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Complete Guide to Matzoh Ball Soup

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Matzo Ball Soup

A bowl of matzoh balls soup for Passover is a must. Matzoh balls represent the unleavened bread consumed by Jews as they fled Egypt. Having it for the Jewish holiday of Passover means celebrating the liberation of Hebrew slaves or remembering the Exodus.

Matzoh ball soup recipe has been a traditional food staple for centuries. Jews all over the world value it for its historical representation and schmaltzy flavor. Today, matzo ball soup is sold in various American Jewish delis as a regular item and is loved by many people, including non-Jews.

If you want to know what makes matzoh ball soup special, read on to learn more about this delicious Jewish soup!

What Are Matzoh Balls?

Matzoh balls are an Ashkenazi Jewish recipe for soup dumplings. They are traditionally called matzah balls and made using a handful of ingredients, including matzah meal, eggs, water, and chicken fat or margarine. Although Jews have matzoh ball soup for Passover, those who practice the prohibition of soaked matzoh do not eat it during the holiday.

Matzoh ball soup recipes differ with the region and preferred taste. Some people make them dense, while others like light and fluffy matzoh balls. If you’ve never had this meal before, you can try both sinkers and floaters to determine which you prefer.

Madeleines Matzoh Balls 2022
My sister-in-law Madeleine’s excellent Matzoh Ball soup – Erev Yom Kippur 2022

Where Do Matzoh Balls Come from?

Matzoh balls do not have an exact origin story. Historians can date it back to the 19th century when matzoh meals were abundantly produced during the Industrial Revolution. As for the Jewish connection, many believe that matzoh balls for soup were first prepared by Jews using leftover crumbs from matzoh baking.

Despite the uncertain beginning, matzoh balls became a food staple when Austrian, Alsatian, and German Jews introduced them as part of their Eastern European cuisine. The dumplings were called matzoh balls at the time. They were referred to as ‘Knaidel.’ When the recipe traveled to Poland with Jews, it became ‘knoedela.’ After the 1930s, an American company called it ‘Alsatian feathery balls.’ Eventually, Americans came up with the name ‘matzoh balls,’ and it stuck.

 

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What Are Matzoh Balls Made of?

The matzoh balls recipe fits Jewish dietary restrictions, so it was only a matter of fact before it became a part of the traditional food. Since its addition to Jewish cuisine, the matzoh ball soup recipe has changed many times to accommodate regional and cultural preferences. Early versions had beef stock instead of chicken for soup.

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Today, the matzoh balls recipe has a few basic ingredients, but the recipe varies for each family or food establishment. Matzoh meal, eggs, and fat are the three key ingredients. You can use matzoh crackers for the recipe and ground them up into a fine matzoh mix, or buy a packaged matzoh ball mix from a supermarket. The readymade mix has a matzoh meal and spices with preservatives.

The fat for this recipe depends on your choice. You can use chicken fat, oil, or margarine, depending on which one suits your family’s palate. Some people also use duck fat as it contains substantial monounsaturated fat.

To prepare matzoh balls, you need to mix fat, matzoh meal, and eggs in broth or water with seasonings you like. Once the mixture is ready, you make small balls using a soup spoon and poach them before adding them to a bowl of soup. The best matzoh balls are neither too dense nor too light. They are perfectly balanced and textured, so one can easily slice the balls with a spoon.

 

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Matzoh Ball Ingredients

Following are the basic matzoh ball ingredients that make light and floaty dumplings for your soup:

Matzoh Meal: It is unleavened bread that can be found in fine or medium grain. It’s a kosher product and an integral Jewish food staple. If you are not making kosher matzoh balls, you can use breadcrumbs.

Schmaltz: It is a better alternative for butter and other saturated fat products. It’s prepared by rendering chicken fat.

Eggs: When making fluffy matzoh balls, egg quantity matters a lot. Eggs prevent the mixture of matzoh balls from falling apart during the poaching and soaking phase.

Broth: Chicken or vegetable stock are the preferred broth option for matzoh balls.

Kosher Salt: While preparing kosher matzoh balls, especially for Passover, you must use kosher salt. Otherwise, regular salt should be fine.

