In our delicious Matzo Ball Soup, light and fluffy Matzo balls float in a rich and savory chicken broth loaded with carrots, celery, and chunks of chicken!
Matzo ball soup is a classic recipe, the kind of dish your grandma used to make you.
I often worry that some recipes will just never taste the same as when Grandma makes them. For a long time, I didn’t even bother making matzo ball soup. I figured I would never be able to make it as good as my grandma.
Boy, was I wrong.
This easy matzo ball soup recipe tastes just like my childhood vacations to Grandma’s house. It’s warm, it’s savory, and I make it every chance I get. That means delicious soup is simmering whenever I get the sniffles, I need a soup dish for a potluck, or the weather gets chilly (which, let’s face it, nowadays that could still be the middle of May).
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The thing about matzo ball soup—some people spell it “matzoh ball soup,” but I prefer the more common way—is that every chef has his or her own recipe. Some recipes call for a whole chicken; some use just breast or thigh pieces. Some chefs say that dense, sinking matzo balls are the best kind; others are convinced that light and fluffy floating matzo balls are supreme.
I’ve tried many (read, “an embarrassing number of”) matzo ball soup recipes. Where did I find the best matzo ball soup? Pasadena. In a dear friend’s kitchen. This recipe is my favorite by far. It gets the balance of vegetables just right, and I’ve always preferred light and fluffy matzo balls. However, in the recipe notes below, you’ll find some recommendations for variations on the recipe. If you’re a “sinker” person, there’s some advice on that; and if you prefer vegetarian matzo ball soup, there’s also advice on that.
This easy matzo ball soup recipe is a great one to make over a couple of days. The stock base can be made up to three days ahead of time, and the matzo ball recipe can be made one day ahead of time. If I’m starting to feel a craving for it, my strategy is to throw together the different pieces as I have time. Maybe one day I’ll make up the stock, another day I’ll make the matzo balls, and still another day I’ll actually put it all together.
The other thing I love about matzo ball soup is that it’s pretty healthy. The broth base (as long as it’s homemade) has a lot of good minerals and combined with the matzo balls and carrots, it makes a pretty filling meal. Plus, with matzo ball soup, calories aren’t a thing to be too concerned about!
It seemed appropriate to pay homage to this recipe’s heritage by posting it now, with Passover approaching. Here’s hoping a good bowl of this soup will bring you some shalom.
- You’re going to need a big stock pock for this recipe, at least 12 quarts.
- Most recipes for this dish that I’ve seen call for chicken. Chicken matzo ball soup tends to be heartier and to go further than the chicken-less alternative. But, if you need to cook vegetarian, you can simply omit the chicken from the recipe. Find a stock base you enjoy without meat, and use that instead.
- You’ll notice that this chicken stock recipe calls for a whole chicken. I’d recommend finding a regular, bone-in whole chicken from your local deli or butcher to use—it will give you the best flavor. Nearly everything in the chicken can go into the stock: bones, meat, and all. But, if you get a chicken with the skin still on, do remember to remove it before adding to the soup!
- While letting the stock simmer, the recipe calls for you to skim off the fat and foam at the top. Be sure to save some of that fat to use in the matzo balls!
- When straining the stock, use a very fine-mesh sieve. This will help to ensure your finished stock is clear instead of cloudy.
- If you’re not going to use the stock right away, just strain it into an airtight container and refrigerate.
- There’s no question that homemade stock is better. (In fact, check out this recipe for bone broth—it makes the best stock.) But a shortcut to this recipe would be using store-bought chicken stock instead of making it yourself. Only do that in a pinch, however, as the store-bought stuff tends to be less healthy and far less delicious. Make sure you buy an unsalted chicken stock if you choose to go this route.
- As the name of the dish suggests, the heart of this recipe is the matzo balls. There is some really serious disagreement about what texture makes for the best soup. I prefer light and fluffy matzo balls, so that’s what this recipe creates. But I understand that lots of people prefer dense matzo balls that sink. Here are some general tips for creating both:
- Very Light Floaters: The key to making very light matzo balls is baking powder. You can use anywhere from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 full teaspoon per cup of matzo meal, depending on how light you actually want the balls to be. Using both baking powder and seltzer will really lighten your matzo balls. ( Tip: for even lighter matzo balls, fold in egg whites along with the baking powder and seltzer.)
- Medium Floaters: This is more my style. To make light matzo balls that still have a little body to them, just use the seltzer. If you want, you can add a tiny bit (no more than 1/8 teaspoon) of baking powder.
- Dense Sinkers: If you want meatier, substantial matzo balls, then “sinkers” are your preference. To make matzo balls that sink, don’t use any baking powder at all. Use water to make them really dense!
- No matter what texture of matzo balls you decide to go with, be careful how much matzo meal you add. A dense matzo ball will taste more of the matzo meal; a lighter matzo ball will taste more of the broth. But in either case, too much matzo meal can be disastrous.
