Schmaltz and Gribenes

Anybody who wants to make truly authentic Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine must first learn how to make schmaltz and gribenes. Schmaltz is an important ingredient in many Jewish recipes, and is a must-know for anybody wanting to prepare authentic Ashkenazi cuisine. Gribenes are a by-product of the process used to collect schmaltz. Some of you might find this blog a bit– well, unappetizing. To the modern health-conscious cook, schmaltz and gribenes sound like a heart attack waiting to happen. Schmaltz is full of cholesterol, but it adds a very unique flavor to dishes that is unmatched by any other type of oil. While many people find gribenes delicious, others might consider them too strange or unhealthy to enjoy. Take them or leave them, schmaltz and gribenes are quintessentially Jewish.

Though richly flavored, both dishes evolved out of frugality. In Eastern Europe and other Ashkenazi countries, chicken meat was an expensive treat. When a chicken was purchased from the butcher, every part of the bird was used. Schmaltz and gribenes are two creative ways of using parts of the chicken that might otherwise be thrown away.

Schmaltz is basically rendered chicken fat. It is collected by slowly sautéing chicken skin and fat, then collecting the liquid fat that melts as it cooks. It’s easy to make and adds an authentic flavor to many Jewish recipes, including matzo balls and chopped liver.

After collecting the schmaltz, continue to fry the chicken skin with onion to produce a batch of crispy little gribenes. They can be snacked on as-is or added as a condiment to other dishes. I like to think of gribenes as the Jewish alternative to bacon. It’s fatty, flavorful fried goodness—and it’s kosher!

You might be wondering, “Where do I get a whole pound of chicken skin and fat?” Well, you can collect it from your everyday chicken recipes (store it in the freezer and thaw before using), or you can ask your butcher. Regular butchers will sometimes give it to you for free, since it’s stuff they would normally throw away. Kosher butchers will usually charge you, though, because they know what you’re up to!

You can also collect schmaltz by cooling chicken soup in the refrigerator, then skimming the solid fat that rises to the top. I prefer the method described here, as it consistently produces perfect golden schmaltz every time.

Next week, I’ll be posting my traditional chicken chopped liver recipe, which uses both schmaltz and gribenes in the mix.  :)

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Schmaltz and Gribenes


  • 1 lb. chicken skin and fat
  • 1 large onion
  • Salt and pepper

You will also need

  • Nonstick skillet, mesh strainer, paper towels
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour
Servings: 1 cup of schmaltz, 4-6 servings of gribenes
Kosher Key: Meat, Kosher for Passover

To Make Schmaltz

  • Rinse the pound of chicken skin and fat, pat dry, then chop it into small 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Place the skin and fat into a skillet on the stovetop (make sure it's nonstick!) and turn heat to low. Cover the skillet and let it cook on low for about 15 minutes. Liquid fat will start to pool at the bottom of the skillet.
  • Uncover the skillet and raise heat to medium low. Let it cook for another 15-20 minutes, breaking the pieces apart with a spatula and stirring frequently, until the skin starts to brown and curl at the edges. At this point there should be quite a bit of liquid fat at the bottom of the pan—this liquid is your schmaltz.
  • Remove pan from heat. Pour the schmaltz from the skillet into a container, using a mesh strainer to catch any small pieces of skin.
  • A golden oil will result—this is called schmaltz. It can be used in a variety of Jewish dishes or as a cooking fat. Reserve the cooked skin and fat pieces, you can use them to make gribenes. The schmaltz will stay liquid at room temperature; it will become solid and opaque if you refrigerate it.

To Make Gribenes

  • After collecting the schmaltz, return the cooked chicken skin and fat to the skillet. Peel the onion, cut it into thin slices and add it to the skillet.
  • Season the chicken skin and onions generously with salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium and sauté the mixture for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pieces are dark brown and crispy. Don’t leave them alone for long or they’ll burn! You want them dark brown, but not blackened.
  • Remove the gribenes from the skillet with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel.
  • Season again with salt and pepper to taste. Gribenes can be snacked on as-is or added to other dishes as a topping.


Comments (103)Post a Comment

  1. My mother always uses shmaltz in her matza balls. I would not want them any other way. I have done so in the past as well, but now I mostly use oil. In some Kosher Butcher shops you can buy rendered shmaltz. Makes things very easy!

