Matzo Ball Soup

If you’re looking for a taste of comfort and tradition, look no further than a steaming bowl of matzo ball soup. It’s a dish that warms the body, lifts the spirits, and offers a delicious connection to a rich cultural heritage.  This traditional Matzo Ball Soup recipe is perfect for chilly days, as a gentle pick-me-up when you’re feeling under the weather, or simply a satisfying meal for any time of year.

Be sure to also try our flavor-packed Harira, Falafel, and creamy Hummus!

matzo ball soup recipe traditional authentic jewish best schmaltz aneto chicken broth olive oil seltzer fizzy fluffy

Thank you to Aneto Broth for sponsoring this post.

Back in my college days I did a study abroad in Israel.  I traveled throughout the country and for part of that time lived at a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee.  It was a phenomenal experience.  And the food also made a lasting impression on me.  I have since come to enjoy a variety of traditional Jewish dishes, including classic Matzo Ball Soup.

I’m a big fan of dumplings of all kinds served every which way.  Whether it’s German Semmelknödel, Kartoffelklösse, Italian Potato Gnocchi, or British suet dumplings (recipe coming), I love them all.  And matzo balls, also known as matzah balls or matzoh balls, are another form of dumpling that I really enjoy.  Matzo ball soup is a traditional Jewish dish that is cherished and served throughout the world.

What is Matzo Ball Soup?

Chicken noodle soup may get all the glory, but for many, true comfort lies in a steaming bowl of matzo ball soup. This simple dish of chicken broth and dumplings boasts a rich history as well as flavor.  Matzo ball soup originated in Central Europe and is a cornerstone of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. The star of the show is the matzo ball itself, a fluffy dumpling made with matzo meal, which is a ground unleavened bread, essentially crackers, that are commonly eaten during Passover.  Combined with eggs and fat (traditionally schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat), the matzo meal forms a dough that puffs up beautifully when cooked in simmering chicken broth.

For my Jewish friends and for many others, it’s a taste of home, a dish steeped in childhood nostalgia, one that has been lovingly prepared by mothers and grandmothers for generations. Every family has their own way of making matzo ball soup and I have had it served a variety of ways.  Some families prefer them dense and chewy (“sinkers”) while others prefer them soft and airy (“floaters”).  Some prefer the traditional use of chicken fat to lend its characteristic flavor while others prefer the more modern adaptation of olive oil.  Some families incorporate carrots, celery, onion, and/or pieces of chicken while others maintain that the soup should consist of only clear chicken broth and the matzo balls.  In the end, there is no “one” traditional way of preparing matzo ball soup, though there are basic fundamentals that are shared by most.  Traditionally matzo ball soup is served during Passover, a holiday celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt, and it holds a special place in Jewish culture.  It’s a connection to heritage, a symbol of family, and a traditional folk remedy, much like Chicken Noodle Soup, that has affectionately become known as “Jewish penicillin.”

Is it Matzo or Matzah?

Either is correct. The simply differences in the transliteration of a non-English word into the English alphabet. Eastern European dialects tend to pronounce the word ‘matzo’ while modern Hebrew pronounces it ‘matzah’.

matzo ball soup recipe traditional authentic jewish best schmaltz aneto chicken broth olive oil seltzer fizzy fluffy

What to Serve with Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo ball soup is a hearty and flavorful dish that you enjoy by itself or pair it with additional dishes for a complete meal.  You can serve the soup as a starter, as a side dish, or as the main dish paired with some sides.   Here are few ideas of dishes you can serve with your matzo ball soup:

How to Make Matzo Ball Soup

There are two parts to making matzo ball soup: preparing the broth and making the matzo balls.  Both of these can be made well in advance and even frozen (separately) to save time.  More below on tips for creating the perfect matzo balls.

While it’s true that the matzo balls are the stars of this show, being a very simple soup with minimal seasonings it is all the more imperative that you use a good quality chicken broth as its base.  If you have the time to make Homemade Chicken Broth I highly recommend it.  (Then you can also cool and chill the broth in the refrigerator and scoop off the layer of chicken fast/schmaltz on top to use for making your matzo balls.)  If you use store-bought chicken broth, make sure it’s a good one.  My favorite commercial chicken broth is Aneto Broth’s 100% All Natural Chicken Broth.   It’s made with zero preservatives, fillers, extracts, concentrates, or flavor enhancers of any kind.  Just real ingredients like you would use to make homemade chicken broth:  fresh, free-ranged bone-in chicken, vegetables, and sea salt.  We visited their factory several years ago and watched the entire process from start to finish and it was awe-inspiring to say the least.  Aneto’s broths are sold in a various stores across the U.S. and are also available online.  They also have a low-sodium chicken broth if you’re trying to watch your salt intake.

