Matzo ball soup may be new to you, or it could be an old favorite you haven’t had in a while. Either way, I’m excited to introduce you to an adaptation of my family’s recipe. Besides the use of duck fat – which makes for an extra scrumptious matzo ball – this classic take on a very special soup is perfect for the upcoming Passover holiday, and whenever a comforting dish is in order.
My husband and I both have roots in New York City. When we met, we bonded over the comforts of matzo ball soup. My family serves matzo ball soup at just about every holiday function, though it’s most well known as a starter course during Passover celebrations. The star ingredient – matzo meal – is made from unleavened bread, which is kosher for the holiday.
My husband swears by the healing power of matzo ball soup – he’s pretty sure it has magical healing powers and he’s not alone on that. Soup like this is more comforting to some than the customary cold medicines – it’s salty, herby, and goes down so easily.
This recipe for both the broth and the matzo balls are adapted from my aunt’s matzo ball soup. The broth is not hard to make, but it does require an overnight sitting. This is an important step, because the fat will harden, rise to the top, and make for a much easier and effective skimming.
There’s something extra special about homemade stock, but if the process feels a bit too fussy or time is not on your side, your favorite purchased broths will work. Ann has a great chicken stock recipe to work from as well.
Do you like floaters or sinkers? This is the standard question for all matzo ball soup lovers. It refers to the buoyancy of the matzo balls – do they float in the broth or sink to the bottom of the bowl? Some love a dense, chewy, firm matzo ball. Others prefer a pillowy, melt in your mouth texture.
These matzo balls are somewhere in between as the recipe is written. But if looking for a specific texture, the longer the matzo ball mixture cools in the fridge, the denser the matzo balls will be.
We tweaked this recipe while in an area of Pennsylvania where chicken schmaltz (or fat) was difficult to find in local grocery stores. I was able to find a duck fat, by Epic, which works beautifully. I think it added a little extra flavor boost as well!
Once the matzo batter is mixed, it should be covered and refrigerated for 1½ hours. This is important to allow the matzo meal to hydrate, making it firmer and easier to roll. If you still see specks of unhydrated matzo meal in the mixture, it likely needs more time.
Celery can be used in addition to (use half carrots, half celery) or in place of carrots. Ann and I both love dill, and it gives this broth a very special depth of flavor, but you may omit if not a fan.
Duck Fat Matzo Balls offer a fabulous upgrade to the classic soup, which is perfect for the Passover holiday or anytime a comforting dish is in order.
Matzo Ball Soup
Prep Time:20 minutes
Cook Time:3 hours 30 minutes + overnight chill
Total Time:3 hours 50 minutes
Yield:5 to 6 quarts
Though you could use store-bought stock, the following recipe is the perfect compliment to the homemade Duck Fat Matzo Balls. You will end up with 16 matzo balls which will make 8 bowls of soup.
2 chicken bouillon cubes (extra large size which is a net weight of 23g for both cubes)
15 parsley sprigs
15 dill sprigs
10 grinds of pepper mill
For the Duck Fat Matzo Balls
4 large eggs
½ cup seltzer (some say this makes them fluffier) or water
6 (14g) tablespoons duck fat (or Crisco or schmaltz)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
A few grinds of pepper mill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (optional)
1 cup (116g) matzo meal
Instructions for Broth
Fill a large stockpot with water. Add the chicken and the vegetables. The water should cover everything about an inch. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a gentle simmer.
Add the parsley, dill, and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours, skimming the foamy bubbles off the top occasionally.
Remove the chicken and add the bouillon cubes (I like 2) but you can use more or less depending on preference. (You could also skip them and add salt to taste). Cook for one more hour and then strain out vegetables and herbs (save those vegetables!).
Cool the soup overnight. In the morning, skim off the solid fat that has risen to the top and discard. This is an important step to prevent the soup from being too greasy.
Reheat the broth. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and shred or chop into bite-size pieces. You can either add the chicken, soft cooked vegetables, and matzo balls to the soup; or plate each bowl with the add-ins and pour the broth over top.**
Instructions for Duck Fat Matzo Balls
Beat eggs until yolk and whites are just combined. Stir in seltzer/water, schmaltz (or fat) salt & pepper, and dill if using.
Add matzo meal gradually, and mix until just combined.
Cover and fridge for 1½ hours. This is important to allow the matzo meal to hydrate, making it firmer and easier to roll. If you still see specks of unhydrated matzo meal in the mixture, it probably needs more time.
Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water. When the matzo mixture is set, roll 2 tablespoons of the batter with wet hands and drop into the pot (makes 16), keeping the water at a low simmer. Resist the urge to touch or stir, and cover and cook for 35 minutes.
Remove the matzo balls and either A) place at bottom of bowl and pour hot broth over top, B) let cool and store in fridge 1-2 days with a tablespoon or two of cooking liquid, or C) let cool and freeze in an airtight container. When ready to reheat for B & C, place in simmering broth, about 5-10 minutes for refrigerated balls and 20 minutes for frozen balls.
Notes & Tips
*Celery can be used in addition to carrots – half carrots half celery – or instead of. Both makes a pretty color and an interesting depth to flavor
**You could also add cooked rice, extra dill, or anything else you like in for a great chicken soup!
A Note on Timing
The matzo balls can be made while the soup cooks, so this does not add any extra cook time. However, if just making the matzo balls, this will be about 45 minutes of active cooking time + 1 hour of chilling.
A Note on Gluten
For those who need it, gluten-free matzo meal is available, and works as a 1:1 replacement for standard matzo meal.
A Note on Dill…
Ann and I both love dill and think it gives this broth a very special depth of flavor. It also enhances the matzo balls, which are mild-tasting by nature (hence why people are drawn to it as a “sick day” food). That said, not everyone is a fan of dill and it may absolutely be left out.