Lemon-Garlic Chicken Thighs with Fennel


I made this dish the first time by accident: I was annoyingly hungry and all I could find in the fridge were some leftover roasted chicken thighs and two pieces of fennel, just sitting there, looking impenetrable. But, as I said, my hunger had reached an annoying level, so I cut the chicken and fennel into strips and threw them in a pan with extra-virgin olive oil, not expecting much. But it was good! So then I imagined how I would make that dish “for real,” and this recipe is the result.

Most of my favorite grassy aromatics—fennel, anise, caraway, chervil, and cumin—are all related. They’re members of the carrot family and share a flavor compound called anethol which is 13 times sweeter than sugar. That’s why fennel is often paired with lemon and almond for balance. As Niki Segnit wrote in her rousing book The Flavor Thesaurus, fennel is “the reason the chicken crossed the road.” This simple sauté is casual, comforting bistro food, easily brought to life in one pan and guaranteed to smooth the rough edges off a long day.

Lemon-Garlic Chicken Thighs with Fennel

Serves 2–4 | Total time: 35–40 minutes

Almond Dust:
  • 3 tablespoons almond flour

  • 2 teaspoons ghee

  • pinch salt

Chicken & Fennel:
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 2–4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, if needed

  • 2 large fennel bulbs

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 lemon


Make the almond dust. Warm the ghee in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the almond flour and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until the flour is toasty brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer the almond dust to a plate to cool. (As it cools, the fat will solidify and make “crumbs,” so don’t worry if it’s just brown dust when you take it out of the pan. Press the dust together into a pile and let it do its thing.)


Cook the chicken. Slice the chicken thighs into 1⁄4-inch-wide strips and toss them with salt and pep- per. Warm 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, 2 minutes. Add the chicken and toss to coat it in the oil, then spread it in a single layer and let it cook undisturbed for 3 minutes. Flip the chicken with a spatula, separating the pieces, and cook an additional 3 minutes. Continue to flip and cook the chicken until it’s browned and sizzling on most sides, 5–6 minutes more. Meanwhile…


Prep the fennel. While the chicken browns, remove the leafy fronds and mince some of them to make 2–3 tablespoons; set aside. Remove the root ends of the fennel and thinly slice the bulbs into crosswise strips.


Bring it home. When the chicken is browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a plate. ere should be some fat from the chicken in the skillet. If not, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and warm it over medium-high heat for 2–3 minutes. Add the fennel, toss to coat it in the fat, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium; cook for 2 minutes. While the fennel cooks, peel and crush the garlic. Remove the lid from the skillet and stir-fry the fen until it begins to soften and show a few brown spots. Push the fennel to the side of the pan, add 1 teaspoon olive oil, then drop the garlic and pepper flakes into the oil. Stir to combine with the fennel, then add the chicken and accumulated juices to the pan. Stir to combine and cook for 1–2 minutes longer, until it’s all caramelized. Remove the skillet from heat, stir in the reserved fennel fronds, and squeeze the juice from the lemon over top.


To serve, divide the sauté among individual plates and sprinkle with the almond dust.

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  • Kathie Gray says:

    This looks yummy! I am a recent convert to fennel and now I love it, you are so right that it pairs perfectly chicken. One of our favourite breakfasts is to saute up leftover chicken with fennel and onion, yummy! Thanks for the inspiration as always, Kathie.

  • Ellen says:

    What is the green herb used in the picture? Fresh dill?

    • It’s the green fronds from the fennel. Just sprinkle them on top for garnish and extra delicious fennel flavor. In step 2, there are instructions for mincing the fronds and saving them for later… then step 4 explains where to add them into the recipe. Enjoy!