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This article is about cooking fat. For the brewery, see Shmaltz Brewing Company.
Schmaltz derived from geese
Type Spread, cooking fat
Main ingredients Fat (chicken or goose)
Cookbook:Schmaltz  Schmaltz
Schmaltz (Chicken)
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 3,767 kJ (900 kcal)
0 g
99.8 g
Saturated 30 g
Monounsaturated 45 g
Polyunsaturated 21 g
0 g
Other constituents
Cholesterol 85 mg
Vitamin E 2.7 mg
Selenium 0.2 mg

Fat percentage can vary.
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Schmaltz (also spelled schmalz or shmalz) is rendered (clarified) chicken or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread in German, Austrian, Polish, and, by historical extension, Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.

The English term "schmaltz" is derived from Yiddish, and is cognate with the German term Schmalz, meaning "rendered animal fat", regardless of source—both tallow and lard are considered forms of Schmalz in German, as is clarified butter. However, English usage tends to follow Yiddish[1][2][3] with respect to both the term's spelling and the limitation of its definition to fat rendered from domestic fowl.


The term "schmaltz" entered English usage through Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews who used it to refer to kosher poultry fat; the word שמאַלץ shmalts is the Yiddish word for rendered chicken fat.[4] The word is common to the High German languages, including both Yiddish and modern Standard German, and comes from Middle High German smalz,[5] a noun derived from the verb smelzen, meaning "to melt". The verb can be traced back to the Germanic root "smeltan", which survives in the Modern English verb "to smelt".


Schmaltz rendered from a chicken or goose was used by northwestern and eastern European Jews who were forbidden by kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) from frying their meats in butter or lard, the common forms of cooking fat in Europe, as butter, being derived from milk, cannot be used with meat under the Jewish prohibition on mixing meat and dairy, and lard is derived from pork, an unkosher meat. Furthermore, tallow derived from beef or mutton would have been uneconomical, particularly given that virtually all suet (the raw material for tallow) is chelev and its consumption is forbidden. Northwestern and Eastern European Jews also could not obtain the kinds of vegetable-derived cooking oils such as olive oil and sesame oil, used in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean (as in Spain and Italy).[6][7][8] Thus Ashkenazi Jews turned to poultry fat as their cooking fat of choice; the overfeeding of geese to produce more fat per bird produced Modern Europe's first foie gras as a side effect.[6]


The manufacture of schmaltz involves cutting the fatty tissues of a bird (chicken or goose) into small pieces, melting the fat, and collecting the drippings. Schmaltz may be prepared by a dry process where the pieces are cooked under low heat and stirred, gradually yielding their fat. A wet process also exists whereby the fat is melted by direct steam injection. The rendered schmaltz is then filtered and clarified.

Homemade Jewish-style schmaltz is made by cutting chicken or goose fat into small pieces and melting in a pan over low-to-moderate heat, generally with onions. After the majority of the fat has been extracted, the melted fat is strained through a cheesecloth into a storage container. The remaining dark brown, crispy bits of skin and onion are known in Yiddish as gribenes. Another simple method is as a by-product of the making of chicken soup. After the chicken is simmered in the pot or crock-pot, the broth is chilled so the fat rises to the top and can be skimmed off, at once providing schmaltz to set aside for other uses and a lower-fat soup, which is brought back to heat before serving.


Schmaltz often has a strong aroma, and therefore is often used for hearty recipes such as stews or roasts. It is also used as a bread spread, where it is sometimes also salted, and generally this is done on whole-grain breads or black breads which have a strong flavor of their own. It can be used in such salads as egg salad and chicken salad as mayonnaise is used, as a fatty addition to such recipes as latkes (potato pancakes) or kugel, or instead of butter when pan-frying potatoes, onions, or other foods.

Vegetarian schmaltz[edit]

A vegetarian (and consequently pareve) version of schmaltz was first marketed commercially in South Africa by Debra's under the slogan "Even the chicken can't tell the difference".[9] Other vegetarian brands include Nyafat. The producer claims the taste and texture is similar to real chicken schmaltz, but the saturated fat content is much lower - Debra's Schmaltz, for example, bears the South African Heart Foundation's sign of endorsement.

Derived meanings[edit]

The expression "falling into the schmaltz pot" refers to the concept of having something good happen to you, often by sheer luck (e.g., being born into a good family). Someone who happens to have good luck is given the reputation of being a schmalz. Consequently a derived Polish word szmal is a colloquial term for cash, especially in larger amounts.

Schmaltz herring means fatty herring and refers to the a stage of development in the life cycle of the herring when the fish contains the most fat.[10] Schmaltz herring does not contain schmaltz.

In American English, via Yiddish, schmaltz (adj. schmaltzy) has also an informal meaning of "excessively sentimental or florid music or art" or "maudlin sentimentality", similar to one of the uses of the words "corn" or "corny". Its earliest usage in this sense dates to the mid-1930s.[11][12] In German, schmalzig is also used in the same sense.

Schmaltz and Schmalz are common last names amongst Ashkenazi Jewish and non-Jewish people of German and Austrian descent.[13] Schmaltz was used as a metonymic occupational name for a chandler.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ List of English words of Yiddish origin See entry schmaltz in this list
  2. ^ schmaltz = sugary sentimentality (chicken fat) Writing Skills for Public Relations: Style and Technique for Mainstream and Social Media (PR In Practice) eBook John Foster
  3. ^ Michael Ruhlman, Donna Turner Ruhlman The Book of Schmaltz: Lovesong to a Forgotten Fat
  4. ^ "The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 11th ed.". Retrieved 2007-01-09. 
  5. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., 2000". Archived from the original on 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  6. ^ a b Ginor, Michael A. (1999). Foie Gras: A Passion. John Wiley & Sons. p. 9. ISBN 0-471-29318-0. 
  7. ^ Alford, Katherine (2001). Caviar, Truffles, and Foie Gras. Chronicle Books. p. 36. ISBN 0-8118-2791-7. .
  8. ^
  9. ^ "parve schmaltz". 
  10. ^ E How - How to make schmaltz herring
  11. ^ H. Brook Webb, “The Slang of Jazz,” American Speech 12, No. 3 (October 1937): 179-184
  12. ^ J.A. Steig, “Profiles: Alligators’ Idol,” The New Yorker, April 17, 1937, 27-31.
  13. ^ Dictionary of American Family Names. Oxford University Press. 2003. ISBN 0-19-508137-4. 
  14. ^ "The Schmalz Surname at". Retrieved 2010-08-14. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Ruhlman, Donna Turner Ruhlman, The Book of Schmaltz: Lovesong to a Forgotten Fat, ISBN 978-031-625-408-3, 2013-08-13

External links[edit]