If you’re looking for a way to step your salad game up, look no further than our Fennel and Apple Salad with Garlicky Croutons. We toss shaved fennel and Granny Smith apples with toasted walnuts, homemade sourdough croutons and shreds of parmesan cheese, and then drizzle it all in a simple lemon-y vinaigrette.
Fennel and Apple Salad with Garlicky Croutons
Apple season lives on. And gosh, it’s a good season. We’ve showcased apples in a sweet light recently with our Apple Clafoutis and now it’s time to showcase them in a savory light. And there’s no better way to let tart Granny Smith apples shine than in their raw form. Salad form.
A fennel and apple salad is a classic combination for a reason – it’s delicious. Somehow the anise-flavored fennel and the tart/sweet flavor of the apple just works. We amplify those flavors by tossing them in a simple white wine and lemon vinaigrette accented with a little honey (a vinaigrette that will go with just about anything).
The fennel and apple salad continues to be built with peppery arugula, toasted walnuts, and shaved shards of nutty parmesan cheese. We could have stopped there, but the pièce de résistance are the garlicky sourdough croutons studded throughout.
Guys, this is a salad you don’t want to miss. Let’s get started!
Ingredients in our Fennel and Apple Salad
Bread. My favorite bread of all time for making croutons is sourdough. It’s hearty, tangy, and soaks up olive oil like a sponge. We opt to tear the bread instead of cutting it with a knife because we love those jagged little edges that get all crispy and delicious during the baking process.
If you’re partial to another bread to use for croutons or simply have something else leftover in your pantry, fell free to use that instead.
Fennel. Fennel can be an acquired taste, but I happen to adore it – whether or not it’s cooked or in its raw state, like today. It has a slight anise-flavor to it, and can be slightly bitter, but when paired with an acid, it brightens right up.
Apples. I prefer to use Granny Smith apples here, but you could use any apple that’s in season.
Arugula. Arugula adds a nice peppery punch to our salad, plus I love the green pop it gives as well.
Walnuts. Every salad needs a little bit of a crunch and my way to achieve that is almost always with a nut of some sort. I toyed around with a few other nuts in our fennel and apple salad, but walnuts are what worked best.
Parmesan. Do I even have to say it? Let’s use parmigiana reggiano if you’ve got it!
White wine vinegar + lemon juice. I love the subtle acidity white wine vinegar has, and when paired with lemon, it’s truly delicious. If you only have one or the other, that’s fine too.
Garlic. All you need is one small garlic clove. I like to grate it into the dressing to make sure it’s evenly dispersed.
Dijon. You’ll almost always find dijon mustard in my salad dressings, and this one is no exception. It adds a nice spice and tang to the dressing you can’t really get with any other ingredients.
Honey. Every acidic dressing needs a little balance of sweetness, and I almost always reach for honey.
Olive oil. I’m not picky when it comes to olive oil in simple dressings, if you like a more flavorful olive oil, use that. If you prefer something a little more subtle, great.
S+P. Arguably the most important ingredient in any recipe, is salt and pepper.
Let’s make fennel and apple salad!
Make the croutons. Tear big pieces of sourdough bread. Toss the bread with a little bit of olive oil, garlic powder, pepper, and plenty of salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet and let the oven work its magic. Keep an eye on them, they burn easily. Speaking from experience.
Let them cool completely before adding them to the fennel and apple salad.
Toast the walnuts. When the croutons are a few minutes shy of toasted, transfer them to one side of the pan and add the walnuts. Toast for a few minutes.
Shave the fennel and apples. I like to use a mandolin to ensure every piece of apple and fennel is the same size, plus it helps to get them paper thin – something that’s hard to achieve even with the sharpest of knives.
Both fennel and apple have a tendency to oxidize after you slice them, so I squeeze a little bit of fresh lemon juice over the top to prevent them from turning brown.
Make the dressing. Whisk lemon juice, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and dijon together in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking the dressing.
Assemble. Set aside a handful of croutons, walnuts, and parmesan for garnish. Toss the apples, fennel, arugula, walnuts, and parmesan together. Drizzle with a 1/4 of the the dressing. Toss. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salad on a platter. Scatter the reserved croutons, parmesan, and walnuts on top. Drizzle with as much dressing as you’d like.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Don’t overdress the salad. Start with about 1/4 of the dressing, and then add more as you go. Finish off by drizzling a little bit on top.
- If you don’t have white wine vinegar, you can use all lemon juice and vice versa.
- Use ciabatta, focaccia, or any other sturdy white bread in place of sourdough.
- Swap out parmesan for asiago or pecorino
- 2 cups torn sourdough
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 large granny smith apple, cored and cheeks cut into four pieces
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 small garlic clove
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp dijon
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 cup arugula
- 1/4 cup shaved parmesan
- baking sheet
- Serving platter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Tear big pieces of sourdough bread. Toss the bread with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, garlic powder, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they burn easily. When the croutons are almost done toasting, move them to one side of the pan and add the walnuts, toast for 2-3 minutes and remove everything from the oven. Let them both cool completely before adding them to the fennel and apple salad.
- Cut off the stems of the fennel. Reserve the dark green fronds. Finely chop them. Slice the fennel in half lengthwise. Remove the core. Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to shave the fennel and apples. Squeeze a little bit of fresh lemon juice over them to prevent them from turning brown.
- Whisk white wine vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, dijon, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup olive oil while whisking the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Set aside a handful of croutons, walnuts, and parmesan for garnish. Toss the apples, fennel, arugula, walnuts, and parmesan together. Drizzle with a 1/4 of the the dressing. Toss. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the salad on a platter. Scatter the reserved croutons, parmesan, and walnuts on top. Drizzle with as much dressing as you'd like. Sprinkle with reserves fennel fronds.