Classic Gefilte Fish Recipe

Every Jewish cook worth her salt (yes “her”) has a favorite recipe for gefilte fish, passed down from generation to generation. In the old days, this recipe was a tedious and smelly chore since the fish had to be chopped by hand. Today, the food processor has liberated the traditional Jewish cook. There is nothing nouveau or fusion about this recipe. It is just plain excellent, the quintessence of Jewish holiday cooking.


2 pounds of fish heads and bones from the fish market. (If you can get snapper and salmon remains, you will have very rich stock.)
2 quarts of water
8 large carrots, sliced
1 celery root, peeled and sliced
2 parsnips, sliced
1 medium turnip sliced
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
3 small cans of albacore tuna in water, drained
2 pounds of fresh whitefish filets
2 pounds of pike or tilapia filets
5 eggs, separated
6 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 medium parsnip, finely chopped
2 large celery ribs, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoon white pepper
sugar to taste
3 cup matzo meal
1 cup whipped whipping cream (or soy milk, if kosher is necessary and if this recipe is to be eaten at the same meal as meat or poultry)
3 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated ginger root (optional)
Fish stock

Put the bones and heads on to boil and then, skim the fat.
Reduce heat and add the bay leaves and peppercorns.
Add the sliced carrots, celery root, parsley root, parsnips, turnip.
Remove the vegetables from the pot and let drain into a bowl.
Strain the broth to remove and discard fish bones and head.
When cooled, puree the vegetables.
Take the stock and add the puree and mix.
This can be frozen until you need to make the fish balls.
Gefilte Fish Balls

Grind the whitefish and pike/tipalpia and the tuna in the food processor. Do not over process.
The fish should not become like a mousse.
Remove to a large mixing bowl.
Separate the eggs, whip the whites and let them stand aside
To the fish mixture, fold in the chopped carrots, chopped onions, chopped parsnip and chopped celery, plus the salt , white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, sugar and matzah meal.
Fold in the whipping cream/soy milk
Fold in the egg yolks
Gently fold in the egg whites.
When everything is mixed, add ¾ cup of water.
Bring broth to a boil. Dip hands in water and form balls to whatever size you prefer. (The fish balls will expand by about 25% when cooked)
Gently, with a slotted spoon, lower the fish balls into the boiling broth and when they rise to the top, you can reduce the heat to a rapid simmer.
Cook covered for about one hour.
Chill and serve with some of the broth, which really becomes like a bisque.

About Rabbi Michael Sternfield

Michael Sternfield has been a Reform rabbi for 40 years, most recently serving at Chicago Sinai Congregation from 1995 until 2013. He served for 20 years as spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in San Diego, and briefly as the leader of the Durban, South Africa Progressive Jewish Congregation during South Africa’s historic transition to multi-racial democracy. He is now based in Los Angeles, California.