A seductive hint of anise livens up this healthy starter
It’s autumn in our part of the world. Which means soup season! Time to ladle up this beet-and-fennel charmer.
The gorgeous color of beets and the anise undertones of fennel combine to make a perfect first course. This soup is full of flavor, but it’s not particularly caloric. So it will awaken your taste buds without filling you up.
You’ll even have room for dessert.
Recipe: Beet and Fennel Soup
We like to serve this soup hot. But go for chilled or room temperature if you prefer.
This recipe is very lightly adapted from one we found in Judith Barrett’s Saved by Soup.
Prep time for this recipe is about 15 minutes. Cooking adds another 30 to 40 minutes.
This dish serves 4 to 6 as a starter.
Leftovers keep for several days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ~1 pound beets (usually 1 bunch)
- 1 medium onion (we like to use red onions, but any variety will do)
- ~8 ounces fennel (1 medium or 2 small bulbs)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- 5 cups water (may substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or balsamic vinegar (optional)
- sour cream or yogurt for garnish (optional)
- Wash the beets. Cut off the stems and root ends. Peel the beets, then dice them roughly. Place the beets in a 4-quart sauce pan or soup pot.
- Peel the onion and cut it into dice of ½ inch or so. Add the diced onion to the soup pot.
- Rinse the fennel and remove the stalks and green tops (you may want to reserve some of the fuzzy fronds for garnish). Cut the bulb(s) into dice of ½ inch or so. Add the diced fennel to the soup pot.
- Add salt and water to the soup pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then partially cover the pot. Cook until the beets are tender – usually 30 minutes or so.
- Use an immersion blender to process the soup until it’s smooth enough for your taste (we like to leave it a bit chunky). Taste the soup, and add more salt if necessary. Add the lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, if using (we find that adding some acid helps brighten the flavor of this soup).
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if desired.
- Beets “bleed” when you cut them, so they can stain. We generally use disposable gloves and a plastic cutting board when working with them. You may still get a bit of staining, but a household cleaner that contains bleach will get rid of that immediately.
- Beets usually are sold with their greens. If the beets are young, you can use the greens raw in a salad. Otherwise, cook them as you would spinach or other greens.
- The color in beets doesn’t break down in your digestive system. So it can tinge your urine and stool. Just an FYI.
- Fennel, like coriander, is both a herb and a vegetable.
- Fennel is said to cleanse the palate and aid digestion. That’s why some Indian restaurants serve fennel seeds at the end of the meal. Italian hosts (especially in Sicily) often serve raw fennel (the bulb, cut into wedges) for the same reason.
- We use an immersion blender to break up the beets for this soup (Step 5). We suggest using one with a steel (not plastic) shaft. Hot liquid can crack plastic (ask us how we know).
- If you prefer to use a food processor or stand blender instead of an immersion blender, here’s how: Let the soup cool. Add the beets, onion, and fennel to the machine with just enough of the cooking liquid to cover the mixture. Pulse until the beets achieve the consistency you prefer. Then reheat the soup and serve.
- For garnish, we like to use full-fat sour cream – but low-fat works too. Greek yogurt would also taste great.
- We use kosher salt, which is less salty by volume than regular table salt (its large crystals don’t pack as densely). If using regular table salt, use about half as much as we suggest.
Soup of a Different Color
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Gorgeous soup. And the fennel must feel very stylish wearing beet red.”
“No doubt,” I said. “This recipe came through with flying colors.”
“Makes me feel like composing some poetry,” said Mrs K R. “Beets are red, but fennel’s not blue . . . .”
“Your poetic talent leaves me green with envy,” I said.
“Lemon makes me pucker up,” continued Mrs K R, blowing me a kiss. “And so do you.”
Such a colorful character, that Mrs K R.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Chilled Beet and Cucumber Soup
Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans
Vegan Mulligatawny Soup
Curried Cauliflower Soup
Easy Lentil Soup
Kale, Quinoa, and White Bean Soup
Leek and Potato Soup
Or check out the index for more
Good morning John:)
What a lovely soup to welcome the Autumn season. I've actually been eating quite a bit of beets these days. I'm told they are a blood cleanser:) I would never think to add fennel though which I usually have just roasted with onions, (oh so yummy:)
I will have to try this soon. I have Ornamental Fennel growing in the garden. Would you believe I have never checked to see if it too gets a bulb, lol...I'll have to check!
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe John, I'll be pinning it for sure.
Now, I'm wondering with all that puckering whether a lemon pie may make the perfect dessert, lol...
