This matzo ball soup recipe is perfect if you’re craving a comfort food meal. It’s very similar to chicken soup — but so much better thanks to the homemade matzo balls. Sometimes called Jewish penicillin, this soup can be enjoyed in sickness and in health!
Soups, stews, and broths are some of my favorite things to make. I love recipes like this Thai tom kha gai soup made with chicken and lemongrass. Or, this Lebanese lentil soup featuring hearty lentils and this dal tadka recipe that’s filled with bold chilis.
Today’s soup is a total classic. Matzo ball soup is a Jewish chicken soup that is also lovingly referred to as Jewish penicillin. Now, I do really love the stuff when I’m feeling a bit under the weather, but I also crave it when I’m perfectly healthy.
The best part is the homemade matzo balls which are made with eggs, a handful of spices and seasonings, and a special type of flour. Get ready — this is about to become your new favorite soup.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Chicken - You’ll need a whole bone-in skin-on chicken to make the base for your Jewish penicillin!
- Celery, Carrots & Onion - No good matzo ball soup would be complete without the addition of veggies. They add a lot of flavor to the broth.
- Fresh Parsley & Dill - Jewish chicken soup also features a ton of fresh herbs. I love the flavor of parsley along with the citrus, almost grassy taste of dill.
- Cloves - This somewhat unexpected ingredient brings a lot of flavor to the mix.
- Bay Leaves - These add a lovely flavor, but be sure to discard before serving.
- Salt & Black Peppercorns - Don’t skip these humble seasonings!
- Saffron Threads - Optional, but oh so worth it! Saffron also adds a really nice nuanced flavor and color to this Jewish chicken soup.
- Matzo Balls - Homemade is always best in my opinion! Combine matzo meal, baking powder, eggs, and some chicken stock with melted schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). Ghee, butter, or oil can also be used in place of the schmaltz. And don’t forget to season with:
- Fresh Dill
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- White Pepper
HOW TO MAKE MATZO BALL SOUP
1. Prep The Ingredients. Peel and cut the vegetables as instructed in the recipe card below. Place the whole chicken a large stock pot and cover with 20 cups of cold water (5 quarts).
2. Pre-Cook The Chicken. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to allow it to simmer. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes, but be careful not to let the water boil as this will make your broth cloudy. Skim off any foam from the top of the liquid.
3. Add Some Of The Veggies. Place the larger celery pieces, onion halves, 1 ounce of dill, and the remaining soup seasonings into the pot. Bring to a simmer again with the lid partially on. Allow it to cook for 90 minutes.
4. Go Back To The Chicken. After 90 minutes, turn off your stove and allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes. If the chicken is done (see tip in the recipe card!), then carefully transfer it to a tray to cool. Remove the larger pieces of vegetables and discard them. Strain the broth into another pot.
5. Start The Matzo Balls. Mix together the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, garlic and onion powders, and white pepper in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs and schmaltz until well blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg and schmaltz. Stir with a fork to incorporate, then add the chopped dill until just combined. Cover and allow to chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
6. Allow The Broth To Cool. Place the stock in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) and remove the schmaltz from the top. You can either discard it, use it in your matzo balls, or leave it in the broth for added flavor. At this point, the chicken should be cool enough to shred.
7. Cook The Matzo Balls. Using another pot, bring 3 quarts of chicken stock or water to a boil. Form the matzo balls with a cookie scoop or spoon, then drop them into the pot. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 30-40 minutes.
8. Finish The Soup. Bring your homemade chicken stock to a simmer with the carrots and remaining celery. Cook for 30 minutes, then add the dill and chicken and season to taste.
Add 1-2 matzo balls to a bowl and pour the Jewish chicken soup and tender vegetables over the top. Garnish with fresh dill or parsley!
What Is Matzo Ball Mix Made Of?
Matzo ball mix is a pre-made mixture of matzo meal, herbs, and spices. I personally like to use plain matzo meal and add my own seasonings, but you can also feel free to replace it with a store-bought mix.
How Far In Advance Can You Make Matzo Ball Soup?
You can make this soup in advance and freeze it for up to 3 months if you’d like. To save leftovers for the week, refrigerate the soup and matzo balls separately for 3-4 days and combine when reheating.
Are Matzo Balls The Same As Dumplings?
Not technically, but Jewish cooks were inspired by German dumplings when they came up with matzo ball soup. Instead of flour, they used crushed matzah (thin crackers) and butter was replaced with schmaltz to keep them kosher.
Matzo Ball Soup (Jewish Penicillin)
- 4 lb whole chicken bone in, skin on
- 2 lbs celery divided
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 lb carrots peeled
- 2 ounces fresh parsley
- 1.5 ounces fresh dill
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ⅛ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
Matzo Balls (12-14)
- 1 cup matzo meal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ cup melted schmaltz ghee/butter, canola or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill minced
- 3 quarts chicken stock or water
- Trim ends of celery and cut 1 pound (half) into 2-inch pieces and the remaining 1 pound into ½-inch pieces. Set the 2-inch pieces in a bowl with the onion that has been peeled and cut in half. Place remaining ½ inch celery pieces aside in a bowl for later.
- Peel and cut the carrots lengthwise, then cut into ½ inch pieces. Add to the ½ inch cut celery and cover with plastic wrap.
- Remove any internal packet from chicken (heart, gizzards) and discard or save for other use. Place whole chicken in 10 quart or larger stock pot. Cover with 20 cups of cold water.
- Bring to a boil over medium high heat, immediately turn heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Skim the top of foam with a spoon and discard. Be sure NOT to boil, as this makes the broth cloudy.
- Add the 2-inch cut celery pieces, onion halves, parsley, 1 ounce of the dill, whole cloves, bay leaves, salt and peppercorns to the chicken pot.
- Bring to a simmer again, and with the lid partially on, simmer for 90 minutes. Be sure NOT to boil, as this makes the broth cloudy.
- As chicken simmers, make the matzo balls. In a medium bowl mix together the matzo meal, baking powder, salt, garlic and onion powders and white pepper. In another small bowl mix the eggs and schmaltz (or ghee, butter, oil) until blended.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Using a fork stir from the center moving out to incorporate all and then add the chopped dill until just combined. Don't over mix! Cover with wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Turn the heat off the chicken and let rest for 15 minutes. Using tongs, carefully tug at a leg, if it comes off completely you are ready for the next step, otherwise cover with lid and simmer another 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove the chicken with tongs and place on a tray to cool and shred. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the larger pieces of cooked vegetables and discard. Strain the soup into another pot or large bowl, discard the herbs, spices and any other pieces.
- At this point you could let the broth cool and refrigerate several hours or overnight to remove the congealed fat that is on top (the "schmaltz"). This is what can be used in the matzo balls. I prefer to use ¼ cup melted ghee or butter (canola or avocado oil is good as well) for the matzo balls and leave the chicken fat in the soup for the flavor.
- Shred the cooked chicken and discard the skin and bones.
- For the matzo balls: In another stock pot, heat the 3 quarts chicken stock or water to a boil. Using a cookie scoop or spoon, form matzo ball dough into walnut size balls and drop them all in the pot. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30-40 minutes. They should all be floating. Test one by cutting and check to see that there is no dark center. Either keep covered to stay warm or freeze at this point if you want for later use.
- For the Soup: Add the reserved sliced celery and carrots to the strained chicken stock. Bring to a simmer cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Add the reserved chopped dill and chicken and season to taste. Serve with 1-2 cooked matzo balls in each bowl with hot chicken soup and vegetables spooned over. Garnish with dill or parsley if desired.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.