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Summer fennel salad is unforgettably delicious with watermelon, feta cheese, candied pecans, and orange honey mustard vinaigrette.
There's a place on the Florida Space Coast where you can dine on the rocks. Literally. I've got a picture below to prove it. But, you won't be roughing it.
While watching dolphins, seabirds, and boats go by, you can enjoy a fancy green salad packed with goodies like shaved fennel, candied pecans, finely diced watermelon, and crumbled feta cheese. Orange blossom honey mustard vinaigrette is drizzled over the top.
It's a green salad with a unique combination of flavors I would never have dreamed up. Thank you, River Rocks!
I enjoy this copycat version when I can't make it to the restaurant. It's equally perfect for special occasion dinners and potlucks.
If you look closely, you can see a very long bar running along the rocks where you can look out over the water and enjoy this salad and lots of other tasty things.
Here's what you'll need to make a show-stopping summer fennel salad:
For the base salad:
- Tender salad greens - We used butter lettuce. Most bib lettuces are delicate and have a mild flavor. That said, any lettuce will work in this recipe, including romaine, mixed field greens, and even arugula.
- Pecans, butter, and brown sugar to make candied pecans. If you want to save a few calories, toast and chop the pecans.
- Fennel - Read more about fennel in the section below.
- Watermelon - This ingredient really gives a summery vibe. It's also delicious with orange segments instead.
- Feta cheese - Goat cheese can be used instead.
For the orange blossom honey mustard dressing:
- Canola oil or other mild oil, such as avocado oil.
- Dijon mustard
- Honey (Orange Blossom honey is obviously the best choice!)
- Orange juice
- White wine vinegar
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
If you have yet to enjoy fennel, you may have a few questions!
Fennel has a mild anise or licorice flavor. Depending on how it's cooked, it becomes sweeter.
Fennel is abundant in the grocery store from late winter through early spring.
The white bulb can be eaten raw in a salad and is delicious. The delicate fronds can be used as a garnish. Other parts, including the roots and stalks, are edible but should be cooked first.
Several ingredients for this summer fennel salad require prep. Below you'll see the steps with pictures.
When you're done, toss everything in a big bowl or plate individually and drizzle with orange honey mustard vinaigrette.
To candy the pecans, add butter and brown sugar to a skillet or pot. Melt and stir the mixture over medium heat. Stir in the pecans and coat them with the sugar mixture.
Remove pecans to wax paper and allow them to cool and set while preparing the rest of the salad ingredients.
The best way to serve fennel raw in a salad is papery thin! Here's how to do it.
- Remove the roots from the fennel bulb if not already removed.
- Cut off the green fronds. You will be using only the white bulb in this recipe. Save the other parts for another recipe.
- Cut the bulb in half and cut out the hard middle part.
- Use a mandoline or knife to shave the bulb into very thin pieces; the thinner, the better!
Another surprising ingredient in this summery salad is diced watermelon. It adds a pretty pink color and sweet flavor, which nicely complements fennel and other ingredients.
Cut the watermelon into long, skinny rectangular pieces and then into smaller diced squares.
Orange Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
This summer fennel salad would only be complete with orange honey mustard vinaigrette. Unfortunately, I don't have River Rocks' secret salad dressing recipe, but this one is delicious. Simply mix all of the ingredients together in a glass jar and shake well!
Make it a Meal
This fancy green side salad with shaved fennel goes well with most entrees. After all, it's a "house salad" at the restaurant. It's just not an ordinary one!
Turn it into a meal by adding a protein, such as shrimp, chicken, or fish:
This salad is best plated and served fresh. However, the dressing, candied pecans, can be made in advance. Store the dressing for up to a week in the refrigerator.
More Salad Recipes
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Summer Fennel Salad with Feta, Watermelon, and Pecans
- 8 cups Butter lettuce or other tender greens
- ½ cup pecans
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons brown sugar packed
- ¼ fennel bulb green fronds and hard middle core removed
- ½ cup diced seedless watermelon
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
Orange Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
- ⅓ cup canola oil or other mild oil, like avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons orange juice
- 2 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 shallot minced
- To candy the pecans, melt and combine butter and brown sugar in a pan over medium heat. Add pecans and stir to coat with sugar mixture.
- Remove pecans to wax paper and allow them to set while preparing the rest of the salad.
- Use mandoline or knife to shave fennel into very thin slices.
- Cut watermelon into thin slices and finely dice. Blot with paper towel, if necessary to absorb excess juice.
- Layer salad greens, fennel, watermelon, feta cheese and pecans in a large bowl.
- Gently toss.
- Serve with Orange Honey Mustard Vinaigrette.
Instructions for Dressing
- Add the ingredients to a jar or bowl and stir vigorously to combine.