Hi Louise, so nice to see you! You'll love this soup -- the fennel adds a lot. And yes, lemon pie would be the perfect dessert! :D Thanks for the comment.
I'm crazy about this soup, John, and I think the combination is genius. I could just sit and stare at that beautiful color!
Hi Sue, isn't the color so much fun? Really intense! And the flavor is wonderful too -- the fennel adds a lot. Thanks for the comment.
Fennel is a staple in my kitchen. I bet this soup is comforting, yet super healthy!
Good old-fashioned beet borscht is pretty similar to this, just no fennel. Even the sour cream is the traditional garnish for borscht, along with (maybe) some boiled potatoes. Very appealing recipe!
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Laura, fennel has such a nice flavor, doesn't it? We love the stuff! And it's a hit with beets. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, fennel is definitely a twist. Borscht is good stuff -- and so many different ways to make it. Thanks for the comment.
Your dialogue with Mrs. Kitchen Riff made me laugh. I love the addition of fennel to your colorful and delicious beet soup.
Oh, that is so beautiful, I love beets! They are so full of nutrition and the fennel added is genius! I do need to make this soup. Pat
It was 104 in LA yesterday. But that's ok. I know this soup would be good chilled. GREG
Now thos are two vegetables I would never have thought to put together but yes I can totally imgine it. I am a big fennel fan. Love the color and perfect to warm us up with fall weather.
Hi Gerlinde, the combo of beets and fennel is really good. Who would have thought? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, the fennel really is a nice surprise. SO good! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, this is good chilled. And yes, when it's 104 who wants hot soup? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Evelyne, the flavor combo of this pairing is remarkable. Really interesting. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I just can't resist beets in any form and your soup with the fennel sounds absolutely terrific…what flavor it must have.
We are always excited when soup season arrives and this is a great way to get it started! This soup has an amazing color and the combination of beets and fennel sounds great. Thanks John!
Fennel and beets together? What a unique combination! And as for adding some extra color to my urine- what a bonus!
The color alone has me craving a bowl of this beauty. My Mr likes fennel more than I do. I prefer it cooked, while he likes to add raw fennel to all his salads. This lush soup is just the compromise our dinner needs!
I just realized I've never made a beet soup. I guess I just pickle them, or eat them as is on salads. I definitely need to rectify this situation!
Wow, what an interesting combination.... and, again, such a vibrant colour. Thanks John from a chilly, rainy and wildly stormy Australia!
Hi Karen, we're huge beet lovers too! Can't get enough of them. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, soup season is so much fun, isn't it? We can't get enough! And this is a good one. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, LOL! You'll love this soup -- great flavor combo. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, I like raw fennel OK, but really prefer cooked. Trust me, you'll both like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
HI Mimi, beets make great soup! Once you get started, I'll bet you'll find you're making them often. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, this color is great, isn't it? So is its flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Looks so beautiful, light and healthy. Fennel is nice addition to this soup and really adds something special to this vegan version of the beet borsch. You know how I just talked about being careful with turmeric staining. I bet that same protocol applies to beet soup, right? Wishing you a super week.
I had beet soups, but never made one...the combination with fennel sure sounds interesting...and more I think about it...more I think I would enjoy...thanks for this exquisite recipe John.
Hope you are having a fantastic week :)
Hi Bobbi, turmeric stains tend to be a bit harder to remove, although beet stains can be a real pain too! And the fennel is wonderful in this! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, the fennel/beet combo is really interesting -- nice, zippy flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This soup looks wonderful, thanks for sharing the recipe.
I don't very often find fresh fennel in my neck of the woods. When I do, I snatch it up, even if I'm not sure what I'll make. (A fave is a sausage, tortellini and fennel dish in a creamy sauce, not low caloric.) But I'll try this the next time. Thanks, John.
Hi Amalia, it's really good -- and tasty! -- stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosemary, we can usually find it -- lucky, I guess. Love its flavor, don't you? Thanks for the comment.
This has to be the prettiest bowl of soup that I have seen yet, love everything about it. Thanks John.
Hi Cheri, it's really a neat soup! Lotta flavor, and great good looks. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love soup all year round! And this is so pretty and inviting with that vivid ruby red.
Hi Angie, isn't the red just outrageous? So pretty! Thanks for the comment.
Oh! I've never been a huge fan of beets--BUT I did have a good experience with them while in Italy, so perhaps it's time to give them another chance in this soup. Thanks for sharing, John!
