When I think of schmaltz and butter, I think of flavor, tradition, and indulgence. Butter boasts its classic velvety smooth texture and flavor, while schmaltz (rendered poultry fat) has its irresistible savory notes that are best known for making traditional Jewish cuisine. So, how do they differ in baking and cooking applications? What should you use for what? Find out right here!
Comparing schmaltz vs butter
|Solid or Liquid?||Solid||Solid|
|Smoke Point (Fahrenheit)||375 degrees||300 – 350 degrees|
|Good for Cooking…||Raw, low heat, medium heat||Raw, low heat|
|Common allergens||Poultry||Lactose, casein|
Differences between schmaltz and butter
Both schmaltz and butter come from animal fats but differ in their sources. Schmaltz is made from rendered* chicken fat (sometimes goose and duck fat), while butter is derived from animal milk or cream.
Butter contains milk proteins and won’t be suitable for those with lactose or casein allergies, while schmaltz isn’t suitable for people with poultry allergies. And while butter is adaptable and can effortlessly meld with savory or sweet recipes, schmaltz has a caramelized chicken flavor that is super savory. Both are gluten-free and keto-friendly, but only schmaltz is paleo-friendly.
When it comes to their smoke points, schmaltz has a moderate smoke point which makes it suitable for medium-heat cooking. Butter is typically better for low-heat and raw cooking.
*Rendering means heating slowly to separate the liquid fat from the solids.
Baking and cooking with schmaltz vs butter
Schmaltz is most commonly used in Jewish cuisine to flavor dishes like latkes and matzo ball soup. Its slightly nutty flavor and aromatic qualities are ideal for sautéing vegetables and searing and roasting meats too. While schmaltz isn’t a good fat for baking sweet treats, it can be used in savory baking projects such as pizza dough, bread, and biscuits.
Butter comes in salted and unsalted varieties, which is perfect as you can choose which to use depending on what you’re making – cookies, pastries, cakes, or something else altogether. And when cooking, it can add plenty of character to mashed potatoes, creamy pasta sauces, and pan sauces.
Depending on the source of the butter, It will also have different flavor profiles. Butter made from grass-fed cows will have a more complex and pronounced flavor compared to ones made from grain-fed cows.
Can schmaltz and butter be substituted for each other?
Schmaltz and butter are both rich fats that add a ton of flavor to dishes, but they have specific characteristics that make them less interchangeable. If you’re searing or sautéing for a savory recipe, either can be used in place of one another. However, in baking, schmaltz can only be used as a sub for butter in savory recipes that would benefit from a nutty and more savory flavor.
The best substitute for schmaltz is duck fat, as it can mimic its distinct taste. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, Crisco is a solid shortening that can compare to the texture and functionality but won’t have that same flavor. When substituting butter, ghee is the best all-around substitute because of its flavor, while avocado oil is the top pick for high-heat cooking.
Nutrition: Schmaltz vs butter
Schmaltz is relatively high in calories, at 115 calories per tablespoon. However, it’s mainly made up of monounsaturated fats (5.7g per tablespoon) – which are heart-healthy – and free of trans fats. Schmaltz actually has quite a balanced distribution of fat types, considering it also has 2.7g of polyunsaturated fats and 3.8g of saturated fats. But it has 10.9mg of cholesterol per tablespoon.
Butter is lower in calories (102 vs 115) but is heavy in saturated fats (7.3g), which has been linked to poor health outcomes if consumed in excess. It does have a good amount of monounsaturated fats (3.0g) but a small amount of polyunsaturated fats (0.4g). It also has 30.5mg of cholesterol per tablespoon. However, butter isn’t all bad – for example, it has essential fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, and K2.
Just like with all cooking oils or fats, be sure to use them sparingly.
|Per tablespoon (15mL)||Schmaltz||Butter|
|Polyunsaturated||2.7 g||0.4 g|
|Monounsaturated||5.7 g||3.0 g|
|Saturated||3.8 g||7.3 g|
|Trans||0 g||0.5 g|
|Total Fat||12.8 g||14.2 g|
|Cholesterol||10.9 mg||30.5 mg|
The primary fat source is bolded.
How to store schmaltz and butter
Schmaltz needs to be treated with care and doesn’t stay fresh for very long. The best practice is to store it in an airtight container in your fridge and use it within a week. Freezing is also an option if you want to extend its shelf life – this way, it’ll maintain its quality for up to six months. Butter should be transferred from its packaging and put into an airtight container in the fridge for best results. Avoid storing butter near strong-smelling foods, as it absorbs odors quite easily.
Schmaltz vs butter: What’s the verdict?
My personal verdict is that I’m partial to the classic creamy and velvety nature of butter. I like how it keeps well in the fridge and that it works with so many different recipes – baking and cooking.
Schmaltz, although amazing for elevating savory recipes, is a little less versatile and doesn’t stay fresh for very long. I tend to pick up some schmaltz if I’m hosting dinner parties or cooking/baking specific things.
The best way to find out what your favorite cooking oils and fats are is to not be afraid to experiment!
While butter does have a slightly different flavor profile and texture compared to schmaltz, it can add the same sort of richness and moisture to your recipes. Schmaltz is a good substitute if you want a more savory and salty flavor, like in pies and pastries, roasts, and Jewish cuisine.
Schmaltz is mainly made up of monounsaturated fats, which are considered healthier than saturated fats and have been associated with potential cardiovascular benefits. But like any fat, it should be consumed in moderation because of its high-calorie content and the fact that it does contain some cholesterol and saturated fat.