  2. Haven’t even thought of this in years and years…..but I saw someone say they eat it on “corn rye”! There is no corn rye outside of the new york metro area! Come from Brooklyn originally, then moved to NJ, where, yes, we could get corn rye, but not in North Carolina!!! Help!

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    yummy: Try living in the west central coast of Florida you cant get schav or borchut in the super market. Have a friend bring cases wheen she comes from NY also 4 dozen bagels.

  4. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My mother made schmaltz and gribenes but didn’t separate them. She put the onions right in with the chicken fat and skin and that way, the onions gave the schmaltz a wonderful flavor. I still make schmaltz that way. I use it for knaidlach, chopped liver, and a delicious Passover matzah farfel kugel.

  5. Lydia, sometimes I do it the way your mom does, too. I prefer the method I described in the blog because it gives a clear, golden schmaltz– and you can add onions to it if you want that oniony flavor. When I use the onions in rendering the schmaltz, it tends to be darker in color and needs more straining. But that doesn’t really matter for most savory dishes. Either method works great! :)

  6. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    hi tori,
    wow everything looks fab. hope you had a wonderfultime(looks like you did)
    just wondering when i’ll receive your cookbook? my friends and family are waiting to see my name and kugel recipe immortalized .lol i know they will want to purchase books of their own.please respond to my comment thank you
    sincerely,susan yeager

    1. Hi Susan, as soon as the cookbook is published we will notify everybody on my website and blog– and as a recipe contributor, you will receive your own copy in the mail upon publication. 😉

    1. Red, schmaltz keeps well in the refrigerator. Like most cooking fats, it has an impressive shelf life. The longest I’ve kept it is about a month (I tend to use it up quickly when I have it on hand). You can probably keep it even longer if the container you store it in is sterile and you use a sterile tool when removing some from the jar– this will help you avoid cross contamination. You can also freeze the schmaltz. This will extend the shelf life even longer!

    2. I freeze mine in ziploc bags (flat until they can stack nicely) and they are good for 1 year!!! (they never last that long b/c I use them!!!) I have a rotating stock. I am so glad I found this page!!! :)

  7. […] prepare the matzo ball mix according to package directions and place in refrigerator. I like to use schmaltz instead of vegetable oil to bind the balls. Sometimes I add a couple of tablespoons of the minced […]

  8. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    […] Jewish cuisine, we might be tempted to steer clear of unhealthy traditional ingredients like schmaltz. And yet, nothing can compare to the wonderful way that schmaltz enhances a dish like Kasha […]

  9. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Fellow schmaltz lovers might be interested to learn that although it and rendered chicken fat have been synonymous for the last century or so, our Ashkenazi ancestors in eastern Europe usually made it out of GOOSE fat, which must really have been amazing!

    Although I’ve been eating Jewish food for 59 years, I only learned this recently from a book I think Tori and all her fans will enjoy called 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement by Jane Ziegelman, which came out in June from Smithsonian Press.

    97 Orchard Street is the address of the building that is now New York’s Tenement museum. So in addition to Jewish food, the book offers fascinating history about the foodways of Germans, Irish, and Italian immigrants too.

  10. Lovin’ the!
    I have been making Matzo Ball soup forever and always prefer my soup from scratch; boiled chicken, boiled bones & veges, etc
    I love my Schmaltz, it is my favorite kitchen create. After I make my chicken soup from scratch, I recover lots of flavorful schmaltz from the top of my jars and save to smaller jars and wondered today how long it would last beyond my smell test. Thanks for the answers.
    Good Nosh!

  11. I now make my schmaltz w/gribenes in the microwave! I use a 4 cup glass measuring cup and it works fine! Renders faster and much easier to clean up.
    BTW Borscht in jars is available in west central Florida at Pubix. If for any reason your store doesn’t stock it, just ask the manager and they will get it for you!

  12. Dear Tori,
    Love your website! I lived in NYC and suburbs for 15 years and miss the Jewish deli scene terribly. Make my own latkes and serve them with applesauce. Love stuffed “cabbitch”. I worked side by side wth a Latvian Jew who escaped death in a German concentration. He paid me one of the nicest complements after overhearing me handle a tough question from a customer — he said, “Peg, you’re too “schmart” to be a shiksa!” (His tongue was buried in his cheek . . .)

