Dig in!

Matzo ball soup at its most elegant, with clarified broth and thoughtfully cut garnish. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

I had a question for my friend and neighbor Lois Baron and her email ended thus: “By the way, Passover is almost here and I am making more schmaltz plus some highpowered horseradish. Hope you have a fabulous Easter. Love the schmaltz lady.”

I do love the Schmaltz Lady! She helped educate me in the ways of schmaltz, the glorious rendered chicken fat that makes everything taste better, especially things like these matzo balls, one of the greatest chicken soup garnishes ever! The photos above and below are from our app for iPads (minis too): The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat, a short cookbook with twenty recipes for traditional Jewish dishes (kishke, cholent), as well as contemporary recipes putting this great fat to use (savory brioche, vichyssoise) and great photography of all the dishes. (Here’s the video I made for the app; David Leite reviews the app glowingly at Leite’s Culinaria.)

The good folks of Edamam, a food-search database that aims to make finding good things to eat easier, are doing a giveaway of the app starting today on their Pinterest board.

Here in Cleveland, it’s cold and gloomy and I feel that some chicken soup with matzo balls, rustic as below, will be good for body and soul. It doesn’t have to be rustic, though; it can be four-star elegant if you put some craft into it!

Warms you up. A beautiful bowl of homemade matzo ball soup.  Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Matzo balls in soup can be plain, as here, or, at top, elegant. Either way they’re delicious.

There are two camps when it comes to matzo balls: those who prefer sinkers and those who like them light. I prefer the latter so you’ll find that these are light and fluffy.

Classic Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

AKA Mr. Fluffies

Matzo Balls

  • 1 cup/140 grams matzo meal (or 4 squares of matzo, well pulverized in a food processor)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup/60 grams schmaltz, melted (or, sigh, vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup/30 grams gribenes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until they are all thoroughly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  2. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into 8 golf ball-sized orbs (they will double in size).

For the Soup

  • 2 tablespoons/30 grams schmaltz (or canola oil if you’re low on schmaltz)
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into medium dice
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into medium dice (optional)
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into medium dice (optional)
  • 2 quarts/2 liters chicken stock
  • salt to taste
  • 8 matzo balls
  • Chopped gribenes and parsley for finishing garnish (optional)
  1. In a large pot, melt the schmaltz over high heat, add the onion (and carrots and celery if using), and cook for a few minutes, just until the onion is translucent, giving it a four-finger pinch of salt as you stir.
  2. Add the stock and bring it to a simmer. Taste it and add more salt, if necessary. Add the matzo balls and let the soup return to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the matzo balls are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.

Serves 8

If you liked this post, you might be interested in these links:

© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.



16 Wonderful responses to “Matzo Ball Soup”

  • Cookin Canuck

    Mr. Fluffies…that is wonderfully descriptive. Matzo ball soup is something I’ve always loved to slurp, but something I’ve never tried my hand at making. I think it’s time.

  • Dean

    I’ve never put baking powder in a matzo ball. I use club soda instead of water and have always had nice fluffy, but not crumbly, dumplings. I cook them in good homemade stock and they come out great. Also, if you are making a vegetarian version for yourself or company, use good quality olive oil instead of the schmaltz; the results aren’t the same, but they’re still really good. Gribenes in the matzo balls? Hmmm… will have to give that a try. If they stay crunchy they’d be great! Thanks for the idea.

  • Jennifer

    I have a stash of chicken skin and fat in the freezer that I’ve been saving up and this is the weekend I’m going to finally make schmaltz and matzo balls. Please tell the Schmaltz Lady I’m leaning toward the sinkers.

  • Scott

    Looking at the two photos of the soup, one is golden and light, almost like a consomme. The other is darker. The darker one is the color of my chicken stock. How do you get the stock so clear as in the first picture.

  • Sharon

    I have never used baking powder, nor have I seen it in a recipe for matzoh balls before. Huh….

    • ruhlman

      helps to make them light. some people use club soda but you lose the carbonation if you let it sit for any time.

  • Natalie Luffer Sztern

    As a youngster before my Mother stopped making Shmaltz, I do remember how she would render the fat with a cut up onion or two…. grieben I believe I called it…don’t quite know what she used the shmaltz for outside of fried brains…

  • Anita Figueras

    Oh, this brings back happy memories! My grandmother made wonderful matzo ball soup. My brother is the smart one of the family; he asked her to teach him how to make them before she died.

  • Greg

    Would love to know how Lois makes her “High-powered Horseradish!”

  • Ron Rosenbaum CEC

    Michael…for 10 years, I was chef of a large Jewish city club in Chicago, and the matzoh ball recipe that I developed for them calls for rendered duck fat. (We used Hudson Valley of course.) These knaidlach were served in a double chicken consomme.

  • john phipps

    Still jonesing for some Android love so I can read Schmaltz.

  • Micheline J. Lachance

    Good morning:
    I cooked two medium size chickens on Sunday for my husband’s birthday. I followed your recipe for schmaltz & gribenes: so good.
    I tasted just like the liver paté that I would buy on Harding Avenue, Surfside at Joe’s delicatessen…in the 80’s. Delicious.
    My mother in law used to say that nothing should be wasted when cooking! I agree. Lets forget that animal fat is supposedly not good for your health!
    Thank you for writing about schmaltz & gribenes.


  1.  The Humanizing Impact of Soup | Michael Ruhlman
  2.  Auntie Reggie's Minestrone | Michael Ruhlman
  3.  On Schmaltz and Digital Publishing | Michael Ruhlman