Recipe: Fennel Citrus Compound Butter

Every year, my sister gives me a couple fun tins of fish for Christmas.  They’re always different brands and they’re always fun to try, and they make a perfect little after work snack throughout January.  I usually enjoy them with a little butter on a cracker or toast, and this year I was inspired by the farmer’s market to up my butter game.  So, I whipped up this recipe for fennel citrus compound butter last night to pair with my oil packed dill trout, and I wanted to share the recipe here with you!

The farmer’s markets here in Southern California (and, in turn, my fridge) are overflowing with beautiful citrus and greens this time of year.  I absolutely love winter produce in California, and I buy as much perfect citrus as I can throughout January and February.  This week at the market, we picked up a big bag of naval oranges and a beautiful bulb of fennel, and I refreshed my lemon supply from our tree in the garden.  The idea for this recipe was born as I was strolling through the market, and it turned out so nicely!

This recipe uses the green part of the fennel (the fennel fronds) that are often thrown away, which I think is a huge mistake.  I love to use fennel fronds as an herb (especially as a substitution for dill).  The fronds are tender and have a delightful anise flavor that pairs so nicely with fish.  I also use fennel fronds in salads, as an herb to brighten up roasted dishes after baking, as well as in pesto.  If you’ve never tried fennel fronds before, give them a go!  They are certainly versatile and a great addition to your fresh herb rotation.

I paired my fennel fronds with the zest of one orange and one lemon, and these flavors all blended in with creamy butter were delicious.  If you don’t want to use this compound butter with tinned fish, feel free to use it on toast, as a flavorful spread for sandwiches, mixed into steamed potatoes for a warm, herby side, or used to top off a pasta dish for added flavor and creaminess.  I think this would also be really good smothered on a seared and sliced steak, or rubbed under the skin of a roasted chicken.  The thing about compound butter is that it’s basically just flavored butter, so it’s butter but better!  This recipe makes a fair amount, so get spreading!

Recipe down below, photo up top!  This recipe makes enough for one stick of butter, so it’s great for meal prep and to have on hand for a variety of applications.

Fennel Citrus Compound Butter


  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups fennel fronds
  • Zest of 1-2 oranges
  • Zest of 1-2 lemons
  • ¼ tsp salt


  1. Leave your butter on the counter at room temperature for at least four hours to fully soften.
    1. If you don’t have time to wait for that, microwave the butter at 10 second intervals until it becomes soft, but not melted (about 10-20 seconds or so).
  2. Place the butter in a small food processor.
  3. Remove the tender fennel fronds from a bulb of fennel (you’ll need about half of the fennel fronds from one bulb for this recipe, but more or less won’t hurt here).  Roughly chop the fennel fronds, and add to the butter in the food processor.
  4. Using a microplane grater, zest the orange and the lemon (use two if you are working with smaller citrus fruits).  Add the zest of the lemon and orange to the food processor.
  5. Add the salt to the food processor.
  6. Place the lid on the food processor and begin to pulse to combine.  Blend until the fennel fronds are chopped into smaller pieces and everything is well incorporated into the butter (about 10-15 5 second pulses).
  7. Once everything is combined, transfer to a bowl to serve.  Store any remaining compound butter in an air-tight container in the fridge, or in a bowl with plastic wrap up against the surface of the butter.  This can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
  8. Enjoy!

Alternative recipe if you don’t have a food processor:  Add the softened butter to a bowl.  Finely chop the fennel fronds and add to the butter.  Add the citrus zest and salt to the bowl with the butter as well.  Using a fork, mash the chopped fennel fronds, citrus zest, and salt into the butter, and mix until everything is fully incorporated.  Enjoy!

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