Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

Appetizers, Thanksgiving, Vegetarian

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

I used to be one of those psycho people who liked to be really hungry for Thanksgiving dinner. So instead of having breakfast, I’d just power through the day so I could REALLY enjoy dinner. But then that lead to be, like, being mean to people so now I make sure to eat breakfast AND I always have an appetizer prepped.

This is perfect for that because it can be made the day before and then heated up when hanger-vibes strike.

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

This can also be thrown in with the turkey if you don’t have multiple ovens. It’s the sort of things that’s super forgiving since really you’re just melting the cheese and warming it throughout.

The fennel is seared on both sides until very caramelized.

Fennel like this almost has a sweet flavor to it—it’s DELICIOUS.

The leeks and garlic add some nice bite to an otherwise sort of cheese-filled dish. There’s balance. The lemon zest and crushed red pepper add a bit of niceness too.

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

I like this with brie and parmesan and a bit of mozzarella on top for browning. It’s a perfect mix of creamy and sweet and very savory. I like to eat it with bread but crackers will do the trick too.

I fly to London today! WOOHOO! I’ll be posting on the regs, so be sure to follow my Ladies-of-London-type adventures on da ‘gram.

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serving Size: 4 TO 6 (AS AN APPETIZER)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 fennel bulbs, 1 1/2 lbs, *thinly sliced with a few fronds reserved as garnish
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 ounces brie cheese, room temperature and removed from the rind
  • 2 ounces about 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan-Reggiano
  • Zest from 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 ounce about 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • Bread or crackers, for serving


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium skillet, set over medium heat, add the oil. When hot, add the fennel and sear on both sides, for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. You may need to do this in batches depending on how big your skillet is. See note below for slicing the root end off each slice. After you’re done with the fennel, transfer it to a food processor.
  • In the same medium skillet, add a teaspoon of olive oil, if needed. Add the leeks and cook, mixing often, until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the leek mixture to the food processor, along with the brie cheese, Parmesan-Reggiano, lemon zest, salt and crushed red pepper. Pulse until mostly smooth, about 30 seconds. Give it a taste and adjust the salt to your liking.
  • Transfer to a small oven-safe baking dish or bowl. Top with the shredded mozzarella and place in the oven until the cheese is melted and browned on top, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with slices of bread or crackers.


*I sliced the fennel vertically, keeping the root end intact (see photo for reference). After I seared it, I then trimmed the root ends off of each slice since that part can be a bit tough.
Serving: 4g
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Recipe Rating

  • Reply Pousada em Campos do Jordão May 4, 2020 at 7:42 am

    5 stars
    This is gorgeous. Totally making this. YUM.

  • Reply Jessica November 27, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Quick question:

    After having this saved for years (and accidentally pinning twice and nearly a third this year), I’m making this now for tomorrow’s appetizer and am wondering how many steps to do ahead of time. I’m guessing I should save the final baking for tomorrow just before serving?

    • Reply Adrianna Adarme November 27, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      yes i would assemble the whole thing and just cover it lightly with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and stick it in the fridge and then bake it tomorrow just before serving! if you’re short on oven space you could even do this in a toaster oven (if the baking dish fits, obviously).

      • Reply Jessica November 27, 2019 at 5:35 pm

        Great! Thanks for the quick response. 🙂 Can’t wait to dig innnn!

  • Reply Allyn December 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    5 stars
    So I made this for a party on Saturday, and it was the only thing that had a clean serving dish by the end of the night. People seriously could NOT stop complimenting me on it. Such a winner! The only thing I adjusted was adding the juice of half a lemon to the mixture because I felt it needed a touch more brightness, but otherwise, total badass perfection.

  • Reply Catie November 24, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Do you think you could get this all assembled the night before, then pop it in the oven the next day?

  • Reply Cc November 15, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    We always struggled as a family to fit in everyone’s favorite recipes, so started last year splitting it all up into a lunch and dinner so nothing is left out and no one gets a belly ache. The bonus is there are tons of leftovers for the whole weekend and since we are each responsible for one dish (or to clean dishes) everyone gets a break for one meal to socialize.

  • Reply Marpy November 14, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I’m not waiting for Thanksgiving to make this! Yum-o!

  • Reply Allison from Baking: a Love Story November 13, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    This is gorgeous. Totally making this. YUM.

  • Reply Shikha @ Shikha la mode November 11, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Warm cheese is always the way to go!

  • Reply Tori November 11, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I always used to skip breakfast too and then end up spending the day all hangry. Now I try to nibble a little on yummy apps and this looks like the best snacking ite EVER!

  • Reply cynthia November 11, 2015 at 11:29 am

    OH my goodness. I just want this for Thanksgiving, the end.

  • Reply Lindsay | Please Pass the Peas November 11, 2015 at 10:53 am

    This looks so good. I was just thinking I could use a new approach to fennel and make-ahead appetizers are the best.

  • Reply Arthur in the Garden! November 11, 2015 at 10:11 am


  • Reply Katrina November 11, 2015 at 5:40 am

    I really love the fennel in this dip – I’d eat it all up! I relate to not eating too much before Thanksgiving…but I always end up eating waaaaay too much appetizer! haha

  • Reply Alice November 11, 2015 at 3:54 am

    I too am guilty of often not eating breakfast before a big dinner party… now I just wish this was served at our dinners, it looks so good I wouldn’t mind having it for lunch today. 🙂

    Have fun in London!