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Schmaltz is rendered animal fat that is commonly used in Eastern European cooking. While lard is technically a type of schmaltz, most people associate schmaltz with chicken fat.
A vegetarian schmaltz-substitute was, until recently, sold under the brand-name Rokeach Nyafat. This was particularly popular (especially in its onion-flavored variety) with kosher Jewish cooks, who used it to achieve rich flavors in traditional dishes like kneidlach, matzah brei, or kugel without adding meat-based products.
Nyafat recently became unavailable. I'm not certain as to why. It might have contained more trans-fats than was wise. Nevertheless, it was an essential ingredient in many family recipes, and people have lamented its passing.
Here are a few options for replacing Nyafat in a recipe:
- Use a non-vegetarian option. Depending on your dietary restrictions, this might be the easiest option. Chicken schmaltz can be found in some grocery stores (particularly those with kosher freezer sections). (Lard can be found anywhere. I think it grows on trees.) If you want to make your own chicken schmaltz, it isn't hard. Check out the recipe here.
- Make your own vegetarian schmaltz in either small or large quantities.
- Go to an Indian grocery and pick up some vegetable ghee (usually sold as vanaspati). I have a sneaking suspicion that this is very similar to what Nyafat was. If you try this, let me know whether it works or not. I should note that vanaspati isn't particularly healthy. Not that the other options are healthy...
Any other ideas? Leave a comment.
Update: A lot of people have been looking at this post lately, presumably in preparation for Passover. If you want a pareve option that is kosher for Passover, you'll probably want to try the middle option above. If you are making something to be served with meat, you can use chicken fat (that's what Nyafat was designed to emulate in the first place). The vegetable ghee option will be vegetarian, but it is probably not going to be certified kosher - and may contain oils that you don't consider kosher for Passover... though you can always check the ingredient list. (April 3, 2009)