This is one stunning soup! And the flavor combination is lovely. Of course, my husband would run for the hills if I mentioned we were eating fennel AND beets together---two of his most dreaded ingredients. But at least I wouldn't have to share!
Hi Ala, beets can be really good. Definitely worth giving them another try. We particularly like them in salads (roasted beets and goat cheese are a terrific combo!). Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, you'll enjoy having this soup all to yourself! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is a gorgeous soup! And I love the addition of the fennel. Have you tried this soup with golden beets? I tend to favor them over the red beet even though they aren't near a pretty. A great new soup for the cooler weather. Thanks John!
Hi MJ, I haven't tried this with golden beets, but bet it'd be good! They do have nice flavor, don't they? But not this color! :-) Thanks for the comment.
The color is dazzling. And I love the dollop of creamy yogurt as a garnish. It's perfection.
Hi Carolyn, garnish is important. :-) As is color in food! Thanks for the comment.
I love beet soup, but never paired it with fennel. And I can tell that my beetroot loving family would go gaga over this. I have beets in my pantry, and now I will have to buy some fennel. This is gonna be my dinner tonight! Thanks for this awesome share, John:)
I love beetroot and I bet the fennel works so nicely with it.
Hi Anu, I think you'll really like this -- very interesting flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Caroline, we really like beets, too. And they're wonderful in soup! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, fun color, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm a beet fan so will love trying this stunning soup. Love Fall foods.
Wow, that colour is like nothing I've ever seen before. Great job! I'm really going to wow my next dinner guests with this one. Have a great weekend :)
Hi Lea Ann, yup, fall foods are the best! And you'll really like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Robyn, this is such a fun color, isn't it? Rather amazing. :-) And great flavor, too! Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like a great soup for the season. The color is good too!
Hi Peachy, we had this again tonight. Wonderful flavor! Thanks for the comment.
I'm of Eastern European descent, so a liking for beets is in my DNA. I've never had this kind of soup with fennel, though. Sounds interesting!
Hi Jeff, the fennel is really interesting in this -- you know it's there, but it's pretty subtle. Fun flavor! Thanks for the comment.
What a gorgeous bowl of soup! I used to think I didn't like beet soup, but I happily embrace it now. This recipe looks great.
Hi Beth, beet soups can be wonderful! This one sure is. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a gorgeous color and that flavor combo sounds fantastic! Must start buying beets again.
Hi Pamela, isn't this a wonderful looking soup? The color is so great! And it tastes terrific, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love cooking with fennel! What a great way to incorporate it into the soup. The color is so vibrant. What other soups would you suggest using fennel?
Hi Mary, isn't this color great? What other soup with fennel? Why, our fennel soup with shrimp and beans: http://www.kitchenriffs.com/2013/01/fennel-soup-with-shrimp-and-beans.html :-) Thanks for the comment.
That looks so vibrant! I never tried beet root soup yet this looks healthy delicious
Uh oh... beets! It's the one foodstuff I never did like. But there are times when I tell myself I should give them another chance. Perhaps the pairing with fennel, which I love, will do the trick? I wonder...
Hi Raymund, the color is wonderful, isn't it? Love its flavor, too! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Frank, we're big beet fans here. The fennel is nice -- it kind of fades into the background in this soup, but provides nice flavor. Worth a try, I'd say. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The color of this soup is amazing! It would make for a spooky Halloween soup too! :)
Hi Pamela, great idea to serve this for Halloween! Hadn't thought of that. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I saw this striking photo on Twitter, I believe, John, and looked forward to seeing its preparation here. We weren't ones to cook with fennel but it sure does sound like it would pair very well with beets. Besides, nothing makes an impression on one's dinner guests like a beet soup. It's a great dish, John. Thanks!
I do not like beets that much but the color of this soup is so tempting and very appropriate for the Halloween as well :). My mother in law loves beets and it is really good for cancer, pinned to try soon. Thanks.
Hi John, I came to fennel late in life -- never had it as a kid. Love the stuff! Such an interesting flavor. And it works really well in this soup. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, this has an interesting flavor -- think you'll like it. Really nice way to start a meal! Thanks for the comment.
The flavor of this soup sounds so good and that color!!
Hi Taruna, isn't the color great? And the flavor is terrific! Thanks for the comment.
Beet and fennel are two of my wife's favorite ingredients and I can't wait to try this wonderful soup! Thanks John!
Hi Yi, your life is going to love this! You, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
amazing combo and gorgeous color. Bookmarked. Thank you so much for sharing !
Hi Kushi, this a wonderful soup! SO full of flavor. And the color is super, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
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