Matzo ball soup is a classic Jewish deli dish that everyone finds comforting – no matter what your background! Get my secret to fluffy matzo balls that are even better than the ones from the deli.
Matzo ball soup is perhaps the most widely known Jewish food outside of bagels. Also spelled matzah or matzoh balls, nearly everyone has seen this dish in a deli or at the grocery store’s prepared food section. And as Jewish foods go, this soup is one of the most beloved. What’s not to love about a steaming bowl of chicken soup studded with fluffy matzo balls? It’s the very definition of comfort food.
When Should I Make Matzo Ball Soup?
While matzo ball soup can be enjoyed any time of the year, it is traditionally part of the menu for the Jewish holiday of Passover. During Passover, Jewish families abstain from eating any food that is leavened and any food that contains wheat except for matzo and foods made with matzoh meal, which is simply matzo that has been ground into a fine powder similar to flour.
Matzo balls fall into that latter category. Matzo balls are essentially a dumpling that is made from matzoh meal, eggs, some type of fat, like oil or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), and liquid. Like most dumplings, matzo balls are served in soup – usually chicken broth.
Matzo ball soup is often served as the first course at a Passover Seder and when it is served as a first course for larger meal, it is usually quite simple. Just matzo balls in broth with perhaps a slice of carrot or two. However, when served outside of Passover and as a meal in and of itself, matzo ball soup can come loaded with extras like shredded chicken, noodles, vegetables, and fresh herbs.
Secret To Fluffy Matzo Balls
Although they only contain a few ingredients, matzo balls are one of those foods that can be tricky to make well. There are a million jokes among Jewish families about heavy, dense matzo balls that sink when placed in soup and seem to sit in your stomach for days on end.
At their best, these dumplings are light, fluffy, and seem to float in the bowl of soup. But this can be tricky to achieve because unlike other kinds of dumplings, matzo balls are made with matzoh meal – which is notorious for making baked goods dense and leaden – and do not contain any leavening agent, like baking powder.
My secret to making deliciously light and fluffy matzo balls is twofold. First, I use carbonated water, like seltzer or club soda as the liquid. The carbonation acts as a kind of leavening agent. And two, the batter must sit for several hours or even overnight. During that time, the eggs and liquid will rehydrate the matzoh meal.
Another tip for making great matzo ball soup that I learned from my grandmother is to cook the matzo balls in a separate pot of boiling water, not directly in the chicken soup that you plan to serve them in. First, cooking the matzo balls in the chicken soup makes your soup cloudy, so it will not look as nice. Moreover, I like to cook them in well-seasoned water – just like cooking pasta – which I think gives them more flavor.
What Is Schmaltz?
Traditionally, the fat used to flavor the matzo balls is schmaltz, which is rendered chicken fat. Schmaltz is a type of fat that is suitable for all kinds of cooking and lends a rich flavor to everything it touches. You can make your own schmaltz, which is a fun DIY project, or sometimes you can find it available frozen in grocery stores. (Duck fat is sometimes easier to find and it works as well.) However, you can also use a neutral vegetable oil.
Matzo Ball Soup As A Meal
If you want to turn your soup into a meal, instead of just a first course, you can add shredded chicken, sliced carrots and celery, and even egg noodles. The noodles and vegetables can be cooked directly in the chicken soup, but the chicken should be already cooked or leftover from another occasion.
If you have only ever had matzo ball soup at a restaurant, I really hope you try making it at home using my foolproof recipe. There is something nice about knowing that you can have delicious, homemade matzo ball soup anytime you or someone in your house is under the weather or just feels the need for something super comforting and restorative.
Podcast Episode: Making Matzo Ball Soup
Listen to our editor, Christine Pittman, explain briefly about how to make this recipe, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:Print
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup chicken schmaltz or vegetable oil
- 1 cup matzoh meal
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup seltzer, club soda, or sparkling water
- 2 quarts chicken broth, preferably homemade, for serving
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the schmaltz or oil, matzoh meal, salt, and pepper and stir with a fork to combine. Pour the seltzer or club soda over the mixture and stir until combined.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to overnight.
- When ready to cook the matzo balls, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Use your hands or a large spring-loaded cookie scoop to form balls of batter about the size of a golf ball. (If using your hands, moisten them slightly to prevent the batter from sticking.) You should have approximately 10 matzo balls depending on size.
- Drop the matzo balls in the boiling water. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium-low or low. Simmer the matzo balls, covered, for thirty minutes.
- In the meantime, heat the chicken broth in a separate pot. If using additional ingredients like shredded cooked chicken, vegetables, or noodles, you can cook or reheat them in the chicken broth.
- Remove the matzo balls from water with a slotted spoon and drain them in a colander.
- To serve, divide the matzoh balls among four soup bowls and add the warm chicken broth. Serve immediately.
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