Matzah Ball Soup

Matzah Ball Soup photography © ShulieMadnick
I meant to publish this post before Passover, but I didn't get around to it. Since then, I made several more batches of this matzah ball soup. The weather this spring has been relatively cool and breezy, which lends itself to this comforting soup.

Over the years, I came up with the chicken soup recipe by trial and error. Too much celery, garlic, and parsley alter the flavor altogether.  I learned to exercise control. With that being said, you can't go wrong even if you double the fresh thyme sprigs in this recipe. The thyme in this chicken soup is everything.  I take the skin off the chicken or buy skinless chicken. Have the butcher cut it a whole chicken up for you. Before putting the chicken in a pot, I wash and clean it in cold water. I skim the frothy foam as it rises to the top while cooking, especially in the beginning of the cooking process. And lastly, I make the soup a day ahead and refrigerate it overnight. I then skim the congealed fat on top before reheating and serving. The result is pure gold.

I like the versions with dill that, to me, feel even more classically Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewry), but at home, I like it in the purest and simplest form. I rarely have matzah ball soup when I spot it on menus when we venture out, but one of the stand outs is served at the iconic Russ and Daughter Cafe in NYC. A relatively new Israeli fast-casual Mint Kitchen serves a great version as well. Mint Kitchen's menu was developed by the fames Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky.
While we are big on health and ingredients are important, I found over the years that I love the Manischewitz matzah Ball mix (not the soup just the matzah ball mix). Before Passover a month ago or so, I tried a couple of matzah ball recipes, developed by others, from scratch. They were all epic fails which was super frustrating before the holidays. I am yet to encounter one that I love. So meanwhile, I am sticking to the Manischewitz mix, which I add to the soup that I make from scratch.

In 2010 I published the matzah ball soup recipe, and in that post, I wrote that I use only Kosher chickens for chicken soup, which is no longer true. I stopped making the hike to the Kosher Mart in MD and today I usually use organic chickens, but any chicken will do. I also no longer have intense feelings about leeks anymore.

Many recipes will call to discard the chicken after cooking the soup, but I save the chicken and carrots since my guys like a heartier matzah ball soup. I prefer to have it with just chicken soup and matzah balls.

Matzah Ball Soup


4 lbs/1.8kg chicken (cut up, skinned, cleaned and washed in cold water)
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in halves or thirds
2 outer celery stalks and 1 inner celery stalk with leaves, halved or cut into thirds
2 large onions, peeled and cut into sixths
2 leeks, white parts only, bottom sliced off and outer later peeled cut into two
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4-1/3 bunch of parsley
10 sprigs of fresh thyme, or more
2-3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4-1/2 freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Approximately 6 1/2 quarts/6 liters water


Add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients into a large stockpot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and reduce to medium/low heat to simmer. Skim the chicken soup of the frothy foam that forms at the beginning of the cooking process. Mix and cook on a low bubble with the lid on for 1 1/2-2 hours. Check and mix occasionally. The liquid will reduce, and the color of the soup will deepen to deep yellow or gold.

Taste and adjust for salt.

Once the soup cools down a bit, strain through a large sieve for a beautifully clear rich golden chicken broth. Save in containers if not serving immediately. Take the carrots and meat off the bones and save in a separate container refrigerated till serving.

If not serving immediately, skim the congealed fat that forms after the chicken soup was refrigerated overnight. Heat up and serve.

The clear golden soup (not the chicken and carrots) can be made in advance and kept in the freezer. It can also be used as stock for other soups.

Additional Notes on Matzah Balls:

If you an experienced cook the matzah balls directly in the chicken soup. If you aren't an experienced cook, I suggest you cook the matzah balls in boiling water in a separate pot. If successful, you can drain the water gently scoop out and add the matzah balls to the soup, once cooked.

I like to leave the matzah balls in the hot soup for a while after I turn off the heat so that they will absorb the liquids and be super fluffy.

Follow the cooking directions on the box. There are two packets of matzah ball mix in each 5 oz box. Each packet makes 9-12 balls. It says to refrigerate after mixing the packet content with eggs and oil for 20 minutes. Sometimes I forget it in the fridge for an hour, and it's ok.

When I cooked for Passover in Israel a couple of years ago, I reduced the eggs, and they still came out fluffy. In the mixes in Israel they call for too many eggs.

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