    Best to you, Peg Durham, St. George, Utah

    1. Sheila, great idea on the microwave render, I’ll have to try that next time!

      Peg, thanks for the kind comment! Happy you are enjoying the site! :)

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    My grandmother made these all the time – and kept the griben in a coffee can – my afterschool snack was smalz and griben on pumperknickel – On a recent trip to Poland, you can buy griben made with goosefat and in addition to the onions a bit of dried apple is added in – yum!

  14. One of my favorite memories from childhood was my Nana making schmaltz, then gribenes, but she didn’t cook it till it was crunchy. Instead, she cooked until the onions were transparent & then added chopped hard boiled eggs & we ate the mix on matzo. To this day, I make it every time I render my schmaltz!

  15. I wish our meat markets around here processed their own chickens…I would so like to do this without having to remove the skin from any other chicken that I would normally eat skin on. I could see this becoming an addiction easily.

  16. Tori,

    I recently discovered your blog and love it. I checked out some of the recipes and am anxious to try them. If there are any recipes you need, let me know since I do have a pretty good collection.

  17. Up until I reached my teens I enjoyed grebenes both as a snack and mashed into my mashed potatoes and chopped liver, Then some spoilsport said to me schmaltz and grebenes have killed more Jews than Hilter. I have just turned 77 and as I write this my saved chicken fat and skin are being made. Why not?

    1. Marty-

      I’m two years late to the party but I was 80 on May 2 (2013) and gribenes are my pork rinds. Schmaltz keeps me beautiful and strong. Cholesterol is a goyish plot.

    2. I agree with you and Malka. I just started a low carb, high fat diet to combat diabetes, and fat is saving my life. I need all the schmaltz and gribenes I can make. Hope to make it to 77 and 80 and beyond.

  18. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Tori…I am loving this site & blog…My dad’s mother from Lithuania always made gribenes after the schmaltz process…we would eat it on bread shmeared with the schmaltz…it’s a wonder I’m still alive…she was a sweet woman (grandmother) but spoke not one word of English…still, she would “schtupp” me with yummy goodness every time I saw her…to this day, nobody’s food tastes like hers…I guess it’s hard to reproduce “granma’s food”, no matter how hard you try or how kosher the ingredients…I remember her picking out live fish from a barrel at her fishmonger in Philly, then clubbing them with a stick and bringing them home to make her own gefilte fish…OMG, so good! She also used to make some sort of baked fish, that was a little sweet and may have had some cinnamon and other spices…I sure would like to know what that was and try to duplicate…it was awesome…too bad there’s no one left in my family to ask, so I’ll throw it out here on the blog and see if anybody knows!!! Everytime I think of her (she passed in the early 70’s), all I can hear is “Jakeleh…esse gezundteheidt”…damn I miss her!!!

    1. Wow, Jack, what a great post! I’m so happy the blog is bringing back some happy family food memories for you. It’s as if your grandma is in the room, the way you describe her… I can just imagine her with the fishmonger. Talk about fresh gefilte fish! I don’t know the particular cinnamon fish dish you’re talking about, but I do have some Jewish friends with a Lithuanian background that I can ask about it. If I find out the recipe I will definitely let you know! (Alas, I can’t promise it will ever taste as good as when grandma made it…) 😉

  19. Do you pronounce this gry-“beans”, or more like the Italian ending gry-“benais” (as in bene! bene! [good, good])?

    heh, heh, heh.

    Really, shouldn’t there be at least a double ‘s’ on it? When I was a kid growing up, we pronounced all the ‘e’s as ‘i’s. Well, that’s just an accident of a difference in accent. But the double ‘s’ really does need to be there for folks who didn’t grow up eating this kind of stuff, don’cha think? For easy pronunciation’s sake?

    I’m making a pile of gribiness for a whole bunch of Caribbean folks tomorrow out of the chicken skin they ordinarily throw away (!) when making jerk. They also throw away the lungs (I think they’re lungs, at least) of the chicken we used to call “a gutte zoch” (a good thing)! They’re still my favourite part of the chicken. Meanwhile, my band mates’ve tried to shock me with things like chicken feet soup, and can’t believe I grew up on the stuff! My sister used to chase me around the kitchen while working the tendon to make the feet claw in and out. Turns out that same thing was going on in kitchens with kids all over the Caribbean (now I think about it, probably all over the world). They can’t believe anyone would eat what I explained to them was gribiness and useful schmaltz; but many of them can’t wait to try it at our steel band party in Oakville Ontario tomorrow.