matzo ball soup recipe traditional authentic jewish best schmaltz aneto chicken broth olive oil seltzer fizzy fluffy

Tips for Making Matzo Balls

  • The matzo ball mixture is very sticky.  To make it easier to work with, cover and chill it for at least 30 minutes to ensure the matzo meal has absorbed all of the liquid.  The chilled mixture will be nice and firm and easier to roll into balls.
  • To prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands when you’re forming your matzo balls, lightly oil the palms of your hands.  This will ensure you get those perfectly smooth and rounded matzo balls.
  • When you’re rolling the mixture into balls be sure to handle them gently, pressing lightly.  Avoid compressing them too much otherwise they will be dense.
  • Do not let the broth boil after you’ve added the matzo balls or they will fall apart.  Instead keep the broth at a low, steady simmer.
  • Keep the pot covered while the matzo balls are cooking to create steam.

Floaters vs. Sinkers

Do you prefer your matzo balls to be light and fluffy where they float at the surface of the broth (“floaters”) or more dense and substantial where they sink to the bottom (“sinkers”)?  Everyone has their own preference and the end result is determined by whether or not you use seltzer (fizzy) water and baking powder.

For Floaters:  Use seltzer and baking powder (up to 1 teaspoon per cup of matzo meal).

For Extra Light Floaters:  Fold in a stiffly beaten egg white in addition to the seltzer and baking powder.

For Sinkers:   Don’t use seltzer or baking powder.

For Sinkers with a Lighter Texture:  Use seltzer but no baking powder.  This is the sweet spot that I prefer.

Should I Cook the Matzo Balls in the Broth or Separately?

This is a matter of personal preference.  Some people prefer a perfectly clear broth and so they cook the matzo balls separately and then add them to the chicken broth just before serving.  I prefer to simmer them directly in the chicken broth because it not only infuses the matzo balls with more flavor, it also makes the broth more flavorful.  It’s a win-win.  And really, who cares about perfectly clear broth?  I’m after a flavorful soup and don’t need to be able to see through to bottom of the bowl!

How to Freeze Matzo Balls

Allow the cooked matzo balls to cool completely.  Transfer them to a lined cookie sheet, keeping them spaced so they don’t touch each other, and freeze for a few hours until solid.  Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag.  When you’re ready to use them you can simply drop the frozen matzo balls directly into the broth.  The broth can likewise be made well in advance and frozen.

Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Let’s get started!

In a small bowl, combine the matzo meal, salt and pepper.

In a separate mixing bowl, add the whisked eggs, seltzer, and fat and whisk together.  You can use the traditional choice of schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) for maximum flavor or you can use olive oil.  (If you’re making homemade chicken broth you can cool and chill the broth in the refrigerator and then scoop off the layer of chicken fat/schmaltz that forms on the top to use for making your matzo balls.)

preparing wet and dry ingredients

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir to form a thick, sticky paste.

Chill, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes.

combining wet and dry mixture

While the mixture is chilling, prepare the broth.

Pour the chicken broth into a large pot.  Add the carrots, celery, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.

preparing chicken broth

While you’re heating the soup, the matzo mixture into balls.  To prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands and to enable you to get those perfectly smooth, round balls, lightly oil the palms of your hands.

Depending on how large or small you like your matzo balls, you can form them into balls anywhere from 1 to 2 inches in diameter.  Keep in mind they will expand as they cook.

When you’re rolling the mixture into balls be sure to handle them gently, pressing lightly to avoid compressing them too much (otherwise they will be dense).

making matzo balls

Once the soup is boiling, reduce it to a simmer and carefully lower the matzo balls into the broth.  Adjust the heat to keep the broth going at a steady simmer but do not let it boil.  After the matzo balls are all in the broth, gently move them around a bit to prevent them from sticking to each other.  Then cover the pot with the lid and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes.  Periodically turn the balls over to ensure they’re cooking evenly.

Taste the broth and add more salt and pepper as needed.

matzo ball soup recipe traditional authentic jewish best schmaltz aneto chicken broth olive oil seltzer fizzy fluffy

Divide the matzo balls between soup bowls and ladle the broth over them.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh dill (my favorite) or parsley.  Serve immediately.

matzo ball soup recipe traditional authentic jewish best schmaltz aneto chicken broth olive oil seltzer fizzy fluffy

Enjoy!

matzo ball soup recipe traditional authentic jewish best schmaltz aneto chicken broth olive oil seltzer fizzy fluffy

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