Homemade Matzoh Balls

Vegan Matzoh Balls

While Jewish get the credit for introducing us to matzoh balls, anyone can enjoy them, even those whose lifestyle does not include any form of meat. Vegan matzoh balls are satisfying to the tastebuds with the right mixture of ingredients.

First of all, you’ll need to replace eggs and schmaltz (chicken fat or oil). An alternative for eggs is flax seed, and for chicken fat, it’s tahini. Those who do not like tahini can use coconut cream, but if you are going with oil, that should be okay for a vegan recipe. If you wish to use another substitute for egg replacement, feel free to do so.

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Next is matzoh meal and broth replacement. You do not need to replace matzoh meal unless you are gluten-free. In that case, you can use gluten-free crackers or gluten-free matzoh meal. For the broth, vegetable broth works just fine. You can also pick vegetarian chicken broth if that suits your taste. You can use seitan chicken chunks, vegan chicken, or chickpeas to replace the chicken in the soup.

Fluffy Matzoh Balls Recipe

Matzoh balls are not a Jewish holiday food anymore. They are available year long at various Jewish delis and restaurants.

If you have a preference for matzoh balls, and it (coincidentally) is floaters instead of sinkers, then here is a fluffy matzoh balls recipe that you’ll love.

 

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These matzoh balls are light with schmaltz that adds flavor to the soup. You can make your own fat from chicken soup by skimming the layer of fat from the soup and refrigerating it overnight. The following are the ingredients you’ll need for this fluffy matzoh ball soup.

  • Matzoh meal – 1 cup
  • Eggs – 5 large
  • Schmaltz or vegetable or grapeseed oil – 1/3 cup [Note: make sure oil is kosher for Passover]
  • Fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley – 1/2 cup, finely chopped
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Freshly ground black pepper – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Club soda or seltzer – 1/4 cup

Step 1:  Add matzoh meal, parsley or dill, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.

Step 2:  Mix them well using a fork.

Step 3:  Add eggs into the mixture and blend them using the same fork.

Step 4:  Add schmaltz or oil and mix well.

Step 5:  Add club soda or seltzer and mix everything together.

Step 6:  Cover the mixture and refrigerate it until it’s fully hydrated. It can take anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours.

Step 7:  Once the mixture is malleable and thick, use a soup spoon to scoop the matza mixture and place 1-inch balls on a plate.

Step 8: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and gently pick up the matzoh balls one at a time. Reroll them using your palms, if needed, before sliding them into the boiling water.

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Step 9: Cook for at least 12 to 15 minutes. The balls will float on the surface, puff up and become twice the original size.

Step 10: Use a spider or slotted spoon to transfer matzoh balls to a place. Cover the plate to keep them warm. Once ready, add matzoh balls to a portion of soup and serve.

Molly and Adam Make Matzoh Ball Soup

Join Molly Baz and Adam Rapoport in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen as they make BA’s best matzoh ball soup. This soup is very schmaltzy, full-bodied, and flavorful.

If you prefer a leaner, clearer broth, make the soup a day ahead, chill overnight, then skim the schmaltz from the surface of the soup before reheating. You can save the schmaltz to make the matzoh balls or for another use.

Summary

Matzoh balls soup is an American Jewish food staple that’s popular in Jewish delis and on traditional Jewish holidays, like Passover. When Jewish immigrants moved to the United States, they brought many Jewish recipes with them, including matzoh balls, which were called Knaidel back then.

Today, it’s an important part of the American Jewish deli menu. Usually served with soup made of chicken broth, matzoh balls are a comfort food anyone can enjoy anytime.

Matzoh Balls – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who Invented Matzoh Balls?

Matzoh balls came to recognition back in the 19th century when Jewish were producing matzah meals on a large scale. No one knows when they were originally invented.

Why Do Jews Eat Matzoh?

It’s soul food and a reminder of profound human experiences, such as liberation from slavery, worshipping God, and seeking spiritual redemption.

What Is the Yiddish Word for Matzoh Ball?

Knaidel is the Yiddish word for matzoh balls. Knaidel means a small dumpling common in Jewish households during Passover.

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