Matza Ball Soup

I have mostly happy childhood memories of eating chicken noodle soup with Saltines to warm up in winter. I say mostly, because it was also comfort food for when I was sick, and I can’t call recuperating a completely happy thing … but I’m entirely grateful for those bowls of soup that renewed me. My Mom did it the easy way so many Moms do (or did in those days anyway)—with a can of Campbells Soup. Nowadays, I’m more likely to make Matza Ball Soup.

Take that chicken noodle soup, nix out the chicken and noodles, make the Saltine crackers Matzo crackers, then mash the crackers into giant balls … and you’ve got Matza Ball Soup. It’s a classic Jewish food, and like many foods I’ve shared here, it’s origins are somewhat controversial. People also have different ideas as to how to spell or pronounce matzo. There’s even a controversy (or strong preference) over whether matzo balls should float or sink. If you’re interested, there’s a detailed history here (and a recipe or two).

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The dough balls are kind of like a dumpling on steroids, and the soup is warm and filling, perfect for chilly days. And they are a great way to finish off any leftover matza meal you might have around the house. They are not too hard to make, and there is not a lot of active work time … but there is some wait and watch time.

Matza meal is ground-up matzo crackers. You can buy different varieties, some for everyday use and some suitable for use during Passover. Matza crackers are, like many other crackers, made of flour and water and salt, but gluten-free versions are available. You may see it spelled many different ways, matzo, matzoh, matzah, matzot … but a matza by another name would taste the same. To make matza ball soup, use meal or grind up crackers into meal. If you can’t find matzo locally, you can buy it online. For real ease, buy a matzo ball soup mix. 

For vegetarian or vegan versions, sub out your egg and use vegetable stock. The first batch I tried using aquafaba and my vegetable stock. I wanted to test if I could put them right into the broth instead of dropping into a separate pan of salted water before adding them to the broth. Bad decision. Those vegan matza balls fell apart (the soup still tasted great).  My second vegan batch I carefully placed them in just boiling salted water and the results were better. 

I did not try a gluten-free version, but you can certainly give it a try using gluten-free matzo. Keep your ingredients low-sodium, and you’ve got a low sodium version.  

“She smiled a smile that could make Wagner order a Matzah ball.”

Mark Schweizer 
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Matza Ball Soup

Matza, matzo, matzah…. Any way you spell it, it’s a soup worth making. And whether you make a traditional non-vegetarian, vegetarian, or vegan version, there’s a way to make it work for you.
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Soup
Cuisine Jewish
Keyword gluten-free option, low sodium option, matza ball soup, matzo meal, non-vegetarian option, vegan option
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Rest Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 8 cups
Author Lisa Kamolnick / Food Passages

Ingredients

Dough

  • ½ cup matzo meal
  • 2 large eggs beaten (or 6 TBSP aquafaba)
  • 2 TBSP seltzer water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil or schmaltz rendered chicken fat
  • 2 to 4 TBSP chicken or vegetable stock

To cook Matza balls

  • 6 to 8 C water
  • 1 tsp salt

Soup broth

  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil or schmaltz rendered chicken fat
  • 1 C diced yellow onion (about 1/2 large yellow onion medium dice
  • ¾ C celery diced (1 large or 2 medium celery ribs)
  • ¾ C carrots peeled and diced (about 2 medium carrots)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or dill
  • 8 C chicken or vegetable stock

Toppings

  • dill chopped
  • parsley chopped

Instructions

Matza dough

  • Beat eggs (or aquafaba) and set aside
  • In separate bowl, combine matzo meal, eggs/aquafaba, oil/schmaltz, broth, seltzer, salt, and pepper. Carefully blend by hand to avoid letting air out of the beaten egg/aquafaba and seltzer.
  • Gently fold in broth a tablespoon at a time. Add enough stock to create a consistency like mashed potatoes.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.

Broth

  • While the dough rises, add oil to stock pot and heat to medium.
  • Sauté onion until transparent and add carrots and celery.
  • Add stock and salt to taste.
  • Heat to boil.
  • Lower and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Matza balls

  • At the same time you are heating up the soup, heat 6 to 8 cups water in a pot and heat to just boiling.
  • While water is heating up, remove plastic cover from matzo ball dough. With wet hands, form 1-in to 2-in balls from the dough and transfer to a plate. The more you work or compress them, the denser they will become.
  • Using wet hands or a ladle, carefully add the matzo balls to the water.
  • Turn heat down to low, cover pot and simmer until balls are done, about 20 to 30 minutes. They will roughly double in size. The dough should look done at the center.

Finish soup

  • Add matza balls to soup.
  • Serve in bowls and garnish with parsley or dill as desired.

Notes

Serving Suggestions
Serve as a light meal or as an appetizer or side with a brisket, or enjoy it with liver-pâté-laden matzo crackers. 
Tips
 If you use aquafaba as an egg substitute, 3 TBSP = one egg. Beat it on high speed until it peaks like whipped cream before adding to mixture.
If you don’t have seltzer water, substitute 1/2 tsp baking powder.  
Recipe Links
Vegetable Stock