How to Make Schnitzel Like an Israeli

Here's the recipe for Israel's favorite chicken dish - and the story of how a European classic took a distinctly Jewish and Middle Eastern turn.

Israeli schnitzel and mashed potatoes.
Israeli schnitzel and mashed potatoes. Vered Guttman

The famous Viennese (Wiener) schnitzel has earned the status of protected geographical indication in Europe – a local specialty. 

There, official Wiener schnitzel must be prepared with veal. The veal is pounded until it is very thin and large enough to cover a plate. It is coated in flour, eggs and bread crumbs; fried in butter; and served with a slice of lemon and mashed potatoes.

This royal dish immigrated to Israel with German Jews in the 1930s. It slowly changed, with cheaper chicken breast replacing the veal, and vegetable oil instead of butter so it would be kosher. Soon enough, schnitzel became the favorite food of Israeli children, served to them for lunch alongside mashed potatoes.

Grown kids who still liked their schnitzel, brought us a popular twist – schnitzel in pita, along with hummus and French fries.

Schnitzel is so popular in Israel that several Israeli restaurants in the U.S., including award winning Shaya in New Orleans, have it on their menu, right next to falafel, shawarma and shakshuka. (Shaya’s version is served in a challah sandwich with harissa mayonnaise and shaved pickles). 

Here’s how to make Israeli schnitzel at home.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
1 cup breadcrumbs (not panko)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

To serve:

Vegan mashed potatoes (recipe below), ketchup or pickles
Alternately: pita bread, French fries and hummus

Directions

1. Butterfly chicken breast to make large schnitzel, or simply slice the breast very thin. Use a meat tenderizer to pound the meat until very thin. Set aside. 

2. Prepare three medium bowls and a large tray. Put flour in the first bowl. Put eggs, mustard and 2 tablespoon water in the second bowl, and mix well until incorporated. Put breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in the third bowl. 

3. Dip each slice of chicken breast in flour and shake well. Dip in egg mixture and then in breadcrumbs. Arrange on the tray. 

4. Layer a second tray with a double layer of paper towel. Put enough oil in a nonstick frying pan to cover the bottom well and heat over medium heat. When oil is hot, start frying the schnitzel in a single layer, about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to tray lined with paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the schnitzel. 

5. Serve immediately with mashed potatoes, ketchup or pickles, or serve in a pita spread with hummus and stuffed with French fries. 

Vegan mashed potatoes

Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

1. Peel potatoes, quarter and place in a pot. Cover with water and bring to boil over medium-high heat. When water boils add 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the pan, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are very tender. Keep 1/2 cup of the cooking water and strain the rest.

2. Put potatoes and olive oil in a large bowl and mash with potato masher. Add a little of the cooking water if mashed potatoes are too chunky, 1 tablespoon at a time. To make it creamier, you can also use a stand mixer fitter with the flat beater and mix on medium-low speed until almost smooth (be careful not to over-mix). Add salt to taste and serve.