    Thanks for your recipe. I’m using it. Now…where are those scissors…

  20. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    I came across your recipe. I have wanted to find some way to use the chicken fat and skin from the whole chickens I buy (it’s just less expensive to cut it yourself). I just finished this and am excited to use the fat in cooking, maybe in beans or potatoes, or maybe I can find some fun recipes on your site. The gribenes, I just tried, and they were great. Also my toddler loved trying them too. Maybe I can throw them on a green salad like bacon bits? Thanks for the ideas and I enjoyed the comments too.

  21. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Just made the gribenes and it turned out great, I think so anyway. I have a friend at a local high grade butcher shop and he saved me the skin and fat. I took longer than the 15-20 mins to brown them after I drained the schmaltz, about 30 mins total, just saying, don’t be discouraged if they’re not brown after the 15-20, just stick with em and they’ll get there, remember, anyone can tell you that the timer is beeping, but only experience and dedication will tell you when its done right. Thanks for this recipe, the chopped chicken livers recipe is next, obvi. Betayavon.

  22. Nothing better that potatoes fried in schmaltz. I am not Jewish and could not figure out why the home fries at this one restaurant was so good.. I had to ask and they said “schmaltz” I said what is that.. and they told me. I now save it off the stock that i make. So good! And a little will not hurt you.. Moderation!

  23. I’m 65 and have been eating this since my eyes open.One can’t make good chopped liver without schmaltz and the grib(v)eners chopped fine and added and that blessed onion.Also on a slice of Jewish rye bread from the homeland, Brooklyn,NY–toasted with schmaltz-ahhhhhhhh

  24. To the Shiksa-Put me on your mailing list! Yesterday! My dad brought my little farm Kansas girl mom to NYC where they lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. When I was born, we were still there; now I live in SLC and can’t buy Jewish rye bread, challah, or schmaltz. Any ideas??

    1. Sorry this reply is a little late, but Harmons grocery sells fresh baked challah bread. I think they make it on Fridays. I would call your closest store to double check.

    2. Candy, I`m a little late with my suggestion but in case the Shiksa hasn`t already helped you I`ll add my two cents. I didn`t taste store bought challah for all the years Grandma Shandel lived and spoiled us with her Iron Chef talent. No I can`t give you her recipe since she couldn`t write. My mom asked for her to tell her the recipe. hearing mom tell a friend one day she wrote Grams recipe down I asked her to find it and give it to me. Every one was pretty much the same. an example…..Take some flour and add a bissel… She never used a recipe since after 60 years and perhaps thousands of challahs it was automatic up until the last year of her life. She never made rye bread or bagels but considered challah easy to make. My first stop would be The Shiksa site and, or, google, asking perhaps for prize winning challah recipes. As a last resort drive to a synagogue and ask the Rabbi or better yet his wife for suggestions. marty

    3. My post is even older than Elizabeth & Marty’s, but I just found this site. Candy, if you haven’t yet found this restaurant, it Feldman’s Deli at 2005 East 2700 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84109 (801) 906-0369. He and his family came to Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics and stayed and then opened the restaurant. Flies in the meats from NY, but get the breads from local bakeries. Hope you enjoy.

  25. Candy:
    After some research I found a Deli in SLC that may accommodate you…check out…it’s not a Kosher Deli, but it is a Jewish deli…corned beef and pastrami, rye bread, and there is mention of schmaltz in their Matzoh Ball soup on the menu…you may be able to sweet talk the “moishe” behind the counter into selling you some schmaltz…of course, you could make your own also, just a little bit of work…but they do not have any smkoed fish (lox, nova, sable, chubs, etc) or bagels…I’m from the Philly/South Jersey area, and a deli is not a deli without those things, but after all, you are in SLC…if you must have KOSHER, it appears there is a Chabad related deli called “Kosher on the Go” @ 1575 South 1100 East in SLC…no rye bread, but Challah…they may be able to advise you where to go for some good deli as well…they do have lox and bagels. Happy hunting!

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