Aunt Annette’s Gefilte Fish

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes 8 pieces of gefilte fish, which will serve


Appears in

Healthy Jewish Cooking

Healthy Jewish Cooking

By Steven Raichlen

Published 2000

  • About

When I was growing up, I didn’t like gefilte fish. I didn’t like its robust assertiveness and I certainly didn’t like the gelatinous juices spooned over it. As a result, I spent eighteen years not eating some of the most glorious gefilte fish ever to grace a holiday table. Our family’s gefilte fish maker was my aunt Annette Farber (the same Annette who had such a way with matzo balls and strudel—) and her fish had the bold flavors of a Beethoven symphony. She achieved this effect by grinding her fish in an old hand-cranked meat grinder, using seasonings no more complex than onion, carrot, salt, and pepper. (The secret lay in using four different types of fish.) The fish should be chopped, not pureed, and while I’m not going to ask you to trade in your food processor for a hand-cranked meat grinder, I will ask you to follow the instructions below carefully, so you don’t overgrind your fish.


  • 2 pounds fresh boneless, skinless freshwater fish (ideally, ½ pound each carp, pike, whitefish, and trout)
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg white

To Cook the Fish

  • fish skin, fish bones, and/or heads
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lettuce leaves for serving
  • Red or white horseradish sauce for serving


  1. Wash the fish and blot dry. Cut each piece of fish into ½-inch cubes. As you do so, feel for bones and remove any you find with tweezers or pliers. Place the fish in a food processor, filling the processor bowl not more than a quarter of the way. Add some grated potato, chopped onion, and ginger. Finely chop the fish by running the processor in short bursts. Do not overgrind. The texture should be coarse, like ground beef. Transfer the ground fish to a mixing bowl. Continue grinding the fish, potato, and onion in this fashion until all is used up.

  2. Add the oil, sugar, salt, pepper, egg, and egg white. Mix well with your fingers or a wooden spoon. Boil a spoonful of the mixture to taste for seasoning. The mixture should be highly seasoned.

  3. Line the bottom of a large pot with the fish skins, bones, and head (if using). Arrange half the sliced carrots, celery, and onions on top. Wet your hands with cold water and form oval balls of fish mixture: each should be about inches long and 2 inches wide. Gently lay the fish balls on the sliced vegetables. Arrange the remaining sliced carrots, celery, and onions on top. Add water to cover by 4 inches and salt and pepper to taste and gradually bring to a boil.

  4. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Gently simmer the gefilte fish until firm and cooked through, 1 hour. Remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish balls to a baking dish or platter and let cool to room temperature. Arrange some of the carrots, celery, and onions over the fish and strain some of the cooking liquid on top. Discard the skin and bones. Refrigerate the gefilte fish until cold. The cooking liquid will gel.

  5. To serve, place 1 ball of gefilte fish per person on a plate lined with a lettuce leaf Garnish with a few of the carrot and celery slices and a spoonful of the jeb lied cooking liquid on top. Serve the horseradish sauce on the side.