Schmaltz—rendered chicken fat—was an important part of Eastern-European Jewish cuisine. In part, because it was a way to use every part of the chicken (a precious commodity), and in part because butter was the most common other fat which couldn’t be used in cooking anything that would be eaten with meat or poultry. You’ll find it called for in recipes like chopped liver and matzah balls, among others.

Gribbenes—crackling, if you have to choose an English word for it—are the crispy bits of skin and onion, a byproduct of the rendering. You can snack on them or add them to other dishes for flavor.

On Passover, many people are particular to eat food that has been processed as little as possible, minimizing the likelihood that the food has somehow come into contact with chametz. Some families choose to cook and bake only with schmaltz for Passover, avoiding oils which are harder to make at home. Regardless, schmaltz lends itself well to a number of Passover foods, providing a unique flavor that cannot be replicated with other types of fat.

The rendering process produces a very strong smell, which is not for the faint of heart. I recommend opening your windows before starting, washing your pot and utensils as soon as you're done, and boiling up some citrus and cloves or lighting some scented candles for an hour or so afterwards!


  • 1 lb chicken skin and fat
  • 1 large spanish onion
  • Salt


  1. Cut the chicken skins and fat into small pieces. Slice the onion into half-rounds
  2. Place chicken fat/skins and onions into a pot or cast iron pan. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium heat until the fat has rendered out into a beautiful clear yellow liquid and the onions and chicken bits are crispy and golden—gribbenes.
  3. Pour the rendered fat through a fine-mesh strainer to separate the gribbenes from the schmaltz.
  4. Pour the schmaltz into a glass jar (if it is not completely clear, pass it through a cloth first). It will solidify in the fridge and you can scoop out a tablespoon or two as needed. It will return to liquid when heated.
  5. Snack on the gribbenes plain or add to other dishes.

Yields: 1 ½ - 2 cups schmaltz