Gefilte fish is a classic Jewish dish comprised of a fish cake poached in a broth and has a texture just like matzo balls. They are served in a soup with broth, or as an appetizer on radicchio or endive.
While this dish may not be for everyone, especially those who haven't tried it before, I love a freshly made gefilte fish and recommend trying them if you haven't already!
Why this Recipe Works
I take my wonderfully fluffy matzo ball soup recipe and apply the same technique to achieve a perfectly fluffy gefilte fish. The texture is soft but not mushy, making it a great addition to soup just as matzo balls are.
They're freezer friendly! Make these in advance, or enjoy the easiness of the 40-minute recipe just before your guests arrive for the seder.
It is delicious served with all sorts of accompaniments like pickled red onions, carrots, fennel, pickled peppers, & radishes.
This recipe works great with cod, trout, the classic Karp, or a combination of fish. I am using Copper River Salmon, my favorite source for salmon. Read more about how to choose fish with sustainability in mind here.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Salmon - you can use any you like, but my preference is a combination of coho and sockeye salmon. Skin removed for this recipe.
Matzo meal - use any store-bought matzo meal that you like, or homemade. If it isn't Passover, you can also use Panko or breadcrumbs.
Tarragon & cilantro - use fresh herbs, not the dried kind for this recipe. Parsley and chives are also a great addition.
Radicchio/endive/romaine lettuce - radicchio and endive have a bitterness that is great for the Passover seder. But you can use any bowl or boat-shaped lettuce you like. Or leave it out and serve as soup.
Oil - this recipe works with any flavorless oil like canola, sunflower seed, or vegetable.
How to Make this Recipe
To make the stock, start by filling your widest pot with water so it is a minimum of 4 inches deep. I use a 13-inch diameter pot and need 3 quarts or 12 cups of water to get the right amount.
Next, take your peeled onion and cut into 6-8 pieces. Take your 2 stalks of celery and cut those into 2-inch pieces. Grab half the fennel and cut into 2-inch chunks. Finally, take your carrots and cut into 1-2-inch pieces, depending on how thick they are.
Put all of these into your big pot of water. Season with 1-2 teaspoons each of salt and pepper. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it down to a simmer.
While your water is coming to a boil, you can prepare your gefilte fish.
Start by pulsing that second chopped onion you still have. Also pulse the rest of the fennel and remaining chopped celery stalk. Pulse these all together until they are finely chopped.
Prepare your salmon by removing the skin, and cutting it up into 1-2-inch cubes. Add the salmon and the fresh herbs to a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are chopped up and combined.
The fish pieces can remain on the larger side. You don't want the fish to blend together too much and get to a mushy concistency.
Transfer the fish mixture to a large bowl and add in the eggs, flavorless oil, matzo meal, about 1-2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper. Using your hands, mix it all together until completely combined.
Next, it's the fun part! Form the mixture with wet hands and into 2-3-inch ovals, sort of shaped like a large Madeleine, as shown below.
Note: Make sure your hands remain wet. The water on your hands helps keep the fish mixture from sticking to you.
Once moulded, gently drop the salmon into the boiling water from earlier. Make sure your water comes back up to a boil. Then, lower it to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook them for 20-25 minutes. And then you're ready to serve!
If you don't want to make individual patties, you can make this recipe meatloaf style by pouring the mixture into a greased 12 cup bundt pan or loaf pan and bake at 325F for one hour to get lovely slices of gefilte fish.
I've made it about 3 or 4 days before, holds up just fine in the fridge. I've also made it about a week ahead of our Seder and frozen it – that works too. Freezing leftovers is also a good option.
With a day of refrigeration, they have the density of jarred gefilte fish - but they taste SO much better! Start with really fresh fish and you will be in heaven.
Easy Homemade Beet Horseradish
Bring your gefilte fish up a notch with homemade beet horseradish. I peel a chunk of horseradish, shave it into my food processor, add a chopped & peeled raw beet or two, add a pinch of salt, process until fine, spoon into a jar and stir in enough white or wine vinegar to moisten well.
Adjust salt and sugar to taste. Cover and keep refrigerated. Just be careful not to breathe in or get your eyes too close while processing! It's strong stuff.
Gefilte fish is best served one of two ways: 1. As an appetizer served in raddichio or endive with accompaniments like pickled red onions, carrots, fennel, pickled peppers, & radishes or 2. In the broth it was cooked in, just as you would serve matzo ball soup.
If you put the fish mixture into the refrigerator for 20 minutes before constructing the balls and putting them in the simmering water, they stick together even better.
You can find them in the ethnic or kosher isle of the supermarket in large jars with liquid or broth. If you have time though, I recommend making your own!
The word gefilte is derived from the Yiddish for "stuffed fish". Gefilte fish is a staple dish in Askenazi-Jewish cuisine.
In need of more fish recipe inspiration? Try these delightful recipe options.
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Salmon Gefilte Fish with Fennel & Tarragon
- Food Processor or sharp knife
- 1.5 lb salmon I use a combination of coho and sockeye. You can use any salmon you like.
- 2 yellow onions both peeled and cut into 8ths
- 3 carrots or 2 large
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 large fennel or 2 small
- ½ cup fresh herbs measured packed, I use tarragon and cilantro
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon oil flavorless like canola, sunflower seed, or vegetable
- ¼ cup matzo meal
- salt and pepper to taste
- radicchio or endive for serving
- Fill your widest pot with water so it is at least 4 inches deep. I use a 13-inch diameter pot and need 3 quarts or 12 cups of water.
- Add 1 peeled onion cut into 6-8 pieces, 2 stalks of celery cut into 2-inch pieces, half your fennel, cut into 2-inch chunks, and the peeled carrots cut into 1-2-inch pieces, depending on how thick they are.
- Season with 1-2 teaspoons each of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
- While your water is coming to a boil, prepare your fish. Start by pulsing the second roughly chopped onion, remaining roughly chopped fennel, and remaining roughly chopped celery stalk. Pulse it until it looks finely chopped.
- Prepare your fish by remove the skin, and cutting nto 1-2-inch cubes. Add this fish and the fresh herbs to the food processor. Pulse until it's chopped and combined. The fish pieces can remain on the larger side. You don't want it to blend together and get mushy.
- Transfer the fish mixture to a large bowl and add the eggs, oil, matzo meal, 1-2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper. Using your hands, mix together until combined.
- Roll the mixture with wet hands and mold it into 2-3-inch ovals, sort of shaped like a large Madeleine. The water on your hands keeps the fish mixture from sticking.
- Gently drop them into the boiling water. Make sure your water comes back up to a boil, lower it to a simmer, and cover it. Cook for 20-25 minutes.