
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, or freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon table salt (can use sea salt crystals too)
- ½ teaspoon anise seed
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Grind all ingredients in a small food processor, coffee grinder, or bullet blender. Process for 20-30 seconds, or until finely ground.
Sprinkle to taste over salmon or pork. This seasoning can cover 3 pounds of salmon thickly. Grill, sear, or bake as usual.
You can use either whole or ground spices.
Adapted from Alton Brown's Spice Pomade