The Meaning of Schmaltz

Discover the rich history and cultural significance of schmaltz, a traditional cooking fat in Jewish cuisine. Learn about its uses, health considerations, and hear from a Jewish grandmother who swears by it in her matzo ball soup recipe.

What is Schmaltz?

Schmaltz is a Yiddish term that refers to rendered poultry fat, particularly chicken or goose fat. It is commonly used in Jewish cuisine as a cooking fat or flavoring agent, adding a rich and savory taste to dishes.

History and Cultural Significance

Schmaltz has a long history in Jewish cooking, dating back to shtetl life in Eastern Europe. It was a way for Ashkenazi Jews to add flavor and richness to otherwise bland and simple dishes, especially during times when meat was scarce. Schmaltz became a staple in Jewish kitchens and is still widely used in traditional recipes today.

Uses of Schmaltz

Schmaltz can be used in a variety of ways in cooking. It can be used to sauté vegetables, roast potatoes, make fluffy matzo balls, or even fry latkes. Its high smoke point makes it a versatile and flavorful cooking fat.

Health Considerations

While schmaltz adds flavor to dishes, it is high in saturated fats and cholesterol, so it should be consumed in moderation. Some people choose to use it sparingly or substitute it with healthier fats like olive oil.

Case Studies

Sharon, a Jewish grandmother, swears by schmaltz in her matzo ball soup recipe. She believes that it adds a depth of flavor that cannot be replicated with any other fat. Her family looks forward to her soup every Passover.


A survey conducted among Jewish households found that 80% of respondents use schmaltz in their cooking at least once a month. It is a beloved ingredient that has stood the test of time in Jewish cuisine.

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