- Once you’ve made the matzo mixture, you’ll want to chill it for at least 2 hours before rolling it into balls. This will ensure the best possible mix to create the best possible balls. Then, once you’ve rolled the matzo balls, chill those for at least 8 hours.
- The recipe asks you to cook the matzo balls covered for at least 30 minutes. The key here is not to peek! Don’t pull off the lid to see how they’re doing until those 30 minutes are up. Otherwise, you make interrupt the cooking process at the critical moment!
- Schmaltz is chicken fat, plain and simple. Like the texture of the matzo balls, the inclusion or absence of schmaltz from this recipe is a huge controversy. Purists suggest that using oil or even butter as a substitute robs the soup of its flavor. Realists point out that it’s just more convenient to use something besides schmaltz.
- Generally, I suggest using the chicken fat. The purists are right that it produces the most flavor in the soup. However, the problem with schmaltz is that it takes time to prepare. While it’s certainly not as hard to come by as some people claim it is (chicken fat is relatively easy to find), using schmaltz does add some cooking time to the overall dish. It tastes better, but it’s not as convenient.
The most common opinion is that oil is the best substitute for animal fat in this dish. (Some recipes even suggest grapeseed oil!) Butter tends to produce the least flavorful matzo balls—and it conflicts with the kosher law which says you can’t serve meat and dairy together.
Making a Clear Soup
- A clear soup starts with a clear broth. There’s advice on that above. But the other key to a clear soup is in the method of cooking the matzo balls. If you cook the matzo balls in the soup, they soak up all of that delicious flavor you want. But, that does tend you make the soup cloudy.
- If you want a clearer soup, trying straining out the cooked matzo and carrots. Then heat them both in the remaining chicken stock. This is the sieve I use to strain my broth.
- A lot of matzo recipes call for adding dill to the finished soup. Though additional flavoring isn’t very traditional, I think the dill is a really good flavor to balance out the savory soup. And if you really want to flaunt tradition, try adding parsley to your taste.
More Savory Soups!
Tomato and Basil Soup – perfect for summer or winter, infused with a depth of flavors!
Easy Cream of Broccoli Soup – This soup is loaded with flavor and nutrition benefits!
Chicken Tortellini Soup -One dish dinner loaded with juicy chunks of chicken, tender tortellini, veggies and a bit of sausage.
Easy Potato Soup – Comfort food, warm, quick, and easy to make!
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup– Lusciously creamy and loaded with chunks of chicken, great veggies, and wonderful wild rice mix!
Matzo Ball Soup
- 1 (4-5 pounds) whole chicken
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken wings
- 2 large yellow onions quartered
- 6 large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 celery stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 small turnip
- 2 shallots quartered
- 2 small heads garlic halved crosswise
- 2 sprig fresh thyme
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 12-14 cups water use just enough to cover all Ingredients
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 1/4 cup rendered chicken fat from stock or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup seltzer water
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 cups carrots 1/4-inch diced
- 1 cup celery 1/4-inch diced
- 1-2 large sprigs fresh dill
- 1/4 cup fresh dill
Make Chicken Stock:
- Place all ingredients in a very large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and gently simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the whole chicken to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, then remove all the breast meat. Shred the breast meat and when cool enough, wrap, store in the refrigerator.
- Return the carcass and any skin that was removed back to the pot. Continue to simmer stock, skimming the surface occasionally, for another 1 1 /2 hours, or until the stock has been reduced by one third.
- Strain chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large, clean saucepan or heatproof container and discard the solids. You should have approximately 8 cups of stock. Allow to cool, then refrigerate. Remove solidified fat from the surface and save to use in Matzo Balls. Can be made 2 days ahead.
Make The Matzo Balls:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, seltzer water, and schmaltz or vegetable oil. Mix in the matzo meal mixture to the dried ingredients. Refrigerate uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Using a medium cookie scoop, form Matzo balls into 1 1/2 inch balls, wetting your hands and roll them to finish shaping them. Rewet your hands as needed.
- Meanwhile, divide the chicken stock evenly into 2 large saucepans. Add the matzo balls to one of the saucepans, cover, and simmer until they're cooked through about 1 hour. In the other saucepan, add the carrots, celery, and 1-2 sprigs of dill simmer until they're tender. Remove dill sprigs.
- When the matzo balls are cooked, using a slotted spoon, add them to the saucepan with the cooked carrots and celery, then pour the matzo ball cooking chicken broth through a fine sieve into the saucepan with the cooked veggies and matzo balls. Add the chopped dill.
- Ladle soup into individual bowls and serve. Garnish with chopped dill.
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- While letting the stock simmer, the recipe calls for you to skim off the fat and foam at the top.
- If you want a clearer soup, try straining out the cooked matzo and carrots using a sieve.
- No matter what texture of matzo balls you decide to go with, be careful how much matzo meal you add.
- The recipe asks you to cook the matzo balls covered for at least 30 minutes. The key here is not to peek! Don’t pull off the lid to see how they’re doing until those 30 minutes are up. You make interrupt the cooking process at the critical moment!