Michael Chiarello's Fennel Spice Rub

Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub

I told this story elsewhere on my site, about a Cassoulet I tried from one of Michael Chiarello‘s recipes. Well, frankly, the Cassoulet was a big hiss-boo. What wasn’t was the Brussels Sprouts sprinkled with this fantastic Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub!

Michael Chiarello's Fennel Spice Rub

Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub



That component of that cassoulet blew me away! They were out of this world fantastic and when I was putting that Cassoulet together, I kept nibbling on the Brussels Sprouts and had to remake the entire batch! See, this spice rub, sprinkled on those sprouts was nothing less than pure magic!

About Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub:

Those Brussels Sprouts, sprinkled with Fennel Spice Rub were also an “aha” moment for me! See I don’t like Fennel much, and I sure don’t like anything with an anise flavor; I seem to have an aversion to it. But I love love love those Brussels Sprouts sprinkled with this rub.

After I thought about it, though, I remembered how much I used to love the pizza from our hometown pizza parlor when I was a teenager, and I think one of the things I loved about it? The fennel seeds that were sprinkled on top. And that was even before I knew what those funny little striped seeds were. So what I’m sayin’ is, even if you don’t think you like fennel, give this rub a try!

Brussels Sprouts with Michael Chiarello's Fennel Spice Rub

Brussels Sprouts with Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub

About Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub:

Fennel Spice Rub isn’t just about the fennel, though. There’s coriander, a spice that lends so much flavor and isn’t used a lot in traditional American cooking. You’ll find coriander, though in pickles and brines and things like pastrami. And of course, in curries.

And then there’s the white pepper. When I was young, I discounted white pepper; I saw it used so seldom and usually in some kind of sauce where the writer of the recipe didn’t want black flecks. Now, I know better. While the recipe is fantastic with whole white peppercorns broken down, you can just use powdered white pepper if that’s all you have. You’ll find White Pepper listed in my Top Secret, Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients if you want to take a gander.

I cheaped out a bit on the recipe; Chef Michael Chiarello used “grey salt” a specialized sea salt. I suggest using just kosher salt or chunky sea salt; honestly, with all the big flavors I thought the nuances of the salt would be lost. I just figured why search out and pay for the grey salt in that case? I do think a good, chunky salt is important, though. I love this Conversion Chart from Morton’s that shows how to adjust the measurements of different salts.

When you make Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub, do be sure to toast your spices for maximum flavor. And once they are toasted make sure to let them cool to room temperature before trying to grind in your spice grinder or blender or they can get “gummy” from the warmed oils. Don’t be afraid of making a big batch; you’re sure to love it, but if you’re unsure, cut the recipe back. It does make a lot, about a cup and a half.

Using Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub:

First of all, know that the magic of Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub transfers through to everything you make with it. Sprinkle this Fennel Spice Rub on vegetables, especially on Root Vegetables and of course, these Brussels Sprouts I mentioned raved on and on about, above.

Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub also goes on pretty much anything and everything when I happen to see the jar of this magic in the cupboard when I’m cooking. I’ll sprinkle some on chicken breast, burgers or pork chops, and on Pita Chips.

I’ve used it also on my Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Cranberry Compote. Who would have thought that the Rhubarb Cranberry Compote in that recipe would be such a great counterpoint to the Fennel, Coriander, and White Pepper in this rub? Another, newer favorite use for this rub is my Apple & Sausage Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, which is perfect for fall. It’s shown above. Both of these dishes are company worthy!

Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub is great with more casual dishes, too. Like my Spicy Pomodoro Chickpeas as well as Sheet Tray Sausages with Onions and Grapes. It even goes in my Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup. (You can make that in the Instant Pot or on the Stove.)

An absolute favorite way to use this fantastic rub is these Chicken & Ricotta Meatballs. I use those meatballs in so many recipes, including my Italian Wedding Soup. Those little chicken meatballs are excellent served with marinara sauce. I wouldn’t hesitate to make a big batch of those meatballs and serve them with the yogurt sauce as an appetizer. And honestly, sometimes I just have some for snacking.

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Saving Money:

Let’s face it, there are some spices that are used on a more regular basis than others. When I buy a spice that I don’t think I’ll use as often, if it’s available in a whole form, like the coriander and the white pepper, it will keep its flavor for years, stored properly, tightly sealed in a dark, cool cupboard. Then it can be ground as needed.

Other options are to buy smaller amounts if you can buy from a bulk aisle, and even the packets in the grocery store produce aisle are usually less expensive than the bottled spices. McCormicks usually has “catalinas” (buy so many items, get a coupon with a specific dollar amount to use how you want in the store), coupons, and great prices in the spring.

For more information and tips on buying and storing spices and herbs, as well as my full menu of other spice blends, see my post on Spice, Herb or Flavor Packet Substitutes. I’m always adding as I go along.

Michael Chiarello's Fennel Spice Rub

Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub


Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub

  • Author: Adapted from Michael Chiarello
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups 1x
  • Category: Spice Mix


  • 1 cup fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns *
  • 3 tablespoons grey salt (I use sea salt or kosher – see conversion chart)


Toast whole spices until just fragrant in a dry skillet.  Let cool, then grind.  (If you don’t let them cool, they will gum up.)  Mix together and use it to sprinkle on any manner of things.

* if you can’t find white peppercorns, use about a tablespoon of powdered white pepper. Black pepper does not give the same flavor to the spice rub.

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17 thoughts on “Michael Chiarello’s Fennel Spice Rub

    • Thanks, it is! If you decide to make some up, let me know what you put it on! I was just thinking that I’ll have to remember this next time I get a lackluster take out pizza! A bit sprinkled over the top would really bring it to life…

    • Now that I think of it, I haven’t either! My sister is really a huge fan of his, and I think his Cassoulet was the only thing I’ve ever made.

      I did see one episode of his where he made polenta, laid it all down the middle of his table and each person was to scrape over to their place whatever portion they wished to eat. I thought that looked like a fantastic feast! And no dishes to clean up!

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