Citrus Fish Cakes with Broiled Fennel and Orange Salad

These fresh, flavorful citrus fish cakes are easy to make, yet elegant enough to serve for brunch. The bright salad makes it a meal!

Citrus Fish Cakes with Roasted Fennel and Orange Salad //

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again): citrus fruits are the one thing that get me through winter every year. There’s no ice-cold day that peeling a clementine can’t brighten, no snowstorm that eating a slice of lemon meringue pie can’t make cozier.

When the first signs of spring start to show up in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere, usually in early March, people start sharing appealing, super fresh spring dishes that feature freshly grown veggies such as asparagus and sweet peas. Alas, in early March, winter is still firmly entrenched in my hometown. We receive so much snow every year that it takes two full months from when temperatures start to climb for tree buds to swell and tulips come out of their winter sleep. This is the time of the year when I need citrus fruits the most to lift my mood and keep me patient as I wait for spring to finally arrive where I am, too.

While in frigid January I’ll gladly indulge in rich, bold desserts such as Lemon and Olive Oil Cake with Toasted Meringue—my favorite!—and Orange Chocolate Pots de Crème, when March rolls around, I like to move on to lighter, fresh sweet and savory citrus dishes. Around this time of year, I keep these aromatic Citrus Fish Cakes continuously stashed in the fridge and freezer: they’re so flavorful and nutritious, they make the brightest weekday lunch. They’re super quick and easy to make, too, so I usually double or even triple the batch, then bake and freeze them in airtight containers. All the citrus fish cakes need to be transformed into a scrumptious lunch is an overnight stay in the refrigerator, if you want to eat them cold, or a few minutes in a warm oven, to make them crunchy again.

Fresh fennel on a cutting board //

The perfect side dish to turn these citrus fish cakes into a complete meal is a broiled fennel and orange salad. Roasting the fennel makes it sweeter and crisp-tender, in a delightful contrast to the juicy oranges and crunchy nuts. It’s a riot of a salad, one you’ll find yourself craving, with or without the accompanying citrus fish cakes.

Roasted Fennel and Orange Salad //

Helpful Tips for Making These Citrus Fish Cakes with Broiled Fennel and Orange Salad

Can I make these citrus fish cakes ahead of time?

Yes! You can cook the citrus fish cakes, let them cool completely, then store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

You can also meal prep these citrus fish cakes and the broiled fennel and orange salad, too. See my tips below to learn how to do it breezily.

Can I freeze these fish cakes?

Yes! Once the citrus fish cakes have cooled to room temperature, spread them over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until hard, then transfer the frozen citrus fish cakes to an airtight container: they’ll keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Easy, Meal Prep-Friendly Citrus Fish Cakes //

How to meal prep these citrus fish cakes with broiled fennel and orange salad

The citrus fish cakes can be frozen (see tips above) and the broiled fennel and orange salad is sturdy, so you can meal prep it ahead of time. Here’s how to meal prep this recipe with ease:

  • Broil the fennel while you prepare the fish cakes
  • While the citrus fish cakes cook, transfer the broiled fennel to a wire rack to cool
  • As you cook the citrus fish cakes, transfer them to a wire rack to cool as well
  • While the citrus fish cakes cool, peel and slice the oranges
  • Assemble the salad, except for the arugula and the nuts
  • Divide the salad and citrus fish cakes between two-compartment storage containers. Top the salad portions with a good pinch of arugula and some nuts
  • Seal the containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days

Can I substitute another type of fish for the tilapia?

Yes! You can substitute any type of flaky fish, such as cod, haddock, or pollock, or use a pink fish variety such as salmon or trout. Simply make sure to use an equivalent quantity (weight), cook it, then swap it into the recipe.

Fresh tilapia to make Citrus Fish Cakes //

How to quickly and easily cook the fish to make these fish cakes

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the fish fillets side by side on the baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake tilapia for 10 to 12 minutes, or until you can easily flake the fish with a fork. Let the fish fillets cool completely before crumbling them and using them to make the citrus fish cakes.

You can cook any other fish variety the same way; just make sure to adjust the baking time according to the size and thickness of the fillets.

Citrus Fish Cakes with Roasted Fennel and Orange Salad //

Citrus Fish Cakes with Broiled Fennel and Orange Salad

These fresh, flavorful citrus fish cakes are easy to make, yet elegant enough to serve for brunch. The bright salad makes it a meal!
Course Appetizers, Lunch, Main Course, Main dish, Picnics, Salad, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword arugula, Basil, Breadcrumbs, Citrus, Fennel, Fish Cakes, Green Olives, Lemon, Mint, Orange Zest, Tilapia, White Fish
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Marie Asselin,


For the broiled fennel and orange salad

For the citrus fish cakes

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 12 oz cooked white fish fillets (such as tilapia), crumbled
  • cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green olives
  • ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds, basil, and mint, tightly packed
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • Finely grated zest from half an orange
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the easy citrus mayonnaise

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • Finely grated zest from ½ orange and ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


For the broiled fennel and orange salad

  • Preheat oven to broil. Spread the sliced fennel over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 1/2 tbsp (8 ml) of the extra-virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 5 to 8 minutes until the fennel is crisp-tender and lightly browned. Let cool completely.

For the citrus fish cakes

  • Using a mortar or a rolling pin, crush the fennel seeds. Add to a large mixing bowl, then add the crumbled cooked fish. Add the breadcrumbs, green olives, chopped herbs, green onion, orange zest, egg, lemon juice, and crushed red pepper. Mix to carefully combine the ingredients. Shape the mixture into eight 3-inch (8 cm) patties. Be careful when handling the patties because they are delicate and can break easily.
  • In a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Carefully transfer the patties to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side, until golden and crisp. Keep warm in a low oven.

For the easy citrus mayonnaise

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, orange zest, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Transfer to an airtight jar and refrigerate until service.

To assemble the salad

  • Transfer the cooled, broiled fennel to a bowl. Add the arugula, orange, and nuts. Gently toss. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss again to combine.
  • SERVING: Serve the warm citrus fish cakes with the broiled fennel and orange salad and citrus mayo on the side.
  • STORAGE: You can prepare and cook the citrus fish patties up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerate in an airtight container. Reheat in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 8 minutes and serve with the salad.
  • MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free breadcrumbs.


Peeling and chopping the oranges is the fastest way to prepare this salad, but to give it a luxurious look, you can segment the oranges instead.
How to segment oranges: First, peel the fruit with a very sharp pairing knife: cut off both the top and bottom of the orange. Stand the orange on either of the flat ends. Run the knife along the fruit from top to bottom, removing the skin and pith, leaving the flesh bare. Rotate the orange and repeat.
To collect segments, take the peeled orange in one hand, and run the knife alongside the membranes, leaving entirely bare pieces of orange behind. You should make sure to do this over a bowl and squeeze the remaining membrane to catch all dripping juices. You can use the juice in this recipe, or save it for your next smoothie or cocktail.

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