Fool-Proof Matzah Ball Soup
active: 1 hr 15 min
total: 5 hr
It isn’t a shabbat or holiday dinner without matzah ball soup (and Bubbe nagging you why you aren’t married yet, and your little cousin sneaking too much Manischewitz). But mostly, it’s about the soup. You can argue how to spell it (matzah, matzoh, matzo, matza), but everyone agrees Jewish penicillin has a special place on the festive dinner table.
Beyond the spelling wars, friends of mine have been known to approach fisticuffs over the “floaters” vs. “sinkers” debate. Matzah balls are simple in theory: matzah meal, eggs, schmaltz (a must), broth, seasonings. But slight tweaks can result in an entirely different ball game.
Literally. “Floaters” are just that. Light, and fluffy and literally float in the broth. While “sinkers,” on the other hand, are denser, yet not hard. Personally, I like mine in between. Light and fluffy, but a bit al dente.
Just as everyone has a specific way to make this classic soup, everyone has a secret to the perfect matzah ball. So I did what any Bubbe-fearing food-loving Jew would do. I tested them all. Whipped egg whites, baking powder, freezing the mix, seltzer water. It was a tough and delicious job, but someone’s got to do it, right? Here are my results from the very informal experiment, and 10 tips to matzah ball soup success.
1. Only the best will do. Matzah ball soup is a simple creature. Broth, veggies, matzah dumplings. So don’t skimp on ingredients. Get the best organic/kosher chicken you can afford, and take the time to pick beautiful vegetables. And speaking of skimping …
2. Make your own broth for goodness sake! If you can boil water, and then remember to turn it down a bit, then you can make chicken broth. Mine is pretty basic, but you can always add thyme, leeks, or other seasonings to spice things up.
3. The best balls ever. For you, I tested all the theories. Baking powder, whipped egg whites, freezing the batter, seltzer. Baking powder, when paired with whipped egg whites, led to the lightest, fluffiest balls. I don’t think the seltzer or freezing the mixture tricks worked enough to make it worth the extra effort.
4. Whip it good. If you're making this on Passover, there are kosher for Passover baking powders, but if you don’t feel comfortable using it, the whipped egg whites on their own led to pretty light balls, just a little more dense in the center.
5. Schmaltz! Just do it. If you don’t make your own, kosher markets often sell it frozen. The flavor just can’t be beat.
6. Time to get crafty. I always add onions into my matzo balls for extra flavor, but you can get creative with dill, parsley, garlic, even saffron!
7.Don’t overwork your balls. The key to fluffy balls is not to overwork the mixture when mixing or making the balls, especially once you add in the whipped egg whites.
8. Float to the top! When cooking, your balls will puff up and float to the top when they are done. Test one by cutting it in half- the color should be uniform all the way through.
9. Plan ahead. You can totally make matzah ball soup ahead of time. Either freeze the whole shebang together in plastic bags for up to three months, or refrigerate the balls separated from the broth (so they don’t get mushy).
What about vegetarians? As much as I want to say no soup for you, because it’s so fun to pretend to be the Soup Nazi, you can still make it work! Make your own broth with vegetables only, and use oil in place of schmaltz.
Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, TX. She blogs at What Jews Wanna Eat.