Matzo Ball Soup

By on Wednesday, November 17th, 2021 at 9:45 am

matzo ball soup

Matzo Ball Soup has been termed “Jewish penicillin,” for its ability to revive the ill and keep the healthy from getting sick. We wanted to order some for delivery the other day, and it turns out we live in a matzo ball soup desert.

I was shocked we couldn’t have any soup delivered. It wasn’t hard to make, but I didn’t want to cook.

The cold weather had taken us by surprise, and with an infant in daycare, even wearing a mask all the time still leads us to occasionally becoming infected with a cold. All we wanted was some matzo ball soup but Seamless didn’t have any options.

I ran through the list of places I might find the soup and realized there weren’t any in the neighborhood. At least I knew I could find the ingredients on the corner.

Although I am not Jewish, growing up in north Jersey means matzo ball soup is available everywhere. There isn’t a diner I can recall that didn’t have it on the menu. Sure, some matzo ball soup was better than others, but it was always available. I didn’t think living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn would leave me short on soup.

Matzo ball soup in its simplest form is broth, usually chicken broth, brought to a boil with egg-sized dumplings made from matzo meal. Matzo is Jewish, unleavened bread most commonly eaten during passover.

Not everyone agrees, but I like to keep matzo around for general consumption because it is basically a large flat cracker. The chocolate covered matzo is also a great salty sweet treat, but not very good for making dumplings. And yet, I actually didn’t have any matzo, so I needed to head off to the store.

The easiest way to make matzo ball soup is to start with a package of matzo meal mix. My go to brand for this is Streits or Manischewitz. There are other brands, but I’ve never encountered them until Goolging around to write this. Streit’s apparently makes a spelt matzo ball mix which makes me want to try that variety now too.

Matzo meal packages are sold as just the matzo or with a soup mix. The soup mix tastes a bit like Lipton’s powdered soup, so I would always use a can of broth I season myself or even a bouillon cube.

The matzo meal needs eggs and oil to be mixed as well, so be sure to have those around. Mix the matzo with the egg and oil according to the package. There isn’t much of a secret here other than to follow the directions. The matzo also needs to sit for at least twenty minutes before making the dumplings, but they can sit longer than that in the refrigerator. This gives you plenty of time to make a soup from scratch.

Matzo ball soup

I chopped up a carrot with big medallions. A lot of north Jersey diner matzo ball soup will not be anything more than broth, carrots, and the dumplings, but I like to make it into a heartier chicken soup. I added in celery, onion and extra garlic. After cooking this soffritto in oil until the onions were clear, I added the broth and brought it all to boil.

In my experience, since the broth is usually chicken, the majority of the homemade matzo ball soup has included chicken. That said, the increasing number of Jewish vegetarians in my life in recent years has meant more people swapping in vegetable broth. I had some chicken breast so I diced it up and threw it in too.

By now the matzo meal is read to be turned into balls. My preference is to hand form all of them before tossing them into the boiling broth. This way they can all be a consistent size without leaving anyone behind. It should be a wet enough dough to hold their shape.

Diners will tend to have very large matzo balls. Usually they fill the bowl with a single dumpling and spoon broth around it. I’m sure this is a labor saving device, but I prefer the small balls because they cook more evenly.

Once the balls hit the broth, they begin absorbing moisture. They need at least ten to fifteen minutes to cook, and will continue to get softer the longer they do. It’s easy to end up with a soup that has no broth if they cook too long. The same is true for saving the soup over night. One way to avoid this is reserving the leftover dumplings save them isolated from the soup. They will also expand as the matzo is like a natural sponge.

The matzo puffs up much larger than the original size.

We made the soup, and by the next morning we were feeling great.

matzo ball soup in a bowl


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